Here’s How To Check If A Motorcycle Engine Is Stolen

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If you are buying a used motorcycle or just a motorcycle engine, you may want to verify that the engine has not been stolen. Luckily there is a way to check and ensure you aren’t buying yourself into this problem.

So, how do you check if a motorcycle engine is stolen? To check if a motorcycle engine is stolen, look at the engine block and there will be a serial number stamped onto it. If you get this number and call your local police department, you can have them search for that serial number in their stolen vehicle reports and tell you whether or not it has been stolen.

It’s understandable to be hesitant and cautious when buying a motorcycle or any part of a motorcycle. With how exposed all of the components are, it becomes much easier for a thief to take the bike itself or parts of it. In comparison, trying to steal an engine out of a car is a much harder task due to the difficulty of getting to the engine and also the weight and size of the engine itself. Motorcycles make it much easier for a thief to remove an engine (or other parts) and carry it away without being seen.

Ways To Tell The Engine Is Stolen

It is important when buying a motorcycle, engine, or transmission that you verify that the bike itself nor any part of it has been stolen. You do not want to be caught with stolen motorcycle parts and be blamed for stealing them. As such, there is a simple way for you to verify that nothing is stolen before every purchase.

So, how can you actually tell if the engine is stolen? As previously mentioned, there is a serial number stamped onto the engine itself. This is a unique identifier for that specific engine that can be looked up. On most motorcycles, this serial number is stamped on the top of the engine block. You will want to look just behind the cylinder heads to see if you can find it there. If it is not there, you will now want to check out the front bottom part of the engine block. This is the second most likely location for the serial number.

If the engine itself is dirty at all, you may have a hard time reading or finding the serial number. It is a good idea to clean the surface of the block to help you find what you are looking for. If you get some carburetor cleaner, you can spray that onto the areas where you suspect the serial number is. Afterwards, wipe it off with a rag and it should clean the area up very nicely. It is also important to remember that you should only do this when the engine is cold. 

Once you have cleaned up the engine and located your serial number, call your local police department. When they answer, ask to speak to the department that covers automotive theft. Once you are transferred, explain to them that you just want to be sure that a motorcycle that you are looking at buying has not been stolen. Give them the serial number for the engine and they can look through any stolen vehicle reports to be sure that the serial number you gave them does not show up.

What To Do If You Find Out The Engine Is Stolen Before Buying

So, what should you do if you are looking into buying a motorcycle and realize that the engine is stolen? The easy answer is to walk away from the bike. You do not want to get involved with a stolen motorcycle engine. The worst-case scenario would be that you get blamed for actually stealing the engine. The best-case scenario is that the engine gets taken from you and returned to the rightful owner without compensation. Either way, you do not want to be involved in a stolen engine scenario.

Depending on the scenario, you may want to react differently regarding the seller of the motorcycle engine. You may consider bringing up that the engine is stolen to the seller. It is very possible that the seller may not even be aware that it is stolen. He could have purchased or inherited the engine from someone else who had stolen it. The seller also may have been the one who stole the engine itself and bringing up to them that the bike was stolen may cause them to get angry. If you are worried about putting yourself in danger, you do not need to say anything to them. This is something that you will have to determine on a case-by-case basis to see if you feel safe saying something. 

Depending on the scenario, it’s a good idea to call the police. If you feel unsafe saying something to the owner, leave the situation without mentioning your suspicions of the stolen motorcycle/engine and contact your local authorities. They will take over from there and ensure the engine is returned to it’s rightful owner if possible. Calling the police also ensures that the seller will not try to sell it to some other unsuspecting victim.

What To Do If You Find Out The Engine Is Stolen After Buying

If you end up purchasing a motorcycle and realize after the fact that the engine has been stolen, what should you do? The first thing that you should do is contact the police. It is best to let the police know what you find out rather than waiting for them to find out.

Some people find out that they have purchased a stolen vehicle by being arrested for simply having it in their possession. Oftentimes when someone has purchased a stolen vehicle, they will find out when they go to register the vehicle since the DMV will do an engine number/VIN inspection.

By being the one to get into contact with the police, you are putting yourself in front of the entire situation and showing that you do not have anything to hide. Although the police do not take stolen vehicles lightly, they will treat you much better than if they found out while pulling you over for a traffic stop.

At this point, the police will begin to investigate the previous owner and they will try to determine if they had stolen the bike. Your motorcycle will be impounded and you will likely lose all of the money that you put into it. To win that money back, you will have to sue and win a case against the person you bought the motorcycle from.

Tips For Safely Purchasing A Motorcycle/Motorcycle Engine

So, what should you do to make sure you do not ever accidentally purchase a stolen motorcycle or motorcycle engine? The most important thing that you can do is your research beforehand. There are dozens of websites that allow you to look up the VIN of your motorcycle and see its history. From there, you can then also lookup the serial number on the engine as we previously explained.

Though I am a huge advocate for paying for large purchases like this in cash, using a loan to buy a motorcycle will certainly prevent you from buying a stolen motorcycle engine. This is because the bank will do all the research for you since they want to ensure their investment is legitimate.

Also, be aware that any deal that seems too good to be true probably is. Perhaps that’s a cliché point to bring up, but it’s absolutely true. Scraping the bottom of the barrel can get you in trouble; buying a motorcycle for way cheaper than it’s worth doesn’t necessarily mean it’s stolen, but it is a red flag you should be suspicious of and look into before purchasing the motorcycle.

Lastly, take your time when buying a motorcycle/motorcycle engine. Someone who is selling stolen bikes/parts will pressure you into buying them and may even claim they have several buyers ready to purchase within the next few hours if you don’t make up your mind. Don’t let your emotions take over on purchases like this; think it through and double check those engine numbers if you have any suspicion that it’s stolen.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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