It would be nice to know what those mysterious numbers mean, wouldn't it? Aside from amazing your family and friends with your car knowledge, you also need VINs to get a CARFAX report on a used car so that you can find out about its history before you buy it.
Look on the upper left side of your dash — you should see an rectangular tag with 17 numbers on it. You can also find your VIN on the doorjamb sticker on the driver's side. It’s also noted in the engine somewhere. Here's how the numbers break down.
- Position 1 represents the nation of origin, or the final point of assembly. For instance, cars made in the U.S. start with 1,4 or 5, Canada is 2, Mexico is 3, Japan is J, Korea is K, England is S, and Germany is W.
- Position 2 tells you about the manufacturer. For example, A is for Audi, B is for BMW, L is for Lincoln and N is for Nissan.
- Position 3 indicates the vehicle's type or manufacturing division. For example, 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars; 1G2, Pontiac passenger cars; and 1GC, Chevrolet trucks.
- Positions 4 through 8 make up the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS) – this is the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type, and engine code.
- Position 9 is the "check" digit. It’s used to detect invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation.
- Position 10 indicates the model year. The letters from B-X correspond to the model years starting with 1981, with X bringing up the rear with 2000; model years 2001 and up are indicated with numbers, starting with the number 1. There is no I, O, Q, U or Z. Confusing? Here's a list of the model years: B=81, C=82, D=83, E=84, F=85, G=86, H=87, J=88, K=89, L=90, M=91, N=92, P=93, R=94, S=95, T=96, V=97, W=98, X=99, Y=00, 1=01, 2=02, 3=03, 4=04, 5=05, 6=06, 7=07, 8=08, 9=09, A=2010.
- Position 11 can be a letter or a number. It indicates the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled. Each automaker has its own set of plant codes.
- Positions 12 through 17 are the production sequence numbers. This is the number given to your car on the assembly line.