Monday, July 11, 2014 was a sad day for me. For the first time ever, and after almost 12 k miles of excellent service, my Empulse R failed to start, and refused to start in spite of all my efforts. Happily the bike was still under warranty so the repairs didn’t cost me any money. But there was still a price to pay: 70 day passed from the initial problem to when I finally had a working bike in my hands.
There had been some early signs of problems.
- B9 error was showing up regularly whenever I would ride the Empulse in heavy rain.
- V58 error was showing intermittently.
- Pressing the start button was occasionally fail to start the bike. The remedy was to press the start button again, or to power cycle (turn key off, turn key on). After a few tries, the bike would turn on and work fine.
- After one ride trough some particularly heavy rain about a year ago, the start switch appeared to be stuck “on” because when I was stopped, mode switched between “Sport” and “Eco” (which happens when you press the start button while stopped). This issue cleared up after the bike dried up a bit.
However, in spite of those signs, the bike seemed to be running fine. Once the bike started up, it performed perfectly. It had great acceleration, and regenerative breaking worked as expected. When I contacted Brammo about these issues, they said that those issues were not critical, especially since the performance of the bike didn’t suffer, but advised that I take the bike to the dealership to have it checked out.
The dealership is all the way over in Tampa (100 miles away), I wasn’t in any hurry to take it over there unless I really had to.
A bad day at the office
As usual, I rode the bike into work, plugged it in, and spent the day at the office. That evening, I returned to a full battery, but the bike failed to start up.
I tried a number of things to get around the problem:
- Pressing the start button for a long time.
- Pressing it harder (a futile and desperate act).
- Cycling the power using the key.
- Cycling the power with the cut off switch.
- Plugging the bike in for a minute.
- Moving the bike forward (to realign the motor).
Nothing worked. The power of the bike came on, but it refused to start up and run.
I would have been stranded at work, but as luck would have it, I had parked a van at the office a few days earlier, so I was able to return home with that.
Suspecting a possible issue with humidity, I returned the next day to see if the bike would start after being in a dry parking garage over night. It didn’t. So I contacted Brammo and the dealership to let them know about the problem. I gave them a detailed description of the issue, my attempts to resolve it, and a copy of the last few days of logs. I suggested that, given the behavior I had seen in the past, the issue may be some problem with the starter switch. Brammo replied that the switch seemed like a probable culprit, but advised me to get the bike over to the dealership as soon as possible.
The first challenge was to get over to Tampa. I couldn’t ride it over there, and would have preferred not to have to tow the bike myself, so I considered using the towing service that was provided along with the bike.
After a few phone calls with the dealership, they instructed me to use phone number on the towing service card directly, as the towing company would not tow on behalf of the dealership (seemed a bit odd to me, but whatever). After a few phone calls with the towing service, it became apparent that the service only covered the first $200 worth of towing, and that their cost for taking the bike the 100 miles from my office to Tampa would be $800, which means that they were asking me to pay $600 to get the bike over there.
I said that there was no way that I was going to pay that, and remarked that I could rent a trailer from U-Haul for under $50. The towing service said that they would gladly reimburse up to $200 of trailer rental and gas if I could provide all of the receipts.
When I sent an email about all of this to the dealership, they graciously counter offered to pick up the bike themselves since they had a delivery scheduled for a customer that was half way to my place. Making a detour to pick up my bike would work out best for everybody.
The pick up
On July 23, almost two weeks since the initial failure, I helped to push my poor bike into the dealership’s delivery van. It took a bit of time to get to this point, but at least I wasn’t spending $600 or a weekend hauling the bike over there.
Sadly, communications from the dealership were not stellar. After a couple of weeks of silence, I finally sent them an email to ask how things were going (August 11). Their response was fairly quick. They were waiting from some modules to arrive to complete the needed repairs. Finding out what was being replaced took another few days.
Apparently there was quite a lot of things going wrong because they were changing two batteries, two fans, the charging harness and charging module. I had no idea my poor Empulse was so sick – it seemed to be running fine!
Then more silence until I sent another email a couple of weeks later (August 28). They said that they had received all of the parts, but they were now discovering that the starter was only working intermittently. One the one hand, I appreciate their thoroughness. On the other (large) hand (planted on the forehead), I’m a stunned by the irony – my initial suspicions were with the starter switch, but only after fixing everything else were they seeing that as an issue.
To be fair, it’s quite possible that the real cause of the failure to start were the things that they changed, and that the starter switch was a secondary problem. I’ll probably never find out though.
I was pleasantly surprised by a phone call from the dealership on September 2 with an update of where things were at that time. Up to that point their communications had been rather lacking, and this was the first time that they had called me with an update.
Finally, I get a phone call on September 11 from the dealership. The bike repairs are complete, and they said that they would be happy to deliver the bike back to me on Friday (the 12th). That’s a bit of a relief, as I would have preferred to avoid spending the weekend to get the bike myself.
It’s not rocket science, but…
Then on Friday, I get another call. The dealership was going through one final system check, when they discovered that the turn signals were not working any more. Oops! Looks like they get to hold on to the bike for another week to sort that one out.
All fixed – for reals!!
Finally, I get a call to say that everything is in working order, and that they will be dropping the bike off on Friday, September 19. Yay!
As promised, the delivery van was waiting for me at the pointed time with my bike, all ready and good to go. That was a rather long repair, but the bike is now working fine once again.
Here’s the list of all the things on the repair bill (all covered by the warranty) :
- 1 DCDC, SEVCON, 300W, EMC
- 2 Module BPM1590
- 1 Kit, On board charger
- 1 Separator, port, charger,
- 1 Contractor, 72 VDC, conn
- 1 Assy AIM FRU
- 1 Control right hand
- 2 Longlife bulb
- 1 Flasher DOT/SAE 12 VDC
They also replaced the tail section, since I still had the original tail section that had been recalled a few months ago.
Under “resolution” the bill said: Replaced two batteries, cooling fans, charging harness and module, replaced blinker relay.