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The Information Contained in your Vehicle’s VIN

On Saturday, June 13th, 2015

You probably know your car has a VIN, which stands for Vehicle Identification Number, a unique number that is used to identify special vehicles, but you may not realize all the information contained by that string of characters. A VIN contains 17 numerals and letters that authenticate a vehicle and its owner. A standardized system was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1981 to help motorists and organizations accurately identify vehicles.

Vehicle’s VIN

Location of VIN

Most new cars’ VINs are viewable through the windshield, on the lower corner area of the dash, close to where the windshield wiper sits.  The Vehicle Identification Number assigned to a vehicle as it left the factory should stay with it forever, or as long as the car or truck is on the road. Depending on the make, model, and year of your automobile, the VIN:

  • Could be stamped into aluminum
  • Might be located on a tag made from plastic
  • Could have an extra copy in the door sill

What the 17 Characters Mean

Those 17 characters are not just arbitrary; each one contains specific identifying information. The VIN breaks down into six components, which are:

  • Make and model (1st three digits)
  • Vehicle features (next five digits)
  • Verifying number (9th digit)
  • Model year (10th digit)
  • Assembly plant (11th digit)
  • Sequence of model production (digits 12 to 17)

Breaking Down the Make

The first three digits in your VIN give substantial information about the make of your vehicle. For example:

  • First digit: The first digit will tell you the country your car was made in, such as USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Australia, France, or Brazil.
  • Next two digits: The next two digits reveal the manufacturer.

Detecting the Features

Cars roll off the assembly line with specific features. This includes a variety of details, such as:

  • Engine and platform
  • Safety gear such as airbags
  • Features such as hardtop or convertible

Information Contained in Remaining Digits

The remainder of the digits contains plenty of information, even more specific than the above data. For example, by investigating each of the remaining characters, you can learn:

  • The location of the factory
  • The model production sequence

Why VINs Matter

Vehicle Identification Numbers matter greatly to consumers, law enforcement officers, insurance companies, and departments of motor vehicles. Checking VINs has become a surefire way to find out authentic information about cars and trucks. This ability gives power, because:

  • Law enforcement officials can easily identify legal owners of vehicles.
  • Consumers can check into cars’ backgrounds before purchasing.
  • Collectors can gather information before investing.

Before the standardization of VINs, it was much harder to sleuth out information about automobiles. With this universally recognized system, everyone gains power and wins.

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