Yamaha VMAX Problems: 5 Common Issues (Explained)

Introduced in 1985, the Yamaha VMAX singlehandedly created the power cruiser category.

It delivers mind-melting speed and category-crushing power, leading to the moniker “Mad Max.” The VMAX has remained in production for 35 years and has become one of Yamaha’s most iconic models.

The VMAX is a good choice for a rider looking for a punch-packer, but over the years, riders have encountered some issues.

Whether you’re in the moto-market for a VMAX or you’re an owner of one, sharing in the troubleshooting others have done can save you some money.

We scoured the forums to get complaints from real-life VMAX owners as well as the tips and tricks they’ve used to solve the problems.

Let’s hit the throttle!

1. Bike Stutters and Stalls

The Yamaha VMAX has been around since 1985, so naturally, there are riders out there ripping around on models  30+ years old. Like any old bike, an older VMAX can stutter on occasions or even stall out completely.

According to a few of them, the bike acts as if there’s no fuel left in the engine. Some reports state that the ‘low fuel’ light warning light stays on even when the fuel tank’s full.

One of the more frequent culprits of the problem is a clogged fuel line/pump. The fuel pump transports gasoline from the tank to the engine.

Faulty fuel lines will reduce fuel supply to the engine, not only causing the bike to run lean but it explains why the old-school sensors think the tank is empty when it’s full.

The term “lean” refers to the air: fuel ratio; a lean mix has less fuel and more air than it needs for the ideal combustion needed to run the bike as intended.

With a clogged fuel filter:

  •  It won’t be easy to start your bike.
  •  Your engine will stutter and may stall.

Since most faulty fuel lines result from dirt that clogs the system, a system cleaner can solve it. System cleaners are available through auto part retailers and most large retail stores.

Adding fuel system cleaner liquid to your fuel tank will clear residue that may be blocking your fuel lines.

Another common problem riders have on older carburetted VMAXs is trouble starting their bikes, cranking multiple times before running properly. This starting problem is even more pronounced during cold weather.

This is normal on carb bikes, especially in the cold.

Pull your choke out, and you’ll find it starts easier. Idle the bike for up to five minutes with the choke pulled before riding, but be sure to push the choke back in before you hop on and take off once the five minutes have expired.

2. Malfunctioning Oil Pump

Here’s another one we’ve encountered with owners of older VMAXs. Oil is what lubricates a motor, assisting with friction between the metal components and with keeping the engine cool.

The oil pump is the component that circulates that lubricating oil throughout the bike’s motor.

A faulty oil pump can lead to anything from overheating to engine damage.

In 2011, Yamaha issued a recall on particular VMAX bikes released between 2008 and 2011 due to malfunctioning oil pumps.

Due to the fault oil pump on affected motorcycles, high oil pressure can develop inside the oil pump. This pressure can push the oil pump shaft’s thrust washer into the oil pump housing. This causes wear and tear at an alarming rate.

When the wear and tear passes a particular point, the pin disconnects from the inner rotor and oil stops flowing through the engine.

In severe cases, this causes damage, resulting installing and the bike’s failure to restart again.

Like we mentioned earlier, Yamaha issued a recall for the bikes affected by the problem on over 23,000 models produced in 2008-2011. The recall required dealers to replace the faulty oil pumps with new units, free of charge.

If you happen to buy a used VMAX produced during that timeframe, take it to your local Yamaha dealer to run the VIN and make sure your bike’s been fitted with the upgraded oil pump.

3. Faulty Wiring Loom

Another speed-bump in the VMAX journey was Yamaha’s recall on 2009 VMAX models due to faulty wiring.

Yamaha announced that on affected motorcycles, there could be extreme electrical resistance in the ground wire for the Accelerator Position Sensor (APS) and the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) due to an inadequate connection.

Extreme resistance can transmit false signals to the Engine Control Unit (ECU), potentially leading to unsteady engine idling.

It can also retain idle speed from dropping below 3000 rpm when the throttle is released. This prevents a proper return to idle and, in extreme riding situations, could result in a crash with injury or death

To rectify the deficiency, Yamaha launched a Factory Modification Campaign. Recalled motorcycles were fit with
an additional sub-lead wire to bypasses the problem area of the wire harness and prevent excessive resistance.

Yamaha called for their mechanics to replace the wiring harness at no cost to owners. If you’re the owner of a 2009 Yamaha VMAX and you’re unsure if your wiring harness has been upgraded, pop into your local Yamaha dealership to run your VIN and find out.

4. Poor Fuel Economy

Since its inception in 1985, the Yamaha VMAX has maintained a reputation as a brawny, performance-packed moto-monster.

Consider the 2019 VMAX model: it comes with a powerful 1679cc engine that delivers around 123 pound-feet of torque.

However, this performance often comes at the expense of fuel economy. The 2019 model gets, on average, an estimated 32 MPG. By comparison, its rival, the Ducati Diavel, comes with an estimated 44 MPG.

While the VMAX has a lower price tag, those fuel costs can quickly add up if you’re not careful.

Asides from its engine, size/weight is another likely cause of the high fuel consumption on the VMAX bikes. For instance, the 2019 VMAX has a curb weight of 638 pounds.

That’s up to a hundred pounds more than its closest competitor, the Ducati Diavel. It’s a no-brainer that the heavier a bike is, the more fuel it will consume.

5. Average Ride Quality

Over the years, the Yamaha VMAX has emphasized performance over anything else.

It was the fastest bike in the world months after its debut in 1985; this bike has always been geared towards speed and power, keeping comfort lower down on its list of prerogatives.

Riders who want bikes comfortable, whether for city riding or long-distance touring, might want to look elsewhere. The VMAX wasn’t built for comfort.

The aggressive VMAX seat design forces the rider to crouch while riding, providing more aerodynamics and more speed, but also more backaches.

Simply put, the VMAX isn’t built for touring. In fact, one common complaint among VMAX owners is that the rider and passenger seats are both uncomfortable.

If you want a high-speed, straight-line punch-packer, the VMAX is a suitable choice, but if you’re in the market for a comfortable daily driver or long-distance tourer, this might not be the bike for you.

Pros of Yamaha VMAX

Here are some merits of the VMAX:

I. Impressive Performance

In terms of performance, only a few motorcycles can compete with the VMAX.

It features a liquid-cooled, 16979cc V4 engine that offers copious amounts of power.

To illustrate: the 2020 model delivers 200 horsepower at just 9000 RPM and 123.2 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 RPM.

With such specs, it’s not surprising that the VMAX is among the most powerful motorcycles on the market.

II. Performance-Enhancing Technology

Yamaha’s engineers outfitted the VMAX with advanced technologies, which help improve the overall riding experience.

A good example is a slipper clutch found on modern VMAX bikes.

Not only does the slipper clutch improve performance, but it can also prevent rear-wheel lockup in the event of engine seizure or transmission failure.

Other useful features on the VMAX motorcycles include:

  1. Wave-style brake discs: Compared to regular round brakes, wave-style brakes wear out less rapidly. This will reduce long-term costs and ensure your brakes stay in excellent condition for longer.
  2. Anti-Lock brake system (ABS): The VMAX features Yamaha’s linear-controlled three-position ABS. This provides improved control while braking on wet or slick surfaces.
  3. Adjustable front and rear suspension: The adjustable design allows riders to change suspension settings to match their weight, load, and road conditions.
  4. YCC-T Fly-by-wire throttle: This provides exceptional throttle response and throttle control and makes for responsive riding.

III. Lightweight Chassis

Made from aluminum, the bike’s lightweight frame helps improve overall speed and handling capabilities.

It also allows for balance and stability, even at higher speeds.

IV. Reliability

Being a Japanese-made bike, we are not surprised at the reliability of the VMAX.

Even though it has been in production for over 35 years, the motorcycle has witnessed few recall actions.

The VMAX models have a very high build quality, which allows them to handle long-term use without breaking down.

V. Good Handling Capability

Early VMAX models were berated for poor handling and cornering ability.

However, newer models have improved in that aspect and offer superb handling ability.

The lightweight aluminum chassis places the engine low and forward for centralization, helping the bike handle corners and straight roads well.

Now, you can take a VMAX for a canyon-carving ride and watch it attack corners like a champ.

Cons of Yamaha VMAX

Here are some shortcomings of the VMAX:

  1. Bike Stutters and Stalls
  2. Malfunctioning Oil Pump
  3. Faulty Wiring Loom
  4. Poor Fuel Economy
  5. Ride Quality Is Average

What Do the Reviews Say?

“Unlike any other motorcycle available today, the VMAX is truly in a class of its own. The awesome acceleration and muscular beauty combine with sporty handling and Yamaha’s electronic engine management technologies to offer an incredibly exhilarating riding experience.”

[Source: Topspeed.com]

“For riders interested in heart-stopping acceleration, along with neo-traditional styling and ergonomics that recall both cruisers and sportbikes, the Yamaha VMAX is a one-of-a-kind motorcycle. With roots dating back to 1985 and enjoying a complete reimagination in 2008, the VMAX pours out gut-wrenching power with handling to back it up.”

[Source: Ultimatemotorcycling.com]

What’s The Resale Value On the Yamaha VMAX?

Year Mileage Price
2013 2,950 $14,000
2006 2,143 $6,200
2017 1,268 14,977
2015 1,287 $10,995
2009 7,394 $11,995
2002 30,599 $4,995
2018 4,100 $14,000
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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.