In its efforts to streamline U.S. distribution of its product line and provide a high level of responsiveness to North American market demands, Yamaha established a state-of-the-art facility in Newnan, Georgia. Although it has been in operation for the past three decades, this U.S. facility did not create utility vehicles from scratch until the 1999 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250. And what better way to flaunt the facility than with a simplistic, quality vehicle.
The Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 was Yamaha’s first US-made ATV. This modest but capable four-wheeler sported a remarkable engine braking system, front and rear utility racks, and a powerful four-stroke engine. It was produced from 1999 to 2004 and instantly became a hit with consumers.
Local manufacture of the vehicle was a testament to the quality and reliability of Yamaha products and services. It was a step for the company in the right direction. But that is not all this guide has to offer. Stick around and learn more about the specs, known issues, and endearing attributes of this iconic four-wheeler.
Proudly Made in the U.S.
The Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 comes 16th in the line of all-terrain vehicles produced by Yamaha since the 1980 Tri-Moto. Like most innovations by the Japanese manufacturer, the four-wheeler featured a milestone. Being the first Yamaha UTV built in the U.S. facility in Newnan, Georgia, allowing the local production of the Bear Tracker. The release of this 4×4 was in between the Grizzly 600 and the Big Bear 400. The vehicle was rugged, versatile, and dependable and was a fantastic addition to Yamaha’s utility vehicle lineup.
Apart from being a breakthrough vehicle, the Bear Tracker is also known by many names and often accused of being a mere spin-off of the Timberwolf and even the Honda Big Red. Since the machine’s motor can swap with a YTM225, YTM200, YFM200, or YFM225, many enthusiasts believe this allegation is true. However, this is not the case. As with most off-road wheelers during the ’80s and ’90s, the Bear Tracker was built with interchangeable parts as its siblings, as this allows manufacturers to be more cost-effective in the production of ATVs/UTVs.
Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 Models
The Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 had two trims and seven different model years through its six-year production run – from 1998 to 2003 (for 1999 to 2004 model years), namely:
|1999 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM250XL|
|2000 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM250XM|
|2001 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM250XN|
|2002 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM25HXP (Camouflage)|
|2002 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM25XP|
|2003 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM25XR|
|2004 Yamaha Bear Tracker 250||YFM25XS|
Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 Specs
- Engine – The 250 uses a four-stroke, air-cooled, single-cylinder SOHC engine. The transversely mounted power mill has a bore-stroke ratio of 71 x 58 mm (2.79 × 2.28 inches). It has an engine displacement of 229.6 cm3, a compression ratio of 8.7:1, and a wet-sump lubrication system. A 34-mm Mikuni BST Yamaha Bear Tracker carburetor and a dry-type air filtration system handle the air-fuel mixture. 3.17 US gal/12 liters of unleaded gasoline (ideally with 87+ pump octane and 91+ research Octane) should fill the fuel tank to the brim.
- Lubrication – The quad’s oil capacity at disassembly is 1.9 US quarts/1.8 liters. Without oil filter change, it is 1.6 US quarts/1.5 liters. And at oil filter change, it is 1.7 US quarts/1.6 liters. Recommended viscosity is SAE 10W-30 of Yamalube 4 4-stroke oil or its equivalent. But depending on climate, you may use SAE 5W-30 or 20W-40. Just make sure that whichever engine oil has an API grade of at least SJ (and sans anti-friction modifiers, additives, and Energy Conserving labels) to prevent clutch/starter slippage and poor engine performance.
- Drivetrain – A five-speed constant mesh transmission and a wet, centrifugal automatic clutch system deliver power to the wheels. It has a primary spur gear with a reduction ratio of 73/22 (3.318). A left-foot-operated shaft delivers the final drive with a reduction ratio of 19/18 × 46/11 (4.414), and a 9.5-feet turning radius allows for improved cornering and superb handling.
- Ignition – A DC-CDI ignition with an electric start system and auxiliary mechanical recoil backup brings the Yamaha Bear Tracker to life. It has an AC-magneto generator system that powers up accessories. It requires a 12V, 14 Ah, YB14A-A2 battery with assembled dimensions of 5.31 x 3.50 x 6.94 inches (134 x 89 x 176 mm – L x W x H), paired with a 20-Amp main fuse and an NGKDR7EA with a 0.6–0.7 mm (0.024–0.028 inches) gap.
- Tires – Tubeless AT22 × 7-10 front tires and AT22 × 10-10 rear tires go on steel panel wheels. Approved tire brands for use on the quad are Carlisle Trail Wolf, Dunlop® KT701/KT705, and Cheng Shin M905/M906. Tire pressure for the front tires should be 20 kPa (0.20 kgf/cm2, 2.8 psi) and 25 kPa (0.25 kgf/cm2, 3.5 psi) for the rear. Stay within the range of 2.4 psi/17 kPa (0.17 kgf/cm²) to 4.0 psi/28 kPa (0.28 kgf/cm²) when airing tires. Similarly, 36 psi/250 kPa (2.5 kgf/cm²) should be the maximum pressure when seating the tire beads. For improved acceleration, change rear knobbies to Carlisle All Trail ATV Tires (view on Amazon).
- Brakes – Right-hand-operated dual-disc front brakes and a left-hand-right-foot-operated rear sealed-drum brake comprise the quad’s engine braking system. Activate rear brakes by stepping on the pedal on the machine’s right side or by pressing the brake lever on the left handlebar. A parking brake provides the wheeler additional stopping power.
- Suspension – Enclosed in the Beartracker’s steel frame is a strut front suspension and swingarm/monocross rear suspension, both with coil spring shocks. Wheel travel is 4.9 inches (125 mm) and 5.3 inches (135 mm) for front and rear, respectively.
- Dimensions – Overall dimensions of the Yamaha Bear Tracker are 76.3 x 39.5 x 44 inches (1,940 x 1,005 x 1,118 mm – L x W x H). The minimum ground clearance is 5.9 inches (150 mm), while the vehicle wheelbase is 46 inches (1,170 mm). The curb weight is 212 Kg/467 lbs. The seat height is 30.7 inches/780 mm, which makes for a higher center of gravity that prevents injury and helps the operator ride longer and in comfort.
- Capacities – The vehicle’s maximum loading limit – the combined weight of cargo, rider, accessories, and tongue weight – is 165 Kg/364 lbs. The combined rack capacity is 30 Kg/66 lbs at the front and 45 Kg/99 lbs at the rear. The pulling load (total weight of trailer and cargo) is 330 kgf/728 lbf, and the tongue weight limit is 15 kgf/33 lbf. The Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 also has a 2-Kg/4.4-lb storage box.
- Exterior – The 250 has a steel tube frame (with a 4° caster angle and 20-mm trail) and plastic body material. Standard inclusions are hand grips, front and rear fenders, and utility racks for cargo and hauling. Two 25-watt headlights propped on the front fenders, a 5/21-watt tail/brake light, and 1.7-watt indicator lights provide the four-wheeler light distribution. For improved visibility, change stock lighting to LED lights.
Cost of a Yamaha Bear Tracker
The 1999 Yamaha Bear Tracker MSRP was $3,299, remaining unchanged for all its model years until 2004. Retail pricing through dealerships and private sellers ranges from $570 to $2,720 for base models (can increase by up to $1,200 depending on the number of accessories). Consumers can select which add-ons to include in the package if they buy the Bear Tracker from a dealer. Front/rear over-fenders, rear aluminum differential skid plate, fairing, utility rack bags, and a winch mount are highly recommended. Do not forget to include a 2,500-lb WARN 101025 VRX 25 Powersports Winch (view on Amazon), which comes with a handlebar-mounted switch and steel cable wire rope.
Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 Top Speed
The claimed top speed of the Yamaha Bear Tracker is 45 mph but surely not its maximum top end. The engine on this utility quad can often drive faster than its suspension or running gear can handle. This fact is especially true if you ride the wheeler on rough or bumpy surfaces. Some riders find its top speed immaterial, while others consider it a big upset as 250cc counterparts like the Ozark, Bombardier, and Recon make it eat dust. Installing Uni vents in the airbox lid, getting at least 23-inch tires, and jetting it to a 104 can give you a gain of 5 mph, putting your top end at 50 mph.
Mechanical and Electrical Issues
This section will cover the top three issues that you may encounter with your Yamaha Bear Tracker:
Symptoms could be negligible when the machine idles but may start to manifest once you step on the gas. You may also experience intermittent acceleration and startup. Naturally, thorough cleaning of the Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 carb and petcock is one of the first few steps to take. In some cases, however, this does not solve the problem. Depending on the severity of engine performance, you may need to purchase a new carburetor and intake boot, check fuel lines for any clogs or damage and replace oil fuel with a new one.
One thing to understand is that not all carburetor problems merit the premature purchase of a new carb. There should be no reason to swap your stock carb unless it is cracked, with stripped screw holes, or damaged beyond repair. Not to mention that aftermarket carbs are not as good as OEM ones or those sourced from specialty aftermarket firms. A good rebuild kit that includes jets is a good first step to addressing a bad gas problem. Inspect the tiny ports in the carb, include the small holes that run along the sides and middle. Ensure that the jets are unscrewed and cleaned. On a side note, check for a fouled spark plug as this is also a common cause of carb issues.
Secondhand bikes sometimes carry this problem, especially those with engines swapped out with a different ATV make and model. Aside from replacing Yamaha Bear Tracker parts like the battery and rebuilding the carb (with an OEM kit, of course!), make sure to fix all switches and any foul-played circuitry found in the bike. If you cannot adjust the carb to idle, inspect the following:
- Proper carb rebuild
- Adjusted float (so that fuel does not overfill)
- Unplugged pilot jet
- Working stock or new spark plug (get a working OEM coil if the spark feels weak).
Minor complications – the engine starts faster with the pull starter than the electric one. This sometimes occurs and warrants examination of the condition of the pickup coil, stator, and source coil (as heat kills these components over time). Also, test each phase of the stator wires to ground (with the tester on continuity) for an open circuit.
Here are the specs for your reference:
- Stator: 0.45-0.55, phase to phase
- Pick up coil: 189-231 ohm, white or green stripe to white or red stripe
- Source coil: 270-330 ohm, red or orange to black wire
Your quad may also have a potential vacuum leak (revealed by the flange condition to the intake) or a plugged idle circuit. Clean the jet with carb cleaner, compressed air, a set of welding torch tip cleaners, and a small copper wire to unplug the port from the pilot to the throttle body, among other things. Your service manual gives a full rundown of how to do this. Note that the wire is necessary to clean the jet, as blockage gunks up then crystalizes. Spraying carb cleaner alone will not do the job.
If all these steps still do not allow you to adjust the idle, it is probably a compression issue. The expected figure is between 120 to 130 psi – 128 psi is the magic number. Hence, any reading outside this range would mean worn-out piston and rings or valves not adjusted to spec.
Testing the stator and coils are also part of troubleshooting this problem. Additionally, however, you must determine the model year of your Bear Tracker. Some models have a safety start switch on the left handlebars that prevent the starter from engaging if not pulled in. A failing neutral switch has the same effect, apart from making the dash lights act up. You should be hearing a buzzing or clicking sound coming from the solenoid. If not, then your issue is potentially caused by a starter relay or connectivity issue. It is best to have a service manual handy, a wiring diagram, and a friend to help you with this.
Other reported issues with the Bear Tracker – such as a flimsy rear end and ignition – mostly come with age or abuse. Across all forums and online resources, the biggest identified problem with the quad is the stator. Make sure to scrutinize the machine and ensure its condition is decent. All Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 parts should be sans defect – same with major mechanical components like engine and differentials.
Where Is the Vin Number on a Yamaha Bear Tracker?
Looking for the VIN on this machine is pretty straightforward. Inspect the four-wheeler’s left side. It should be on the bottom right of the left mud flap on its frame. You will need a good flashlight when searching for the VIN etched on the steel frame. If you do not locate it in that exact spot for some reason, you may search on the plate found at the bottom of the vehicle or on the nerf bars. Make sure you do not confuse the VIN with the engine number.
Yamaha Motor Company Limited has shifted from producing quality musical instruments to being a well-known manufacturer of motorcycles, multipurpose engines, intelligent machinery, and other motorized products. Founded in Iwata, Shizuoka, Japan, this famous Japanese firm formed its motorcycle arm in 1955 when it separated from its parent company. At present, the maker of the Yamaha Bear Tracker 250 continues to contribute to society through its involvement in developing tourist businesses and managing leisure, recreational facilities, and related services.
Conclusion – Yamaha Bear Tracker 250
One cannot help but love the Yamaha Bear Tracker’s simple mechanics and single-cylinder, mechanical five-speed semi-auto transmission with shaft drive. Its interchangeable parts and widespread aftermarket support also make the quad a joy to rebuild and ride. The bike appeals more to off-roaders who prefer old-school rides with no frills or complicated tech stuff like traction control. If you belong to this type, all you need to give this machine is faithful maintenance and some TLC, and it will repay you with tons of outdoor fun.