The Can-Am Spyder is a three-wheeled open-air vehicle designed to offer the experience of motorcycle touring without the aggressive riding posture and the need to balance.
Its Y-framed design, automatic transmission, and comfortable seating all contribute to a laid-back cruise, but what are the common problems with the Can-Am Spyder?
Table of Contents
1. Can-Am Spyder Brakes Squeal
The Can-Am Spyder uses disc brakes that stop the vehicle via brake pads that grab the disc rotors.
The pads rub against the rotors continuously while riding, and this friction can cause vibration that, when the pads or rotors are still new, can develop into a squeal until the brakes wear in a little.
You’ll know if the squeal is harmless if it vanishes when you apply your brakes and goes away altogether after some use.
Here’s what we’re talking about from the mouth of a Spyder rider:
“When rolling the Spyder forward or backward, there is a squealing sound. I’ve heard that it could be brakes, but how could that be if the squeal is happening when brakes are not applied? I thought maybe a belt alignment issue caused the bearings to squeal, but I don’t have a clue. The bike does seem to have a little more resistance to rolling than when I first got it.”
The rider quoted above mentions something important – they’re experiencing resistance coming from the tires that are more pronounced than when they first bought the motorcycle.
This is indicative of an issue that extends beyond the break-in period.
- Some Spyder riders overuse their breaks when they get the vehicle while getting used to it. If brake pads overheat, they can glaze over with hard spots that make squealing noises when the brakes are applied rather than when they aren’t.
- In other cases, Spyder owners found the cause to be moisture, humidity, road debris, corrosion on the brake pins, rotors, and calipers, or contamination on the pads that causes the squeaking noise.
2. Can-Am Spyder Mirror Shell Falls Off
One of the chief complaints regarding the Can-Am Spyder is its mirror cover’s tendency to rattle loose and fall off while riding.
Here are a few examples from real-life riders:
- “Mirror shell – one fell off and got crushed. [It cost] $100 to replace.”
- “There’s not anything to tighten that will fix it. It comes from where the mirror body joins the frame. I solved it by removing the mirrors and putting double-sided tape on the frame (a couple of layers). Have a search, and you’ll find a couple of other options.”
- “If you have LED lights added on the edge of your mirrors, the tabs were most likely damaged when the covers were removed for wire routing.”
As one rider mentions above, double-sided tape is a fast and easy way to reinforce the Spyders mirrors against the force of wind vibration that seems to loosen them.
Another more permanent, less visually appealing solution is to install aftermarket mirror wings that block the wind around the mirrors and to add extra bolts that hold the mirror shells in place.
3. Can-Am Spyder Parking Brake Won’t Release
Another issue Spyder owners encounter, although a little less frequently than some others on the list, is the parking brake failing to release.
The Can-Am Spyder is quite different than a motorcycle, with a slew of amenities, bells and whistles, and extra safety gear tailored for its Y-framed, three-wheeled design.
One such component is the Spyder’s parking brake.
But if the parking brake gets stuck engaged, it turns from a safety feature to a hazard quickly.
Here’s how one Spyder owner described the situation:
- “I have a 2015 [Spyder] Limited, and I am stuck 15 miles from home and 100 miles from the nearest dealer… My parking brake will not release. The red light flashes until I press the brake release, then it goes solid, but the break will not release. Then when I turn the key off, it beeps as if the brake is not set.”
Another rider with the same problem added this:
- “To get back on the road, use a 12mm wrench right-side rear to release the parking brake cable; you can leave it undone to get it home or dealer. Remember, if you stop somewhere, you must check the wheels. Mine ended up being a switch failure. Note: Your regular brakes will still work for stopping. I now carry a 12mm with me just for this reason.”
4. Can-Am Spyder Leaks Fuel and Vapor
This problem is specific to Spyders manufactured between 2008-2012, many of which are still available on the used market.
Can-Am Spyders manufactured between these four years had issues with their fuel vapor canisters leaking. The problem was so widespread that it resulted in two separate recalls.
- The first recall was the smaller of the two. It applied to the 2008 and 2009 Spyder GS and the 2010 Spyder RS.
- The NHTSA documented issues with the fuel vapor vent hose, the fuel vapors were escaping from the canister hose inside the engine compartment.
- Fuel vapors are flammable – loose fuel vapor shouldn’t be roaming around inside your Can-Am’s engine.
While that first recall affected 9,600 units in the US alone and 2,431 in Canada, the second was even more prominent.
The second recall affected more than 43,000 Spyders in the US and Canada, specifically the 2008-2009 Spyder GS, the 2009-2012 Spyder RS, and the Spyder RT year model 2012-2012.
- This time, the affected units were suspected of having fuel caps that weren’t correctly sealing with the tank’s filler neck.
- If fuel vapors are allowed to escape the Spyders fuel tank due to a weak seal, it creates a significant fire risk.
- Unfortunately, the recall was a response to four fire claims. The fires occurred when the Spyders stopped or moved at slow speeds.
Initially, the problem was thought to be a leak in the fuel canister hose, related to the first recall. In fact, in some cases, this was the culprit.
But more fires were reported, and not all the vehicles in question had faulty hoses.
This eventually led to the discovery of the second issue – fuel vapor escaping from a faulty fuel cap seal.
All recalled units were fitted with replacement fuel caps, and hoses were upgraded and rerouted.
Still, we include this section for any owners of used Spyders that match the description.
Run your VIN at the dealership to determine if your Spyder has received the appropriate upgrades.
5. Can-Am Spyder Battery Not Charging
More than a few Spyder owners have expressed issues with their Spyders not charging.
Most commonly, the issue seems to be traced to the magneto in the stator, the component responsible for converting motor power into electrical current to charge the battery while riding your Spyder.
That said, the first thing to check is the battery terminals, as loose connections can stop the battery from charging, often mimicking the symptoms of a failing stator magneto.
Additionally, some riders report their Spyders problem was a bad or missing ground.
Finally, more fortunate riders found that the Spyder battery’s failure to charge resulted from a blown fuse associated with their vehicle’s charging system.
6. Inconsistent Dealership Support
Another frequent complaint from Spyder owners is the inconsistent support, knowledge, and technical craftsmanship from dealership to dealership.
That said, owner reports published online indicate dealerships are improving, but this can still affect the integrity of used Spyders.
After all, Spyders are shipped to the dealerships in crates, disassembled, and the Can-Am dealership technicians are responsible for assembling them, not the Can-Am factory.
Therefore, a Spyder purchased from a less reputable dealership will have electrical, performance, and alignment issues that a Spyder assembled by a more knowledgeable mechanic won’t.
- Spyders are more complicated than most open-air vehicles, meaning specialized knowledge, tools, and techniques are needed for assembly, service maintenance, repairs, and installations.
- According to real-life Spyder riders, dealership knowledge, support, ability, and integrity are erratic from location to location.
- Experienced Can-Am owners suggest heavy research when choosing where to purchase your Spyder.
- Even if you’re buying a used Spyder, find out which dealership the seller bought it from and research their reviews and reputation to figure out how well it was put together.
7. Can-Am Spyder Won’t Shift Into Reverse When Hot
This can be a frustrating issue, especially when the solution turns out to be so simple… in some cases.
There are more than a few online reports from frustrated Can-Am riders regarding their Spyders reverse gear not working.
While in some cases, there is an issue with the reverse actuator wiring or fuse, in most cases, riders just aren’t pushing the reverse button hard enough.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example:
“I stopped by the house to pick something up before heading to the store, got back on the bike, started it up, went to put it in reverse, and nothing happened. I started it in Neutral, had my foot on the brake, and it would not engage. Put it back in Neutral and rolled it down the driveway and off to the store. After leaving the store, the same issue, no reverse. I checked the oil as soon as I got home, so the temperature was up. Plenty of oil, In fact, it had just been changed about 200 miles ago!”
As it turns out, riders must first push the reverse button with their thumb before shifting the paddle shifter into reverse.
Now the confusing thing is that this isn’t always the case.
The Spyders can often be switched into reverse by rider input via the paddle shifter.
But when the Can-Am Spyder gets warm, a reverse button must be pressed while shifting the shifter.
Since pushing the reverse button is not always necessary, some Spyder owners report they didn’t even know the button was there!
8. Can-Am Spyder Maintenance is Expensive
Can-Am Spyders are frequently included on the online lists showcasing the most expensive “bikes” to service when it comes to parts and labor.
One expensive cost increase is the price of replacing the three-wheeler’s extra tire versus the two tires on many motorcycles in the same category.
That said, other expenses like brake pads, shock repairs, and transmission services have to be done by trained technicians with special tools, using techniques distinct to wrenching on Can-Am Spyders.
Exceptional training and unique tools translate to higher labor costs.
The high service cost can lead to unreliable used Spyders, notably if the previous owner altogether avoided the expensive upkeep fees by skipping regular care.
- Well lit for increased visibility a night
- Unique style
- Ample storage capacity
- Optional passenger seat
- Customizable via OEM accessories
- Fun to ride
- Automatic transmission
- Reverse Gear
- Small turning radius
- The parking brake might get stuck
- Leaking fuel hoses and fuel caps
- Expensive maintenance
- Inconsistent dealership support
- Hard to shift into reverse when hot
“With ample torque on tap throughout the rev range, the big RT blasts away from stops and launches out of corners, delivering smile-inducing exhilaration. Jackrabbit starts can even break the rear tire loose briefly before the traction control kicks in.”
“The Spyder uses a throttle-by-wire system that sometimes delivers delayed responses. The standard and Eco ride modes exhibited a noticeable hitch in initial throttle application, and irregular power pulses plague the fuel-efficient Eco mode at lower speeds. Those issues fall to the wayside once the Spyder rolls, and the big Triple remains ultra-smooth throughout the rest of the rev range.”
“From its Y-architecture and Vehicle Stability System to its “frunk” (front trunk), paddle-shifting semi-automatic transmission, and foot-pedal-only combined braking system, the Spyder is a unique Powersports vehicle. Two-wheel riders may dismiss it because it doesn’t lean, but the Spyder offers an open-air riding experience for those who do not want to balance and manage a heavyweight touring motorcycle. The RT Limited offers a one-of-a-kind mix of comfort, stability, safety, and touring capability. Prepare to be impressed.”
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