Finding your vehicles VIN
Also known as chassis number or frame number.
Note that a VIN does not include the characters I, O, and Q to prevent confusion with the numbers 1 and 0.
Common locations include:
- On the vehicle's registation certificate (RC)
- On the vehicle's insurance documents
- Underneath the front windshield, on the bottom - can be seen from outside
- Sticker or plate on the side of the front door frame - check both driver and passenger side
- On the engine block - not to be confused with engine number
- On the underside of the bonnet or on the fender – mostly seen on some newer vehicles
What is a VIN?
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique 17-digit code given to each car to identify it.
No two vehicles can have the same VIN. A vehicle's VIN, once decoded, provides information about the vehicle’s manufacturer, the year and region in which it was manufacturer, and its model and variant information.
Because of this, a VIN is the most reliable method of identifying a car’s make and model. This ensures that you receive parts which are guaranteed to fit your vehicle.
Decoding a VIN
You can learn how to read your VIN by understanding what each set of numbers means.
Step 1: Decode the meaning of the first number or letter.
The first character in a VIN may be either a letter or number and tells you the geographic area of origin.
This is where the car was actually made, and it may be different from where the manufacturer is located.
- A – H is for Africa
- J – R (except O and Q) is for Asia
- S – Z is for Europe
- 1 – 5 is for North America
- 6 or 7 is for New Zealand or Australia
- 8 or 9 is for South America
Step 2: Decode the second and third digits.
This will tell you the manufacturer of the car.
For example, in VIN “1GNEK13ZX3R298984,” the “G” indicates a vehicle manufactured by General Motors.
A full list of manufacturer codes can be found here.
The third digit is the exact division of the manufacturer.
Step 3: Decode the vehicle descriptor section.
The next five numbers, known as the vehicle descriptor section, tell you the brand of the car, the size of the engine and what type of vehicle it is.
Each manufacturer uses their own codes for these numbers and you must know what that is to find out what they mean.
Step 4: Decode the check digit.
The ninth number is a check digit used to prove the VIN is not a fake.
The check digit uses a complex calculation so it cannot be easily faked.
In VIN “5XXGN4A70CG022862,” the check digit is “0”.
Step 5: Find out the year of manufacture.
The tenth number indicates the year the car was made, or the year of manufacture.
It begins with A for 1980, the first year a standard 17-digit VIN was used. Subsequent years follow the alphabet of to “Y” in the year 2000.
In 2001, the year changes to the number “1”, and ascends to “9” In 2009.
In 2010, the alphabet starts again with the letter “A” for 2010 model years.
In the same VIN example “5XXGN4A70CG022862,” the “C” indicates the vehicle was manufactured in 2012.
Step 6: Determine where exactly the car was manufactured.
The eleventh digit tells which plant actually assembled the car.
This digit is specific to each manufacturer.
Step 7: Decode the remaining numbers.
The rest of the numbers provide the production or serial number of the car and is what makes the VIN unique to that specific car.
To find out this manufacturer-specific information, you can check their website for a decoding sheet or ask a service repair shop if you can see one.