Finding out what year a Harley Davidson engine was made can be important for a number of reasons. However, decoding an engine’s vehicle identification number can be challenging and confusing. Hidden within a Harley’s engine VIN will be the year that engine was made. But the decade the engine was made will determine where the year is located on the VIN and what it looks like.
1960s and Older Engines
Look on left side of the engine case for the engine number. Harley engines that were made before or in the 1960s have the model year of the engine as the first two numbers of the engine number, which acts as a VIN.
Look for a four-digit production code in the last four digits of the VIN. For engines built between 1962 and 1969, there was a system put into the VIN to prevent tampering with or changing numbers in order to sell the engine as something it is not. The first number of the code will be even for even numbered production years and odd for odd numbered production years.
Look for a five-digit production code in the last digits of the VIN. For engines with a production code of five numbers, the first two numbers will be even for even numbered production years and odd for odd numbered production years. If there isn’t a two digit number that corresponds with the year at the beginning of the VIN, the engine was made after 1969.
Check the last two digits of the VIN. Engines that were put on Harley bikes from 1970 to 1980 have the model year of the engine designated as the last two digits of the VIN number. The second to last digit will be an “H” or "J" followed by a number.
Find the "H" or "J" in the second to last character position of the VIN. If the letter is an "H", the engine was made somewhere between 1970 and 1979. If the letter is a "J", the engine was made in 1980.
Look at the number that follows. This number corresponds to the last number of the year it was made. For example, an engine VIN ending in “H7” will be an engine produced in 1977. If the VIN doesn’t end with an “H” and a number or “J0”, it was made after 1980.
1980s and 1990s Engines
Look at the end of the VIN for a letter. Harley engines made between 1981 and 2000 have a 10-digit VIN which was abbreviated from the 17-digit VIN that was stamped on the frame of the bike. The last digit of the VIN designates the model year with a letter.
Look for letters B through K for engines produced from 1981 to 1989. The letter "B" designates the production year of 1981; C-1982; D-1983; E-1984; F-1985; G-1986; H-1987; J-1988; and K-1989.
Letters "L" through "Y" are for engines produced from 1990 through 2000. An "L" designates an engine made in 1990; M-1991; N-1992; P-1993; R-1994; S-1995; T-1996; V-1997; W-1998; X-1999; and Y-2000. If there isn’t a letter at the end of the VIN, the engine was made after 2000.
Check the 10th digit in the VIN. For engines that were made after 2001, the 10th digit reflects the last digit of the last year. For example, if the 10th digit of the VIN is “4”, the engine was made in 2004.
Check the 11th character position for a “J”, “T”, “Y” or “K.” This letters signifies the plant where the Harley Davidson was manufactured.
Check if the letter is a "J". This means the engine was made in Milwaukee, WI. The letter "T" means it was made in Tomahawk, WI; Y-York, PA; and K- Kansas City, KS.
Lindsey Fisher began writing professionally in 2010. Fisher has been published in the online magazine “Domestic Driver.” She graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and technical communications with a minor in sociology.