What is a VIN Number?
VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number. This is a unique number made up of 17 characters used to describe a vehicle. You can decode a VIN to find out more about your car or truck.
Even though the N represents the word number, a lot of people still refer to it as the VIN Number.
Every vehicle since 1981 (except some imports) have VIN Numbers. Each one consists of a code of 17 digits. This code of digits is different for each and every vehicle on the planet (unless there are aliens somewhere with vehicles, I’m not sure about them).
Dealerships, insurance companies, parts suppliers, authorities, and potential buyers all use a VIN. This brings up the information needed to identify the vehicle. It is usually used as the base information to evaluate a car or truck too. CARFAX and Autocheck will also have information related to the VIN number of each vehicle, such as accident reports.
Find your vehicle’s VIN
The easiest place to find a vehicle identification number is on the outside bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side. Look to the very bottom of the windshield to read it. There will also be a sticker on the side of the driver’s door, or on the inside of the driver’s side pillar or bulkhead.
VIN’s are also be stored within electronic devices within newer cars and trucks for security reasons.
How to decode a VIN?
Digits 1 through 3 combined is the WMI, (World Manufacturer Identifier).
The first digit of the VIN number is the country of origin or final processing plant. For example, numbers, 1, 4 and 5 represent the U.S. 2 is Canada and the number 3 represents Mexico. The Society of Automotive Engineers are the ones who assign WMI’s to countries and manufacturers. Next is the digit that represents the manufacturer, for example, ‘G’ is for General Motors, ‘C’ can be Chrysler and ‘B’ for BMW.
The third digit combined with the first two may identify the type of vehicle, such as whether it is a truck, SUV or car. For example, a Chevrolet truck VIN would start as ‘1GC’. 1 for the US as the country of origin, G for General Motors and C for Truck.
Digits 4 through 8 represent the vehicle descriptor section.
This is information such as model type, restraint types, body type, engine, and transmission.
Digit 9 is a check digit.
The 9th digit is like a security code, called a check digit. It is a code number/letter the manufacturer generates to verify authenticity of the whole number.
Vehicle Identification Section (VIS)
Digits 10 through 17 is the Vehicle Identifier Section.
The 10th digit is the model year. This table below is a good quick guide to years. So if the 10th digit is a ‘D’ this means the vehicle is a 2013 model.
The 11th digit is the manufacturer’s plant code.
Vehicle manufacturers all have their own unique codes for which plant the car, truck, or SUV’s are built.
Digits 12 through 17 digits are numbers the vehicle gets as it rolls through the production line.
These numbers are usually sequential. For example, the very first of that vehicle might end in 000001.
Letters not used in a VIN
The letters I, O and Q are not used.
Can you now decode a VIN number, find out anything interesting? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren has been working in the automotive industry both in the U.K and in the U.S. for over 10 years. She has driven hundreds of vehicles, not only new cars but beaters without heaters, fast cars on fire, slow cars in snow, off-road trucks in the mucks, and old pickups with pups. She’s driven heaps of Jeeps, miles in muscle and once took her gran in a car from Japan.