What Does My Vehicle Vin Number Tell Me?

by Cameron Delaney

Every car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is unique. The VIN is a 17-character combination of letters and numbers that represent information about the vehicle, including make, year and manufacturer.

Significance

Vehicles manufactured in quantities of more than 500 must have a VIN number. The VIN coding follows international standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1979 and 1980, as well as by the European Union and the United States.

World Manufacturer Identifier

The first three characters are the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). The first character represents the country where the vehicle was built. The second character signifies the manufacturer and the third shows the vehicle type or manufacturing division.

Vehicle Descriptor Section

The fourth through ninth characters make up the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS). Characters four through eight represent the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code. The ninth character is a security code that authenticates the VIN.

Vehicle Identifier Section

The Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS) begins with the tenth character, which represents the model year. The 11th character identifies the assembly plant.The last six characters are a serial number assigned by the manufacturer.

Significance

VIN numbers help identify a car. Owners, car dealers, parts manufacturers and law enforcement officials can use the VIN to trace or track a vehicle or verify its history.

Location

The VIN number is stamped on metal plate and attached to the dashboard on the driver's side. The plates are attached in other places, including the frame. You can also find your vehicle's VIN on your insurance card and policy and on the title and registration forms.

About the Author

Cameron Delaney is a freelance writer for trade journals and websites and an editor of nonfiction books. As a journalist, Delaney worked for wire services, newspapers and magazines for more than 20 years. Delaney's degrees include a bachelor's degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State and a master's degree in liberal arts from University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Chris Watson