How To Read A VIN
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Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

A vehicle’s VIN can you a lot about a car. You can easily find parts on Oscaro by searching by VIN and you can use it to bring up a vehicle history report to find out if it was in any collisions, but this 17 digit number can tell you so much more. Vehicle Identification Numbers were first introduced in the early 1950’s, but they weren’t formally standardized in the U.S. until 1981. If you’re trying to decode a VIN from before 1981, you’ll need to get the specific code from the manufacturer. Knowing how to read a VIN can be useful in determining a car’s true origins-especially on salvage titles.

First locate the VIN, it’ll most will be on the lower windshield, if it’s not there it’ll probably either be on the dash, engine bay or door sill. Now it’s time to break it down, there will be some variation, but this standard applies to the majority of modern vehicles.

First 3 digits

This is the the vehicles manufacturer details. The first number is the country the manufacturer is based in. Letters A through H are Africa, J through R are Asia, S through Z are Europe 1 through 5 are the U.S., 6 and 7 are Oceana, 8 and 9 are South America. There are many manufacturing countries (everything from Estonia to the Cayman Islands) so here’s some of the most common ones:

  • J: Japan
  • K: Korea
  • S: England
  • V: France
  • W: Germany
  • Y: Sweden
  • Z: Italy
  • 1, 4, 5: U.S.
  • 2: Canada
  • 3: Mexico
  • 6: Australia
  • 9: Brazil

The next two numbers tell you who the manufacturer is, though it can get quite complicated. Take JHM, JHG and JHL for example. The J represents the manufacturers country of origin (Japan), H for Honda and the M, G, L all represent a different vehicle types (passenger car built in Japan, passenger car built in U.S./Canada, multipurpose passenger vehicle, respectively).

This Wiki is the best way to decode a specific manufacturer identifier.

Digits 4 through 8

These are the manufacturer specific vehicle features, such as safety features, trim etc. This section varies by make. For example, in Toyotas, the 5 digits represent body type, engine, series, restraint system, and model while in Fords the first digit represent restraint system, digits 5, 6 and 7 represent the model, while 8 is the engine type.

After you find out the make, click through here to decode the features.

Digit 9

This a verification number used to determine if the VIN is real. It’s a complicated formula that involves multiplying all the numbers in the VIN and dividing by 11 to produce the correct verification number. Unless you’re prepared to do some complex math, you can enter it here to verify the VIN is real.

Digit 10

This is the model year, and luckily it’s standardized worldwide and easy to determine.

 

 

Code Year Code Year Year Code Year
A

1980

M

1991

2

2002

D

2013

B

1981

N

1992

3

2003

E

2014

C

1982

P

1993

4

2004

F

2015

D

1983

R

1994

5

2005

G

2016

E

1984

S

1995

6

2006

H

2017

F

1985

T

1996

7

2007

G

1986

V

1997

8

2008

H

1987

W

1998

9

2009

J

1988

X

1999

A

2010

K

1989

Y

2000

B

2011

L

1990

1

2001

C

2013

Digit 11

The 11th Position tells where the vehicle was assembled. This will vary depending on the manufacturer, but you can find a list of the factories (and corresponding VIN code) by searching “List of *insert make* factories”. Examples: Ford factories, Chrysler factories, Toyota factories.

Digits 12 Through 17

These numbers indicate the vehicles production number. This number is unique to every vehicle and won’t tell you much unless you have a car that had a limited production number.

Knowing all this, let’s test it out.

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

The VIN is 1G1YW2DW6A5104937

From the first 3 digits we know that its manufacturing company is in the U.S. (1) and that it’s a GM Chevrolet (G1). The fourth and fifth position is the platform number and trim level, which in this case (YW) is a Corvette. Sixth digit (2) is the body style, which is 2 door. Eighth position (W) is the engine type, so this is a multipoint fuel injection, 6.2L, V6. Our verification number is 6 and plugging it into the calculator we see that the VIN is correct. Position 10 is the model year and A corresponds with 2010. Next, to find out where it’s assembled we look at GM’s list of factories. Ours is 5 which means it was assembled at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Kentucky. The last digits tell us that it was 104,937th vehicle produced of that series.

So there it is, we have a 2010 Corvette Coup with a 6.2L V6 engine.

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

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