Everything You Need to Know About a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
July 1st, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
First, what is a VIN number? The 17-digit VIN that is imprinted on your car, often on your dashboard, may seem like Greek, but it is a vitally important code. Think of it as your car’s very own social security number.
Every vehicle made after 1981 has one, and each one is unique, though they all conform to a standardized format.
Why is the VIN number important?
It’s the DNA of your vehicle
It reveals a variety of details about your car, including its model year, serial number, the country in which it was made, and where it was assembled. It also provides a history of the title, so you can know how many owners a used car has had.
Auto maintenance and repairs
Take your car into a Fix Auto USA body shop for repairs or routine maintenance, and we will often use your VIN number to learn about your car’s maintenance history and help determine specific parts it needs.
It can help protect your car from thieves
Your vehicle identification number could discourage thieves from stealing your car, because it makes reselling it more difficult. Especially when it is positioned across your windshield or window, thieves will have a hard time concealing it.
In the event your car is stolen, police can read the VIN number and determine the real owner.
Sometimes thieves steal a car to resell certain parts. That’s why, in 1986, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) dictated that vehicles designated as “high-theft” must also feature the VIN on key parts of the car, including the engine, transmission, and fenders. By entering the VIN number into local and national databases, law enforcement can trace and recover parts from stolen cars manufactured after 1986.
Buying a used vehicle
Purchasing a used car always causes worry. Is the owner being truthful when he tells you the car’s been regularly maintained? What if it’s really a lemon? To ease your worries, just enter the car’s VIN number and you can receive a detailed report on the history of the vehicle, including past owners, accidents, whether it’s been recalled, and the last time it was inspected.
If the VIN appears multiple times but the combination of numbers and letters is different in some instances, it could mean that the car has been rebuilt with stolen parts. You can also use the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VIN Check tool to see if the vehicle has a salvage title or has been reported as stolen.
Has your car been recalled?
What if your car has a safety defect and was recalled by the manufacturer, but you recently changed addresses and never received the recall notice? By entering your vehicle identification number in the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, you can search their database to see if your car has been flagged.
New car dealerships and websites are obligated by law to tell you if a new car was recalled for a safety issue and fixed. However, if you are buying a used car, the owner is under no such obligation, and the responsibility to check its history – using your VIN – falls on you. Read more about safety recalls here.
Where is your VIN located?
Most VIN numbers can be found on the driver’s side of your vehicle, where the windshield meets the dashboard. To get the best view, stand outside the car. In many cases, you’ll find the VIN on a sticker attached to different parts of your car, such as the driver’s side door and on the front of the engine block.
Your vehicle identification number can also be found on your car’s title certificate, auto insurance policy, and car registration card.
VIN number breakdown: What is a VIN number?
So, what do those 17 mysterious numbers and letters in your VIN signify? Let’s crack the code! Here, in sequential order, is the VIN number breakdown:
The 1st digit, which is usually 1, 4, or 5 if your car was made in the U.S., tells you the country in which the car was manufactured.
The 2nd digit is a letter that stands for the name of the manufacturer. For example, T is for Toyota.
The 3rd digit tells you the vehicle type. For example, four-door sedan. The first 3 digits combined make up the World Manufacturer Identifier, which tells you the type of vehicle and the division it was manufactured in.
The 4th through 8th digits are combinations of letters and numbers, that address a car’s brand, body type, model, and engine code.
The 9th digit is a security test code used to uncover invalid VINs.
The 10th digit stands for the vehicle’s model year.
The 11th digit of the VIN indicates where the car was assembled.
The 12th through the 17th digit is your car’s unique serial number.
As you can see, the VIN number breakdown is far from random. A wealth of valuable information is stored in those 17 numbers and letters.
If you would like to better understand what a vehicle identification number signifies, go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, and their VIN decoder tool will tell you everything you need to know. Enter your VIN and model number and it will interpret it for you.
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Montclair a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing customers not only in Montclair, California, but also in Inland Empire region.
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