Performing a VIN check can reveal a lot of valuable vehicle information about your car or a used car you’re planning on purchasing. A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is like your vehicle’s DNA: not only is it completely unique to your vehicle, but it can also tell you a lot about your vehicle’s history and any potential issues you may have with it now or in the future. A VIN is a 17-character combination of numbers and letters, and while your VIN may seem like little more than a random collection of letters and number, in fact, each part of a VIN contains specific and detailed information. Below we will look at how to decode a VIN and why a VIN is so important.
All VIN numbers are 17 characters long and are divided into three sections. The first three characters are the world manufacturer identifier (WMI). All vehicle manufacturers are assigned a WMI that is unique to them. Chevrolet’s WMI in the United States, for example, is 1G1, while Volkswagen in the United States is 1YW. The same manufacturer can have different WMI’s depending on where the car was built
For example, while Volkswagen’s WMI is 1YW in the U.S., in Mexico it is 3VW, in Germany it is WVG, and in South Africa AAV. Small manufacturers producing fewer than 500 vehicles per year in the European Union or 5000 vehicles per year in the United States only have a two-character code, but on the VIN the third character appears as a 9, which is essentially a placeholder.
The next section of the VIN is digits four to nine. This is the vehicle descriptor section (VDS), and it contains information about the make and model of the vehicle. Every manufacturer has its own system for what each character represents in this 6-character section. However, the eighth digit is almost always used to indicate engine type and, at least in North America, the ninth is the check digit.
Finally, the last section is the vehicle identifier section (VIS), consisting of digits 10 to 17. This is the section that identifies a specific vehicle. While many cars will share the same WMI and VDS, the VIS distinguishes one car from the next. The tenth digit is always used to identify the model year. On Ford vehicles, for example, a Y in the tenth digit means the vehicle was manufactured in 2000. In North America, the eleventh digit is the plant code, which is used to identify the plant that the car was manufactured at. The rest of the digits in the VIS are simply the serial number which is unique to that vehicle
As you can see, your VIN is like a key to unlocking your vehicle’s unique identity, such as its manufacturer, model year, and plant number. However, there’s more to a VIN than what the numbers and letters themselves actually represent. Because no two VINs are alike, that means that manufacturers and government agencies use VINs to track unique incidents or information about specific vehicles, such as accident reports and recalls
With a VIN number check you can decode your vehicle’s unique past. First, find your vehicle’s VIN, which will be located either on the driver’s side of the windshield or in the driver’s door. Alternatively, you can find your VIN on the vehicle’s registration card or, in some cases, on your insurance card.
Next, go online and find a VIN decoder to perform a VIN check. There are many VIN decoders available, including through SearchQuarry.com. Some VIN check decoders offer very specific information. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a VIN lookup for finding out if any parts of your vehicle have been subject to a recall. Note, however, that VINs only became standardized in 1981, so if your vehicle dates from before then a VIN lookup isn’t likely to be of much use.
While being able to look up your VIN is certainly impressive, it has a very practical purpose beyond just satisfying your curiosity. For one, a VIN number search, as mentioned above, could alert you to any parts of your vehicle that have been subject to safety recalls. While manufacturers will usually send recall notices directly to you, these notices may get lost in the mail or the manufacturer may have an out-of-date address for you. As a result, it’s a good idea to lookup your vehicle’s VIN for any possible recalls from time to time.
Secondly, if you are buying a used car it is an extremely good idea to look up the VIN number of any vehicle you are thinking about purchasing. With a VIN check, you can verify whether or not the information the seller has provided to you about the vehicle is true, such as if it has been involved in any accidents or if any recalled parts have been replaced.
However, keep in mind that even if a VIN check shows no history of accidents that isn’t a guarantee that it has never been involved in one. A VIN decoder will only show accidents that have actually been reported for that particular car. As such, always use your best judgment when buying a used vehicle.
Vehicle safety information can be obtained by the NHTSA.gov website. With your VIN check you can cross-reference the accident statistics with the potential vehicle you’re buying to find out the safety record and potential hazards thereof. This is always best practice, especially if you have children or loved ones that frequently drive with you. This is a free government resource that anyone can use.