How To Find A Motorcycle Engine Number: A Simple Tutorial


Anyone who has started a motorcycle rebuild or restoration project, or recently completed one, can attest that there are a lot of codes and numbers associated to every bike. Manufactures stamp different parts of a motorcycle to help identify parts specific to that bike. These numbers can help in making sure an engine is original, help you find original parts, and even help in knowing more about your individual motorcycle. 

Generally, there are two numbers that are on your motorcycle that you want to pay attention to. One of them is the VIN number, and the other one is your engine number.

How do you find a motorcycle engine number? Unlike a VIN that is placed in several locations around a bike, an engine number will be stamped or engraved in one spot on the engine block. Some make and models will vary, but generally, a motorcycle engine number can be found on or directly above the crankcase, and is made up of around nine characters.

Knowing how to find your engine number is important, and using it can save you a lot of headache down the road when you’re looking for parts.

Places You’ll Find The Motorcycle Engine Number

Engine numbers, no matter what the make or model of the bike is, will be found somewhere on the engine of the bike. Outside of this, it can be fairly bike specific to find the actual location.

Though motorcycles can be different, a common place to find the engine number will be somewhere by the crankcase (either directly on it or above it). Motorcycle engine numbers are engraved into the metal, so rather than looking for a plate or a sticker you’ll need to look for engravings. Sometimes dirt and grime can cover it up so be sure to give the outside of the crankcase a good cleaning if you can’t find it right away.

Engine numbers are made up of around nine characters. Keep this in mind while you’re looking for the number since motorcycles tend to have several numbers engraved in random places.

If you are looking at your motorcycle and don’t see the engine number right away, a good place to check will be in the owner’s manual. These are generally kept under the seat of the motorcycle. Look through the table of contents and see if you see anywhere that tells you where to find your VIN. Usually on this line or the next, it will make mention as to where to find the engine number.

If you don’t have your owner’s manual, you can easily (and affordably) access it on emanualonline.com. This is an excellent resource to finding your motorcycle specific manual and you can access it immediately after downloading.

The owner’s manual will not have your motorcycle’s specific engine number in it, but it will have directions on where to find it. In my experience, I have found it easier to find an engine code on a bike of older make.

On newer bikes, and sport bikes in particular, you will have motorcycle fairings and other body panels covering up the majority of the engine block. So, if you have a bike with fairings on the front and the side, be prepared to take some of those off in order to access the engine number.

What Does A Motorcycle Engine Number Look Like?

As I mentioned earlier, the motorcycle engine number is made up of around 9 numbers and characters. This is what mainly makes it distinguishable from the VIN other than its location.

It should be noted that generally there are 9 characters, but sometimes it can be up to 17 associated numbers. There may be some letters incorporated inside the number sequence as well. Some motorcycle manufacturers specify engine size, emission rating, cylinder count, and manufacturing date in this number, but other times it could just simply be a serial number that references something different to the company.

Every bike will be different, but the importance of an engine number is not in knowing what the displacement of your bike is, but should be used to help find manufacturer specific parts for the bike. If you do a quick google image search, you can see that every motorcycle prints the number differently.

There are examples posted on plaques that are rivetted into the crank case, and some of them are two rows of characters that are placed on the engine side of the kick stand. Before you look for the number on your bike, it’s a good idea to just check the owner’s manual. Looking at my owner’s manual, there is a section titled, ‘Owner Information’. Inside that is the description of serial number locations and blank lines where you can write in the numbers for quick references later on.

Is a VIN The Same As An Engine Number On A Motorcycle?

When you look up VIN numbers or engine numbers, you might find things referred to as frame numbers or chassis numbers. Don’t let these confuse you. Bike manufacturers can call the same number two different words even though it’s the same thing. For example, the VIN number is often referred to as the chassis number or the frame number, but it means the same thing.

On my Vstrom, I was looking at what the engine code looks like and where to find it. When referencing the owner’s manual, I found that the VIN number was written as the chassis number in the book. If I was a first-time rider, I could be confused as to what those two terms meant.

The VIN number will be different from the engine number. The engine number is used to reference what engine is put in the motorcycle, but the VIN number is what identifies that bike that you have on the production line and on a title or registration. The VIN is bike specific, and no bike has the same one. 

VIN’s on motorcycles work the same way that they do in a car. By looking at it, you can tell what model year the bike is, as well as other manufacturer codes that can distinguish the bike. The VIN is also an important detail to look at when purchasing a motorcycle.

Just like with a car, there are going to be several VIN locations around the motorcycle. It’s important that these numbers match all the way around. If a car or bike has been in an accident, then it might have non-original parts put on it. Also, VIN’s that don’t match can be a sign that the bike that you have has been stolen or tampered with. I know it’s not always practical to check the VIN all over the bike to make sure that it matches, but it’s good to know why the VIN is important.

Online you can find lots of resources that work as a VIN ‘decoder’, or car fax reporters, so that you can learn a little more about your motorcycle. The ‘decoder’ takes the numbers from your bike and tells you what each of them mean.

The car fax can be a useful report that gives you owner history of the bike. It can let you know about services that it’s had, or maybe let you know if the bike has been involved in an accident or something similar. 

Motorcycle VIN’s can be found in several locations. The first and most common placement will be on the upper part of the front forks. It’ll usually be written on a clearly legible tag with VIN written across it. You can usually find one along the frame around or below the tank on a similar looking tag. Finally, on some bikes, the VIN is written along with tire pressure on a tag that sits near the end of one of the rear swing arms.

Why Motorcycles Have An Engine Number

A motorcycle engine number is great information to keep close by, especially for the hobbyist who is interested in DIY repairs, or full-size restorations. The engine code can also be useful if you are considering a bike and wonder about a particular engine’s reliability history.

Sometimes manufacturers have recalls on bikes and engines, and it’s important to know if your bike has any critical errors related to it. Taking the step to read up on your specific bike and its related engine can save you a lot of headache in the end!

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