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
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
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)
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
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!