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Vin numbers

vin number on the chassis of a diesel golf

One place you can find your VIN is under your bonnet.

Until around 1980, car manufacturers used their own chassis numbering systems to identify their vehicles, but from 1980 onwards car manufacturers agreed to use a new ISO standard to uniquely identify every vehicle made. This identifier was called a VIN number.

VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number and is in effect a vehicles ‘fingerprint’. It’s an ID number unique to that vehicle which is stamped into the chassis at the point of manufacture and it never changes.

If you change the registration plate on your vehicle over and over again, the VIN remains unchanged and so it is the VIN that is ultimately used to identify and check your vehicles history.

Every vehicle has a VIN number and it’s usually stamped into the chassis somewhere (typically in the engine bay), but it’s also commonly located in several other places too including the corner of the windscreen and the driver or passenger door pillar.

There are elements of the VIN number that manufacturers can customise to their own internal specifications, but the end result nonetheless is a unique vehicle number.

  • Character 1 – denotes the place of manufacture
  • Characters 2 and 3 – indicates the manufacturer
  • Characters 4 through 8 – in some countries characters 4, 5 and 6 indicate information on the body, trim styles, engine specs and restraint systems. In Europe these are commonly just filled in with ZZZ. Characters 7 and 8 though indicate the model.
  • Character 9 – is a check digit used to validate the entire string and is inserted by the manufacturer.
  • Character 10 - is the model year (not necessarily the calendar year) in which the car was built.
  • Character 11 – a manufacturer identifier for the individual manufacturing plant where the vehicle was produced.
  • Characters 12 through 17 -the vehicles unique serial number.
VIN numbers explained and broken down

An explanation of VIN

Breakdown of a vin number.

DigitsOur ExampleMeans
WMI – World Manufacturer Identifier
WVWW = Germany
VW = Volkswagen Cars
VDS - Vehicle Descriptor - Body style, model and engine type (Brand Specific)
ZZZ1KZZZ are just fill-in digits, 1K means Golf and Jetta 5, 6. In this case a Golf Mk 6
Check Digit – or security code
ZThis is generated by the manufacturer to verify the authenticity of the whole number.
Vehicle year
C2012 model – This example comes from a 2011 VW Golf, so we can only presume that car manufacturers release vehicles like magazine companies do i.e. you often get Decembers issue at the beginning of November!
Plant where the vehicle was built
WA Unique plant code used/generated by the manufacturer. In this case W means Wolfsbury, Germany.
Serial number of the vehicle
089702The production number