How to Decode Your Car's VIN Number

Yes, I know, "VIN number" is redundant, since VIN stands for "vehicle identification number," but that's what people call it. Every vehicle built after 1981 has a VIN, which is a combination of letters and numbers, and like a social security number, it stays with the car for its entire existence -in most cases. I once bought a Frankencar that had three VINs because it was welded together from parts, but it didn't last long. From the number, the make and model of the car can be identified by government offices such as state DMVs and police, and other entities like insurance companies, banks, and auto service centers. But it's not just a number assigned to a car. Every part of the VIN has a meaning. If you know what to look for, it will tell you where the car was assembled, both the country and the specific factory. The body type and engine type is encoded, as well as its model year. There is also one digit that is purely for security, so that those who need to know can tell if a VIN has been altered. But there are many ways to detect an altered VIN, since all these numbers are registered and those who know will spot a nonsensical made-up VIN in a second.

But what about you? It's your car, and you can decode your own VIN in several ways with online registries, and even find out some things about your car that you didn't know. Read about VINs and what they mean at the Conversation. 

(Image credit: Baranov107

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