Making sense of your vehicle’s VIN.
All cars have a vehicle identification number, a 17-character alphanumeric identification unique to that vehicle. Commonly known as a VIN number, your vehicle’s ID is assigned when it is manufactured. And just as your Social Security Number (SSN) is unique to you, a VIN reveals details specific to your car only.
Unlike your nine-digit SSN, it is doubtful you have memorized your VIN. Indeed, you might never think of that figure until someone asks for it, namely your insurance company, a repair shop, or a government agency. Unless you have your VIN written down or have a picture of it residing on your smartphone, you’ll have to locate it.
Here’s where you can find your vehicle’s VIN number:
1. On the dashboard.
The most common place to find a VIN is on your vehicle’s dashboard, specifically near where the dashboard meets the edge of the windshield on the driver’s side. Typically, the VIN is fixed to a metal plate and the code displayed so that anyone can read it from the outside of the vehicle looking in.
2. On the driver’s side door jamb.
Another place where the VIN is usually found is on the driver’s side door jamb. Here, it is as easy to locate as opening the driver door and finding it.
3. Check your insurance card.
If your car is already insured, then the VIN can be found on your insurance card. That card should be kept in a safe place, such as in your glove box with your other important papers and files (e.g., owner’s manual, repair records, satellite radio contract). Locate the card and the VIN should be published with your insurance information.
4. On other locations.
A vehicle’s VIN can also be found on your engine’s firewall and may be located on other key components, including the transmission. The reason? For security, mostly. Given that many cars are routinely stolen, taken apart, and the parts are sold separately, matching the VIN is important. If the VINs don’t match, that doesn’t necessarily mean the parts were stolen. Rather, it could reveal an engine swap you’re already familiar with, especially one you may have conducted yourself.
Deciphering Your VIN
The VIN isn’t simply some random letters and numbers. Certainly, it can seem that way, but there is a method to this 17-character madness.
The helpful people at Edmunds.com found the VIN reveals quite a bit of data about any car, including the make and model, trim level, country of origin, engine size, and the airbag type. Importantly, you can plug this information into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s VIN Look-up Tool to find out what outstanding recalls, if any, are associated with your vehicle.
Another nifty tool is VINDecoder.net, what reveals pertinent information about your vehicle. The site is free, but you should know that links to the last 10 decoded VINs are featured. As the following example of a 1992 Honda Civic Coupe shows, there is much information about the car shared, but nothing about the current owner or its repair history.
See Also — Where Can I Find My Car Paint Code?