How to read a VIN
The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN of your motorcycle, dirt bike or ATV is not something worth memorizing however knowing where its etched on your ride is worth the 10 seconds it takes.
The VIN is 17 characters long and is more or less a code to the motorcycle's background. The VIN contains information on the manufacture, model year and where it was built. In many respects, the VIN is the ID for your motorcycle, dirt bike or ATV. This is also true for cars. All vehicles require a VIN.
The VIN appears on registrations, titles and even insurance cards but if you're like many people those papers are somewhere in some room inside some box in your house. Or is it in the garage? So knowing where it's at on your 2- or 4-wheeler makes it a lot easier and saves a bit of time. When buying parts, using the VIN is a sure way to find exactly what you need and quite often a sales rep will ask for it.
Additionally, if you are selling or buying a used motorcycle, dirt bike or ATV the VIN tells you or a prospective buyer if the bike has been in an accident, rebuilt or even stolen, among other information.
The VIN is one long stretch of letters and numbers but actually divided into three sections - the first three characters, the next six (spots four through nine) and the last eight.
The first three characters make up the World Manufacturer Identifier. The Vehicle Description Section is the next six characters and explains the vehicle attributes from the manufacturer. The Vehicle Identifier Section, the last eight characters, tells you when and where the bike was manufactured and the bike's serial number.
The numbers 0 through 9 and letters A to Z are used except for I, O and Q so not to be confused with the numbers 1 and 0. No other characters other than letters and numbers get used and no spaces.
So for example, the first character is the country code. The United States is "1" or "4," Canada is "2" but England is "S" and Germany "W." The second digit is the manufacturer. Kawasaki of course gets "K," Honda "H" and Suzuki "S," for examples. The third character IDs what the vehicle is. Motorcycles typically get "1" or "A" though two dirt bikes on display at MotoSport got a "1" the other a "2."
Characters four through nine vary by manufacturer but contain information on engine size, engine type, and even model. The ninth digit is an accuracy check and verifies the previous characters as authorized by the manufacturer.
The 10th digit is a year code, the 11th is a factory code and finally the 12th to 17th digits represent the serial number. You can order a VIN check through DMV.org for $25, useful for past accident history, or use the VIN decoder at Cyclopedia to explain the numbers on your bike or ATV.
Motorcycle VIN Diagram
Now that you know everything about VINs where on earth do you find it? The VIN location is generally the same for motorcycles and dirt bikes - on the steering neck - though some are located on the motor near the bottom of the cylinders. Turn the handlebars to the left and look on the right side of the frame where the steering head goes through the frame. It's etched on the metal vertically.
To find the VIN on an ATV it unfortunately depends on the manufacturer. Quite often, if you're lucky, the ATV VIN is on the left side of the frame under the shifter in relatively plain site. Other areas to locate the VIN for your ATV include down through the slit in the plastic hood. You'll probably need a flashlight but it'll be located on the cross beam connecting the front struts.
The more difficult areas include etched on the frame under the tail section, the left side of the frame down by the engine, and inside the left wheel well by the radiator or behind the left wheel well on the frame.
Now you know everything there is about the Vehicle Identification Number for your motorcycle, dirt bike or ATV - and probably more than you need to know! However, when the time comes, and eventually it will, you'll save a lot of time and in the event you're buying a used bike those 17 characters provide you with the necessary information needed to make an informed buying purchase.