How to Decode the Vehicle Identification Number
As highlighted previously in the article, a VIN comprises a mix of alphabets and digits (17 in total). But what exactly do these numbers and letters mean? Here’s how to decode the VIN number.
In the VIN, the first character denotes the country where the vehicle was manufactured. This character can either be a letter or digit — cars produced in North America usually start with a number while those from Europe, Asia, etc., mostly start with letters. For instance, American cars use ‘1’, ‘4’ or ‘5’, while German cars use ‘W’.
The next letter in the VIN represents the vehicle’s manufacturer while the third letter shows the vehicle type or division. Taken together with the aforementioned first character, these three characters collectively form the World Manufacturer Index (WMI).
The next series of letters and numbers describe several aspects of the vehicle. The list runs the gamut from engine size to transmission type, restraint system, and many more.
Since some rogues decide to fabricate VINs, the 9th character (called the security check digit) is used to validate the VIN. Generated based on a formula developed by the US DOT, the security check digit prevents use of fake VINs to sell vehicles.
In the 10th position in the VIN is a character (letter or number) that denotes a vehicle’s model year. Model years 1981 to 2000 used letters between B and Y, except I, O, Q, U or Z. The 2001-2009 model years used numbers 1-9 while model years from 2010 will use alphabets from A until 2030.
The 11th VIN character aka “Plant Code” specifies what factory produced the vehicle. To round off, the last six digits make up the car’s serial number, stamped on it at the production line.
How VIN Decoder Works?
A VIN number decoder is simple yet effective. It uses enormous data culled from sources like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to extract vehicle info stored in the VIN.
As the information placed in the VIN is updated constantly, a VIN decoder will provide accurate data related to a vehicle. Thus, using a VIN decoder will save you from unscrupulous individuals who may try to hide information about a vehicle from you.
Say a seller tells that a car is in perfect condition with no trace of unreliability. You can confirm by looking up the VIN online. You'll get information concerning recalls for that model and note any issues that may be plaguing the vehicle.
Example of VIN Decoding
As you already know by now, the VIN has in it several details about your car. And you might need that information while you are trying to purchase a car or get a spare for your vehicle. Which is why you need to learn how to decode the VIN.
While we have spelt out what’s in a typical VIN, we’ll show you an example of VIN decoding for a specific model.
From the VIN number listed above, we can obtain the following information about the vehicle in question using a VIN number decoder:
Manufacturer: Ford Motor Co.
Engine Size: 3.5-liter V6 (turbocharged)
Trim: FX2 SuperCrew 5.5-ft. Bed 2WD
Year of production: 2013
Country of production: United States of America
Is It Safe to Give Out My VIN Number?
The consensus is that it is safe — necessary, even — to share your VIN with buyers when you are trying to sell your vehicle. Or else, they won’t be able to get the goods on your car, which may be a turn-off.
And to be honest, your VIN is sitting pretty much in the open, so it’s not something you can hide. A VIN is not like a Social Security Number; giving it out won’t affect your security.
Be ready to release it if a prospective buyer ever asks for it. This is only right if you want to maintain utmost transparency throughout the entire car-buying process.
How to Avoid VIN Cloning?
VIN cloning occurs when someone steals the VIN of a car and uses it to forge new documents for another (usually stolen) vehicle. Another form of VIN cloning is to cut the VIN plate from one car and welding it to another, stolen, vehicle.
By using a fresh VIN, these rogue elements will pass off the stolen vehicle as a legitimate vehicle. Buy that vehicle, and you’ll find yourself embroiled in a car theft case or — worse — get your car seized.
The key to avoiding the prospect of becoming a victim of VIN cloning is to be thorough in checking the VIN for any vehicle that you want to buy. This means that you must check the VIN number in the car documents and that on the car itself to see if they correlate.
Sure, thieves can alter documents and change the VIN. However, they can hardly erase the VIN from areas like the engine block or the door jamb.
Checking those places is your best bet to ensure that the VIN on your chosen car isn't a cloned version. That way, you can save yourself the stress that comes with buying a stolen car.
A VIN is more than just a random string of numbers. It can help with tracking recalls on a vehicle, vehicle registrations, possible theft involvements, and provide other crucial vehicle information.
VinPit, a reliable free VIN decoder has a VIN reader tool that makes it easy to extract car-related information using your VIN. Our database is updated regularly, so the information is up-to-date. We also offer vehicle history report services, license plate lookups, and more.
VIN Decoder by Make
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