How to Decode Motorcycle VIN Information

Updated April 17, 2017

The numbers inscribed on your motorcycle are also known as the Vehicle Identification Numbers, or VIN. All motorcycles built as of 1981 will have these numbers on the right front fork or on a metal tag attached to the engine block. The VIN system was originally created by law enforcement agencies to track and identify all vehicles on the road. Each character of the VIN has a specific meaning.

Find your motorcycle's VIN. The VIN can be divided into three sections of characters and one check digit. The purpose of the check digit is to ensure that all motorcycles have unique VINs.

Using as example JKAZX401VMB000451, note the first character in the sequence. This represents the country of origin for your model. In this instance "J" is an abbreviation for Japan.

Note the second character. This provides the name of the manufacturer, "K" stands for Kawasaki.

The third character defines the type of vehicle, which for motorcycles can be either a letter or numeral. In this case, the letter "A" signifies that the vehicle is a motorcycle.

Note the fourth and fifth characters. These characters designate the model code and the engine type or use.

Digits six through eight are internal factory codes, used during the manufacturing process to define the model type.

Note the ninth character. This is a check digit that is computed from the other 16 digits in the VIN, and will always change from one vehicle to the next.

The 10th character allows you to identify the date of manufacture. Using the example, "M" would signify the year 1991. The letters "A" through "Y" signify the years 1980 to 2000 in sequential order. There is an exception to the letters "I", "O", "Q", "U" and "Z," however, to prevent readers from misinterpreting these letters as numbers. The years 2001 to 2009 are marked by their ending single digit numbers. Newer models that were built in 2010 or later recycle the letters by starting again with the letter "A."

Note the 11th digit. This digit supplies the location of the plant of manufacture. "B" would identify Lincoln, Nebraska, in this instance.

The remaining six digits are the production serial numbers.

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About the Author

Lina Schofield began writing professionally in 2005. She is a professional freelance writer who has worked on a variety of projects, including the founding of the quarterly publication "Propaganda." Schofield also has been published in several student collections. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English at University of Wales Trinity Carmarthen.