Just as every human has a unique fingerprint, every vehicle has a code that gives it a unique identity.
That code is known as a VIN number, and it's very important in so many ways.
For starters, you can use it to see the information of the previous owner(s) and also check all prior accidents and damages.
So, what exactly is a VIN number? It's a code made up of numbers and letters, each of which has a significant meaning. Collectively, the characters form a unique identifying code for your vehicle.
In short, we can say that a car's VIN number is its fingerprint.
A VIN contains 17 characters which are usually a combination of capital letters and digits. Each character carries a meaning.
When you decode them you will know such things as the car's specifications, features, manufacturer and so much more.
Standardized VINs were introduced in 1954 following a directive from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
At the time, VIN numbers varied in length and format but they all had between 11 and 17 characters.
It all depended on the vehicle manufacturer, brand, and model.
From 1981, all VINs were standardized to 17 characters.
So, to answer the question, if your VIN has less than 17 characters then it means the vehicle is a pre-1981 model.
While the VIN will still be useful, it won't offer a lot in terms of vehicle information.
For most vehicles, the VIN number is usually found at the dashboard.
It’s usually visible when you view the dashboard on the driver's side from outside the vehicle.
Try standing close enough and examine the corner where the windshield meets the dashboard.
If you can't see it then it probably isn't there.
There are a few other places to check, both on the vehicle itself as well as of the vehicle.
You can also do a VIN number check on the vehicle's documents.
The first and perhaps most obvious place to start is the vehicle’s title. If you can't find it there try checking its registration paperwork (registration card).
Other documents that might contain the VIN number are:
If you still can't find the VIN you can contact the manufacturer or your dealership. They may be able to help.
As mentioned already, it is a 17-character code, and each character carries a meaning.
To interpret the whole VIN you first need to know what the individual characters stand for.
Here's a guide:
|1st||Vehicle’s country of origin||- 1 to 5 mean North America
- 6 means New Zealand
- 7 means Australia
- 8 & 9 mean South America
- A to H mean Africa
- J to R mean Asia (except O & Q)
- S to Z mean Europe
|2nd||Manufacturer of the car||- Z – AutoAlliance International (Ford & Mazda car builder)
- T – Toyota
- J – Jeep
- G – GM
- F – Ford
- C – Chrysler
- 6 – Cadillac
- 4 – Buick
|3rd||Division of the manufacturer||- 1GC represents Chevrolet trucks
- 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars
|4th, 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th||Vehicle descriptor. They describe the type, brand, and size of the engine. Each manufacturer has their own sets of characters but the 8th is specifically for engine size||For a Ford, HT82H means it’s either a Coupe GT, Coupe Shelby GT or Mustang Bullitt. The last H (8th digit) indicates that the car is a 4.6-liter modular V-8.|
|9th||This is the Check Digit. It proves that the VIN number is not fake.||Requires calculation to verify the legitimacy of the VIN|
|10th||Year of manufacture||1 to 9 are used for cars made from 2001 through 2009. J to Y are for 1988 to 2000 models. A to H represent two sets of cars: either those made between 1980 and 1987 or 2010 and 2017.|
|11th||Manufacturer’s plant where the vehicle was built. Each manufacturer has their own set standard||AutoAlliance’s auto plant in Flat Rock, Michigan uses the digit 5|
|12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th & 17th||Give the serial or production number of the car. This part is unique in each vehicle||While most are 6-digit numbers like 113456, a manufacturer can use both numbers and letters|
Well, you could use it to do a VIN number lookup.
That may be necessary, not only if you are planning to buy the car but also if you already own it.
A VIN number check will help you discover information that may be useful in situations like:
The first is using online resources and the second involves the use of a scanner.
Some auto manufacturers offer a VIN lookup for their vehicles.
Visiting their website is a sensible place to start from. But keep in mind that not all of them do.
If your manufacturer doesn't have the option you can try one of the many online lookup services.
While some are free, others will require you to pay a certain amount before accessing a vehicle's historical information.
To find one, simply search “Check VIN number online” and a list of options will come.
There are scanning devices whose sole purpose is to scan VIN numbers.
Popularly known as VIN decoders or VIN checks, these devices are capable of scanning a VIN number's barcode.
They then provide you with all the data that you need, including the manufacturer, model and year of the vehicle as well as its historical data.
Beside a VIN scanning device, you can also use an OBD scanner to check VIN number.
The best OBD scan tool will automatically identify your vehicle and display its VIN.
Some go as far as pulling the CIN and CVN information.
Or you may simply be curious about its build.
Either way, having its VIN number will help a great deal.
You will not only be able to get a wide array of information regarding the vehicle itself but you can also learn a thing or two about its previous owners.
That bit is important if you are planning to buy it.
And if you are a car owner, be sure to record your VIN and store it somewhere safe outside the vehicle.
You may find yourself in a situation where you need that information yet you cannot access the car.