A Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, is a unique code assigned to every motor vehicle produced by car manufacturers. It is specific to that vehicle and that distinguishes it from all other vehicles. No two vehicles can have the same Vehicle Identification Number.
The VIN look up provides a lot of information about the vehicle including where and when it was made, even down to the specific plant where the car or truck was manufactured. If your car is lost or stolen the Vehicle Identification Number can help track it down or identify it if is recovered after an accident.
1. What is the VIN?
The VIN is used in several ways by the insurance industry, law enforcement, governments and concerned stakeholders. Some basic facts about Vehicle Identification Numbers are that they are engraved on a metal plate on the driver’s side of the dashboard and in other places on the car.
The VIN stays the same no matter how many times the car changes owners and licence plate numbers. It can be used to track the history of the car and whether it has been in any serious crashes, whether it has been stolen and how many owners it has had. It can also help the police and law enforcement agencies find a lost or stolen vehicle.
2. When did Vehicle Identification Numbers come into use?
In 1954 car makers in the United States began using VINs for each vehicle they produced. This became standardized when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandated a specific set of numbers and digits in a fixed format that they required to be affixed to every vehicle manufactured in America.
Once that happened, other countries followed suit. Soon there was a universal Vehicle Identification Number for every car or truck manufactured all over the world. In 1987 the Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard required all car and truck makers to also put the VIN on the engines, hoods and other parts of all vehicles.
3. How Vehicle Identification Numbers work
Vehicle Identification Numbers are a 17-digit string of letters and numbers. Each of these digits has a significance from its final point of assembly, its model year, the manufacturer and, the model of the vehicle.
The VIN will not however tell you the colour, standard features or options available on a vehicle. To get that information, you would need the vehicle’s “build record,” and build records are generally available only to the vehicle’s manufacturer and dealers.
4. Decoding the Vehicle Identification Number
You can find all letters and numbers in the Vehicle Identification Number, except for the letters I, O and Q. To make deciding easier, the VIN is broken up into sections.
The first section of three digits identify the manufacturer of the vehicle by using the first digit as the nation of origin. If the car was built in part in different countries, this reflects the nation where the car was assembled. Some larger countries are split into regions. The second digit identifies the manufacturer of the vehicle and the third digit identifies a division within the manufacturer or a general vehicle type.
The code for an American-made Ford is 1F, and depending on the type of vehicle, it may be a 1FA, 1FB and so on. A U.S. General Motors vehicle is a 1G. Chevrolet is a division of GM, so the first three digits for a Chevrolet are 1GC.
5. The vehicle descriptor section and the vehicle identifier section
The second set of numbers in the Vehicle Identification Number is called the vehicle descriptor section. This comprises the digits from 4 to 9 of the VIN. These digits identify the vehicle model, body style, engine type, transmission and more.
These numbers help car repair shops to identify systems installed by the manufacturer when they are servicing the vehicle. The ninth digit, or check digit, is used to detect invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation.
The final section of numbers is called the vehicle identifier section. This gives the year, the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled and each car manufacturer has its own set of plant codes. The last five digits in this section indicate the production or serial number that vary from each manufacturer.