How to year check a motorcycle frame or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)?
I get SO many calls from customers wondering what year their motocross bike was made in that I felt it deserved a blog post.
Unfortunately there are a lot of 'chancers' out there selling their bikes to unsuspecting people as much newer than they actually are. I feel terrible for people as I sometimes deliver the news that the CRF which they believed was an 08 is actually an 04, or sometimes worse.
Where is my frame number or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) located on my motorcycle?
On every bike I've ever come across the frame number is located to the right hand side of the headstock tube. This is the tube of steel at the front of any motorcycle where the fork clamps bolts through. The frame number/VIN is ALWAYS stamped deep into the frame.
Don't be mislead by plates of light steel riveted on here. Some manufacturers do use plates (so they can position the frame number is a second, easier to read, place) but, even if there is a plate, it will ALWAYS be stamped directly into the frame itself.
Another thing to be aware of is that people try to scratch out these numbers and re-stamp fake ones. Be as careful as you can when looking, check the paint, digit alignment.......anything really.
Remember, if something doesn't feel right about a bike when you're looking at it - follow your gut instinct. Walk away if you're unsure because some day you might get an owner looking for their pride and joy back.
On a Honda frame you will notice they have a 17 digit frame number. Honda have been printing frame numbers on every single bike since 1981. With the Honda number pattern the 10th digit refers to the year. So if the 10th digit is an '8' then it's a 2008 bike. SO, then what happens before 2001 you ask? Well in 2000 the 10th digit was 'Y', in 1999 'X' and so on backwards.
As far as I'm aware almost all, if not all, manufacturers use this system.at least for bikes designated for use in Europe. My assumption is that it is the law, however, I stand to be corrected.
On bikes that were not originally built for Europe the system of identification is often different.
Let's look at an example of a motorcycle frame/VIN number:
J = (Japan or Asia)
H = The H stands for ......do I have to explain!
2 = motorbike (it has 2 wheels!)...not sure what the quads have here though.
RC360 = Digits 4-8 refer to the bike model itself.
RC360 stands for a VFR750F Road/Street motorcycle with rear wheel drive. Every bike has a unique identifier. Some bikes even develop their name from this code - remember Joey RC45? That's what the code was.
5 = the ninth digit, this is a randomly placed code used to make the number completely unique
C = the tenth digit - "the identifier" - a year of manufacture of 1982 as seen on out chart below.
M101581 = the last digits are used to make the number unique. Normally the manufacturer keep these in succession as the bikes come off the production line.
Interesting sidestory: I once had a customer who wanted to return a €6000 bike bacause the frame number ended in '13' . In the end we had to charge him quite a bit as the bike was already registered in his name and would reduce the bikes value otherwise. He didn't care! For no amount of persuasion could you convince this guy to stay with it!
Useful links for checking out motorcycle VIN numbers:
Sometimes if we are having trouble with identifing a bike I use Bikepics. The pics aren't fully reliable as they are owner uploaded but it's a good starting point, especially with some of the older machines.
For decoding Suzuki frame numbers I use THIS LINK.
For Yamaha Motocross bikes this is good for checking frame numbers - HERE.
Remember if you buying any parts from my shop I will check the year to make sure you get the right parts. I hope you find this useful.