VIN Number | The Complete VIN Guide

The VIN is the alphanumeric sequence that is made up of 17 digits. It consists of different sections and represents a vehicle’s fingerprint as no two vehicles in operation have the same VIN. It is also referred to as the chassis or a serial number of a vehicle.


What is a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Number?

The VIN is the alphanumeric sequence that is made up of 17 digits. It consists of different sections and represents a vehicle’s fingerprint as no two vehicles in operation have the same VIN. It is also referred to as the chassis or a serial number of a vehicle. A VIN  can be used to find out significant information about a vehicle. The VIN sequence follows the standards set by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) in the years 1979 through 1980.

Vehicle Identification Number History

In 1954, VINs were used for the first time in the United States. From 1954 to 1981, there was no recognized standard for these numbers, so different automakers used different formats.

Since 1980, car manufacturers have been obliged to use a standardized format for VIN numbers. However, standardization did not come until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established the current method of tracking every car that moves off an assembly line. Today, all vehicle identification numbers are made up of 17 characters which are all numerical figures. The standardization of these numbers makes it very easy for car buyers to know more about the cars they wanted to buy without the need to contact the vehicle’s manufacturer. VIN Numbers can also contain 10 or 13 digits for antique or classic vehicles manufactured before 1981.

Where can you locate the VIN number of a Car?

  •     You can find the VIN Number at various positions on the vehicle. You can find the VIN number in the following positions of a car.
  •     VIN number is obtainable on a sticker placed on the driver’s door panel.
  •     VIN number can be located on the left-hand side of the dashboard near the windshield.
  •     The engine of the vehicle also contains the VIN number engine code. The number is imprinted on the engine and this is the reliable method to access the  VIN number in case of doubt of tampering or title issues.
  • You can also find the VIN on the vehicle title or insurance paper at ease.

Where to find the VIN number on a Motorcycle?

The location of the VIN number on motorcycles is different for various manufacturers. Ideally, the VIN number can either be found on the steering neck or by turning the bike’s handle to the left. You can also find it near the bike’s motor.

Where to find an ATV VIN Number?

The ATV VIN location varies by manufacturer. but most often, it is embedded on the frame, on the left side of ATV, below the shifter on an open site.

It is a little bit difficult to find ATV VIN in other locations. Here are few locations where you can find ATV VIN.

  • Close to the left wheel (inside the left wheel well by the radiator or behind the left wheel well on the frame)
  • On the left side of the frame down by the engine
  • Imprint on the frame under the tail section
  • through the slit in the plastic hood

You can also find the ATV VIN on the title papers, insurance papers, registration papers, and the original dealer bill of sale.

How to decode a VIN?

Let’s break down the VIN Number, starting with the first character. Please note the letters “O”, “I” and “q” are not found in any VIN Numbers to avoid confusion with digits 0, 1, and 9.

The first character represents the country where the vehicle was manufactured. This can be a letter or a digit, each represents a different country. The most common ones are as follows:

Letters or Digits

1, 4, 5

2

3

J

K

S

W

Y

Country

USA

Canada

Mexico

Japan

South Korea

England

Germany

Finland, Sweden

The second/third characters represent the manufacturer. The most common are:

Letters

Make / Manufacturer

Letters

Make / Manufacturer

A

Alfa Romeo

J

Jeep

B

Dodge

L

Lincoln

C

Chrysler

M

Mitsubishi

D

Daihatsu

N

Nissan / Infiniti

E

Eagle

P

Plymouth

F

Ford/ Eagle

S

Subaru

G

All General Motors vehicles

T

Toyota / Lexus

H

Honda / Acura

V

Volkswagen

Other well-known makes use a 3-character initial sequence:

3 character initial sequence

Make / Manufacturer

3 character initial sequence

Make / Manufacturer

TRU / WAU

Audi

WDB

Mercedes-Benz

4US / WBA / WBS

BMW

VF3

Peugeot

2HM / KMH

Hyundai

WP0

Porsche

SAJ

Jaguar

YK1 / YS3

Saab

SAL

Land Rover

YV1

Volvo

1YV / JM1

Mazda



The first three digits of a VIN number are known as the World Manufacturer Identifier also known as the WMI.

The fourth character describes a vehicle’s restraint system. The fifth, sixth, seventh & eighth characters are the vehicle line, series, body type and engine type. The ninth digit is used as a check digit. A check digit is a single letter or number used to verify the accuracy of the vehicle identification number entered.

 The fourth to ninth digits are known as the Vehicle Descriptor Section also known as the VDS.

The tenth digit indicates the year, which only applies to vehicles manufactured in or after 1981 since the VIN format was not standardized until that year.

Code

Years

Code

Years

Code

Years

A

1980, 2010

L

1990, 2020

Y

2000, 2030

B

1981, 2011

M

1991,2021

1

2001, 2031

C

1982, 2012

N

1992, 2022

2

2002, 2032

D

1983, 2013

P

1993, 2023

3

2003, 2033

E

1984, 2014

R

1994, 2024

4

2004, 2034

F

1985, 2015

S

1995, 2025

5

2005, 2035

G

1986, 2016

T

1996, 2026

6

2006, 2036

H

1987, 2017

V

1997, 2027

7

2007, 2037

J

1988, 2018

W

1998, 2028

8

2008, 2038

K

1989, 2019

X

1999, 2029

9

2009, 2039

The eleventh character indicates the plant of assembly. The vehicle started its life here and was assembled at the manufacturer’s factory. 

Characters 12-17 represent the vehicle’s unique fingerprint. It is these last six digits which make every single vehicle in the world different.

The tenth through seventeenth digits are known as the Vehicle Identification Section also known as VIS.