All vehicles, cars, trucks and motorcycles have a VIN, which stands for Vehicle Identification Number. The VIN on a motorcycle is located in two different places. It is located on the frame of the bike (either stamped into the frame or on a metal plate attached to the frame) and it is stamped into the engine block. The number will be the same in both places on a new bike–if the numbers are different it means that the frame and the engine were not originally manufactured together. This could be a red flag if you are buying a used bike as it could mean the bike has been in an accident. In any event it tells you that a new engine has been put into the bike’s frame. VIN numbers and letters are not random, they represent the year the bike was built, the manufacturer, the model, the size of the engine and other valuable information.
1. Clean the bike, especially if it is an older bike on which some of the VIN numbers may have been damaged. Use engine degreaser on the engine to remove built-up grease and oil.
2. Inspect the steering ball and the fork of the bike for any numbers that are stamped into the metal or for a plate that has been attached to the frame. The 17 numbers and letters you find are the bike’s VIN.
3. Carefully inspect the engine block, particularly the upper half of the block. The 17-character VIN will be stamped or etched into the metal of the engine block, often on the right side of the engine. Use degreaser to clean the VIN if necessary in order to read all 17 characters.
4. Compare the VIN you find on the bike’s frame with the VIN you found on the engine. In most cases the numbers should match. If the numbers do not match exactly that means the frame and the engine were not originally manufactured as a unit.
5. Check online for companies that offer to run a history of motorcycles (accidents and other incidents that could potentially compromise a bike’s performance) based on the VIN numbers. See the “Resources” section for a government website that performs searches for free. Most companies that run such searches are not free.