- Posted by Sanderson Lincoln
- On July 26, 2016
If you don’t know what your car’s VIN number is, much less what it means, you’re not alone. A car’s VIN—which stands for Vehicle Identification Number—is a long string of letters and numbers that are unique to that individual vehicle. You’ll find this number in two places. It will be stamped onto the engine’s firewall, and will also be stamped onto a metal plate mounted somewhere inside the vehicle, most commonly located on the dashboard near the windshield or in the door jamb of the driver-side door.
A vehicle’s VIN consists of 17 letters and numbers, like a serial number. Unlike a serial number, each character of the VIN holds specific information about the vehicle, from where it was made to its engine size to what type of airbags it has. There’s an amazing amount of information crammed into those 17 characters.
Here is what you can learn from your vehicle’s VIN:
Where it was manufactured and by whom
The first three characters of the VIN together make up what is called the World Manufacturer Identifier or WMI. The first character tells you the country where the vehicle was manufactured. For instance, if the first character is a 1, 4, or 5, it was manufactured in the United States. “2” means it originated in Canada; “S,” the United Kingdom; “Z,” Germany.
The second character specifies the name of the manufacturer. “A,” for example, denotes Audi, Jaguar, or Mitsubishi. “D” tells you it was made by Mercedes-Benz, and 1, 4, and 6 respectively stand for Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac. The third character specifies what type of vehicle it is or the manufacturing division.
That’s a lot of information packed into three small characters. And the rest of the VIN contains even more.
The fourth through eighth characters give more detailed information about the vehicle. The precise information included varies between manufacturers and countries, but these characters commonly include things like the body style, type of engine and transmission, or even safety features such as air bags. The ninth character is called the “check digit” and it exists simply to prevent fraud. The Department of Transportation analyzes this character—which is always a number—to determine whether the VIN is a valid VIN or has been altered.
Model year, manufacturing plant, and production number
The tenth character tells you the model year. For example, vehicles made between 2000 and 2009 typically use the numbers zero through nine, while those built between 1980 and 2000 generally use the letters A through Y. The eleventh character identifies the manufacturing plant. The final characters specify when the vehicle came off the assembly line, and can be useful in the case of limited-edition vehicles or classic cars.
Of course, one of the things a VIN is most useful for is running a “background check” on a car through a service such as Carfax. We, at Sanderson Lincoln in Phoenix, believe that you should have access to all a vehicle’s information before you buy it, so we give you access to both the vehicle’s VIN number and to the Carfax report itself. All too often, buying a pre-owned car is an act of faith—and it shouldn’t have to be. At our Phoenix Lincoln Dealership, we give you the tools to make a truly informed decision, VIN included.