Making Sense of Your VIN
Every car has a unique 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) filled with important details. The VIN is like the Social Security number for your car. It is used when you register your car, buy insurance, and when your car is in the shop for repairs -- to help order the right parts for your car. The police use it to identify your vehicle if it's been stolen.
It would be nice to know what those mysterious numbers mean, wouldn't it? Aside from amazing your family and friends with your car knowledge, you also need VINs to get a CARFAX report on a used car so that you can find out about its history before you buy it.
Look on the upper left side of your dash — you should see an important-looking badge with 17 numbers on it. You can also find your VIN on the doorjamb sticker on the driver's side. Here's how the numbers break down.
World Manufacturer Identifier
The first three digits make up the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)
- Position one represents the nation of origin, or the final point of assembly. For instance, cars made in the U.S. start with 1,4 or 5, Canada is 2, Mexico is 3, Japan is J, Korea is K, England is S, and Germany is W.
- Position two tells you about the manufacturer. For example, A is for Audi, B is for BMW, L is for Lincoln and N is for Nissan.
- Position three indicates the vehicle's type or manufacturing division. For example, 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars; 1G2, Pontiac passenger cars; and 1GC, Chevrolet trucks.
Vehicle Descriptor Section
Digits 4 through 9 make up the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS).
- Positions four through eight tell you about the car, such as the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code.
- Position nine, the "check" digit, is used to detect invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation.
Vehicle Identifier Section
Digits 10 through 17 make up the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS).
- Position 10 indicates the model year. The letters from B-X correspond to the model years starting with 1981, with X bringing up the rear with 2000; model years 2001 and up are indicated with numbers, starting with the number 1. There is no I, O, Q, U or Z. Confusing? Here's a list of the model years: B=81, C=82, D=83, E=84, F=85, G=86, H=87, J=88, K=89, L=90, M=91, N=92, P=93, R=94, S=95, T=96, V=97, W=98, X=99, Y=00, 1=01, 2=02, 3=03, 4=04, 5=05, 6=06, 7=07, 8=08, 9=09, A=2010.
- The letter or number in position 11 indicates the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled. Each automaker has its own set of plant codes.
- The last 6 digits (positions 12 through 17) are the production sequence numbers. This is the number given to your car on the assembly line.
This information was obtained from CARFAX.com