Yamaha VK 540 III Specs and Review [1999-2005]

The Yamaha VK 540 III was a classic utility snowmobile that replaced its successful predecessor, the VK 540 II in 1999. This decent workhorse was famous for its reliable and durable fan-cooled 2-stroke engine and heavy-duty features. If you want to find out more about this vintage sled, this post is for you.

We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know into this Yamaha VK 540 III review!

Yamaha VK 540 III Review

In the ‘80s, Yamaha only released small utility models as an answer to the Ski-Doo Tundra. But after some market research, the Japanese manufacturer realized that there was a significant demand in the marketplace for more powerful utility sleds.

To satisfy their customers, Yamaha introduced the VK 540 in 1988, which remains in production to this day. Over the years, this sled has undergone several model changes, which are as follows:

  • Yamaha VK 540 I – Available: 1988-1991              
  • Yamaha VK 540 II – Available: 1993-1998             
  • Yamaha VK 540 III – Available: 1999-2005 (still available in Russia and Scandinavia)
  • Yamaha VK 540 (IV) – Available from 2017

For nearly two decades, Yamaha marketed the first generation VK 540s globally.

The third-generation VK 540 III hit the market in 1999 but remained available in the US and Canada until 2005. Although this sled only became moderately popular in these markets, it sold very well in Russia and Scandinavia. Why?

This is because the Yamaha VK 540 III was designed for extreme weather conditions. To be able to handle low temperatures, the machine was powered by an axial fan-cooled, 535cc, 2-stroke engine that produced about 55 HP.

Although Yamaha introduced their 4-stroke snowmobile engines in the early 2000s, these units didn’t do an excellent job in freezing Russian winter. This is why the VK 540 continued to be manufactured with a 2-stroke power mill.

What’s more, these sleds came with a manual start, which was a game-changer in a cold climate. Even if this engine was hard to pull-start in extremely low temperatures, it could at least be started.

Let’s face it, an electric start with a battery is not the best choice in such weather conditions, so the VK540 III was exclusively available with a manual start.

Although the sled produced a moderate 55 HP, it could tow and carry heavy loads even on rugged terrain.

Propelled by a 156” long 20” wide track, the VK 540 III also offered decent floatation in deep snow. Therefore, it was great for breaking and grooming trails, especially if its steel skis were equipped with floatation skins.

Standard features included a high/low gear selection, reverse, CDI ignition, large underseat storage, 2-up seat with backrest, heated grips with thumb warmers, a tow hitch, and a steel front bumper.

Thanks to its advanced features and durable engine, the heavy-duty VK 540 III could be used for various purposes.

Although it wasn’t built for touring, the machine handled well on trails. With a reasonable riding attitude, it got around 18 mpg.

Owners also appreciated the simplicity of the machine, which resulted in higher reliability and lower maintenance costs.

This dependable workhorse was dropped from Yamaha’s North American portfolio in 2005 but remained available in Europe and Asia.

But the good news is that in 2017 an updated VK 540 was re-introduced in the US and Canada!

Yamaha VK 540 III Problems

Every snowmobile has its drawbacks, and the VK 540 III was no exception.

Many owners say that one of the Yamaha VK 540 III’s biggest problems was its engine overheating issues. Its fan-cooled power source was prone to overheating even at temperatures around zero. This was even more common when the sled was carrying a load and traveling at lower speeds.

Fortunately, this issue could be solved by installing a second fan under the hood to increase the airflow.

Another common complaint against the VK 540 III was its poor rear suspension system, which offered bumpy rides on moguled trails. But let’s face it, this machine was built as a utility snowmobile, so it is not surprising that it could not be compared to purpose-built trail sleds.

It is also good to know that the VK 540 was a pretty heavy machine, as its dry weight was nearly 650 pounds. As you might assume, this sled wasn’t easy to dig out from deep snow or slush when it got stuck. Because of this, a jack and a shovel were must-have accessories on this sled!

Finally, it’s safe to say that this sled wasn’t one of the most beautiful models on the market. Just like all other utility models, the VK 540 had an odd and boring design.

Yamaha VK 540 III Specs Chart

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the Yamaha VK 540 III specifications into these charts:

Yamaha VK 540 III Engine Specs

Engine typeAxial fan cooled, 2-stroke, 7-port
Cylinder arrangementParallel 2-cylinder
Engine stroke2
Cooling systemAxial fan cooled
Intake designPiston Reed Valve
Bore x Stroke (“)2.87 x 2.52
Displacement (cc)535
Horsepower 55 HP (Approximately)
Idle speed (r/min)1200 +/- 100
CarburetorMikuni B38-34 x 1
Engine oil typeYAMALUBE 2-cycle oil
ExhaustSingle pipe
Fuel typeUnleaded gasoline. Pump octane (R+M)/2; 88 or higher
Starting systemElectric and manual with recoil starter

Yamaha VK 540 III Dimensions

Length (“)122.8123
Width (“)44.544.9
Height (“)53.153.1
Ski tread (“)37.837.8
Fuel tank capacity (gal.)8.28.2
Oil tank capacity (qt.)2.62.6

Yamaha VK 540 III Weight Chart

Dry Weight (lbs.)642637

Yamaha VK 540 III Track Features

Track typeMolded rubber, fiber glass rod reinforced
Track dimensions156″ x 20″ x 1″
Track deflection1.38 – 1.77 in. (35-45 mm) / 100 N {22lbs}
Length on ground47.4 in.
Suspension typeSlide rail suspension
Drive sprocketTriple polyethylene, 9 teeth

Yamaha VK 540 III Transmission

TypeAutomatic centrifugal engagement, infinitely variable 3.8:1 ~ 0.95:1
Sheave distance (“)Approx. 10.57
Sheave offset (“)Approx. 0.63
Engagement speed (r/min)*Approx. 2600
Shift speed (r/min)*Approx. 6700
Drive chainTriple roller chain enclosed in oil bath
Reduction ratio39/17 (2.29), Low: (28/22 x 28/22) x (39/17) = (3.72)

Yamaha VK 540 III Electric Features

Ignition systemCDI
Spark plug typeBR9ES (NGK)
Spark plug gap0.028 – 0.031 in (0.7-0.8 mm)
Battery CapacityYB16AL – A2/12 V 16Ah
Battery maximum charge rate1.6 Amperes/hr for 10 hrs
Headlight12 V, 60/55 W x 1
Tail/brake light12 V, 8/23 W x 1
Meter light12 V, 3.4 W x 1

Yamaha VK 540 III Features and Accessories

Clutch TypeYXRC, Variable Ratio, Hi/Lo with Reverse
Primary DriveBelt
Eelctric StartStandard
Front SuspensionTelescopic Strut
Front ShocksHydraulic
Front travel (“)6
Rear SuspensionProaction Plus, Quick-Adjust
Rear ShocksHydr. W/Gas Cell
Rear Travel (“)11.5
Ski TypeSteel
Break typeCaliper type, self-adjusting mechanical disc
TrackMolded rubber, fiberglass rod reinforced
Break operationHandle lever, left hand operated
Throttle operationHandle lever, right hand operated
Fuel Gauge TypeSight Tube
Rider capacity2

Yamaha VK 540 III Top Speed

The top speed of the Yamaha VK 540 III was about 95-98 mph under ideal conditions, while it offered a cruising speed of 65-70 mph.

Source: Yamaha Owner’s Manuals. These charts are for informational purposes only! For exact specifications, please refer to the factory manual.

Vintage Yamaha VK 540 III For Sale

The fan-cooled VK 540 III is still popular on the used market, and with good reason. Compared to new models, this aged utility sled is far cheaper and features a much simpler design. Therefore, it’s much easier to work on!

If you’re considering buying one, you can find a vintage Yamaha VK 540 III for sale on Craigslist, Snowmobilesoup, eBay, Snowmobiletrader, Sledswap, and other dedicated snowmobile ad sites.

Also, you can’t go wrong by visiting some Yamaha snowmobile Facebook groups or forums!

Takeaway – FAQs About the Vintage Yamaha VK 540 III

What year did the Yamaha VK 540 III come out?

The Yamaha VK 540 III was revealed in 1998 and was offered from the 1999 season.

What years was the Yamaha VK 540 III made?

The Yamaha VK 540 III was marketed from 1999 through 2005 on the global market. Although its sales were ceased in the North American market for 2006, it is still available in Scandinavia and Russia. The VK 540 made its comeback to the US and Canada in 2017.

What size was a Yamaha VK 540 III?

Regarding dimensions, the 1999-2004 Yamaha VK 540 III was 122.8 inches long, 44.5 inches wide, and 53.1 inches high, whereas the 2005 VK 540 III was 123 inches long, 44.9 inches wide, and 53.1 inches high.

What was the track size for the Yamaha VK 540 III?

The official track size of the Yamaha VK 540 III was 156”x20”x1”.

How much did a Yamaha VK 540 III weigh?

The dry weight of the 1999-2004 Yamaha VK 540 III was 642 pounds, while the 2005 model was 637 pounds.

What kind of engine was in the Yamaha VK 540 III?

The engine of the Yamaha VK 540 III was an axial fan-cooled, 535cc, 2-stroke twin featuring a single Mikuni B38-34 carburetor.

How much horsepower did a Yamaha VK 540 III have?

Powered by this fan-cooled power source, the Yamaha VK 540 III produced about 55 HP.


Yamaha Motors – owners manuals


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