Will Installing a Motorcycle Hitch Void My Warranty? No.

Here’s a topic that’s been debated almost as much as tire brands and the “best oil.” Will installing a hitch and pulling a motorcycle trailer or camper void your new bike warranty?

The simple answer is “No.” It’s against the law.

Here’s the longer answer. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1974 was passed to insure that manufacturers honored the terms of their warranty fairly. Any manufacturer who sells a product that comes with a full warranty (like a motorcycle) can’t cancel your warranty or decline to honor it just because you’ve install aftermarket parts, like a motorcycle hitch or a wiring kit.

A notice from the Federal Trade Commission published in 2010 clarified this matter, stating that consumers (like you) have the right to patronize independent retail stores and repair shops for parts and service without fear of voiding your new vehicle warranty.

A dealer or vehicle manufacturer does have the right to deny a warranty repair only if they can demonstrate that the aftermarket part caused the problem. That means if you were to install a hitch on your bike, tow a 20’ bowrider and burn out the clutch, your dealer could refuse to repair that under warranty. I wouldn’t blame them.

However, under ordinary travel conditions, the only effect a motorcycle-specific trailer or camper will have on your bike is to cause accelerated wear on consumables like tires and brake pads. You’d expect that.

Furthermore, your warranty remains in effect for all other covered parts. Let’s say you have a problem with the display on your bike’s media center. Your dealer can’t deny a warranty repair because you have a hitch installed.

The debate about tires and oil, or which color is faster will never be settled. (It’s blue, by the way.) But when it comes to installing a motorcycle hitch and your warranty, the law is clear. You don’t give up your warranty or your rights by installing and using aftermarket parts.

So install your hitch, plug in your wiring, hook up your trailer, and go ride.


If your dealer and your manufacturer fail to own up to their responsibilities, you have legal rights to pursue. And, while you’re at it, you’ll probably want to look for a better dealer and a different brand of ride.

What’s App? Navigation by Committee

You’ve probably used navigation aids for a while now, things like mapping programs, GPS, app-based maps, etc. While they’re enormously useful, they do fall short when you find yourself paddle-walking a bike in bumper-to-bumper traffic with no end in sight. Sure, some devices show real-time traffic info, but it’s up to you to identify trouble spots and figure out how to avoid them.

Waze displays real-time traffic data as reported by other Waze users, so when it says another route is faster – however improbable – it likely is.

Enter Waze. This app collects real-time data from its users cell phones, allowing the service to flag trouble spots immediately along your route AND to identify faster alternatives when the current route is really backed up.

It works, as I discovered last summer. I was headed to Florida, not realizing that my departure date coincided with the end of school. The Waze app calculated my preferred route and spit on it, offering me a series of roads I would never consider taking. At first, I thought the route was a bug. There’s no way going through Dale City, VA would get me to Fredericksburg faster than a straight shot down I-95.

Turns out, the app was right. While another riding buddy followed the Waze route, I stuck to my own. And what was normally a 45 minute trip turned into a three hour slog in painful stop and go traffic. Then, the route opened up, just as the app predicted. Meanwhile, my friend got to Fredericksburg in a sane 60 minutes, had lunch–and a nap–while I practically walked my bike the whole way.

I can tell you that whenever that app made a new route suggestion, I was all over it. I never got stuck again. And I never heard the end of it from my friend.

You (or your passenger) can report road issues, helping others avoid what you encounter.

Waze works by constantly collecting your position data and feeding that into a cloud-based computing architecture where data can be analyzed and reported. This is especially beneficial because new traffic delays are instantly detected as Waze users begin to slow down. Users can also actively contribute by using the app to flag items like road hazards, police locations, and more, which are then communicated to other Waze users along the route.

If you don’t like having data collected about your whereabouts, this may not be the app for you. As for me, it’s worth the trade-off. And the silence.

Dale Coyner is the owner of Open Road Outfitters, specializing in motorcycle campers and cargo trailers and the author of books on motorcycle travel.

Customer Check-in: Richard Park

photo 1Shortly after taking delivery of his color-matched Escapade LE, Richard Park from Ontario, Canada sent me some nice pics of his rig.

photo 2

That’s a 2014 Harley Ultra Limited in Amber Whisky and Black. That’s an awesome color combination, and it looks really good on the trailer as well.

Nice bike, and nice trailer choice Richard!

photo 3

photo 4

If you’d like more info about a custom-painted trailer like this for your bike, learn about it here on the page for the Escapade LE, or use the contact form below to reach me directly.


Detour: Wigwam Motel #6, Holbrook, Arizona

Wigwam_Village_No-_6_2013-09-26_15-11-44The intersection of an expanding US highway system, growing tourism and entrepreneurial spirit created some unique landmarks on America’s roadsides in the early and mid-20th century. Take Wigwam Motels for example.

The first Wigwam Motel (which is modeled after a tipi, not a wigwam. I know…details, details) was erected in Horse Cave, Kentucky in 1933 by Frank Redford who designed his motel to complement his existing museum (er, gift shop, actually) of native American artifacts. Seven Wigwam Motel villages were constructed across the country and today, three survive.

There’s a good chance that if you’ve seen a picture of the Wigwam Motel, it’s the complex in Holbrook, Arizona. Built along a route famous for its distinctive structures, Wigwam Motel #6 captured the imagination of travelers along US Route 66, offering the unique opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”. Its owner, Chester Lewis, installed coin-operated radios in each room and the money collected was sent to Redford as a royalty payment for using his motel design.

Thanks to the care taken by the Lewis family, Wigwam Motel #6 has avoided the fate that befell most of the structures along Route 66. The motel complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Coronado Scenic Byway

Petrified Forest. More importantly, it’s located near US 191, the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway, which is described by Wikipedia as “a very dangerous mountain road with many sharp curves and little or no shoulders on steep cliffs.” Sweet.

Importing a Motorcycle Camper or Cargo Trailer into Canada

Photo by Brian Wilson
Photo by Brian Wilson

You’ve spotted the perfect motorcycle camper or cargo trailer and you’d like to add it to your garage. But it’s in the U.S. and you’re in the beautiful Great White North. So what do you need to do to get it across the border? And what will it cost?

Let’s break it down. To get a camper or trailer from the factory to you, you’ll pay:

  • Crating and shipping costs
  • Customs brokerage fee
  • Provincial taxes
  • A trailer import fee

Shipping Costs

Considering the vast expanse that is the Great White North, shipping expenses can vary a lot. One obvious factor is distance, but a more important factor is manufacturer volume.

Here’s a recent example. I recently shipped a Time Out camper to Edmonton, Alberta for $350 USD. That’s not a bad rate when you consider the distances involved. However, a recent quote for shipping a Mini Mate camper to the same destination came in at $776 USD, more than double.

This happens because Time Out is a larger manufacturer and ships a higher volume of units. As a result, they’re able to negotiate higher discounts on shipping rates.

Alternative: If it makes sense, you can arrange to pick up your trailer or camper at a U.S. freight terminal, assemble it and tow it home, or have it loaded on your truck/trailer. If it would cost you several hundred dollars in missed time at work and travel expenses, it might just pay to have it brought to you.

Customs Broker

Before your trailer can be shipped, you’ll need to appoint a customs broker. You’ll create an account with the broker and sign a limited power of attorney form that will allow them to collect the applicable tax amount from you and pay it on your behalf. They’ll follow your shipment through the customs clearance process and notify me and you if there are any issues.

As part of my job, I prepare three pieces of documentation for the customs broker. One is a commercial invoice, which reflects the full and accurate sale price of the trailer. The second is a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) certificate of origin, a document that is similar in purpose to the certificate of origin provided by the manufacturer. The NAFTA document certifies that the trailer or camper was manufactured in a NAFTA country (Mexico, the U.S. and Canada). The third document is a scanned and signed copy of the certificate of origin from the manufacturer, a document you could consider to be a camper’s birth certificate.

A customs broker will charge about $100 USD for their services. I like using Borderbee.com. They specialize in helping private citizens import vehicles (a camper or trailer is considered a vehicle). They’re helpful and reasonably priced.

Alternative: If you have your trailer shipped to a U.S. terminal or commercial address and bring it across yourself, you are the customs broker. You’ll pay the taxes, complete the paperwork, and bring the trailer across yourself. Not complicated, many people have done it. You’ll need just a regular bill of sale (or commercial invoice), and the manufacturer’s certificate of origin. You won’t need a NAFTA document.

Provincial Taxes

This one’s pretty simple. You’ll pay your standard sales tax on the value of any trailer or camper that you import or bring into the country. Most provincial rates run between 10 to 15%, although Alberta checks in at a thrifty 5%. How’s that eh? That must explain why I ship a lot of units to Alberta.

Alternative: Hah. An alternative to not paying The Man? Get serious.

Trailer Import Fee

This one surprises some people because it sometimes comes a month or two after they’ve had their camper. I’ve also found this fee to be inconsistently enforced over the years. In the last few, it seems to be more uniformly applied. Probably because of upgraded computer systems that make it easier to track these things. Damn computers.

Anyway, once you’ve brought your trailer into the country, you’ll need to take it to an inspection station to make sure it’s legal to tow. All the campers and trailers I sell are legal to use in Canada. As a token of your appreciation for that rubber-stamp inspection, you’ll pay around $200 CDN.

Alternative: None.

If you have questions about the import process, exact shipping costs, or any other questions about motorcycle campers or trailers, feel free to contact me.

Best Motorcycle Trip Winners: 2014 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards

Cabot-Trail-----lightphoto-iStock_54_990x660Best Motorcycle Trip Winners: 2014 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards.

This was a fun thing to do. Last year, I was invited to nominate 25 of my favorite roads to be considered for a Top 10 poll at USA Today. My contributions were combined with two other riders/writers and the roads that received the most nominations between us were put on a list for readers to choose from.

A bunch of my nominations made the top 10 list including the Cabot Trail, Beartooth Pass, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway, the Twisted Sisters, the PCH and US 101.

The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel, 2nd Edition: Planning, Outfitting, and Accessorizing

The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel, 2nd Edition: Planning, Outfitting, and Accessorizing: Dale Coyner: 9781884313424: Amazon.com: Books.

“Adventure” in motorcycle travel can be a double-edged sword. You want to enjoy unexpected pleasures and great roads, but leave behind things like fatigue, discomfort and danger (most of it, anyway). I wrote this title in 2007 to include everything I could think of to help riders enjoy more of the good side of adventure in their travels. The title was updated in 2014 to reflect advances in motorcycles and touring technology.

And finally, after 20 years of publishing, I got my picture on the cover of a book! That’s me riding my Honda ST-1300.


Inspiration, ideas and how-to's for motorcycle travelers.