How to Decode a VIN for a KIAby Paul DohrmanUpdated November 07, 2017
The VIN is a 17-digit alphanumeric that uniquely identifies the car, not just for anti-theft tracking but also to verify the type of parts and features it has as well as its place and date of origin. You can decode your KIA’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, using an online VIN decoder or by doing it manually. You may also be able to get a VIN translation chart from your local dealership. Such charts tend to be specific to one model year, since the codes can vary from year to year as the car models themselves change.
Locate your KIA’s VIN through the lower-right corner of the windshield, if you’re looking at it from the outside. It’s etched on a metal plate bolted to the dash.
Interpret the first digit, which will be a K, as the country of manufacture, Korea.
Interpret the second digit, which will be an N, as the indicator that the car is a KIA.
Interpret the third digit as the vehicle type. For 2008 models, the cars all have letter A, for “passenger car.” D stands for “multi-purpose vehicle.”
Interpret the fourth digit as the model. For 2008 models, D=Rio, F=Spectra or Rondo, G=Optima, L=Amanti, J=Sportage or Sorento, and M=Sedona.
Interpret the fifth digit as the series. For the 2008 model year, B in a Sedona means 4x2. D in an Amanti means front-wheel drive, front engine. E in an Optima, Rio, Rio5, Spectra or Spectra5 means front-wheel drive, front engine. G in a Rondo means front-wheel drive, front engine. C in a Sorento means 4-by-4. D in a Sorento means 4x2. E in a Sportage means 4x4. F in a Sportage means 4x2.
Interpret the sixth and seventh digits as the body type. For the 2008 model year, 12 is a sedan four-door. 16 is a hatchback four-door. 52 is a wagon. 13 is a short wheelbase, four-door van. 23 is a long wheelbase four-door van. For the trucks, the sixth digit is 7, for “four-door SUV.” The seventh digit for trucks breaks down as follows: & has no meaning, 2 means the truck weighs between 4,006 and 4,994 pounds, and 3 means it weighs 4,995 to 5,984 pounds.
Interpret the eighth digit as the engine type. For model year 2008, the cars all have active seat belts with dual air bags (front and side) and dual head curtain airbags for both front and back passengers. A 1 and 2 mean 4-cylinder, 2.0 liter. A 3 means 4-cylinder, 1.6L. A 4 means 6-cylinder 2.7L. A 5 means 4-cylinder 2.4L or 6-cylinder 3.8L. A 6 means 6-cylinder 2.7L. In the Sedona, the code is 3, and translates to 6-cylinder, 3.8L without air bags. In the Sorento and Sportage, 3, 5 and 6 are 6-cylinder engines. A 4 is a 4-cylinder. A 3 and 4 have dual air bags. a 5 and 6 don’t have air bags. A 3 means 2.7L. A 4 means 2.0L. A 5 means 3.3L. A 6 means 3.8L.
Ignore the ninth digit. This is merely a check code internal to KIA.
Interpret the 10th digit as the model year. A stands for 1980, B stands for 1981 and so on. Because I, O, Q, U and Z look like numbers, they aren’t used for model year. Therefore, Y stands for 2000 and 1 stands for 2001. 9 stands for 2009 and A stands for 2010, starting the alphabet all over.
Interpret the 11th digit as the assembly plant location. There are five plant locations, not including the new West Point, Georgia, plant. A 1 is the Hwaseong plant in Hwaseong, S. Korea, and 2 is the Kwang-Ju plant in Gwangju, S. Korea. A 3 is the Sohari plant in Gwangmyeong, S. Korea, and 4 is the Seosan plant in Seosan, S. Korea. A 5 is the Slovakian plant.
Interpret the last six characters as a count of the vehicles rolling off the assembly line. These ensure the VIN is unique to each car.
Use one of the links in the Resources to enter your VIN online for a KIA-specific translation for more detail than this article's manual translation.
See VINGuard.org for other details to translate your VIN.
Since the above codes are for 2008, you may want to confirm the code translation for other model years, since the codes and even the use of digits may vary by model years.
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.