Edmunds Answers



  • knowledgepower 02/12/11 8:58 am PST

    How to Decode a VIN

    When decoded, the VIN
    tells the country and year of manufacture; make, model and serial
    number; assembly plant; and in some cases it even identifies equipment

    The system goes something like
    this: sequence for characters is first A to Z, then 1 to 9, and last 0.
    The letters "I", "O" and "Q" are typically omitted from system.

    The vehicle identification number is divided into four

    • World
      Manufacturer's Identification (WMI - three characters)
    • Vehicle Description Section (VDS - five
    • The VIN Accuracy Check Digit
    • Vehicle Identification Section (VIS - eight

    World Manufacturer’s Identification (WMI)

    The first character in the WMI sequence represents
    the country where the vehicle was manufactured. Countries like the
    United States (1 or 4), Canada (2) and Mexico (3) are represented by numbers while other
    countries such as Germany (W), Italy (Z) and Japan (J) are represented
    by letters.

    The second character refers to the
    manufacturer. The characters can be either letters or numbers. For
    example: Jaguar (A), Dodge (B), Chrysler (C), Jeep (J), Buick (4),
    Cadillac (6) or Saturn (8).

    The third character
    represents the vehicle type or manufacturing division.

    Description Section (VDS) and Check Digit

    vehicle description section consists of five characters (the 4th to 8th
    characters) which identify everything from the body style, engine type,
    and braking system to model, series, restraint system, etc. The 9th
    character is a VIN accuracy check digit which verifies the previous VIN
    numbers. It is determined by carrying out a mathematical computation
    developed by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

    Identification Section (VIS)

    The vehicle
    identification section includes the last eight characters in the VIN
    number. The numbers identify the model year (10th character) and the
    assembly plant for the vehicle (11th character). A number or letter may
    represent the model year. For example: 1998 (W), 2000 (Y), 2007 (7) or
    2008 (8).

    The 12th to 17th characters are the
    actual serial number of the vehicle—these last 6 digits make the vehicle
    unique (think of DNA). It can also help to identify whether the vehicle
    was the first, the hundredth, or the last vehicle off the
    manufacturer’s assembly line. This is valuable information for

    So, the next time you see that long
    number printed on your registration papers or stamped across your
    dashboard, you’ll know how to decode it. This will give you a better
    understanding of where your unique vehicle actually came from!


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