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What does your Car’s VIN or Chassis Number mean?

August 23, 2017

VIN chassis number
How to interpret your car’s VIN

A car’s VIN (Vehicle identification number), also sometimes called a chassis number, contains unique information regarding its exact origin, the type of car, the engine and when it was built amongst others.

Think of your car’s VIN as the automotive equivalent of a person’s ID number or even their DNA – No two vehicles will have the same number.

VIN’s are used in the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles, towed vehicles, motorcycles as well as scooters and mopeds. A VIN can be used to track things like a vehicle’s insurance policies, accident reports or when body or engine work was performed on a vehicle.

A Brief History

VINs were first used in 1954, but until 1981 there was no accepted standard for these numbers, so different manufacturers used different formats.
In 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US standardized the format. The purpose was to give an accurate description of each unit as vehicles started to be mass produced.

From here on all new on-road vehicles were required to have a 17-character VIN when sold. In this standard VIN‘s may not include the letters I, O and Q to avoid confusion with numerals 1 and 0. This established the fixed VIN system for major vehicle manufacturers as it is known today.

Where is My Car’s VIN?

Your 17-character VIN can usually be found on the driver’s side interior dash at the bottom of the windscreen, but there are also other areas where it can commonly be found such as the driver’s side door jamb.

Depending on the car’s manufacturer, there are a number of different places that your VIN may appear on your vehicle. Check out the diagram below to help you locate it:

VIN chassis number
Where to locate your car’s VIN – 4 most common areas

Remember: When copying down your vehicle’s VIN, it is important to note that the letters I or O will never appear in your VIN. These will always be represented as the numbers 1 and 0.

The Characters Defined

As you know by now, VIN’s are all standardized and contain 17 characters. VIN characters may be capital letters A through Z and numbers 1 through 0. The letters I, O and Q are never used in order to avoid confusion with numbers, and no signs or spaces are used in VINs.

The position of each letter or number in the VIN code reveals important information about a vehicle. Where the vehicle was made, who manufactured it, the make and model, and various other unique and identifying features are contained in the number. Each character or digit has a particular purpose as follows:

VIN chassis number
VIN decoder diagram

1st Character: The 1st character identifies the country where the vehicle was manufactured.

Example – Manufacturing Country Codes
1 or 4 2 3 J K S W Z
USA Canada Mexico Japan Korea England Germany Italy

2nd Character: The 2nd character specifies the manufacturer.

Example – Car Manufacturer Codes
A B H A D N T V V
Audi BMW Honda Jaguar Mercedes Nissan Toyota Volvo VW

3rd Character: The 3rd character indicates the vehicle type or manufacturing division. This varies among car makes and models.

4th – 8th Character: These characters reveal its features/attributes, such as body style, engine type, model, series, etc. Again, this varies widely among car makes, models and equipment.

9th Character: The 9th character is a VIN accuracy check digit, verifying the previous numbers within the VIN.

10th Character: The 10th character states the year of manufacture.

Example – Model Year Codes
Code Year Code Year Code Year Code Year Code Year
A 1980 L 1990 Y 2000 A 2010 L 2020
B 1981 M 1991 1 2001 B 2011 M 2021
C 1982 N 1992 2 2002 C 2012 N 2022
D 1983 P 1993 3 2003 D 2013 P 2023
E 1984 R 1994 4 2004 E 2014 R 2024
F 1985 S 1995 5 2005 F 2015 S 2025
G 1986 T 1996 6 2006 G 2016 T 2026
H 1987 V 1997 7 2007 H 2017 V 2027
J 1988 W 1998 8 2008 J 2018 W 2028
K 1989 X 1999 9 2009 K 2019 X 2029

11th Character: The 11th character specifies the assembly plant where it was manufactured.

12th – 17th Character: The 12th through the 17th character is always numeric and indicate the sequence of the vehicle for production as it rolled off the manufacturer’s assembly line.

That’s it, now you know how to interpret your car’s VIN!

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