Decoding Your Vehicle's Identity – Where to Find the VIN Number?
Buying a new car? A VIN is probably the first thing you want to look at before going through with the purchase. It can quickly paint a picture of a car's history, make, and model. But what exactly are VIN numbers, and why are they so crucial?
In this blog post, we'll delve into VINs, learn what they are and how to decode them, explore VIN code variations in different countries, and find out where to find it on your car.
What is a VIN Number?
A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), also called VIN code, is a unique code assigned to every vehicle on the road, acting as a fingerprint that distinguishes each vehicle from the other.
It usually has a 17-character alphanumeric sequence assigned during vehicle production. Its main purpose is to serve as a standardized identifier for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other motor vehicles.
The VIN acts as a virtual DNA for the vehicle, providing vital information about its manufacturer, model year, equipment, and country of origin.
What can a VIN tell about your car?
There are many different VIN lookup internet platforms and tools that can help understand what kind of information each VIN can have, like:
- Manufacturer country, brand and model.
- Vehicle attributes.
- Vehicle model year.
- Assembly plant code.
- Vehicle serial number.
- Safety features.
- Production sequence.
Additionally, you could also learn about a vehicle's registration data, insurance, history, previous ownership, and repairs. While this information is not easily accessible and requires authorization, it's used by approved individuals and parties to assess a car’s overall state.
What does VIN number look like?
Decoding the VIN
As we mentioned before, there's a wide selection of VIN decoding and lookup tools to choose from. Some are designed for this specific reason, other tools like OBDeleven have a VIN lookup feature. But to explain the VIN number in a bit more detail, each character has a specific meaning:
- World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) – the first three characters represent the vehicle's country of origin and the manufacturer's identity.
- Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS) – the following five characters provide information about the vehicle's attributes, such as its body style, engine type, and model.
- Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS) – the last nine characters serve as a unique identifier for the particular vehicle, offering details like the production plant and the vehicle's sequential production number.
VIN Number Variations in Different Countries
VINs can vary slightly across different countries due to regulatory requirements and manufacturing practices. In the United States and Canada, for example, VINs follow the standard 17-character format as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, other countries might have other VIN lengths or use different characters to convey specific information.
- Older vehicles may have a 16-digit VIN number.
- In Europe, VINs can range from 17 to 19 characters, and they include information about the vehicle's type approval number and the manufacturer's location code.
- In Australia, VINs are 17 characters long and provide details about the vehicle's compliance with Australian Design Rules (ADR) and the manufacturing date.
- However, despite these variations, the fundamental purpose of a VIN remains the same – to provide a unique identifier for each vehicle, so that it can be easily distinguished from other vehicles.
How to find VIN number on car?
Locating the VIN on a vehicle is relatively straightforward. It's often placed in several specific locations, like:
- The driver-side dashboard, visible through the windshield.
- The driver-side door jamb, usually on a label or a metal plate.
- The vehicle's engine block or bay.
- The front of the vehicle's frame.
In addition, VIN numbers can also be found on important documents like the vehicle's title, registration, and insurance papers.
Understanding VIN numbers is an essential skill for any vehicle owner or prospective buyer. Despite minor variations across countries, the overarching purpose of a VIN remains consistent worldwide. So, the next time you come across a VIN, take a moment to decode it and unlock the intriguing history of the vehicle it represents.