Decoding a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)


Vehicle Identification Numbers are unique codes given to each on-road vehicle in the United States, European Union and many other countries. The VIN is the primary tracking mechanism. (Not the license plate.) In 1981, motor vehicle manufactures starting using a standardized 17-digit code as the VIN. Virtually every car, motorcycle, and ATV has a VIN.

Auto shops use VINs to service vehicles because they identify the engine, transmission and brake systems. Additionally, whenever an auto manufacturer issues a recall, each recalled vehicle is indicated by its VIN.

Older cars may have VINs too, although they won’t follow the current standard. A VIN is the key to unlocking vital information about the vehicle and its history.

Finding the VIN

Check a Vin NumberThese two locations are standard across makes and models for cars and trucks. For other vehicles the VIN will be on the frame somewhere.

The VIN Secret Decoder Ring

Characters within a VIN indicate a vehicle’s year, make, model, where it was manufactured, and more.

VIN Decoder

The VIN is composed of 3 main sections:

  • First three characters: World Manufacturer Identifier

    The first three characters indicate the country where vehicle was manufactured and by what company.

  • Characters 4 through 9: Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS)  *–

    These characters are used to identify the vehicle type, engine, and may include information on the model and the body style. The 9th digit is always a *check digit

    . A mathematical formula generates this digit to help verify there is no error in the VIN when someone wants to research it.

  • Characters 10 through 17: Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS)

    These positions are used by the manufacturer to identify the individual vehicle. This will always include the year of the vehicle and the plant where the vehicle was manufactured. The remaining characters are assigned by the manufacturer as a unique serial number.

Upon a first look a VIN may appear as a random string of letters and numbers. But it’s actually a worldwide standard where every character carries a specific meaning.

With more than 10 years of expertise, receiving all the needed vehicle data has become as easy as ABC with ClearVin. To find out more, check our resources or contact us online if any questions concerning our products arise. Alternatively, you can call us at: +1 (844) 268-5991 (8:00 AM–3:00 PM EST, Monday–Friday).

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