For almost 40 years now, the VIN code has been a mandatory element of car marking, and the information encrypted in it is a unique identifier akin to fingerprints. We will tell you how to read any VIN. The VIN consists of 17 alphanumeric characters, but older cars have a 16-digit code. The rules for compiling the VIN may vary depending on the car manufacturer, but there is a “classic key” for reading the identification number. The first group of characters is responsible for the origin and is called WMI (World Manufacturers Identification) – World Manufacturers Index (from the 1st to the 3rd characters of the number).
The VIN begins with a geographical area code – it is the first character (letter or number). For example, 1, 4 and 5 mean that the car is from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. European zone is denoted by letters from S to Z. Russian indices are X3, X4, X5, X6, X7, X8, X9, X0, Z7, Z8, Z9 and Z0. The second character (letter or number) indicates the country of origin. For better identification, the specific country is identified by a combination of the first and second characters of the code. The third character of the VIN code is responsible for the manufacturer’s division: it may indicate the vehicle type or production department. If the third digit in the code is a 9, it means that the manufacturer produces less than 500 vehicles per year. In order to find out the manufacturer, a combination of all three symbols of the first part of the VIN will be required.
You can perform VIN check with an online service in order to simplify that process. The technical specifications of the vehicle are stored in the second, descriptive part of the VIN – VDS (Vehicle Description Section). The manufacturers themselves decide in which order to place the six characters of this group, which tells about the individual features of the car. There (from the 4th to 9th symbol) may be information on the engine type, body, safety class and model of the car, as well as the type of transmission. If the manufacturer does not put any characteristics on the VIN, zeros appear in place of the corresponding symbols. Although the manufacturer is free to choose the order and the number of technical parameters for the VIN, the 8th symbol is often used to identify the engine type, and the 9th is a control digit (US and Chinese manufacturers and exporters to the US) that prevents number confusion. This part of VIN – Vehicle Identification Section (VIS) encrypts all the distinctive features of the car. There are only eight symbols in this section. By standard, the year of manufacture of the vehicle in the VIN is designated by the 10th symbol (letter or number). The year of manufacture between 1980 and 2000 is assigned a letter from A to Y. A car from the year 2000 will be marked with a Y. After 2000, manufacturers began to use numbers, and since 2010, they have returned to letters. The last characters are recommended to be allocated to the serial number of the car, in practice they are the characters from the 12th to the 17th.