How to Decode a Cadillac's VIN

by David Curtis

The first Cadillac car was completed on October 17, 1902, and was equipped with a 10-horsepower, one-cylinder engine. The retail price was $750 for the early model "A" cars. Over the years, Cadillac has evolved and is now considered the luxury division of General Motors. Decoding the Vehicle Identification number, or VIN, can give you a lot of specific information about your Cadillac. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration instituted a standard 17-character VIN format in 1981.

Locate the VIN number. It is found under the driver's side windshield molding attached to the dash. It also appears on the title.

Interpret the first character. This indicates the country where the vehicle was manufactured. The digit "1" is for USA, "2" is for Canada, and "3" is for Mexico.

Interpret the second character. The letter G designates General Motors

Interpret the third character. This number indicates the division. The digit 6 is for Cadillac. Other GM entries are 1 for Chevrolet, 2 for Pontiac, 3 for Oldsmobile, 4 for Buick, and 8 for Saturn

Interpret the fourth and fifth characters. These indicate the car line. DG is for a CTS, KD for the Deville, KE for the Deville Luxury, KF for the Deville Touring, KS for the SLS, KY for the STS, and YV for the XLR Roadster.

Interpret the sixth character. This indicates the body style. 1 is for a two-door coupe (GM styles 27, 37, 47, 57), 2 is for a two-door (GM styles 07, 08, 77, 87), 3 for a two-door convertible, 5 for a four-door sedan (GM styles 19, 69), and 6 for a four-door sedan (GM styles 29, 29, 48, 68),

Interpret the seventh character. This indicates the restraint system. 1 is for manual belts, 2 for manual belts with driver and passenger front inflatable air bags, 4 for manual belts with driver and passenger front and side inflatable air bags, 5 for manual belts with front inflatable and drivers side inflatable air bags, 6 for manual belts with front and side inflatable air bags with passenger occupant sensor, and 7 for manual belts with front, side, and rear passenger side inflatable air bags.

Interpret the eighth character. This indicates the engine type used. There are many different types of engine combinations for each model and year. 1 is for a 3.8 liter engine, 9 for a 4.6, S for a 5.7, and G for a LS1 5.7 liter engine. The ninth character is a check digit, so ignore it. A check digit is used in a complex mathematical calculation of the VIN to determine whether the VIN is legitimate.

Interpret the tenth character. This indicates the model year. A is for a 1980, B for 1981, C for 1982, D for 1983, E for 1984, F for 1985, G for 1986 H for 1987, J for 1988, K for 1989, L for 1990, M for 1991, N for 1992, P for 1993, R for 1994, S for 1995, T for 1996, V for 1997, W for 1998, X for 1999, 1 for 2001, 2, for 2002, 3 for 2003, 4 for 2004, 5 for 2005, 6 for 2006, 7 for 2007, 8 for 2008, 9 for 2009, and A for 2010.

Interpret the 11th character. This indicates the plant location. There were multiple locations where GM cars were produced. B, C, M, and O were used for Lansing, Michigan, plants; F for Fairfax, Kansas; G for Sialo, Mexico; Y for Wilmington, Delaware; Z for Fremont, California; 1 for Oshawa, Ontario; and 4 for Orion, Michigan.

Interpret the remaining six characters. The last six digits designate the serial number and production or numerical sequence of the vehicle begining with 000001 for each year.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera cadillac image by Jose Hernaiz from Fotolia.com