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What is a vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and how do I check it?

What is a vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and how do I check it?


What is the vehicle identification number and when was it entered?

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a unique number that allows identification of a vehicle . They are provided by the vehicle manufacturer or – exceptionally – by the communications department (eg in the event of damage or obliteration of the factory VIN).

The VIN first appeared in the United States in 1954, but every auto manufacturer used its own designation system at that time. The situation changed in 1985, when the International Organization for Standardization ( International Organization for Standardization) ) standardized the notation of a number and defined what its individual elements meant. It also indicated the places where the chassis number should be placed, and even prescribed the methods of its application.

According to the ISO standard, the VIN must be stamped or burned with a laser as it will be difficult to remove or replace. It cannot appear on car parts, but only on permanent structural elements of the car, for example on the chassis body.

What are VIN elements?

After standardization made in 1985 , each vehicle identification number consists of 17 characters . It is a mixture of letters and numbers (except for the letters “O”, “Q” or “I”, which can be easily confused with the numbers “0” or “1” and special characters such as hyphens, asterisks, and slashes) and is divided into three sections: WMI and VDS and VIS. The individual syllables differ in the number of characters and contain slightly different information.

  • WMI (Universal Manufacturer Identifier) ​​- consists of 3 letters and contains data that identifies the manufacturer, brand of the car and the country of origin. It is granted by the competent authority of the country where the vehicle manufacturer is based, in agreement with the International Organization for ISO Standardization.
  • VDS (Vehicle Descriptor Section) – This section consists of 6 characters. The first five elements contain encrypted technical data of the car, while the last character is a control character – thanks to the use of a special algorithm, it makes it possible to check if any of the remaining characters have been illegally changed.
  • VIS (Vehicle Identifier Section) – The last 8 characters create a unique number for a specific item. Thanks to him, we will learn, among other things, the engine version, the type of engine, the year of production of the car and the designation of the plant where it was produced. Some car manufacturers hide more details in the VIN, for example information about trim size, paint color, air conditioning, fabric on the seats, electric windows, color of fenders, decorative strips, roof rails, tinted windows, heated seats, sunroof, and vice versa. Sensors, cruise control, alarm, audio system or airbags.

Country of production in the VIN number – a few examples

The code for the country in which the vehicle was manufactured is always placed first. Depending on the continent, it may be numeric (notation typical of Europe, Asia and Africa), numeric (notation used in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) or mixed (notation typical of South America).

Country code sample
Poland drought
Japan c.
South Korea Kuala Lumpur – KR
Germany SN -ST
United States of America 1, 2, 4
Australia 6
Argentina 8A-8E
Paraguay 9L-9R
Kenya BF-BK

Where to check the VIN number?

According to ISO standards, a vehicle manufacturer may place the VIN number in the following places:

  • Directly on the structural elements of the vehicle for example, on the support frame on the right front wheel, on the fender, the right wheel arch, the right side member behind the rear wheel, on the ground under the rear seat cushion, and even on the dashboard (this location is typical for the US and Canada )
  • On a separate plate permanently attached to the car – the VIN number is usually stamped on the data plate, attached to the windshield on the driver’s side or on the car sticker near any windshield pillar. This method allows for quick identification of the vehicle even when the driver is not present, and thus makes it much easier for the police.

To make life difficult for car thieves, manufacturers usually put the number in more than one place . For example – BMW VIN places, among other things, on the left side of the dashboard cover, the reinforcement of the right side (next to the shock absorber seat) and the fender. Therefore, it is usually not possible to erase or remove all these marks.

VIN number on the registration certificate

Another place you will find the chassis number is the vehicle registration document . The sign appears in the section marked with the letter “E” and has the form of continuous writing (individual elements of the number cannot be separated by a space).

When buying a used car, it is definitely worth comparing the number on the ID card with the number stamped inside the car. This simple procedure can save you from the very unpleasant consequences associated with the purchase of a stolen car.

It should be noted that during the vehicle inspection, traffic officers are required to check the vehicle’s registration plates, VIN number, the driver with his driver’s license and the vehicle’s registration certificate in the National Police Information System. If the inspection reveals that the chassis number of the car does not match the VIN number on the registration certificate, the car goes to the police parking lot and is detained until the problem is resolved.

How do you read a VIN number?

To decode a string of numbers and letters, simply contact the authorized service center of the selected manufacturer or use one of the many websites that offer a free VIN check. If you are also interested in the history of the car or want to find out if the car has current liability insurance and technical tests – you can order a paid report on this site, which will contain all this information.

Why is it worth knowing the VIN number of your car?

Knowing your VIN can be useful in a variety of situations. First of all, without giving this designation you will not be able to register the car – the chassis number is one of the most important information that you must enter in the registration application.

Also in the event that you cause a minor road accident, for example, if you scratch a parked car and want to settle the matter amicably, but you do not have a third-party liability policy with you and do not remember its number, the VIN number will allow you to quickly get this information – just enter a location Web of the Insurance Guarantee Fund and enter the VIN in the search engine.

The VIN will also help you access a free report from the Central Vehicle Registry . This report will be especially useful when you intend to buy a used car and want to know its history (eg check if the car was stolen or check real mileage). You can download information about the car’s past from the website by entering the following data into the browser: designation of the VIN, date of first registration and registration number of the car.

As we already know, the chassis number contains encrypted information about various elements of equipment. This knowledge may be invaluable to you when you need it auto repair . For example, it will allow you to order original spare parts by VIN from the manufacturer or to check the factory paint color.

And most importantly, when you buy a used car, the VIN will make it easier for you to check with the seller. If you find that the number on the car body differs from the number on the registration certificate, you must immediately cancel the transaction. Also, an unclear or illegible sequence of numbers and letters may indicate the illegal origin of the vehicle or its serious damage during an accident.

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