Find the VIN
The first step, and sometimes the most difficult, to reading the VIN is finding it. Most vehicles have the VIN number on the top of the dash, just under the edge of the windshield. This number cannot typically be seen from the inside of the car; you will need to stand on the driver’s side of the vehicle, in front of the side mirror, and look down at the place where your windshield meets the dashboard. This is where the VIN can be most easily accessed on the majority of vehicles.
Locate the VIN on Your Car
Though most vehicles will print the VIN on the dashboard, there are some that do not, but that doesn’t mean the VIN will be difficult to locate. The VIN number of a vehicle can also be located:
- On the door jamb. On the inside of the driver’s side door, the manufacturer will have placed a sticker with information about your vehicle, including the VIN number.
- Under the hood, on the front of the engine block
- On the front end of the frame, behind the front driver’s side tire.
- Insurance and DMV records also have the VIN number recorded for easy identification.
Locate the VIN on Your Registration or Car Title
If you cannot locate the VIN number in any of the above locations, or if you simply don’t want to walk out to your car, the VIN number can also be located on your registration documents.
Use an Online VIN Decoder
A VIN decoder can help you get information quickly about a car without learning the specific meanings of the numbers. A VIN number, if decoded properly, will give you the entirety of a car’s history: where it was manufactured, accidents it has been in, or any recalls placed on it currently or in the past. This is useful when buying and selling a car, so that both the purchaser and the seller have full awareness of what they are purchasing or selling. It is not necessary to pay for or order car history reports when there are multiple ways you can utilize the VIN number to access the car’s history.
Find VIN Through Manufacturer
Though some manufacturers’ websites do not include this feature, some have a VIN lookup on their website. If your car’s manufacturer offers this service, you can enter your VIN number on their website to see the car’s history.
Online VIN Decoder
If your manufacturer does not offer a VIN lookup on their website, you can use an online VIN decoder from your mobile browser. There are multiple VIN decoders online that do not require payment, though some might require you to set up an account. These VIN decoders simply require you to input your VIN number, and will pull up all the relevant information on the car for you.
Meaning of VIN Numbers
Each and every vehicle has a unique VIN number. The VIN number breaks down into several sections that can be decoded by someone who knows what they are looking at. When you learn what each character in the VIN stands for, you will know a lot about the car before you even need to utilize a VIN decoder, or, if you do not have access to a VIN decoder, it is helpful to know the basics of what your VIN number means.
- The first character of the VIN denotes the country of origin; for example, any letter S-Z in this first slot means your manufacturer is located in Europe, though that does not necessarily mean your car was assembled in Europe.
- The second character labels the manufacturer. T, for instance, stands for Toyota.
- The third character specifies the division of the manufacturer that made the car.
- The fourth character specifies the weight and horsepower of the car.
- The fifth number is the platform that the car sits on, be it a van, truck, or a sedan.
- The sixth digit can be used to show that the car is a convertible or a hatchback.
- The seventh character is the body type.
- The eighth character will tell you about engine power and displacement.
- The ninth digit is a check digit for any computers decoding the number, and proves that the VIN has not been faked.
- The tenth digit is the model year. A car manufactured in 2001 would have a number ‘1’ in this slot.
- The eleventh digit is the plant code, telling you exactly where your specific car was assembled.
- The remaining numbers function as a serial number for that specific car.
These characters are specific to each manufacturer. Lists of various manufacturer codes can be found online.
Knowing the VIN number of any car you own, are considering buying, or considering selling is the first step to becoming a well-informed car owner. For more information about VIN numbers, call CBS Collision Repair at 318-741-2373 for their Bossier City location, or 318-636-6134 for their Shreveport location.