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A Vehicle Identification Number, commonly abbreviated to VIN (but sometimes incorrectly referred to as VIN number), is a unique serial number used by the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles. Prior to 1981, there was no accepted standard for these numbers, so different manufacturers used different formats.

Since 1981, VINs consist of 17 characters which do not include the letters I (i), O (o), or Q (q) (to avoid confusion with numerals 1 and 0).

There are vehicle history services in several countries that can help potential car owners use VINs to find lemons and branded vehicles. See the used car article for a list of countries where this service is available.

VIN: classification

There are at least four competing standards used to calculate VIN woldwide.

  • FMVSS 115, Part 565: Used in United States and Canada
  • ISO Standard 3779: Used in Europe and many other parts of the world
  • SAE J853: Very similar to the ISO standard
  • ADR 43 used in Australia

Components of the VIN

Modern-day Vehicle Identification Number systems are based on two related standards, originally issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1979 and 1980; ISO 3779 and ISO 3780, respectively. Compatible but somewhat different implementations of these ISO standards have been adopted by the European Union and the United States of Americamarker.

The VIN is composed of the following sections:
Standard 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
ISO 3779 World Manufacturer Identifier VDS VIS
European Union
& North America
more than 500 vehicles/year
World Manufacturer Identifier Vehicle Attributes Check Digit Model Year Plant Code Sequential Number
European Union
& North America
fewer than 500 vehicles/year
World Manufacturer Identifier Vehicle Attributes Check Digit Model Year Plant Code Manufacturer Identifier Sequential Number

World Manufacturer Identifier

The first three characters uniquely identify the manufacturer of the vehicle using the World Manufacturer Identifier or WMI code. A manufacturer who builds fewer than 500 vehicles per year uses a 9 as the third digit, and the 12th, 13th and 14th position of the VIN for a second part of the identification. Some manufacturers use the third character as a code for a vehicle category (e.g., bus or truck), a division within a manufacturer, or both. For example, within 1G (assigned to General Motors in the United Statesmarker), 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars; 1G2, Pontiac passenger cars; and 1GC, Chevrolet trucks.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in the U.S. assigns WMIs to countries and manufacturers.

The first character of the WMI is the region in which the manufacturer is located. In practice, each is assigned to a country of manufacture.

In the notation below, assume that letters precede numbers and that zero is the last number. For example, 8X-82 denotes 8X, 8Y, 8Z, 81, 82. In particular this does not include 80.

Country codes
A–H = Africa J–R = Asia S–Z = Europe 1–5 = North America 6–7 = Oceania 8–9 = South America
AA-AH South Africa

AJ-AN Ivory Coast

AP-A0 not assigned

BA-BE Angola

BF-BK Kenya

BL-BR Tanzania

BS-B0 not assigned

CA-CE Benin

CF-CK Madagascar

CL-CR Tunisia

CS-C0 not assigned

DA-DE Egypt

DF-DK Morocco

DL-DR Zambia

DS-D0 not assigned

EA-EE Ethiopia

EF-EK Mozambique

EL-E0 not assigned

FA-FE Ghana

FF-FK Nigeria

FL-F0 not assigned

GA-G0 not assigned

HA-H0 not assigned

JA-JT Japan

KA-KE Sri Lanka

KF-KK Israel

KL-KR Korea (South)

KS-K0 not assigned

LA-L0 China

MA-ME India

MF-MK Indonesia

ML-MR Thailand

MS-M0 not assigned

NF-NK Pakistan

NL-NR Turkey

NS-N0 not assigned

PA-PE Philippines

PF-PK Singapore

PL-PR Malaysia

PS-P0 not assigned

RA-RE United Arab Emirates

RF-RK Taiwan

RL-RR Vietnam

RS-R0 not assigned

SA-SM United Kingdom

SN-ST Germany

SU-SZ Poland

S1-S4 Latvia

TA-TH Switzerland

TJ-TP Czech Republic

TR-TV Hungary

TW-T1 Portugal

T2-T0 not assigned

UA-UG not assigned

UH-UM Denmark

UN-UT Ireland

UU-UZ Romania

U1-U4 not assigned

U5-U7 Slovakia

U8-U0 not assigned

VA-VE Austria

VF-VR France

VS-VW Spain

VX-V2 Yugoslavia

V3-V5 Croatia

V6-V0 Estonia

WA-W0 Germany

XA-XE Bulgaria

XF-XK Greece

XL-XR Netherlands

XS-XW Russia

XX-X2 Luxembourg

X3-X0 Russia

YA-YE Belgium

YF-YK Finland

YL-YR Malta

YS-YW Sweden

YX-Y2 Norway

Y3-Y5 Belarus

Y6-Y0 Ukraine

ZA-ZR Italy

ZS-ZW not assigned

ZX-Z2 Slovenia

Z3-Z5 Lithuania

Z6-Z0 not assigned

1A-10 United States

2A-20 Canada

3A-3W Mexico

3X-37 Costa Rica

38-30 Cayman Islands

4A-40 United States

5A-50 United States

6A-6W Australia

6X-60 not assigned

7A-7E New Zealand

7F-70 not assigned

8A-8E Argentina

8F-8K Chile

8L-8R Ecuador

8S-8W Peru

8X-82 Venezuela

83-80 not assigned

9A-9E Brazil

9F-9K Colombia

9L-9R Paraguay

9S-9W Uruguay

9X-92 Trinidad & Tobago

93-99 Brazil

90 not assigned

Vehicle Descriptor Section

The 4th to 9th positions in the VIN are the Vehicle Descriptor Section or VDS. This is used, according to local regulations, to identify the vehicle type, and may include information on the automobile platform used, the model, and the body style. Each manufacturer has a unique system for using this field. Most manufacturers since the 1980s have used the 8th digit to identify the engine type whenever there is more than one engine choice for the vehicle. Example: for the 2007 Chevrolet Corvette U= 6.0L V8, E= 7.0L V8.

North American Check Digits
One element that is fairly consistent is the use of position 9 as a check digit, compulsory for vehicles in North America, and used fairly consistently even outside this rule.

Vehicle Identifier Section

The 10th to 17th positions are used as the Vehicle Identifier Section or VIS. This is used by the manufacturer to identify the individual vehicle in question. This may include information on options installed or engine and transmission choices, but often is a simple sequential number. In North America, the last five digits must be numeric.

Model year encoding
One consistent element of the VIS is the 10th digit, which is required worldwide to encode the model year of the vehicle. Besides the three letters that are not allowed in the VIN itself (I, O and Q), the letters U and Z and the digit 0 are not used for the model year code. Note that the year code is the model year for the vehicle.

The year 1980 was encoded by some manufacturers, especially General Motors and Chrysler, as "A" (since the 17-digit VIN wasn't mandatory until 1981, and the "A" or zero was in the manufacturer's pre-1981 placement in the VIN), yet Ford and AMC still used a zero for 1980. Subsequent years increment through the allowed letters, so that "Y" represents the year 2000. 2001 to 2009 are encoded as the digits 1 to 9, and subsequent years are encoded as "A", "B", "C", etc.

Code Year Code Year Code Year Code Year
A = 1980 L = 1990 Y = 2000 A = 2010
B = 1981 M = 1991 1 = 2001 B = 2011
C = 1982 N = 1992 2 = 2002 C = 2012
D = 1983 P = 1993 3 = 2003 D = 2013
E = 1984 R = 1994 4 = 2004 E = 2014
F = 1985 S = 1995 5 = 2005 F = 2015
G = 1986 T= 1996 6 = 2006 G = 2016
H = 1987 V = 1997 7 = 2007 H = 2017
J = 1988 W = 1998 8 = 2008 J = 2018
K = 1989 X = 1999 9 = 2009 K = 2019

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed rule NHTSA-2008-0022 in April, 2008, with several changes to the VIN requirements to all motor vehicles manufactured on or after April 30, 2009. There are three notable proposed changes in the new VIN structure that affect VIN deciphering systems:

  1. The make may only be identified after looking at positions 1-3 and another position, as determined by the manufacturer in the second section or 4-8 segment of the VIN.
  2. In order to identify exact year in passenger cars and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 or less, one must read position 7 as well as position 10. For passenger cars, and for multipurpose passenger vehicles and trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 lb or less, if position 7 is numeric, the model year in position 10 of the VIN refers to a year in the range 1980-2009. If position 7 is alphabetic, the model year in position 10 of VIN refers to a year in the range 2010-2039.
  3. The model year for vehicles with a GVWR greater than 10,000 lbs, as well as buses, motorcycles, trailers and low speed vehicles may no longer be identified within a 30-year range. VIN characters 1-8 and 10 that were assigned from 1980-2009 can be repeated beginning with the 2010 model year.

Plant Code
Another consistently-used element (which is compulsory in North America) is the use of the 11th character to encode the factory of manufacture of the vehicle. Although each manufacturer has their own set of plant codes, their location in the VIN is standardized.

Check digit calculation

If trying to validate a VIN with a check digit, first either: (a) remove the check digit for the purpose of calculation; or (b) utilize the multiplicative property of zero in the weight to cancel it out. You should later compare the original value of the check digit with the calculated value. If the two values do not match (and there was no error in the calculation), then there is a mistake in the VIN. However, a match does not prove the VIN is correct, because there is still a 1 in 11 chance of any two distinct VINs having a matching check digit.

Transliterating the numbers

Transliteration consists of removing all of the letters, and substituting them with their appropriate numerical counterparts. These numerical alternatives can be found in the following chart. I, O and Q are not allowed, and can not exist in a valid VIN; for the purpose of this chart, they have been filled in with N/A (not applicable). Numerical digits use their own values.

Transliteration key: values for VIN Decoding
A: 1 B: 2 C: 3 D: 4 E: 5 F: 6 G: 7 H: 8 I:
J: 1 K: 2 L: 3 M: 4 N: 5 O: P: 7 Q: R: 9
S: 2 T: 3 U: 4 V: 5 W: 6 X: 7 Y: 8 Z: 9

S is 2, and not 1. There is no left-alignment linearity.

Weights used in calculation

The following is the weight factor for each position in the VIN. The 9th position is that of the check digit. It has been substituted with a 0, which will cancel it out in the multiplication step.

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Weight 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 10 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

Worked example

Consider the hypothetical VIN 1M8GDM9A_KP042788, where the underscore will be the check digit.

VIN 1 M 8 G D M 9 A 0 K P 0 4 2 7 8 8
Value 1 4 8 7 4 4 9 1 0 2 7 0 4 2 7 8 8
Weight 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 10 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Products 8 28 48 35 16 12 18 10 0 18 56 0 24 10 28 24 16

  1. The VINs value is calculated from the above table, this number will be used in the rest of the calculation.
  2. Copy over the weights from the above table.
  3. The products row is a result of the multiplication of the vertical columns: Value and Weight.
  4. The products (8,28,48,35..24,16) are all added together to yield a sum of 351
  5. Find the remainder after dividing by 11

    351 MOD 11 = 10

    351 ÷ 11 = 31 10/11
  6. The remainder is the check digit. If the remainder is 10 then the check digit is X. In this example the remainder is 10, so the check digit is transliterated into X.

With a check digit of 'X' the VIN: 1M8GDM9A_KP042788 is written as: 1M8GDM9AXKP042788.

Straight-ones (seventeen consecutive '1's) will suffice the check-digit. This is because a value of one, multiplied against 89 (sum of weights), is still 89. And 89 % 11 is 1, the check digit. This is an easy way to test a VIN-check algorithm.

See also


  1. United States Federal VIN Requirements (Title 49, Chapter V, Part 565)
  2. ISO 3780 Road vehicles -- World manufacturer identifier (WMI) code

External links

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