A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique 17-digit code assigned to a vehicle by its manufacturer. Those 17 symbols consist of numbers and Latin characters, all except for I, O, and Q because of their similarity to numbers 1 and 0.
By running a simple and free VIN check, you can save yourself from buying a stolen vehicle or the one that’s been in a significant accident. Get your ClearVIN VIN Check Report and reveal details as the vehicle’s country of manufacture, model year, vehicle type, engine size, and more. Alternatively, a license plate number lookup can reveal important information about a vehicle, such as its registration status, accident history, and even its previous owners.
The VIN information is organized in sections where each number has a specific role. Below, you will find a detailed description that will help you decode the VIN’s meaning.
Denoted as the World Manufacturer Identifier, it consists of the first 3 characters of your vehicle’s VIN.
The first digit identifies the country of manufacture. For example, the U.S. is denoted by 1, 4 or 5; Canada is denoted by 2; Mexico is denoted by 3. Also, J means Japan, K – South Korea, S – England, W – Germany, Y – Sweden or Finland.
The second digit contains information about a vehicle’s manufacturer and sometimes is the first letter of the manufacturer’s name. For example, A means Audi, B – BMW, L- Lincoln and so on. However, the same letter A can mean Jaguar or Mitsubishi, while R can mean Audi. Though this can sound somewhat confusing, the final digit of WMI puts it all together.
So, the third digit in the combination along with the previous two indicates the vehicle’s type or manufacturing division. For example, within 1G (meaning General Motors in the United States), 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars, 1G2 represents Pontiac passenger cars, and 1GC denotes Chevrolet trucks. You can find a full list of WMI codes on Wikipedia.
The Vehicle Descriptor Section consists of characters 4-9 that identify the type of a vehicle, its engine, body style, and model.
Numbers 4 – 8 describes the vehicle’s model, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code. This identification system is unique for each manufacturer.
The 9th character is always a check digit used for the detection of invalid VINs. IF the VIN is not correct it likely was changed meaning the car was stolen and resold.
Vehicle Identifier Section is formed by characters 10-17 that identify the vehicle’s production year and manufacturing plant.
So, the 10th digit of a VIN indicates a vehicle’s model year. For example, the letters from A to Y denote the years from 1980 to 2000. Note, that except for the forbidden I, O, and Q, letters Z and U aren’t used for identifying the model year as well. The next, numbers from 1 to 9 denote model years from 2001 to 2009. And then, the alphabet starts over again from A for 2010 and will be used the very same way until the year 2030.
The 11th digit is used to identify the assembly plant at which the vehicle was built. Each manufacturer has its own set of plant codes.
The digits placed in positions 12–17 are the vehicle’s serial or production number. It is unique for each vehicle and each automaker uses its own sequence of numbers.
Check the Vehicle’s History With ClearVIN
Now you know the VIN is not just a set of characters but a unique code that can tell you a lot about a particular vehicle. If you’re going to buy a vehicle, especially a used one we strongly recommend running a car VIN number lookup. You can find a sample report to see what the check will look like. So, feel free to order your check anytime and stay safe with ClearVin!
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