How to Read a Vintage Yamaha VIN Number

Written by tony ehrike
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How to Read a Vintage Yamaha VIN Number
Decoding a Yamaha VIN is a relatively simple task. (man on a red bike image by Galina Barskaya from

In order to repair a vintage Yamaha bike, it's important that you know how to read and decode the vehicle identification number (VIN). Knowing how to read the VIN is also helpful in identifying the origins of the bike and its worth. Not all Yamaha bikes will have the VIN located in the same place and it may be worn down if it is old. The VIN could be located on the right side of the steering stem or it could be affixed on the frame somewhere.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Read the first character of the VIN. This character represents where the bike was made. The letter "J" signifies Japan; the numbers "1" through "4" denote the United States, "2" indicates Canada, "3" is for Mexico, and "9" is for Brazil. Other countries such as Korea, England, Germany and Italy use the first letter of the country.

  2. 2

    Locate the second character of the VIN, which represents the manufacturer. If it is a true Yamaha bike, it should have the letter "C" here. The third character represents the division that manufactured the bike. Characters four through eight identify the features of the bike. If the eighth character of the VIN is either the letter "C" or the number "3," it will receive a red sticker; all others will receive green.

  3. 3

    Counting from left to right, the ninth character signifies that the VIN is authentic. The 10th character represents the year of the bike -- to interpret this character, refer to the year letter chart below. The 11th character identifies the plant where the bike was made. Finally, characters 12 through 17 represent in what order the bike came off the assembly line.

    The year letter chart is as follows:

    1980 = A

    1981 = B

    1982 = C

    1983 = D

    1984 = E

    1985 = F

    1986 = G

    1987 = H

    1988 = J

    1989 = K

    1990 = L

    1991 = M

    1992 = N

    1993 = P

    1994 = R

    1995 = S

    1996 = T

    1997 = V

    1998 = W

    1999 = X

    2000 = Y

    2001 = 1

    2002 = 2

    2003 = 3

    2004 = 4

    2005 = 5

    2006 = 6

    2007 = 7

    2008 = 8

    2009 = 9

Tips and warnings

  • If you are unable to read the VIN on your vintage bike because of wear, use a plain piece of paper and the side of a paperless crayon to lightly rub over the nameplate.

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