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How Do I Read the Vin Number on My 1999 VW Passat?

by Paul Dohrman

The Vehicle Identification Number, a 17-digit alphanumeric code unique to each car since the 1980s, serves not only as an anti-theft measure but also to tell you your car's make, model, year, features and engine type--and even whether it accepts ethanol. In a VW Passat, the VIN number is located on the left side of the dashboard through the windshield.


Interpret the first digit of the VIN as the manufacturing country. W refers to German; 3 means Mexico.


Interpret the second digit as the make. V is for VW.


Interpret the third character as the model. W means car and 2 is multi-purpose vehicle.


Interpret digit 4 as the series: M-Passat four-door GLS N-Passat GLS wagon R-Passat GLS Syncro Wagon In Canada, A-Passat four-door GLS B-Passat GLS wagon E-Passat GLS Syncro Wagon F-Passat four-door GLS Syncro G-Passat four-door GLX Syncro H-Passat GLX Syncro Wagon


Interpret digit 5 as the engine type: A-Four-cylinder, 1.8L, gas Passat, 150HP D-Six-cylinder, 2.8L, gas Passat, 190HP


Interpret digit 6 as the restraint type: 2 or 8-Airbags on driver and passenger side, active seatbelts on driver and passenger side 3 or 6-Front and side airbags on driver and passenger side 4-Front and side airbags on driver and passenger side, side airbags rear passenger


Interpret digits 7 and 8 as the model. For a Passat the code is 3B.


Ignore digit 9. This is what’s called a “check digit,” which is VW’s internal code.


Interpret the 10th digit as the model year. X is for 1999.


Interpret the eleventh digit as the assembly plant: E-Emden H-Hannover M-Mexico W-Wolfsburg


Interpret the last six digits as the position in the production sequence in which the cars roll off the production line.

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.

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