VIN is a unique serial number used by the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles. In 1981, the format for VIN was standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States. It required all over-the-road-vehicles sold to contain a 17-character VIN, which do not include the letters I (i), O (o), or Q (q) (to avoid confusion with numerals 1 and 0).
Nowadays, there are two related standards for Vehicle Identification Number systems. They are originally issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1979 and 1980; ISO 3779 and ISO 3780, respectively. Compatible, but somewhat different implementations of these ISO standards have been adopted by the European Union and the United States of America.
The VIN is 17 characters long and is composed of 3 main sections:
- WMI – World Manufacturer Identifier – The first three characters that uniquely identify the manufacturer of the vehicle
- VDS – Vehicle Descriptor Section – The 4th to 9th positions are used, according to local regulations, to identify the vehicle type, and may include information on the automobile platform used, the model, and the body style.
- VIS – Vehicle Identifier Section – The 10th to 17th positions are used by the manufacturer to identify the individual vehicle in question. This may include information on options installed or engine and transmission choices.
The 9th digit from left has the special meaning in the VIN. It’s always a check digit. The other digits and letters in the VIN go through a series of mathematical steps. The result is a digit (0, 1, …, 9) or the letter X. The check digit allows you to tell immediately if there is an error in the VIN.
VIN is normally located in several locations on a car, but the most common places are:
- On the door frame/door post of the front doors (usually driver’s but sometimes passenger’s)
- On the dash near the windshield
- On the engine itself (machined pad on front of engine)
- On the car’s firewall
- In the left-hand inner wheel arch
- On the steering wheel/steering column
- On the radiator support bracket
- On your car’s title, registration, guarantee/maintenance book or on the declarations page of your auto insurance policy
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