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Inside the Industry: How to Read Part Numbers

What is the most important concern a buyer has when looking for a new ATV or motorcycle accessory? Fitment. Afterall, if an accessory or part doesn’t fit your bike, its nearly useless! It also provides a great risk – not all installation instructions or boxes clearly say what an accessory fits, so a buyer also risks damaging the product trying to install it. However, every box an item comes in from the powersports industry should have a part number, usually the manufacturer’s part number (MPN) (though sometimes the distributor has their own). Whats so important about that tiny little number? Its the key to every bit of information of your new product.

The MPN is important in several aspects of your journey in buying a new bike accessory. A wonderful thing about most shopping websites is that most require an item’s MPN to be posted. If you come across an E-bay listing in which the item claims to be a certain brand, particularly an OEM brand, if you do not see the MPN somewhere, use caution! When you buy an item, the MPN/SKU on the invoice should generally match the MPN on the listing, and the MPN/SKU on the invoice should also match the MPN on the item’s packaging when you receive it. It never hurts to cross reference an MPN on the manufacturer’s website with the MPN on a listing. You can double check the fitment and any other items required for installation.

However, an MPN is not just a simple key – its a foreign word. Its a coded number and every manufacturer has their own code, but with a bit of research and some basic understanding of how MPN’s are sometimes coded can help you make sure you are getting what you intend to.

Some MPN’s are a random string of numbers and letters. I have found this common with Arctic Cat OEM products, Dynatek, and a few other brands. Some MPN’s are a code, however, in which nearly every number or letter stands for something. For example, HMF has an excellent code. Take the MPN H400EXSARC2 from HMF Exhausts. H stands for Honda, 400EX stands for the model, S stands for slip-on, A stands for Aluminum, R stands for Round (vs Elliptical), and C2 for Color – Black Chrome. Just by looking at the HMF MPN, you can figure out exactly what that item is and every variance. Other MPNs have strings of numbers or letters for each model or type of an item. Pro Armor, Suzuki and Kawasaki do this as well for most of their items.

Here are a few tips to summarize how to utilize MPNs to your advantage:

  1. If there isn’t an MPN posted in a listing, ask for one. If a seller can’t provide an MPN, then chances are, they might not know what they are selling. This is common with surplus e-commerce stores.
  2. Cross reference the MPN with the manufacturer’s website – most manufacturers can be found by a simple Google search. If the manufacturer’s don’t allow a search by MPN, call them! Its rare that a manufacturer’s customer service isn’t courteous and helpful when looking for an item. With the cross reference, double-check the fitment and color, and look for any additional information such as other required items for installation and warranty.
  3. Use the MPN to look for other listings that may be cheaper or have better policies.
  4. Make sure the MPN’s match between the listing, the invoice, and the packaging. Sometimes a distributor or a seller will have their own SKU – thats okay, just double-check with them to make sure it is the right item for the MPN you ordered.
  5. Save the MPN once you’ve received the item – this will be important in case the item is defective, if you want to order other accessories for it later, or if you decide to exchange or re-sell it.

Always be an educated customer. If a seller finds this annoying, then they are not there to serve you! The best sellers and stores will appreciate your own research and knowledge. A better relationship can be formed that will benefit you – whether you become one of their favored customers, or as a protective barrier from being cheated.

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