Originally Posted by dandiver
Without proper figures, I personally feel that to promote a number like 4% is wrong. I have heard figures from 1%-4% and all are anecdotal, not number / study generated. I feel that there is a problem and that BMW is not publicly acknowledging it, but to use a figure not accurate causes us to loose credibility.
Sometimes you have to exaggerate information to be heard and if this is your reason, I apologize up front. If you are trying to create controversy, you are going down the right path.
The 4% number that has been used on this forum for about 5 years has some basis in fact, but further explanation is necessary. In 2002 at the Curve Cowboy Reunion
in Santa Fe
, I moderated a question and answer session with the area rep for BMW, Tom Lawrence. That year we had a number (I believe it was 3) of failures of rear drives on bikes attending that event. I informed Tom of the failures and of our member's concerns and he promised to do some research prior to the BMW Q&A at that event. Tom provided two key data points: 1)The number of LT's sold in the US as of a certain date and 2) The number of total warranty claims referencing the rear drive as of that same date. The number of Lts sold at that time were in the mid 7000s and the umber of warranty claims was in the high 200s. I could find the exact numbers at home in my meeting notes. The number of filed warranty claims was just shy of 4% of the number of bikes sold as of that date. It seems to me the number was about 3.8%.
Here is the rub - warranty claims doesn't necessarily mean drive failures. As Tom explained it could be seal seepage, complaints about noise, driveline lash or any number of other complaints including failure. To say that BMW had experienced nearly a 4% failure rate would require that every warranty claim represented a failure. That simply is not the case. My non-scientific polling of several dealers after the fact indicated that only about half of the claims they made referencing the rear drive on the LT were for failure, the other half were not failure related. Many people, coming off of chain or belt drive motorcycles complain about driveline lash on shaft-driven motorcycles.
My personal feeling is that for the model years 1999-2001 the actual number of in-warranty rear drive failures was actually on the order of 1-2%. That is just my own feeling from having discussed this with 3 BMW area reps a couple of BMW marketing types and quite a few dealers. The odds of a 1999-2001 LT going 100,000 miles without the drive failing seem to be fairly slim, but there have been some. There also seemed to be a drop off of failures after BMW introduced the first bearing change for the 2002 model year, but there is absolutely no way to verify that or quantify the failure rates as I will outline next. Now 5 years after that CCR in Santa Fe we have even less ability to determine the actual failure rate for the following reasons:
- Since that date we have never been provided with any data regarding the number of total units sold in the US.
- We have never been given any data regarding specific numbers of in-warranty failures.
- Any data we generate from polling has no relevance to the failure ratio without knowing the number of bikes sold in the US.
I speak with the service department of BMW of Denver
on a very regular basis, and they were the supporting dealer at CCR 2004
in Breckenridge, CO. They say there have been very few failures of drives beginning with the 2002 model year. They have never seen a second failure on a bearing they have replaced, following the specific methodology for field replacement of the bearing and setup of the rear drive after bearing replacement. I am aware that some dealers do not follow the specific replacement and setup procedure and have had failures of replacement bearings.
There are a number of things we have learned from our polling - there is no absolute predictor of what year model might fail, at what mileage it might fail or any way to determine impending failure.
So, what does one do? I recommend riding it and enjoying yourself as much as possible because no amount of worrying, complaining or anything else you do will have no effect on whether you might or might not experience a failure. I have a total of nearly 100,000 trouble-free miles on 3 LTs, while others have seen rear drive failures before 10,000 miles. The new style rear drives are arguably much better than the older style used on the LT, but Joe Paulsey had one fail on his GT and there have been a handful of reported failures on R1200GS models. For what it is worth, Honda has seen a few failures in the drive units on all of its shaft-drive motorcycles. The new R1200s have been very reliable, but my new GS had a ring antenna failure in the middle of the Yukon Territory last month. After nearly 200,000 miles without a single failure on BMW motorcycles, I suppose I was due. What does a failure, in the middle of nowhere, on a brand new BMW do to my trust in the machine - absolutely nothing, I still absolutely love and appreciate the capabilities of that bike. I finished my trip without giving a second thought to potential failure. We ride these things because we enjoy them. To me, worrying about what might happen takes away from that joy. I am certainly not in denial, I was aware of the potential for ring antenna failure on the R1200GS, well before I left on a long journey last month. I am proactive about addressing the areas of potential problems whenever it is practical. I just choose to deal with problems as they occur, rather than hand-wringing about the possibility of failure. To that end, my sig line, which has been the tag line for this community since we started it - Just Ride It!
- is how I roll.
Please understand than none of what I have written above, should in any way imply that I do not believe BMW had/has a problem of a higher than acceptable statistical chance of failure with the LT rear drive units. Nor do I fault anyone who feels like the risk of failure is greater than they are willing to bear. I am also concerned about the potential for injury in the perfect storm of a rear drive failure, causing a breach of the seal, dumping gear oil on the rear tire, while in a high speed turn. It hasn't happened, but it certainly could. That said, the risk of failure is not so great as to offset my desire to ride the motorcycles. Some say we enjoy a dangerous activity when we ride. I choose not to think of motorcycles as inherently dangerous, they are just unforgiving, much like aircraft. Be proactive in your maintenance, be predictive in your riding, be protective in your riding apparel - then enjoy the heck out of your motorcycle. The fact that we ride motorcycles at all probably makes us one per-centers.