The vacancy production in 6H-SiC by 3 MeV electron irradiation at room temperature was studied using positron lifetime spectroscopy combined with annealing experiments. It was found that the trapping rates of positrons in vacancies increased linearly with the fluence in the initial stage of irradiation. After the linear increase, the trapping rates were found to be proportional to the square root of the fluence. The linear and nonlinear fluence dependences of the trapping rates are explained by the reduction of vacancies due to recombination with interstitials during irradiation. The positron trapping rate for the admixture of silicon vacancies and divacancies showed a tendency to saturate in the higher fluence range. The trapping rate for carbon vacancies decreased after reaching a maximum. These results are explained in terms of the shift of the Fermi level due to the irradiation process. It was found that, for the lightly irradiated specimen, an annealing stage caused by recombination between close vacancies and interstitials was observed. However, such an annealing stage was not observed when using a heavily irradiated specimen. These different results are explained as the reduction of interstitials due to the recombination with vacancies and long-range migration of interstitials to sinks during irradiation. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.