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How to Read a GM Vin Number

by Melissa Kelly

GM vehicles, like all other vehicles, have a vehicle identification number (VIN) that provides a unique identifier for each vehicle. The VIN is stamped onto a plate attached to the left side of the vehicle's dashboard and can be most easily viewed from the outside of the vehicle by looking through the front window. A VIN is 17 characters long, is always unique (in line with the standards set by ISO) and gets assigned by GM at the end of the manufacturing process.

Locate the VIN on the front dashboard of the vehicle.

Verify that the first two numbers of the VIN, known as the World Manufacturer Identification (WMI) is 1G, meaning a GM vehicle manufactured in the United States. The third number of the VIN identifies the division of GM (1=Chevrolet; 2=Pontiac; 3=Oldsmobile; 4=Buick; 6=Cadillac; 8=Saturn).

Locate the fourth and fifth characters of the VIN, which define the car line and series. For example, FP would represent a Camaro Sport, SL would represent a FWD Vibe, and ZR would represent an Aura Hybrid.

Identify the sixth character of the VIN, which describes the body style. The GM body styles are defined as follows: 1=Two-door coupe 2=Two-door 3=Two-door convertible 5 or 6=Four-door sedan 7=Four-door MPV 8 or 9=Four-door station wagon

Locate the seventh and eighth characters of the VIN. The seventh character describes the restraint code, such as active (manual) belts or airbags. The eighth digit describes the engine type and can be either a letter or a number since there are several engine types made each year.

Locate the ninth character of the VIN, which is known as is the check digit. This digit is an ISO standard that is used for accuracy verifications. Each character of the VIN is assigned a value, and the resulting number of the equation should be equal to the check digit. If it is not equal, the VIN is likely false or inaccurate.

The tenth and eleventh digit of the VIN is known as the Vehicle Identification Section (VIS). The tenth character defines the year, which starts with the letter A in 1980 and increases alphabetically and then numerically. The sequence begins repeating in 2010. The eleventh character of the VIN identifies the GM-specific assembly plant, such as the letter B for Lansing, MI and the number 4 for Orion, MI.

The final characters of the VIN, digits 12 through 17, define the serial number for the vehicle. Chevrolet restarts the serial number at 000001 each model year and increases sequentially as each vehicle is manufactured. This provides a unique distinction between vehicles for identification on title documentation and vehicle history reports.

Tip

  • The best way to determine what the specific characters of your VIN represent is to verify on the GM Service website.

Warning

  • The VIN information above applies only to GM passenger cars. The VIN numbers on GM trucks can vary slightly because of VIN requirements for detailing the brake system, cab type and chassis among others.

About the Author

Melissa Kelly is a freelance writer from Indianapolis who focuses on scientific and medical topics. Kelly attended Marian College where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. Recently, she completed her Master's in business communications & project management.

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