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How do I Decode a 14-Digit VIN?

by Mark Anderson

Vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, are individualized serial codes assigned to vehicles such as cars, motorcycles and trucks. As the name implies, these numbers are used for identification purposes and can reveal certain information about a particular vehicle, much like the DNA of an organism. Standard VIN numbers in the United States are 17-digit codes that carry significant information about a vehicle such as manufacturer and factory information. Some foreign makes, such as Mercedes, utilize a 14-digit VIN, which may confuse users looking to decode an unconventional VIN.

Decoding a VIN Manually

Locate the VIN number on your vehicle. Common locations for a VIN number include the dashboard, steering column and the driver-side door. If you have the registration and paperwork for the vehicle, the VIN number will be noted.

Check the first three digits of your VIN number. These digits refer to the chassis number of your vehicle. This information describes aspects such as spring-loaded hoods, sunroofs and other features based upon your vehicle manufacturer.

Check the next digit in the VIN number. This fourth digit represents the engine gas type. The number will either be a "0" for regular gas or "1" for diesel fuel.

Check the fifth and six digits in the VIN number. These digits refer to the particular model of the car. Each manufacturer using a 14-digit VIN number will have particular designations for these digits, which refer to a specific vehicle model.

Check the seventh digit of the VIN number. This refers to the driver side of the vehicle. If the vehicle's driver seat is on the left side of the vehicle, the digit will be a "1." Right-side driver vehicles are denoted by a "2."

Check the eighth digit in the VIN number. This digit will denote the type of transmission used in the vehicle. Automatic transmissions are denoted by a "2," while manual transmissions are "0."

Check the last six digits of the VIN number. These digits represent the individual vehicle's ID number that sets it apart from all other vehicles of the same model that have been produced in the same manufacturing plant. The earliest produced vehicle of a particular model is denoted as "000001," while later vehicles of the same make and model increase sequentially.

About the Author

Working at large multinationals as well as early-stage start-ups, Mark Anderson has written product specs, user guides, solutions proposals and white papers, as well as content for websites such as Kubisys.com and Otsw.com. He majored in English at Yale and is an award-winning speaker and writer.

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