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AutoAmenity Chrome Wheelskins Hubcaps Home > FAQ > How to Read Your VIN

How to read a VIN --Vehicle Identification Number


Finding the VIN:

The majority of cars have their VIN located under the windshield and visible through a small, clear square within the tinted area at the bottom in front of the steering wheel. It may be a stamped aluminum or plastic tag which is riveted to the dash in order to make removal difficult. Limited-edition models or expensive sports cars may also have a special VIN plate located in the door sill or on the dash.

Other Common additional locations of the VIN vary and may include:

  • Drivers door or post 
  • Machined Pad on front of engine
  • Firewall of the vehicle
  • Left hand inner wheel arch
  • Steering column
  • Radiator Support Bracket

    1st character- Identifies the country in which the vehicle was manufactured.

  • USA: 1, 4 or 5
  • Canada: 2
  • Mexico: 3
  • Japan: J
  • Korea: K
  • England: S
  • Germany: W
  • Italy: Z
  • Sweden: Y
  • Australia: 6
  • France: V
  • Brazil: 9

    2nd character- Identifies the manufacturer. For example; Audi(A), BMW(B), Buick(4), Cadillac(6),

    Chevrolet(1), Chrysler(C), Dodge(B), Ford(F), GM Canada(7), General Motors(G), Honda(H),

    Jaquar(A), Lincoln(L), Mercedes Benz(D), Mercury(M), Nissan(N), Oldsmobile(3), Pontiac(2or5), Plymouth(P),

    Saturn(8), Toyota(T), VW(V), Volvo(V).


    3rd character- Identifies vehicle type or manufacturing division.


    4th to 8th characters- VDS - Vehicle Descriptor Section. These 5 characters occupy positions 4 through 8 of the VIN and may be used by the manufacturer to identify attributes of the vehicle. Identifies vehicle features such as body style, engine type, model, series, etc.


    9th Character - The check digit "character or digit 9" in the sequence of a vehicle identification number (VIN) built beginning with model year 1981 (when the 17 character digit format was established) can best be described as identifying the VIN accuracy.

    A check digit shall be part of each vin (since 1981) and shall appear in position nine (9) of the VIN on the vehicle and on any transfer documents containing the vin prepared by the manufacturer to be given to the first owner for purposes other than resale. Thus, the vins of any two vehicles manufactured within a 30 year period shall not be identical. The check digit means a single number or letter
    "x" used to verify the accuracy of the transcription of the vehicle identification number.

    After all other characters in the VIN have been determined by the manufacturer
    the check digit is calculated by carrying out a mathematical computation specified. This is based on vin position, sample vin, assigned value code, weight factor and multiply assigned value times weight factors. The values are added and the total is divided by 11. The remainder is the check digit number. The correct numeric remainder - zero through nine (0-9) will appear.
    However, if the remainder is 10 the letter "X" is used to designate the check digit value/number.

    10th character- Identifies the model year. For example: 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)


    11th character- Identifies the assembly plant for the vehicle.


    12th to 17th characters- VIS - Vehicle Identifier Section. The last 8 characters of the VIN are used for the identification a of specific vehicle. The last four characters shall always be numeric. Identifies the sequence of the vehicle for production as it rolled off the manufacturers assembly line.


    History of the VIN

    Detroit automobile manufacturers began stamping and casting identifying numbers on cars and their parts in the mid 1950's . The primary purpose of this vehicle identification number (VIN) was to give an accurate description of the vehicle when mass production numbers were starting to scale in very significant numbers. The early VINs came in a range of variations depending on the individual manufacturer at that time.

    In the early 1980's the U.S. National highway Traffic Safety Administration (USDOT) required that all road vehicles must contain a 17 character VIN. This established the standard fixed VIN system which major vehicle manufacturers use currently. The result was a unique "DNA" style number for each individual vehicle rolled off the assembly line.