Harley-Davidson, Inc.
$10K Fine for that Muffler Change

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By HOGridin
January 10, 2006

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So you like the added pull your Harley gives after having put on a simple to install high flow air cleaner and intake assembly, some slip-on exhaust (even though they are not too obtrusively loud) and rejetted the carb to get a little more energy in those cylinders.

Maybe you even put in the Big Bore 95cu-in kit, changed the cams, increased the carb size, added a Screamin' Eagle Race Tuner and changed the rear tire to get seat-of-the-pants performance that stock bikes just don't have. These changes can net you as much as 35% more horsepower and nearly as much torque.

Well, the cost of performance like that may have just gone up. In fact, instead of $2,500 for a Big Bore kit, the price tag could be $12,500 if the EPA has its way.

According to the Federal Register, Volume 69, No. 10 the EPA interprets the Clean Air Act section 203(a) to mean that it is illegal for any person to remove [or alter] any device on an engine involved in that vehicles passage of emissions compliance by the original manufacturer. Under this interpretation, even a gear ratio change or non-stock rear tire can have an effect on engine operation by changing where it operates in its power band for a given vehicle speed thereby effecting its emissions.

One of the most popular Harley modifications is the 95cu-in Big Bore kit. Since your bike was not approved for emissions with this configuration, the EPA would disallow you and/or your dealership from making this enhancement unless someone spends lotsa bucks on getting EPA-certified testing done on the changed machine.

The Industry will take care of this
The Motorcycle Industry Council (the MIC serves major motorcycle manufacturers who would love near monopolistic control of where we all spend our after-purchase dollars) through its American V-Twin Aftermarket Committee had asked for a letter of guidance from the EPA. However, by requesting this process, the MIC would have stopped normal EPA public hearing and commenting for a period so that you & I, as well as small motorcycle shops and custom m/c builders could express our positions on these matters that so pointedly affect us, our hobby and our pocket books.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, the only true national organization representing street riders exclusively (the AMA gets considerable funding from the major m/c manufacturers), told the EPA that the proposed letter of guidance for the MIC would ultimately give several large companies an unfair advantage in the industry. The MRF believes the rules they are trying to implement would inadvertently be detrimental to the industry, particularly small shops and builders. The MRF's interest in this is to preserve the lifestyle of motorcycling as we know it. The MRF does not have a financial interest in, nor does it want to be financially involved with, businesses.

Unfortunately, many shop owners and motorcycle riders talked to by American Iron Magazine still do not realize what is going on. A false belief that the EPA and state gubmints will not enforce the new laws, like they didn't enforce the old ones of similar restrictions, some dating back to 1977, 1979 and 2004. Several California shops have already been given violations by CARB officials.

And with noise complaints in many communities growing in number and frequency, local gubmint will often cave to pressure from influential politicians and community leaders and look for ways to get control. They will be able to use these new laws to fine m/c owners and even penalize m/c shop owners to the point of closing them down. Innovation will suffer; gone will be Rinehart true-duals, S&S intake systems, and Jim's or Axtell large cylinder heads.

If you modified your bike more than adding chrome and paint, even a 1999 Harley Road King, by exhaust and a cam changes, what will it be worth when you go to sell it and conformance to 1999 emissions is measured by it having all stock engine components? And that might be what is needed in order to trade it in or to resell it.

But there's more cars and trucks out there
Heck, your neighbor kid, like so many younger kids these days, has his Honda Civic all tuned with new injectors, air-intake, header, Borla exhaust, engine control module and new mapping so that it screams. And the other neighbor has his GMC 4x4 all hopped up diesel motor with Flow Master exhaust and remapped injectors and engine performance. Why would the gubmint go after a lowly motorcycle when it gets 46-52mpg and contributes so little to traffic congestion, road wear & tear and air born pollutants in the face of these monster cages that contribute so much more?

Why does the gubmint do anything?

In an era of Gee Dubya #43 loosening industry requirements on pollution, the EPA, with support for the MIC, is poised to come after motorcycle shops, dealerships and even owners of motorcycles who have changed anything more than chrome & paint.

About clean air
Thinking the EPA is only trying to clean up the air we breathe is a mistaken position. By example, if that were true, why would they be considering a "Pay to play" option where an owner could pay for each non-conformance motorcycle they produce?

So what to do?
I for one am not willing to go back to a stock bike. Get your riding buddies, service techs and shop owners at your motorcycle shop of choice to understand your concern too. Print out copies of the articles mentioned below available at the provided link. Highlight things that catch your eye and concern you. Take them to other riders and make them away of what is going on.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB), a bleeding edge emissions gubmint body that, due to the size of the California marketplace, usually creates market changes for industry as they do not want to make two versions of every product, 49-state and a California version. CARB and the EPA are joining forces for a Technology Progress Review in 2006. The EPA will use the results of this review to propose any changes to the rule it feels may be warranted.

The MRF is working with the Small Business Administration to gauge the effect on small businesses. Unfortunately very few shops showed up in recent meetings to share their concerns.

The MRF needs your input, and that of your local motorcycle shops and dealerships. Make these business owners aware of this issue. Be forewarned though, many will tell you not to worry and that the EPA will never implement any of these rules nor will they enforce them. I think this resistance comes from them being too harried with running day to day operations and not wanting to add another item on their "to-do" lists.

Here are links for articles put out by American Iron Magazine that further (better and clearer too) explain the issues at hand.
Sept. 2004 issue - "The EPA Regs and You" by Marjorie Kleiman
May 2005 issue - "EPA For the Layman" by Dave Dwyer
Jan. 2006 issue - "Want a $10,000 EPA Fine?" by Dave Dwyer
Feb. 06 issue - "EPA Action Form" by Dave Dwyer

The Questionnaire form to print out and mail to the MRF

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