Yamaha 550 Vision....

From Leather's Vision Garage

Blurred Vision………..

This is simply my experience with the "V". For the new VISION owners (or those thinking) there's some good info here. For others maybe a few laughs as you'll recognize some of the same lame scenerios. In short, I've owned a U.S. 1983 Vision since new. It now has about 4,500+ on it. This is not a lot compared to to others, I have never raced mine, nor pretend to know much about moto high -performance mechanics. There are a lot more knowledgeable riders out there in the V Forum.

Ultimately, the question is: Why own such an (odd) old bike? There's probably a better answer but basically I think we're all nuts. In defense, if you can get it to run correctly it is an affordable (read:cheap) bike with some fun performance. I still drive attack-fighters for the military… so I'll claim some credibility in this area ("the need for speed"...). But there are occasional times when I just wish this thing had an ejection seat so I could get out of it.

CHAPTER 1 (Buying a New VISION)

Fall 1983. I was in this Yamaha dealer to buy a minor part for a 1982 Yamaha Seca 400 (Above). I liked the things Yamaha was doing styling wise. I thought the Seca was simple, sharp and a good example of the things you were starting to see in Yamaha bikes: "Modular" styling, the engine "hung" on the frame, single cast wheels, etc...

BUT... there was this other odd wild ass bike on the showroom floor! And ultimately I did the thing I said I would never do. I bought a motor vehicle based completely on the way it looked. Really, I knew NOTHING about this bike (no internet back then!). Looking back, the dealer was surprisingly candid. He admitted the 82' had some carburetor problems they had fixed on the '83. Even then it was "a cold blooded" bike that didn't start well warm. The Vision was being discontinued and this was the last one in the showroom (he wanted to get rid of it). His view was that Yamaha had used the VISION as sort of a “stepping stone" experiment" to try and market some of the stuff they were doing in their racing bikes. Stuff like the 4 valve engine, shaft-drive, and watercooling. In reality... he almost talked me out of buying the thing.

Anyway, bottom line: I left the showroom with a new black 1983 VISION with the custom factory full sport fairing. The price? $3,000 !? I also bought the only "Vision" accessory I could find for the thing: a Yamaha adjustable seat back and luggage rack.


Well, the dealer didn't lie about one thing, it was definitely "cold-blooded". It starts OK when its cold but not so great when its hot (and hot out). This and some other things I learned fast about a VISION follow:

[Step #1: You Gotta "BUY THE BOOK"]
Yep.... you'll be reading this a-lot

Yeah, there's no way around it. You need this book (unless you can find a factory manual). Spend the money. And while your at it, you need one of these too (multimeter).

OK ... HERE WE GO.....


Evryone has some trick to starting these things. Does that tell you something? Mine likes the cold. To start a VISION (at least mine), full choke and DON’T TOUCH the throttle! It will start and idle high, but it doesn’t like to start at any other power setting. Do not "Blip" the throttle. To give you an idea how finicky my carbs are: some toad tried to steal my bike about 4 years ago. They used a screw driver in the ignition but couldn’t get the bike started and wore the battery down. I found the thing halfway down the parking lot. At least they didn’t kick it over in frustration.


Mine vapor locks especially bad if it been running a while and its hot outside. AND, then you turn it off and let it sit for about 15-30 minutes (like going in to a store). To get it started again I to use 1/3 choke and again …. slightly OPEN throttle. If you try to start it pumping the throttle it won't. Not moving the throttle during the start is good advice at all times.


This is a water cooled bike. COOL. Aaahh Yeah, except when its really hot out and you're sitting at a long light. Anytime my temp needle gets over EXACTLY straight up (where it is normally) the bike starts to run bad. By "bad" I mean: starts to idle badly, VERY hard to start if you stall or stop, and very likely TCI will start to act wierd. There are a some reasons for this and solutions:

  • When sitting still an electric fan turns on to cool the radiator. The thermostat in my bike works but waits till it is TOO hot (needle 2/3 way to RED). Rather than mess with an old "thermostat" switch I simply put in a toggle switch to turn on the fan when I need it (stop-go traffic). The thermostat grounds a wire to a relay that turns on the fan. You need to take the tank off the bike to get to that wire.Here is a picture of that (switch is white light on upper left) .
  • Its an old bike. Flush the radiator !


This is a HOT topic for V owners 'cause alomost everyone has melted a stator it seems. This could take a whole page on its own (Oh Yeah... there is one HERE).

OK... once and for all the bike should produce about 14 volts at idle (book says 20amps at 3000rpm). There's the proof above.The "BL" is that the charging system is marginal. You need to do what you can to help it live. In truth, I've never had any problems. But that day is coming for sure. When not using my bike for long periods (often) I keep it on a trickle charger (Sears about $30).

My advice: Cut out the white plastic connector that connects the rectifier to the 3-white stator wires on the left side of bike. Just SOLDER the wires straight thru for a SURE connection. Also, make sure the Rectifier has got a GOOD GROUND to frame of bike. Keep a good battery in the bike so it not loading down the stators. Keep the oil level in the bike high.

When the stator does die it will need to be replaced under the flywheel cover. This is not that hard. BUT, I hear getting the cover back on over the wires and sealed correctly is a challenge. I hear a lot of gripes by guys having to do this job several times before its correct. One word "Yamabond #4".

New stators can be bought from Electrex. They are THE experts.


When I first drove the bike there was a very subtle front wheel wobble at about 30MPH. Still now, if you take your hands off the front handle bars the VISION front fork goes into what engineers call "Harmonic Dynamic Instability". For the unimpressed that means... the front wheel wobbles increasingly violently and a in couple seconds you'd be completely out of control if you didn't grab the handlebars again. At first I thought this was just "my" VISION. But after many years of trying to correct this problem (see below) and talks with mechanics and other riders.... its obvious this is a small design problem. I say small because ( I'd always heard you should be able to ride hands-free on a good bike) I really didn't have any plans to ride hands free. So much for the circus act.


I installed a front fork brace and "competition stiff" springs into the struts. It didn't solve the total hands-off wobble but it did get rid of the vibration I had at 30mph and increased it to about 50-60. That was better because you tend to drive around 30-40mph a lot which can be really annoying if the wheels wobbling. And at 50-60 the front wheel is much more gyroscopically stable so you don't feel the vibration hardly at all. I've also heard of guys putting different bearings into the steering joint. But that's a lot of work if you don't need it.


The VISION is not a "Cafe racer" per se (like the Ninja as example). But it was definitely a step in that direction by Yamaha in 1982. Still, if you not used to having your upper body weight on your elbows the VISION can be an uncomfortable ride after about 1/2 hour. You get used to it after a while. The handle bars are adjustable (somewhat) and its worth doing. Still to this day my wrists get pretty numb after a long ride on this bike. Its probably the same on other cafe style bikes but not so bad on ones where you can rest your upper body weight (chest) on the gas tank.


The gas tank is prone to rust! The gas tank has 4 points (2 in each saddle side front and back) that is lower than the petcock. Why do they do this? Maybe all gas tanks are like this (keeps the debris away from the petcock?!). Anyway, the upshot is that water collect at those points and rusts the tank out primarily in those 4 places. Also, the petcockh as a basic screen on it BUT I would recommend a inline fuel filter to anybody with a Vision. I did suck some dirt into one of the carbs. I ran out of gas and tilted the bike to get gas over into the other saddle. This worked but I instantly sucked something into the carb and clogged the low speed port. It wouldn't idle after that. Carb rebuild... Ugh. I've got a filter on my gas lines now! Yamaha has one at the dealer shop that is a cool little inline plastic thing designed for motorcycles. Easy to put on on not that expensive.

If your gas tank is still in good shape, get the gas tank sealer by POR-15. IT WORKS and is well worth the money.


Gas Tank With Top Seam Cut

Rust on lower rear low point

Bottom. Notice 4 rust spots in lower corner low points

Notice top is unrusted and clean

Rust near low point and petcock

Side view of rust points


Since we're talking about POR-15 products. They make the BEST RUST PAINT BAR NONE on the market. This stuff is incredible and used by all car restoration shops. It sticks to rust like a ceramic coating. Do not get on your cloths or hands (it does not come off). It is thinned by acetate and is acually an alchol based paint that is cured by moisture!?!! . This paint is NOT UV protected. So, any place that gets sun must be color coated with another layer of paint (or it peels off after about 6 months)



'83 RK Sport Fairing (side fairings not shown)

Side Fairings shown

'82 RJ Fairing

There are 2 stock fairings.In late '82 Yamaha offer a front only bolt-on. Then in '83 they offered a whole integrated wrap around. The '83 sport fairing is pretty cool. Even with todays really awesome looking bikes I still get comments about this one.

The vents on the side let you direct engine heat towards you (or away) in the cold which is great! BUT, the little plastic tabs that flex and lock the vent in place is a bad design and ultimately break off. I'd be amazed if anyone today still had them intact. I had to fabricate my own metal tab "system". Its actually easy to do and linked on this page.

In the Cold the sport fairing is great. But is doesn't protect your hands which will be completely numb after a ride in the winter. I still want to add a small "extension" to the fairing for that. But, actually... I NEVER ride in the real cold anymore (... weenie).


The '83 fairing can be mounted to the '82 bike. BUT... you need the mounting frame attachments pictured above.



I've always wondered where the top edge of the clear plastic windscreen is going to end up if I hit anything head on really hard. It looks pretty much like its lined up with my throat!? And if you know anything about Lexicon ("plexiglass") you know it breaks into really sharp jagged edges. Actually.... what I REALLY wonder is: what will I do when the thing cracks. You know its a matter of time and you cannot get a new one from Yamaha.

There is a company that will make a replacement windscreen. Look on Vision forum for name.

Also, it can be made at most plastic fabrication shops. Just look under plastic in the yellow pages. They'll be a small company that sells plastic supplies (Plexiglass / Teflon / PVC sheets, glues , etc...). A good shop can bend Plexiglass sheet however you like. And since the VISION screen isn't a "compound" curve (like most cafe style bullet nose bikes) it would be easy for them to make and probably not that expensive.


To my knowledge there were never any aftermarket street bars made that will fit '83 with sport fairing on. The one above is the stock bars for the '82 (or NO fairing). This means of course that if you lay it down it will be you against the pavement. BUT, more (or less) importantly.... it means if the bike goes over on its side you will crack the fairing. In 16 years I've found this out several times when someone has pushed mine over at night while parked (.... f*ckers). I've often thought about how to make my own but never came up with a good design.


The Vision has dual pipes from the front cyclinder (remember 2 exhaust valves) that connect to a "common manifold" under the bike. The rear cylinders are connected to this manifold via a "Y" pipe. From the manifold extend the dual rear exhaust pipes. The muffler will rust from inside out after MANY years., as will that "Y" pipe. I don't know about the "Y" pipe... but the muffler is no longer sold by the dealer. It was $600 when is was anyway. Used is a good alternative if you can find one in good shape.

Spec II from Europe fabricates an exhaust for the bike. I don't know much about this but others have raved about it (pictured below courtesy of Ron Ghetti).


A lot of bike makers got away from shaft drive. This has to do with couple reasons. Shaft is heavier than belt drives. And shaft has some weird handling tendencies (I've been told) if you race bikes. They tend to drive the rear end up in turns rather than lowering the bike in a turn while accelerating. And it has some quirky gyroscopic effects on the bike. Its probably mostly the weight thing. But, I've never heard a bad story about the VISION Shaft. Its real solid and mx free.


There are some common problems with the VISIONs electronic ignition. They typically result in intermittent engine cutout, running on one cylinder, misfiring, etc… I say “common” but they are the typical problems engines with older electronic ignitions have. I do not feel it is just a VISION thing. Its just an old electronic ignition thing. Unfortunately, a new ignition module from Yamaha costs ~$500+. You can find used ones from salvage yards for under $100 but then…. maybe same problem next week. I went 16 years before the ignition module went south. Recently, a buddy with a newer BMW had the same problem and same cost to fix. The difference of course is that his bike is worth a lot more than his ignition module!? For those thinking of buying a used VISION (or any older bike)… this is a chance you will take. GET A SPARE TCI if you can!!

In short, ignition problems are most likely caused by these things IN ORDER of their likelihood:

- Bad Fuse box and/or other wire poor connections
- Bad “side stand relay” circuit
- Bad Tach Rev Limiter
- Bad “TCI” ignition module
- Bad flywheel sensor pickups (2 on a single assembly)
- Bad coils (2)


Replace the 4 fuses in the fuse box with rubber capped "ATC Blade Mini" blde fuses now used in cars. The fuse box will rot and cause you all kinds of grief otherwise. Likewise pull apart, clean, and reseat all the connectors/relays in the bike might save you other headaches when things stop working and you can't figure out why. Lastly (AND AGAIN) cut out the stator connector and solder the wires straight thru.

[Tach and Rev Limiter]

The tach shows a redline of 10,000. The guys who raced this have said they routinely got above this. On the stock bike experience is that the power zone stops around 9,500. I would say 7-9grand puts you in the best torque band.

 YES !! The rumor is true.... The Vision has a "Rev Limiter" that kills the front cylinder at 10,000 rpm. Don't be so surprised. Even my old porsche has one built into the distributor cap (a spring switch !?). The Vision does iyt electronically internal to the ignition module. If the tach reads over 10,000 it grounds a wire to the TCI and kills the front spark. Of course this circuit can fail (and usually does) so you start having ignition problems. Its easy to disconnect. Just cut the Yellow and Black striped wire going into side of TCI module.

While talking about the tach... see the mileage reset knob left of speedometer? Well, it tends to break off (rubbing by left clutch cable). It is held on by a VERY small phillips screw down the center of it. You can get a new knob from the dealer. Need a real small screw driver to get the screw out.

Lastly, I know a rider who has mounted a Daytona tach to his bike. It looks cool and works fine.


The carbs are great but old age will crack the plastic "tubes" at both the top and (worse) bottom mounts of carbs. When this happens air leaks into carb changing the whole vacuum fuel-air mixture setup. This has all kinds of symptoms: no idle, no accell, hesitation, rpm lag, etc... If your engine s running rough, this is a good place to start looking. Not too hard and cheap to replace.


The painted cast aluminum wheels are great. But they are hard to keep clean. I recommend an INCREDIBLE cleaner sold by most high end auto mail-order places (I get mine from a Porsche parts house). It is P-21 from Germany. Its a greenish goo. I'm not sure what's in this stuff is but it will sting if you get it on your hands. It is specially made for PAINTED wheels or wheels that have the CLEAR COAT finish. So this is safe for the Vision wheels. It totally dissolves brake dust. IT REALLY WORKS!


I'm too lazy to try to keep the engine covers and aluminum parts clean. I painted everything with a hi temp gloss black (matched my bike) paint. Looks good, lasts a long time. The best paint for this is Hi-Temp Plastikote.


The US '83 has dual front disk brakes. The '82 and some Euro versions of this bike did not .... but a single disk. I have also heard Euro Versions had a different gearing set for the transmission.


This is a topic that could be debated for a few beers. Dealers and many absolutely swear by Yamaha Lube 4. Maybe its not all dealer hype as many friends won't use anything else in their outboards or watercraft either. If you willing to go off the beaten path (AND I AM) here are some sugestions:

  • Synthetic: I personally am a BIG believer in synthetics. Just look at what most race teams use all over the world. That ought to tell you something.
    • Torco T4 20w50, a blend of synthitic and mineral oil has been highly recomended by race teams
    • AMSOIL also makes a synthetic for motrcycles. What I use in my bike now.
      AMV-QT SAE 20W-50 Synthetic High Performance Motorcycle Engine Oil
    • Mobile 1 : Ok, cringe , but used this MANY years in my bike with NO problems whatsoever.
  • Castrol 20/w50
  • Duckhams 20/50w mineral oil
  • CAUTION: This bike (like many) use a "WET CLUTCH". So DO NOT use any "hype" additives like SLICK 50 or TELFLON, etc... You could coat the clutch and render it worthless.


CHAPTER 3 Stupid VISION tricks

"El-Stupido" story #1

In 1986 I ran out of gas in sight of a gas station. So I got inventive and laid the bike over on its side to get the last drops of fuel over to the fuel cock side of the tank. Well, the engine fired up, I drove in and gassed up. AND, the bike never idled after that!? I had sucked something (rust?) into one of the carbs. What to do. I dismantled the offending carb for a cleanout and rebuild. 3 years and 1 major move later (Yep) I still had the carb (and bike) in pieces. Finally, I got some time and pulled out the boxes, took one look at the whole mess and decided ....take it to a real mechanic to sort out (… I’m not a total idiot)! I wasn't too confident I even HAD all the parts much less what to do with them. BUT luckily I DID have all the parts. AND, more amazingly I found a guy at a local shop who was a VISION GURU. This guy really knew this thing. It did have a certain following years ago when it was being raced. Anyway, in 1990 he rebuilt the thing. Disconnected a lot of stuff and it runs GREAT!!

I mean really great!! In fact, after leaving the bike was warmed up and I was at the traffic light in front of the shop. Why not let her rip and see how good this tune-up was? GREEN LIGHT! About 75' into my 9,000rpm excursion in 1st and 2nd gear the bike went bullshit. I was lucky to stay on and ended up in some store parking lot.

I HAD RIPPED THE TUBELESS TIRE OFF THE BACK WHEEL RIM !?!? Man, now that's torque! And this is only a 550!? Needless to say, I walked the bike back the 2 blocks and asked them to put the BEST new tires they had on it.

"El-Stupido" story #2

In 1991 I completely restored the whole bike. A lot of minor cosmetic things and paint. I've since painted most everything on the bike Black. PLASTIKOTE Hi-Temp Gloss Black enamal is the best. It saves time trying to keep things shiny. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND POR-15 !!

Shortly after I am out riding one day with my brother. My girlfriend (now wife) is on the back. An older gentleman in front of me ("near dead"..who is lost and his wife nagging his ear off…) makes a U-turn out of the clear blue at a fairly busy intersection. No way out and we hit him broadside doing (luckily) only about 30mph. We both bounce off the car (I didn't get the windscreen in my throat !?!) and we were OK. But the front was crumpled and ultimately the insurance company “totaled” my bike. They offered a $1000 and I said $3000 so I can fix this .... Ok, we have a deal. I think they were just happy that my neck wasn't in a brace and I wasn't suing anybody for easy money. Once in awhile I look at weekly bills….. I think I feel a twinge there... .

Being a VISION diehard (synonymous with "El-Stupido") I had the same mechanic put the front back together and again restored all the cosmetic damage. Except for the dented tank (I'm too lazy to do real body-work) it still looks pretty good.

CHAPTER 4 To Sum It All Up

Down Side To Owning A Vision

Parts availability from Yamaha and prices

Ignition module problems likely

Finicky carbs vapor lock when hot

Vent tabs break off

Gas tank prone to rust

No hand protection from wind on sport fairing

Front fork wobble

Stator problems likely

No street bars

Muffler no longer available

Upside To Owning A Vision

Very affordable to buy a good used one

Dual Front Disk brake

40+ MPH

Low center weight of bike (with engine hung on frame)

10,000+ rpm (4 valve engine)

Adjustable mono strut shock

Shaftdrive .. ..just the word …. SHAFT ! !
... no wimpy belts

Its light enough to pick up when you drop it
(I swear I never did this.... yet)

Water cooled

Cast aluminum wheels

Sport fairing gives you cool "Battlestar Galactica" look.. or something cool anyway.

Keep'in the engine around 9,000 rpm and racing it thru the first 3 gears. That acceleration still gives me a boner.

Did I mention the 10,000+ rpm redline. 68Hp (stock), but seems like more in 1st couple gears


'82 vs '83 (What the RJ '82 doesn't have the RK '83 does)

- Modified carbs with accelerator pump, front carb fuel return line, some airbox things.
- Dual disk front brakes ('82' is single)
- Fuel gauge (different fuel tank - no sender)
- Adjustable steering bars
- Wrap around custom sport fairing with mirrors, matching gold decals and gold wheel color
   (late '82 a partial fairing was offered. More rounded nose, no mirrors, no sides)


This is affordable fun (key ... "affordable") on a bike that still looks contemporary today. A lot of people are astounded when I tell them its an '83. Most of the time I just don't tell them……Owning a VISION requires time and money. If you do the math its probably NOT worth owning one. My wife always seems to be able to do THAT MATH ?! I'll probably own mine forever. I CAN'T explain why. But, if you've owned a VISION then you probably know what I'm talking about. The bottom line is: some folks are fanatical about their Yamaha's.

EXAMPLE: Check this guy out ?!

Maybe Harley was the way to go afterall?!


Dave "Leather" Draper