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 exhaustâ€¦???? 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.