GTS exhaust gasket: Technical Bulletin No 18/06

In September 2006, we reported on a potential safety hazard involving the GTS250’s exhaust gasket. At the time, the issue got a lot of attention on the scooter forums, and many Vespa owners have been surprised by Piaggio’s lack of a public response. Today, 2strokebuzz received an email from “Paolo Timoni” (clearly not the real Paolo Timoni, as you will see):

Piaggio acknowledges a flaw in design and issues a tech update (months ago?). They post the update quietly in archives of dealer net perhaps intending to defer responsibility for the flaw on improper maintenance if a bike loses brakes/burns. Too bad for people who work on their own bikes not to have the very critical information. Oh and “wear and tear” muffler maintenance will run you $30 for the part + labor every time you remove exhaust…???? Does the NHTSA know about this?

Attached to the email was a PDF of “Piaggio Technical Bulletin No 18/06,” titled “VESPA GTS: Maintenance Procedure for Exhaust System/Gasket.” The bulletin is from Piaggio&C s.p.a. (not PiaggioUSA) and so is presumably targeted to dealers worldwide. For copyright reasons, we won’t post the bulletin here, but (along with a few photos outlining alignment and placement) here is a summary:

  • The graphite exhaust gasket (Part 826388) must be replaced any time the exhaust is removed from the downpipe.
  • A re-used gasket, or improper positioning or torque upon replacement, may result in exhaust gases leaking from the joint, with the possibility of heat damage to surrounding parts.
  • The part is considered a “wear and tear” item, and thus must be charged to the customer at any service after the first.

We can’t speak to “Paolo’s” charges that the bulletin was backdated or purposefully buried in the service archives. It is dated September 19, 2006, a couple weeks after the internet flare-up. The bulletin does make it clear that the gasket must be replaced or danger could result, which is good, but considering the number of home mechanics in the scooter world, and the necessity to remove the pipe for service as simple as changing the rear tire, that the public should have possibly been better informed, and the specific dangers made even more clear to the dealers. Additionally, it is unclear if there were ever quality issues with the gaskets, or if they should be replaced regularly even if the exhaust is not removed. Piaggio absolutely should address these concerns to the public, whether or not NHTSB involvement is necessary.

2sb contributor/scientist/scooter mechanic Brooke Kelley makes a good counterpoint:

I think people need to get used to the idea that now that they’ve got what they wanted in gigantic 4 stroke scooters with freeway cruising power, that they will have to pony up for maintenance, just like a car. When you have to remove exhaust headers on a car, no garage would reuse gaskets that are crucial like that.

If the problem *is* limited to reassembly, mechanics (amateur or professional) should know better than to re-use a gasket. But considering that the exhaust must be removed to change a tire, a service often performed outside a dealership, and that it costs $30, more than a typical gasket, it would be wise for Piaggio to clarify the importance of replacement to owners, and possibly suggest they keep a spare gasket handy. At the time of the original buzz, many owners and dealers claimed that the gaskets were nearly impossible to find. This may have complicated the problem and provoked dealers to re-use gaskets rather than keeping scooters in the shop for weeks waiting for the part.

Even if the bulletin was published (and publicized to dealers) as soon as the problem was discovered, it seems Piaggio could have taken further steps to remedy the situation, both from a safety and a public-relations standpoint. That photo of a gutted GTS on the side of the road, whether it was legitimate or not, probably didn’t sell many bikes.

10 thoughts on “GTS exhaust gasket: Technical Bulletin No 18/06”

  1. Interesting.

    FYI, Paolo emailed me earlier today, asking for your email address. I gave it to him, wondering whether it was _the_ Paoli TImoni…

  2. Bottom line is that the GTS should have been recalled and there should have been a redesign of the failing component before they were again allowed to be sold to the public. Coming out now and saying that the $30 gasket, which costs pennies to make, needs to be replaced at every service is total bullshit. People spending $6,000+ on a scooter deserve better. Vespa’s name is gold, but it won’t be for long before its “mud” if this keeps up. Expecially with better quality and support for thosands less from the Taiwanese and Korean brands. Piaggio should read up on what happened to the British motorcycle industry after the Japanese gave consumers a better product for less. History does repeat itself.

  3. I was thinking 30.00 for the gasket AND labor to install it! That’s a spendy gasket. That price is insulting actually. But if I had a dollar every time I read that Piaggio was going be hurting because of the way they conduct themselves in the US over the last 6 years, I’d have a lot of dollars. The fact is that it doesn’t seem to matter. Even with other quality products available name brand has a lot of pull. If performance, quality and commons sense had anything to do with staying in business, all 3 US car companies would have been gone long ago. But in Piaggio’s case they do generally have a quality product that doesn’t have a lot of competition. The design effort shows in their products and set them apart. Kymco, Honda, Genuine, Yamaha and the others really don’t have anything to compete with the GT series. All the larger than 150 scooters are giant maxi scoots that actually make the GT behemoth look smallish and svelte. And that doesn’t even begin to address their more rider-focused and less anime-rocketship-style oriented design. So until the rest of the companies start to pressure their designers to consider human factors as much as they do modern sculpture, the Vespa platform will continue to be more appealing, even in the face of offensively priced service.

  4. “The design effort shows in their products and set them apart. Kymco, Honda, Genuine, Yamaha and the others really don’t have anything to compete with the GT series. All the larger than 150 scooters are giant maxi scoots that actually make the GT behemoth look smallish and svelte.” – Brooke

    I agree that Piaggio has a design panache rarely equaled, but I would say that the Honda SH 300i is as small, svelte and stylish (albeit more ‘modern’) as the GTS, and arguably much better made. Vespa does not stand alone, and if they don’t take care of their customers, they will pay for their arrogance.

  5. That might be true about the sh 300i, but I don’t see any of them on US roads. I do see a lot of ets and lxs though. Vespa is the name when it comes to most American consumers. They are mostly going to either buy cheap pep boys junk or they’re going to spend the money on the Vespa name.

  6. The gasket is expensive – There is no reason that part costs that much.
    Look for this problem on ANY Piaggio – Fuel Injected 250 – Not just the GTS
    I’m not sure why they did it, you can take the entire exhaust off to change the rear wheel without disturbing the precious gasket / joint.
    Here’s my solutions:
    $$$ – Buy an aftermarket exhaust system – the OEM sounds like crap anyway.
    $ – Take your OEM exhaust to the welder and have him join the pieces together without the gasket. This is what was done on JD’s Cannonball bike and it doesn’t make changing the rear tire any harder.
    I agree, it’s worthy of at least a big ‘ol warning in the owners manual that says “DO NOT RE-USE THE EXHAUST GASKET”.
    Piaggio should pony up 3 or 4 exhaust gaskets to each registered 250i.e. owner or dealer.


  7. I was just thinking about this more, I hate to see things overregulated and consumers blaming manufacturers for their own lack of common sense, but if Piaggio thought it was important and necessary to include a “don’t put your pet in the helmet bay” sticker on all their scooters, you have to wonder why the gasket doesn’t rate a warning.

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