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Decoding Your VIN

The vehicle identification number tells you so much about your car. Let's crack the code together.
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No math required, but I am going to be hurtling numbers at you, so be prepared to duck. Just as each U.S. citizen has a nine-digit Social Security number, our vehicles each have a seventeen-character vehicle identification number (VIN). If you are anything like me, you are grabbing your pillow right about now to get comfortable for this snorefest. Well, put your pillow away, because those numbers are actually quite interesting. decoding your vin The practice of assigning VINs began in 1954. Each manufacturer had its own formula, so, as you can imagine, they were confusing. In 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed a standard for all over-the-road vehicles. The current method for assigning VINs in the United States is based on standards set by the International Organization for Standardization. The European Union uses the same standards but applies them differently. The U.S. VINs now each have seventeen characters, and here is a little-known gem—they do not include the letters I, O, or Q. You may be asking yourself, “Why should I care?” Well, you should care because knowing the VIN for a vehicle can reveal all the deep, dark secrets of a car’s life. Throughout the life of a vehicle, the VIN is used to record important information such as lemon history, airbag deployments, service and repair information, relevant recalls, and even if the vehicle was used as a taxi. Examining VIN-related records is like reading someone’s personal diary. Especially useful is the title, as it may reveal flood damage, salvage details, or other insurance-related information. One more thing you need to know is where to locate this magical number. It is on the very top of the dash where it can be viewed through the windshield from outside the vehicle. It is also on a sticker on the driver’s-side doorjamb. There is not an industry standard, but it is also sometimes on engines, hoods, and other parts. Nerds probably already guessed it, but there is a hidden code in each VIN. This is where the lesson really gets exciting.
    Positions one to three are the World Manufacturer Identifier.
      o Position one identifies the country where the vehicle was manufactured (for example, K for Korea, W for Germany, and 1, 4, or 5 for the United States). o Position two is the manufacturer code (for example, T for Toyota or Lexus, D for Mercedes-Benz, and 6 for Cadillac).o Position three can be used to identify a division or vehicle type. If it is not needed, a nine is used.
    Positions four to eight identify the vehicle’s attributes, such as platform, model, and body style. It is at the discretion of each manufacturer to use this section as it pleases. The eighth digit is commonly used to identify the engine.Position nine is a check digit, the result of a crazy mathematical equation that checks to see if there is an error in the VIN.Position ten is the model year. Every year is assigned a code character. (The character for 2013 is D.)Position eleven is the plant code, which identifies the plant where the vehicle was built.Positions twelve to seventeen are the production sequence. This number is given to the vehicle as it comes off the assembly line. Since there is no fixed standard for this number, each manufacturer may use it differently.
So if, for example, you are looking to find out all about a used car before you buy it, a quick way to access knowledge is the VIN. You can find many websites with a quick Google search that let you enter a VIN and find out information about a vehicle. Congratulations! You are now one of a small segment of the population that knows the secrets a VIN can reveal.
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