You’ve seen it on your registration papers, you’ve seen it on your insurance documents, and you’ve seen it on your title—but what does 2FMZU62E02ZB78590 mean? The short answer is—it’s your Vehicle Identification Number or “VIN.” Read further for the more detailed explanation of what a VIN is.
A VIN number is a 17-character alphanumeric identifier or a manufacturer’s serial number. Each character in the VIN number has a significant meaning. Together, they create a number that tells everything about the vehicle and its unique history.
Where to Find Your Vin Number
Other Common locations of the vehicle identification number vary and some may be as follows:
- Firewall of the vehicle
- Left hand inner wheel arch
- Steering column
- Radiator Support Bracket
- Dash by windshield
- Drivers door or post or passenger side
- Guarantee & Maintenance Book *Vehicle documents
- Machined Pad on front of engine
- Component parts as listed above -eg- engine,frame, etc.
Later model years – most common area’s of VIN:
- Left instrumentation/dash plate by window
- Drivers door or post
How to Decode a VIN
When decoded, the VIN tells the country and year of manufacture; make, model and serial number; assembly plant; and in some cases it even identifies equipment specifications.
The system goes something like this: sequence for characters is first A to Z, then 1 to 9, and last 0. The letters “I”, “O” and “Q” are typically omitted from system.
The vehicle identification number is divided into four parts:
- World Manufacturer’s Identification (WMI – three characters)
- Vehicle Description Section (VDS – five characters)
- The VIN Accuracy Check Digit
- Vehicle Identification Section (VIS – eight characters)
World Manufacturer’s Identification (WMI)
The first character in the WMI sequence represents the country where the vehicle was manufactured. Countries like the United States (1 or 4), Canada (2) and Mexico (3) are represented by numbers while other countries such as Germany (W), Italy (Z) and Japan (J) are represented by letters.
The second character refers to the manufacturer. The characters can be either letters or numbers. For example: Jaguar (A), Dodge (B), Chrysler (C), Jeep (J), Buick (4), Cadillac (6) or Saturn (8).
The third character represents the vehicle type or manufacturing division.
Vehicle Description Section (VDS) and Check Digit
The vehicle description section consists of five characters (the 4th to 8th characters) which identify everything from the body style, engine type, and braking system to model, series, restraint system, etc. The 9th character is a VIN accuracy check digit which verifies the previous VIN numbers. It is determined by carrying out a mathematical computation developed by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Vehicle Identification Section (VIS)
The vehicle identification section includes the last eight characters in the VIN number. The numbers identify the model year (10th character) and the assembly plant for the vehicle (11th character). A number or letter may represent the model year. For example: 1998 (W), 2000 (Y), 2007 (7) or 2008 (8).
The 12th to 17th characters are the actual serial number of the vehicle—these last 6 digits make the vehicle unique (think of DNA). It can also help to identify whether the vehicle was the first, the hundredth, or the last vehicle off the manufacturer’s assembly line. This is valuable information for collectors.
So, the next time you see that long number printed on your registration papers or stamped across your dashboard, you’ll know how to decode it. This will give you a better understanding of where your unique vehicle actually came from!