Decoding Your Car’s VIN for Auto Repair

Every car comes with one, a vehicle identification number (VIN). It is a long string of numbers and letters that may look like a lot of gibberish to you. But the reality is this unique grouping of numbers will tell you a lot about your car and sets it apart from every other vehicle on the road. There are a lot of practical applications to knowing your VIN and how to read it. Insurance companies use it. Law enforcement uses it. Your auto repair mechanic uses it. You can use it to check the history on a car before buying it. Yes, the VIN is very important.

Car dashboard warning lights symbols showing check engine ,oil pressure , battery charge

Where is the VIN?

Most manufactures print the VINs on several different parts of the vehicle. This ensures the car can be identified and the VIN verified. Most appear on the driver’s side dashboard. You can peek in through the windshield and usually find it. Another spot is the driver’s side door on a small information plaque. Another place where the VIN is stamped is the engine block, along with some other information. Last, but not least you can also find your VIN on paperwork like your insurance card, title, and vehicle registration.

How to Decode the VIN

Here is everything you need to know so you can manually decode your vehicle’s identification number:

First Three Characters

The first three characters typically make up the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). Start by reading the VIN from left to right. The first letter or number denotes where the manufacturer is headquartered:

  • A-H is for Africa
  • J-P is for Asia
  • S-Z is for Europe
  • 1, 4, 5 is for United States
  • 2 is for Canada
  • 3 is for Mexico
  • 6-7 is for Australia
  • 8-9 is for South America

The second indicates the manufacturer and the region. Some common codes are:

  • H is Honda
  • T is Toyota
  • M is Hyundai
  • G is General Motors
  • 1 is Chevrolet
  • C is Chrysler
  • J is Jeep
  • 4 is Buick
  • 6 is Cadillac

The third is where information starts to get more diverse. It indicates the vehicle type or the manufacturing division. 

Characters 4-9

Next up is the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS). This helps identify the model, body style, type of engine, transmission, and more. This is where the mechanic can look to see what systems were installed by a manufacturer so they can properly service a vehicle. Then the ninth is called a check digit. It is based on an algorithm assigned by the Department of Transportation to prevent VIN fraud.

Characters 10-17

These characters make up the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The tenth digit indicates the year. “A” is for 1980 all the way up to “Y” which is for 2000. And then 1 is for 2001 and 9 is for 2009, and then starting back at “A” for 2010. It works because I, O, and Q are never used in VINs. So a 2018 car would have the letter “J” in the tenth spot. The 11th space is for the plant, and the final six help identify the vehicle itself as a sequential number right off the assembly line.

Now you can see why identifying the VIN is so important for auto repair. It allows technicians to know what they are working on and what parts they will need to repair certain systems. For more information about auto repair in Rockville, MD contact the experts at Preferred Automotive. They can help you decode your VIN and provide honest and reliable auto repair. Call (301) 881-8530 to set up a service or stop by 12356 Wilkins Ave, Rockville, MD 20852.

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