A VIN number is a 17-character
alphanumeric identifier or a manufacturer’s serial number. Each character in
the VIN number has a significant meaning. Together, they create a number that
tells everything about the vehicle and its unique history.
Where to Find Your Vin Number
Other Common locations of the
vehicle identification number vary and some may be as follows:
Firewall of the vehicle
Left hand inner wheel arch
Radiator Support Bracket
Dash by windshield
Drivers door or post or
Guarantee & Maintenance Book
Machined Pad on front of engine
Component parts as listed above
-eg- engine,frame, etc.
Later model years - most common
area's of VIN:
Left instrumentation/dash plate by window
Drivers door or post
How to Decode a VIN
The VIN is composed of the
When decoded, the VIN tells the
country and year of manufacture; make, model and serial number; assembly
plant; and in some cases it even identifies equipment specifications.
The system goes something like this: sequence for characters is first A to Z,
then 1 to 9, and last 0. The letters "I", "O" and "Q" are typically omitted
The vehicle identification number is divided into four parts:
World Manufacturer's Identification (WMI - three characters)
Vehicle Description Section (VDS - five characters)
The VIN Accuracy Check Digit
Vehicle Identification Section (VIS - eight characters)
World Manufacturer’s Identification (WMI)
The first character in the WMI sequence represents the country where the
vehicle was manufactured. Countries like the United States (1 or 4), Canada
(2) and Mexico (3) are represented by numbers while other countries such as
Germany (W), Italy (Z) and Japan (J) are represented by letters.
The second character refers to the manufacturer. The characters can be either
letters or numbers. For example: Jaguar (A), Dodge (B), Chrysler (C), Jeep
(J), Buick (4), Cadillac (6) or Saturn (8).
The third character represents the vehicle type or manufacturing division.
Vehicle Description Section (VDS) and Check Digit
The vehicle description section
consists of five characters (the 4th to 8th characters) which identify
everything from the body style, engine type, and braking system to model,
series, restraint system, etc. The 9th character is a VIN accuracy check digit
which verifies the previous VIN numbers. It is determined by carrying out a
mathematical computation developed by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Vehicle Identification Section (VIS)
The vehicle identification section
includes the last eight characters in the VIN number. The numbers identify the
model year (10th character) and the assembly plant for the vehicle (11th
character). A number or letter may represent the model year. For example: 1998
(W), 2000 (Y), 2007 (7) or 2008 (8).
The 12th to 17th characters are the actual serial number of the vehicle—these
last 6 digits make the vehicle unique (think of DNA). It can also help to
identify whether the vehicle was the first, the hundredth, or the last vehicle
off the manufacturer’s assembly line. This is valuable information for
So, the next time you see that long number printed on your registration papers
or stamped across your dashboard, you’ll know how to decode it. This will give
you a better understanding of where your unique vehicle actually came from!
History of VIN Numbers
There are literally millions of cars on the road today with
thousands of different makes and models tooling around the streets and
highways of America. While cars may come in all different shapes, sizes, and
colors, many cars look exactly alike, the truth is—no two vehicles are exactly
The one thing that all cars in America have in common is the very thing that
makes them so different from one another. It’s the Vehicle Identification
Number or “VIN number” that will ultimately tell the major differences between
two vehicles that may look alike to the untrained eye. Each VIN number tells a
story, but many decades ago the VIN number served only one simple purpose.
Before 1950, VIN numbers were only used for serialization and
unlike today, they were not required. During this time, the first few
characters of the VIN number typically identified the make and model of the
vehicle and the remaining characters usually identified the model year. Some,
but very few manufacturers assigned characters for the assembly plant and
number of cylinders the engine had.
1950-1980: The Increasing Importance of VINs
Around 1950, all American car manufacturers began stamping VIN
numbers on their cars and parts. The original intent was to assign each new
vehicle a number that would offer an accurate description of a vehicle during
a time when automobile production was on the rise. Over the next several
decades, VIN information began to increase. As time passed, not only did the
VIN number contain corresponding characters for year, make, and model, but it
also became “standard” for the VIN number to include body style, engine, and
assembly plant. During this time an automobile’s “Body Plate” could also
include codes for body type, build date, paint, price class, rear end,
transmission, and trim, to name a few.
1980-Present Day: The 17-Character Standard
From 1980 up until today, the VIN number has been defined as a
17-character alphanumeric identifier. In 1980, a rule was put into effect by
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (U.S. Department of
Transports) that required all new vehicles sold in the United States have a
17-character VIN. Today we have a fixed VIN system for all major vehicle
manufacturers, including motor vehicles, trailers, motorcycles, and mopeds.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
This 17-character code has become a standard around the world and it has also
become more than just an identifier. The VIN number can also help to uncover a
vehicle’s history before purchasing. Remember, two cars may look the same, but
one may have a few skeletons in the closet.
What A VIN Tells You
By using the VIN to order a vehicle history report, you can
find out whether a car has been reported stolen or wrecked and you can also
find out if there are any recalls on it, if there is any reported flood damage
or even if the odometer has been tampered with. VIN numbers are used for title
and registration purposes, so it also holds important registration records.
These records detail how the car was used in the past—was it used for police
business? As a taxi? In a fleet? The VIN number can also help to reveal
whether or not a car was salvaged or rebuilt.
Where to Find Your VIN
In earlier years, the serial or VIN number could typically be
found in one or two obvious places. This is not the case today. Today, the VIN
number has many different locations including but not limited to the following
Dash by windshield
Driver’s door or post
Firewall of the vehicle
Left-hand inner wheel arch
Radiator support bracket
Machined pad engine pad.