Home Auto Repair How to Decode 16-Digit VIN Numbers

How to Decode 16-Digit VIN Numbers


A vehicle’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is like its birth certificate, a unique identifier that sets it apart from all others. Older vehicle models carry 16-digit VINs, while newer VINs are made up of 17 digits/characters. According to Vinguard.org, in early 1980s all manufacturers were required by U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (USDOT) to assign 17-character VINs to all vehicles. By 1983, ISO Standard 3779 introduced a standard VIN system for all manufacturers. However before that, the system was not standardized and the VIN encryption depended on the manufacturer. The VIN contains identifiers including country of origin, manufacturer, model year and vehicle type.

Step 1

Locate the VIN on the vehicle. It might be stamped on the upper side of the dash (toward the driver’s side), under the windshield or on the inner door panel.