How to Decode a Chevrolet VIN

by Paul Dohrman

The vehicle identification number identifies each car uniquely as an anti-theft measure and provides information about the features of the vehicle, including engine type, ethanol compatibility and safety features. Since the 1980s, the number has been 17 digits long. You can find your Chevy’s VIN on the dash by looking through the windshield.

1

Identify the country of manufacture for your Chevy with the first digit, as follows: 1 and 5-U.S. 2-Canada 3-Mexico K-South Korea

2

Identify the car as a Chevy with digits 1 through 3 if it starts with one of these combinations: 1G1, 2G1, 3G1 or KL1.

3

Identify the car model with digits 4 and 5. Chevy has 30 such codes for 2008 alone. (See References.) Digit 4 breaks down as follows for 2008 models: A-Cobalt J-Optra T-Aveo W-Impala Y-Corvette Z-Malibu

4

Identify the body style with digit 6. The numerals 1 through 3 denote 2-doors. The numerals 5 through 9 denote 4-doors.

5

Identify the restraint method with digit 7. Numerals 1 through 8 for model year 2008 have front air bags. Numerals 2, 3, 6 and 7 have side air bags. Numerals 2 through 8 have active seatbelts.

6

Identify the engine type with digit 8. GM cars go through the whole alphabet and 10 numerical digits to describe the different engine variations. For 2008 models, the breakdown for cylinder count is as follows: L4-B, F, M, X, Z, 1, 5, 6, 8 V6-J, K, L, N, T, V, 1, 8 V8-A, C, D, E, W, Y, 9 Note that 1 could refer to an L4 or a V6.

7

Don’t concern yourself with digit 9. It is used only internally by GM.

8

Identify the model year with digit 10. A = 1980, B = 1981 and so on. I, O, Q, U and Z aren’t used; therefore, Y = 2000 and 1 = 2001. Then the alphabet starts all over again, with 9 = 2009 and A = 2010.

9

Identify the factory’s city with digit 11. GM has 11 such cities for its 2008 cars. See References for the list.

10

Identify the car uniquely by the VIN's last six digits. This is useful for identifying cars that have a recorded history of major damage and for identifying a stolen car.

References

About the Author

Paul Dohrman's academic background is in physics and economics. He has professional experience as an educator, mortgage consultant, and casualty actuary. His interests include development economics, technology-based charities, and angel investing.