To the untrained eye, a car’s VIN number looks like a random hodge-podge of numbers and letters.

However, the VIN code is actually a window into a vehicle’s soul, providing valuable background and insight about your car or truck. The key is understanding the meaning of each character that makes up the 17-character code. This code was first used in the 1950s by auto manufacturers, but there was no standard format used until 1981. Since then, every car or light truck manufacturer has used the same format to compile this code.

We were browsing Pinterest recently for yummy recipes, interior decorating tips, cool hot rod photos on Summit Racing’s Pinterest page when we found this great infographic on VIN codes. Using the graphic as a starting point, we added some extra information to help you start cracking your vehicle’s VIN code.

Vin Code Infographic


1st Digit: Country of Origin

1, 4, 5: United States
2: Canada
3: Mexico
6: Australia
J: Japan
K: Korea
V: France, Spain
T: Switzerland
W: Germany
Y: Sweden/Finland
Z: Italy

2nd Digit: Manufacturer

A: Audi, Jaguar, Mitsubishi
B: BMW or Dodge
C: Chrysler
D: Mercedes-Benz
F: Ford or Suburu
G: GM, Pontiac
H: Honda or Acura
J: Jeep
N: Nissan
R: Audi
T: Toyota or Lexus
V: Volkswagen or Volvo

3rd Digit: Manufacturing Division

This third digit indicates the vehicle type or the manufacturing division within the vehicle family. In the example above, the “C” indicates a Chevrolet truck under the GM family “G.”

4th-9th Digits: Vehicle Descriptor

The fourth through eighth characters provide information such as model, body type, engine, and transmission. This varies by manufacturer (see the infographic above for how Chevrolet handles it).

The ninth position in the VIN code is a “check” digit, which is used to check for invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula.

10th Digit: Vehicle Year

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

11th Digit: Manufacturing Plant Code

Each manufacturer has its own set of plant codes.

12th-17th Digit: Production Sequence Numbers

Each vehicle receives a unique six-digit number when it rolls off the assembly line–a serial number of sorts.



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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.