When you are looking for a new car, or wanting to sell your current one, A VIN number is something you need to know.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and need to make an insurance claim, do certain maintenance, or any number of other situations involving the vehicle, this is also good information to have.
Many people know where to find the VIN number and of its importance. But not many actually know how to READ a VIN number.
Reading a VIN number is tough, essentially impossible actually, if you don’t know what the different numbers mean.
Each VIN number is divided up into three sections, each of which we will discuss here.
By the end of this article, you should be able to go to your car, look at the VIN, and be able to grasp a bigger picture of the vehicle’s story. Here we go!
If you do not know where is the VIN number, read how to find VIN number to have best understanding.
A VIN is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle
The World Manufacturer Identifier is the first three spots.
The first number represents the country where the car was made, or it may be a notification of the final point of assembly.
Cars made in the U.S. start with 1,4 or 5, Canada is 2, Mexico is 3, Japan is J, South Korea is K, England is S, Germany is W and Sweden or Finland is Y.
Position two is riddled with information about the specific manufacturer.
Many times this is the first letter of the manufacturer. A for Audi, B for BMW, G for General Motors, L for Lincoln and N for Nissan. This isn’t always the case, however. "A" can also stand for Jaguar or Mitsubishi and an "R" can also mean Audi.
This may be really confusing, but digit three, along with the first two digits, indicates the vehicle's type or manufacturing division. In our example, 1G6 means a Cadillac passenger car.
1G1 means Chevrolet passenger cars and 1GC means Chevrolet trucks. Variations change over time, as brands evolve to change their name or go out of business, or are bought by other brands. The VIN number of your vehicle will be consistent with the year that it was made.
This part of the VIN, made up of digits 4 through 9, makes up the Vehicle Descriptor Section. This might. Be the most informative as far as general info on the car.
Spots four through eight describe the car with such information as the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type and engine code.
Spot nine is basically an added bit of security assurance. A mathematical formula developed by the Department of Transportation adds this digit as insurance against fraud. It helps those in the know to immediately recognize if the VIN is fake or altered by either the vehicle owner or someone else.
The Vehicle Identifier Section is a large section, using spaces 10 thru 17.
Position 10 notes the year the car was built for. The letters from B-Y correspond to the model years 1981-2000, minus I, O, Q, U or Z as those letters were not used here. From 2001-'09, the numbers one through nine were used in place of numbers. In 2010, it all started over again and will run through model year 2030.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the how it looks since 1981: B=1981, C='82, D='83, E='84, F='85, G='86, H='87, J='88, K='89, L='90, M='91, N='92, P='93, R='94, S='95, T='96, V='97, W='98, X='99, Y=2000, 1='01, 2='02, 3='03, 4='04, 5='05, 6='06, 7='07, 8='08, 9='09, A=2010, B='11, C='12, D='13, E='14, F='15,G='16, H='17, J='18
Digit 11 showcases the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled. Each automaker has its own set of plant codes.
At the end of the VIN number, positions 12 through 17 are used to identify the production sequence numbers. Every car will receive a number like this while it is on the assembly line during production, and it sticks with the vehicle for as long as it is in existence. It shows, for example, the run of cars the manufacturer has produced that year, and which one this specific vehicle is.
If you find your car has some scratches or maybe it was dinged in the parking lot, it can be annoying. You will want to grab some paint and get your car back to looking like new. But choosing the right car paint is crucial. It is important that you get the exact right color for your car or it will look like a two-tone paint job. But how can you find out what the correct paint color is for your car?
It is possible to use your car’s VIN number to determine what color paint you will need for your touch up job. This is an ideal way to obtain the correct color paint. Car manufacturers imbed the paint color information on the VIN sticker. This information can then be taken to a car paint vendor to get the correct match.
First, you need to locate your car's VIN number. The VIN number is usually a sticker on certain places inside your car. Typically, the VIN number sticker is located on the inside of the door jamb, on the inside of the car door, on the interior dash on the driver side, under the hood at the front of the engine or in the rear wheel well directly above the tire.
Now that you have located the VIN sticker, you can study it for the paint information. You may find that the colors are listed for both the body color and the trim color. Each manufacturer will have their own unique way of labeling this information.
You should look on the sticker for the words “paint” or “color”. Some manufacturers will label the paint colors this way. If you do not see these words, look for a “C” code. You might also see the letters “Tr”, which will stand for the trim level color. You might also see “Ext” to designate exterior color. Make sure you are choosing the correct one.
Identifying paint colors and codes can vary among manufactures. However, the info will still be listed on the VIN sticker.
Once you have identified the paint color code for your car, you can purchase the paint. It is important to know that even if you know the name of the paint color you need, it may not be the same as the information on the paint code. Manufacturers often use the same name for different variations of color in the same color family. They may vary the intensity of the color from year to year as well. This means that there are variations in the same color between a 2009 model, a 2010 model and a 2015 model. This is why knowing the color code is a must.
You can go to the local dealer to purchase your needed paint. You can also go to a local body shop or car detailing business and purchase the paint. You will need to have the color code with you to be sure you are purchasing the correct color for your make and model.
Now you’ve got a basic understanding of how to read a VIN number, and what all those darn digits mean! It’s always fun to go check out your car (or cars) and learn more about them through the VIN number. Did you learn anything interesting? Anything out of the ordinary? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell us a story about your car.
If you enjoyed reading this article, we’d appreciate it if you share on social media. Maybe you can get a conversation going about VIN numbers and learn the story of the vehicles which your friends and family members own!
Keep your VIN handy, and know what it means – you never know when that information might be useful to you in the future.