Like an identification card, every car carries a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). From registration and purchasing insurance to maintenance and even donating your car, your car’s VIN is a vital requirement to receiving services. But what do these random letters and numbers mean?
Since 1981, all vehicles in North America have a 17-digit VIN comprised of letters and numbers in a standard format. Let’s take a look at this sample: 1HGEJ622XVL030299. The numbers here tell us this VIN belongs to a 1997 Honda Civic DX, with a 1.6-liter engine and automatic transmission. It was built in East Liberty, Ohio.
1HG – World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)
The first three characters indicate both the manufacturer and country of origin. For example, 1HG is reserved for Honda (H) passenger vehicles (G) manufactured in the United States (1). Another example is 3VW, reserved for Volkswagen vehicles manufactured in Mexico. There are many WMI codes – a full list can be found here.
EJ622X – Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS)
This range of the VIN can vary by manufacturer, but typically indicates the model and series, body type, engine and transmission, and trim level. Even the safety restraint system type can be included in this section. In our example VIN, E represents Civic, J represents a 2, 3, or 4-door vehicles, and 6 refers to a 1.6-liter engine. The next characters, 22, represent an automatic transmission and DX trim.
At the end of our VDS is a check digit, used internally by the manufacturer, specifically for vehicles made and destined to be sold in North America. This check digit allows a computer to determine if there is an error in the VIN.
VL030299 – Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS)
The last part of the VIN is used to identify the individual vehicle. V represents 1997, 2017, or 2037 (in our example, 1997). The L tells us this Civic came together as a whole in East Liberty, Ohio, USA. The last characters – 030299 – are the sequential number given as the vehicle rolls off the assembly line.
If you’re curious about a VIN, and would like to translate the code into human-friendly form, take a look at this site, which offers very detailed information.
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