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VIN-code (Vehicle Identification Number) is the identification number of the vehicle, consisting of a combination of numeric and letter symbols. The code is a mandatory element of marking and is individual for each vehicle (for 30 years).

It all started in 1977, when the ISO 3779 standard was adopted in the USA and Canada, which described the format of VIN numbers.

Currently, the international standard ISO 3779: 1983 is in force (the last edition is from 1996), the world manufacturer’s index (WMI – part of the code) is determined by the ISO 3780: 1983 standard.

The identification number is located on the non-removable part of the body in places least susceptible to destruction in an accident and is duplicated on a plate located in the front of the car. The VIN of modern cars is located on the front left pillar of the body and the upper left of the dashboard.

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In the case of the manufacture of the vehicle sequentially by several enterprises, it is permissible to apply the main marking of the vehicle only by the manufacturer of the final product.

VIN-number consists of 17 characters – Latin letters and numbers. At the same time, the I, O and Q symbols are not used in the code combinations due to the similarity with the numbers 1 and 0.

Each symbol of the VIN number carries information about one or another characteristic of the car: about the country and the manufacturer, date of manufacture, technical specifications, etc.

What each digit means in a VIN?

The first three characters make up the WMI part; this is the manufacturer’s identification number and the country in which the vehicle was assembled. For example, the VIN number of cars made in Japan starts with the letter “J”, while in the United States of America it starts with the number “1”.

The second part of the VIN number contains encrypted information about the type of vehicle. Manufacturers can compose this part at their discretion, but they must fit between 4 and 9 characters. This is where you can determine whether there are installed airbags, the type of seat belts and bodywork, the number of doors, and the vehicle class (eg SUV, economy class). The last character of this part is the check digit. Using a special algorithm, you can check if any symbol in front of it has been tampered with.

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Symbols from 10 to 17 are numbers and letters (the last four are always numbers) that allow you to identify a specific car (this part is unique for each car), engine version, drive type, accessories, etc. In addition, it is in this particular parts encoded information about the year of manufacture of the model and the plant in which the vehicle was manufactured (the year is always encrypted in place of the tenth character).

Can a VIN number be 13 digits?

Yes, it may exist, for example The change from a 13-digit code to a 17-digit VIN in Jeep cars took place in 1981

The VIN number of the vehicle consists of three parts: WMI VDS VIS

VIN
  1. WMI (World Manufacturers Identification) – the world manufacturer’s index (from the 1st to the 3rd characters of the number);
  2. VDS (Vehicle Description Section) – a descriptive part (from the 4th to the 9th characters of the number);
  3. VIS (Vehicle Identification Section) – a distinctive part (from the 10th to the 17th characters of the VIN number)
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WMI

WMI is the international manufacturer’s identification code. Consists of three characters (letters or numbers).

The first character stands for a geographic area, the second for a country in that area, and the third for a specific manufacturer (sometimes a type of vehicle).

If the manufacturer produces less than 500 vehicle types per year, then the third character of the code is the number 9.

Several WMIs can be assigned to a manufacturer, but the same number must not be assigned to another car manufacturer for at least 30 years from the moment it was first used by the previous (first) manufacturer.

So, the first character in WMI is a letter or number representing the geographic area code. Several symbols are assigned to each of the zones:

  1. from A to H – Africa;
  2. from J to R – Asia;
  3. from S to Z – Europe;
  4. from 1 to 5 – North America;
  5. from 6 to 7 – Oceania;
  6. from 8 to 9 – South America;
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The second character (country code) is a letter or number that designates a country. To ensure flexibility and unambiguity in identification, a specific country is determined by a combination of the first and second digits of the code:

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Despite the parameters clearly spelled out in the standard, the designation assigned to the manufacturing country is not always used. For example, the cars of the European branch of General Motors, which is headquartered in Germany, are marked as W0 regardless of the country of manufacture (whether it is Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Belgium or Poland).

VIN-code of the car, lookup and decoding

The third character is a letter or number assigned to the manufacturer by the national organization. May also mean vehicle type or production department.

In other geographic areas, manufacturers have the following indices:

VIN-code of the car, lookup and decoding

VDS

The second part of the VIN-code – description – vehicle descriptor.

4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th characters are used to identify the type of vehicle and describe the characteristics of the vehicle:

  1. model line,
  2. body type,
  3. engine’s type,
  4. steering wheel position,
  5. power supply system and transmission type,
  6. drive unit,
  7. etc.
  8. Each manufacturer has its own set of parameters, its own sequence and its own unique designations.

The 8th character is used in most cases to identify the engine type. Unused items are filled with signs at the discretion of the manufacturer.

The 9th character – for the manufacturers of the United States and China (as well as those who export cars to the United States) – is a check digit, which is one of the means of protection against interfering numbers. European, Japanese and Korean companies do not always follow the standard and use this symbol for additional information about the vehicle.

VIS

The third part of the VIN-code – the identifying part of the identification number (VIS) – consists of eight characters, and the last four characters of this section must be numbers. Moreover, the information about the model year and the manufacturer is not rigidly fixed by the standard but is only advisory in nature.

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The 10th character of the VIN code usually indicates the model year of the vehicle.

It should be remembered that the model year can be significantly ahead of the calendar year and be counted not from January 1, but, for example, from August (Audi) or from July of the previous calendar year.

Some manufacturers, such as Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, do not indicate the model year in the VIN code at all. The year of manufacture is indicated on the plate on the body.

Nevertheless, cars made for the American market are all marked strictly according to the standard.

VIN code

In addition to the three letters prohibited for use in the VIN (I, O and Q), the letters U, Z and the number 0 are also not used to code the model year.

The European branch of Ford in the VIN code indicates the release date as fully as possible: the symbol of the year of manufacture is located at the 11th position, and the month at the 12th position.

The 11th symbol most often indicates the vehicle assembly plant (for each manufacturer – its own designation system – its own letters).

12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th characters are assigned to the serial number of the car. They indicate the production sequence of the vehicle.

Audi decoding table is as follows:

Audi VIN

Outcome

Car manufacturers have a sufficient degree of freedom to use their own designations in the structure of the VIN-code, and it is not possible to list all the features and designations within one article.

Therefore, for complete information and identification of a car, you should contact the manufacturer (importer, dealer) who can provide information about all VIN-codes of β€œtheir” brands. Or you can lookup VIN here

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By Vinceslav

Journalist, writer. I write articles and reviews on equipment such as cars, computers, games. Worked for 6 years in the auto and auto parts business. And all my life I have been engaged in computer technology.

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