Like all other automobiles, motorcycles have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that provides plenty of information and history. You can get the bike’s details, model year, manufacturer, engine type, and serial number by decoding the digits and letters in the VIN.
Do Motorcycles Have VIN Numbers? All motorcycles since 1981 have a standard 17-digit VIN stamped on the right side of their neck below the steering handle. Its first 3 digits give manufacturer information, and the next 6 show the motorcycle description, including its model, engine type, and size. At the same time, the last 8 digits are for its identification, including its year of manufacturing, assembly plant, and serial number. This number is necessary for insurance companies, police, and buyers to check its history, service details, odometer data, and its genuineness.
This article will guide motorbike owners regarding the VIN, it’s decoding, and its importance. We will also discuss its standardized pattern and how you should check it before buying a secondhand bike. Moreover, it also has applications while swapping ECM and the odometer cluster on a motorbike.
VIN numbers of motorcycles
Motorcycles also have a unique identification number known as VIN like other vehicles. It is exclusive for each, and you will not find two of them sharing an identical VIN.
It has a specific pattern consisting of digits and letters, and each part has particular information about its engine, year of manufacture, model, and make.
Like all other vehicles, motorcycles before 1981 have no standard VIN and can vary in their number of digits and patterns.
However, it has been uniform since then, and you will find it unchanging across all models. It helps find the history and its clean record while buying.
What is the number of digits in a motorcycle VIN?
Motorcycles after 1981 have a 17-digit VIN, which is universal irrespective of manufacturer. It has 3 sections containing different information.
The first 3 digits show the information about the manufacturer, including its country, name, and type indicated by a single letter or numeral.
The following 6 digits contain information regarding the motorcycle itself, including its model, engine size, and the type and check digit to validate the VIN by the manufacturer.
Its coding varies according to the manufacturer. The last 8 digits are for its identification, including its model year, assembly plant, and serial number.
For example, 5HD1MCP35LB123456 is a VIN for a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and we will segregate it into different sections to decode its containing information regarding the bike.
5HD: Country of manufacturing and manufacturer information(manufactured by Harley Davidson in the USA for sale to other countries)
1: Size of motorcycle (heavyweight)
MC: Model name (Freewheeler Trike)
P: Engine type (Milwaukee-Eight engine)
3: Calibration/Introduction (California)
5: Check Digit to ensure its validity
L: Model year (2020)
B: Assembly plant (York assembly plant, Pennsylvania, USA)
123456: 6-digit Serial/sequential number of manufacturing
Sequences regarding the number of digits or letters in its 3 sections will remain the same for different manufacturers.
However, individual coding can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Therefore, you should check its owner or service manual to decode the VIN and extract the information.
Where is the VIN on a motorcycle?
There is more than one location to find the VIN on your motorcycle; they can vary slightly according to the manufacturer and its model.
Mostly it is engraved on the right side of the neck of its steering assembly. However, sometimes it can be challenging to read, and you must carefully look on the right side of the neck tube just below its handle or windshield.
Moreover, it will also be in sticker form on a second location on the motorcycle frame near the engine. For example, on Harley Davidson, it is on the left side of the crankcase between engine cylinders.
Moreover, you will find it in the form of a printed sticker on the front downtube from its steering head.
For example, on a Honda model, it is carved on the right side of the steering head. You will also find it as a metal tag on the left side of the frame near the engine.
You can also find it on its title, registration documents, and service manual, and it should match the one stamped on its body.
Can there be the same VIN for any two motorcycles?
No, VIN is unique for every motorcycle, and you will not find any two of them from the same or different manufacturers sharing the identical VIN.
It has essential applications in maintaining the history, odometer record, insurance, and vehicle identification in case of an incident. Therefore, its duplication can result in misleading information.
The manufacturer ensures its uniqueness and validity by a check digit in the VIN, and it has 9th place in the sequence.
The manufacturer checks its authenticity and correctness using a formula from the US Department of Transportation.
What is the importance of a motorcycle VIN?
VIN is a unique compact number containing a lot of information about your motorcycle. Its importance becomes manifold when you are going to buy a used bike.
For example, you can find its history, major repairs, accidents record, warranty dates, and any stolen report filed against the VIN.
You can also reveal other things about the bike regarding its manufacturer, model, engine type, manufacturing year, and chassis or serial number.
However, it requires you to decode the 17-digit VIN to extract the information hidden in different letters and digits.
Besides containing information and its history, it also is helpful for insurance companies to evaluate its condition and fix the premium.
In addition, there are online forums where you run the VIN, which will present the complete history of the registered motorbike against that number. DMV and authorized dealers also keep records of the bikes sold.
How does a VIN help in the identification of a stolen motorcycle?
By availing of the VIN checking services, you can find the status of a motorcycle and its history if it is stolen or used in any criminal activity.
DMV has a complete database of all vehicles sold across the US and their updated history for any recorded events.
Therefore, you should visit there with the VIN of the motorcycle you want to buy. They will give you complete history against that particular number, including if there has been any stolen report about it.
Moreover, there are also other online services available to check the VIN. However, they will charge you a service fee to provide detailed information.
One important thing to remember is that information that they provide will be for recorded events.
If any bike is stolen or met with an accident and its owner does not report it, there will be no online information against that event.
In that case, you should also physically inspect it, match the number on its frame with one on registration and title documents and look for any signs of a VIN tamper.
How to verify the VIN on your motorcycle?
The primary step to verify the VIN on your motorcycle is to match it on the registration documents with the one engraved on its body.
Therefore, you should never buy it if it has no valid papers. However, some people forge it and modify a few digits or letters to replace it with another number.
In that case, you can avail the online VIN verification services to find the complete history of that particular model.
The most authentic database is of DMV, and they also offer inspection services for a nominal fee. Authorized dealers and sellers also have records of the bikes they have sold.
Therefore, it is better to contact the insurance company to verify it by providing them with the VIN. Moreover, there are online forums to do that for you by charging a small fee.
Is VIN the same as the chassis number?
The chassis or the serial number of an engine is a part of VIN. It contains 17-digits in a sequence with different segments giving a piece of particular information.
Its last 8 digits have motorcycle identification information. One digit or letter is for its model year, the next is for its assembly plant’s location, and the last 6 digits present its chassis number or serial number.
However, like other automobiles, people often use this number and chassis numbers interchangeably as you can locate them both at the same place on the motorbikes.
A 3rd number, the engine number, is different from the two, and you will find it on the engine body.
Is it safe to share the VIN of your motorcycle?
No, it is not safe to share the VIN of your motorcycle with anybody or on online forums until you are selling it.
It can result in severe consequences if some criminals use it negatively. They have the skills to forge it on its body with your number. When they use it for criminal activity, law enforcement agencies will identify it by its VIN.
It will direct their investigation towards you, causing much inconvenience. Therefore, keep it up to you as much as possible as your personal information.
Moreover, they can also use it to find your address by checking your record associated with it.
Therefore, you should share it with a potential buyer only during finalizing a deal so that he can verify the clean history of the bike.
Do motorcycles from different manufacturers have the same VIN pattern?
Yes, the VIN pattern is universal for all manufacturers across the world. You will find 17-digit for all vehicles manufactured after 1981.
Vehicles before January 1981 can have different numbers of digits from 5-13 for VIN until their standard pattern.
There can be slight variations regarding check digits in other countries. Moreover, the first 3 letters are specific for each manufacturer, and model prefixes in the VIN are also different for each manufacturer.
Do you need a VIN for ECM swap on your motorcycle?
VIN is your vehicle’s unique identity, and you cannot interchange it.
Therefore, manufacturers link some security features of the latest models with it to prevent any forgery or to tamper with its critical parameters.
For example, ECM is a mini-computer that governs the engine parameters and ensures its optimal performance.
To swap it with other compatible models, you have to reprogram or reflash it to match this number.
Moreover, you will also require this for changing the turn signal and security module (TSSM) and odometer, as it contains the number of miles a motorcycle has traveled.
It is crucial as somebody can change the number of miles to increase the price of a motorbike.