VIN: Everything You Need to Know

What is a VIN?

The Vehicle Identification Number is an alpha-numeric code embedded on every car built since 1954. It’s the serial number of the car and it has been standardized by manufacturers since 1981. It serves as the vehicle’s fingerprints and may help you find many useful information on a specific car. As an auto mechanic, you’ll mostly use it to order the correct parts from your dealer, track recalls and fill warranty claims.

The VIN comprises 17 characters (letters and digits). The letters I, O, and Q are left off to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 and 0.


What info can you get?

  • The manufacturer
  • Model year of the vehicle
  • Where it was built
  • Engine specifications
  • Vehicle features and technical specifications
  • Body styles and trims
  • Safety Equipment
  • Sequential serial number

It’s also thanks to the VIN that you can have a complete history of the vehicle when you buy a used car.


Where is it located?

Normally you will find the VIN at common places for most vehicles:

  • On the driver side lower corner of the dashboard, read easily through the lower-left of the windshield.
  • Under the hood, on the front of the engine.
  • On the front of the car frame, close to the windshield washer unit.
  • On the driver-side doorjamb, on the information label.

Additional places for some vehicles:

  • In the trunk, under the spare tire.
  • On the rear wheel well, above the tire.

If you still can’t locate the VIN, try consulting your vehicle’s owner manual.


How to Decode the VIN

Example : 3F6DP5NJ9BM157625


First three digits

3F6 is the World Manufacturer Identification code; the first digit identifying the country of assembly ( ex: 3 is Mexico).

Fourth to Eighth digits

DP5NJ is the general specification of the vehicle (specific to each manufacturer) such as safety, equipment, engine code, body style, model or emission code.

Ninth digit

9 is the check digit for the US/CAN/MEX. It is also used to algorithmically validate the VIN.

Tenth digit

B is to indicate the year model of the vehicle.

Eleventh digit

M is the plant assembly code ( specific to each manufacturer).

Twelfth to Seventh (the last six digits)

157625 is the sequential serial number specific to every vehicle.


In the shop or when ordering parts, you’ll mostly use the 10th digit for the model year. This is why we created this little VIN-to-Year reminder chart for you to print and stick onto your tool chest so you can take a quick look at it everytime you are on the phone with the parts store guy and he asks you for your model year. (In fact, we created this chart first because we were sick of taking our cell phones out to google ” VIN 1oth digit V” 23 times a day!)


VIN-to-Year Chart | The Mechanic Doctor


In case you need to decode the VIN any further, there’s plenty of different free VIN decoder on the net. I don’t want to recommend any one in particular because, sadly, most of them are provided by insurances companies websites packed with tricks to get you to sign up with them.

And I don’t want to be part of that.

But, you can still use the VIN decoder and get the info you need. Just google “free VIN decoder“.

Just so you know.

If you want more info on VIN numbers, read this story by on “How To Quickly Decode Your VIN“. Great stuff!

I hope it helps and le me know what decoder you are using in the comment section below and I’ll include it here!

Have a nice day!
Louis - The Mechanic Doctor

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