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Understanding Your Vehicle's VIN

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When looking for service and repairs, it is always best to provide your mechanic with your vehicle's VIN number. This helps immediately eliminate any delays or comunication problems about your vehicle, since the VIN has most, if not all of the details embedded. 

All vehicles today contain a unique VIN number.  Here is some information and helpful hints for you.  The Vehicle Identification Number, sometimes referred to as VIN, the Chassis Number Format, or the Vehicle Serial Number, uses a specific coding system.

In the mid 1950s, American automobile producers began casting and stamping identification numbers on vehicles and their parts for purposes of accurately describing vehicles when large quantities of production were beginning to rise.  Study shows that earlier VIN numbers relied on the manufacturer and they varied significantly.  Vehicles prior to 1980 have 10 digit numbers and the 1980 vehicles contain 10 digits and an A. 

Because of the differentiation, in the early 1980s the U.S. Department of Transportation decided that all vehicles on the road contain a 17 character VIN, which is the system now used in most major vehicle manufacturers.  Therefore, every vehicle has its very own and unique identification number.

In addition to the VIN differing by manufacturer, the form and location may vary:

  • Plate (Aluminum)
  • Label Form
  • Bar Code
  • Cast or Stamped

 

Common locations for a VIN are:

  • Firewall of the Vehicle
  • Left Hand Inner Wheel Arch
  • Steering Column
  • Radiator Support Bracket
  • Dash by the Windshield
  • Driver's Door
  • Door Jam Frame
  • Passenger Side Door
  • Maintenance Book
  • Vehicle Documentation
  • Machined Pad on the Front of the Engine

 

Let's examine a vehicle with the following VIN -1ZWFT61L8X5617536: 

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The 1st character identifies the country in which the vehicle was manufactured:

·U.S.A. (1 or 4), Canada (2), Mexico (3), Japan (J), Korea (K), England (S), Germany (W), Italy (Z). ·Therefore this car was manufactured in the U.S.A.

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The 2nd character identifies the manufacturer:

  • ·Audi (A), BMW (B), Buick (4), Cadillac (6), Chevrolet (1), Chrysler (C), Dodge (B), Ford (F), GM Canada (7), General Motors (G), Honda (H), Jaguar (A), Lincoln (L), Mercedes Benz (D), Mercury (M or Z), Nissan (N), Oldsmobile (3), Pontiac (2 or 5), Plymouth (P), Saturn (8), Toyota (T), VW (V), Volvo (V). 

·Therefore the manufacturer of this car is Mercury.

  •  

The 3rd character identifies the vehicle type or manufacturing division:

  • ·The type of this car is Cougar.

 

The 4th to 8th characters identifies the features:

·Body style, engine, type, model, series, etc. 

  • ·This car is a 2D Coupe, Mid-size car with 2.5L V6 SMPI DOHC 24V.
  •  

The 9th character identifies the VIN accuracy as check digit:

  •  

The 10th character identifies the model year:

·1988 (J), 1989 (K), 1990 (L), 1991 (M), 1992 (N), 1993 (P), 1994 (R), 1995 (S), 1996 (T), 1997 (V), 1998 (W), 1999 (X), 2000 (Y), 2001 (1), 2002 (2), 2003 (3). 

·The model of this year is 1999.

  •  

The 11th character identifies:

·The production plant.

  •  

The 12th to 17th characters identifies:

·The sequence of the vehicle as it rolled off the manufacturer assembly line.

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