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Decoding Your Car’s VIN Number

Decoding Your Car’s VIN Number

It doesn't matter what type of car you have, it will have its own, individual VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) number. And what might surprise you about this VIN number is that it's far more than just a number.

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In truth, a VIN number is a series of coded digits, each of which carries its own meaning. Together, these digits can provide you with a wealth of information about your vehicle, helping you to decide whether you should keep it, scrap it, or otherwise.

Looking to learn the specifics of vehicle VIN numbers? Hoping to decode the VIN number on your vehicle? Read on for more information!

vin number

Where to Find the VIN Number on Your Vehicle

First, you might be wondering where to find the VIN number on your vehicle. This will vary based on the make and model of the vehicle you're driving. That being said, almost all vehicles contain a VIN number on their dashboards.

Other spots where you might find the VIN number are next to the hinge on the interior of the driver's side door, on the inside of the vehicle's trunk, and on miscellaneous parts contained under the vehicle's hood.

You can also find your vehicle's VIN number on documents that are associated with your vehicle. These documents include auto insurance cards, vehicle registrations, and car titles, to name a few.

The Specifics of VIN Numbers

VIN numbers consist of 17 digits in total. That is unless they were manufactured before 1981. If they were manufactured before 1981, they could contain anywhere from 11 to 17 digits.

Below, we're going to get into the specifics of each digit, discussing what it represents as well as its categorical possibilities. Let's begin.

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Digits 1-3

The first three digits in a VIN number are collectively known as the world manufacturer identifier or WMI. They describe not only who manufactured the vehicle but where it was built as well.

The first digit of a VIN number represents where the vehicle was built, in particular. It can be either a number or a letter.

A 1, 4, or 5 represents the United States, a 2 represents Canada, and a 3 represents Mexico. Other representations include J for Japan, K for Korea, S for the United Kingdom, V for France or Spain, T for Switzerland, W for Germany, Y for Sweden or Finland, and Z for Italy. Make note, however, that these only comprise a handful of the total available digits.

Digit 2 represents the vehicle's manufacturer. Some examples include V for Volvo or H for Honda. Note, however, that these digits vary wildly, sometimes with little rhyme or reason. They're decided by the manufacturer.

The third digit indicates the vehicle type or division. Examples include Chrysler Mexico or Mercedez-Benz USA. It can be represented by either numbers or letters and — like the second digit — is devised by the manufacturer.

Digits 4-8

Digits 4 through 8 are collectively known as the vehicle descriptor section (VDS). These digits indicate the different types of parts that are contained within the vehicle. This includes everything from its transmission type to its engine type and more.

Note, these digits can be either letters or numbers and are generally established by the manufacturer. They can be a great help when repairing or replacing a part within a vehicle.

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Digit 9

Digit 9 is a standalone digit that's used to determine whether a VIN number is legitimate or not. This digit is established based on a mathematical equation and will instantly reveal to a VIN decoder whether or not the VIN number has been altered in any way.

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous individuals will alter VIN numbers in order to hide negative aspects of vehicles' histories. However, in the vast majority of cases, this “check” digit will prevent them from getting away with it.

Digits 10-17

Digits 10 through 17 are commonly called the Vehicle Identifier Section or VIS. These are the digits that truly separate VIN numbers from other VIN numbers.

The tenth digit indicates the year that the car was manufactured. It can be either a letter or a number. For specifics on what each letter or number represents, you're advised to utilize this information.

Digit 11 represents the factory or plant in which the vehicle was manufactured. The manner of this digit is determined by the manufacturer, meaning that it can be almost anything. That being said, most manufacturers have a standardized system that they work off of.

Digits 12 through 17 are quite simply the serial number of the vehicle. While they're sometimes ordered in the sequence in which vehicles came off the assembly line, they're often just random numbers strung together. Their exact nature will vary depending on the vehicle's manufacturer.

Where Can You Decode a VIN Number?

While it's nice to know what the digits in a VIN number stand for, they don't mean a lot until they've been decoded together. Decoding the entirety of a VIN number together will provide you with a wealth of information on your vehicle, informing you of its condition, its maintenance history, and its previous owners.

This information can be highly influential in helping you to decide whether you're going to junk or keep your car.

The question is: where can you decode a VIN number? There are VIN number decoders all over the internet. Some of the most popular online VIN decoders are offered by Auto Zone and, of course, CarFax.

vin number

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And there it is, that's how to decode your VIN number. Whether you're looking for information on vehicle components or are hoping to check your car's history, your vehicle's VIN number will accommodate you.

Has your vehicle's VIN number revealed something negative about its past? Looking to junk it? If so, Cash Cars Buyer is the company to call.

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