How to Check a Motorcycle VIN

Written by heydon park
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How to Check a Motorcycle VIN
Conventional motorcycle set up (motorcycle image by Bionic Media from

VIN is the acronym for Vehicle Identification Number. Every motorised vehicle, manufactured anywhere in the world, is issued a unique VIN. It is the way dealers, importers, licensing offices, insurance companies and police identify a specific vehicle. On motorcycles, the VIN is usually found in two locations, the headstock, which is at the front of the motorcycle's frame and on the right side of the crankcase, which is the lower part of the engine unit.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Flashlight
  • Pen or pencil
  • Paper

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  1. 1

    Roll or ride the motorcycle into a well-lit area or somewhere outside, such as in your driveway during daylight hours. If the motorcycle has a centre stand, put the motorcycle up on it. First look at the headstock at the front of the motorcycle's frame. It is the vertical section of the frame that is between the front forks. The VIN will be found on one side of the headstock, either stamped into the metal or printed on a plastic-coated white sticker with black writing.

  2. 2

    Turn the handlebars all the way to the left, making sure the motorcycle remains stable. Doing this will expose the right side of the headstock. The area may be in shadow and the VIN could be partially obscured by the gas tank or other parts. Move in close and use your flashlight if necessary, to locate the VIN. It may be necessary to clean the headstock to see the VIN clearly.

    The VIN is often 20 or more letters and numbers, making it easier if you read it off to an assistant, who can then write it down.

    If the VIN is not on the headstock's right side, turn the handlebars all the way to the right, exposing the headstock's left side. Go around to that side of the headstock and once again, move in close to see the VIN. It will be located on one side or the other.

  3. 3

    Look on the crankcase. This is the lower section of the engine unit. The VIN is usually stamped into an area next to or very near the oil filler cap. (The hole where you pour in engine oil). This is usually the right side of the crankcase (as you sit on the motorcycle.)

    The VIN on the crankcase will be easier to see in daylight but you may have to clean the area. Once again, move in close and use your pen and paper to write down the VIN number. If the VIN is not on that side of the crankcase, check in the same area on the other side of the crankcase. It will be stamped into either one side or the other.

Tips and warnings

  • By law, VIN numbers must appear on a motorcycle's engine and on the frame so it must be on the headstock or on the crankcase or both. If it is not in either place, that means the VIN has been erased or removed, or it is a custom-built vehicle and may not be legal for the road.
  • If the VIN number on the headstock and the VIN number on the crankcase are different, this usually means the motorcycle's original engine has been replaced. In these cases, the VIN on the frame take precedence in identifying the vehicle.
  • Remember, it is always wise to keep a copy of your motorcycle's VIN in a safe location in case you lose the registration slip or, heaven forbid, the motorcycle is stolen.
  • Remember to make sure the motorcycle is stable and it is always a good idea to have an assistant help you with this or any other procedure while working on any vehicle.

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