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Understanding Vehicle Identification Numbers

By Keith E. Whann

First Digit: Denotes the nation of origin. Some manufacturers use numeric characters(1 = U.S.A., 2 = Canada) and others use alphabetic characters (J = Japan, W = Germany).

Second Digit: Denotes the manufacturer.

Third Digit: Denotes the vehicle make and/or type. Manufacturers use both numeric and alphabetic characters to identify their divisions, denote the vehicle is a passenger vehicle, or may combine the second and third digits to identify the manufacturer.
Taken as a whole, the first three digits of the VIN make up what is commonly referred to as the "World Manufacturer Identification."

Fourth through Eighth Denotes the vehicle description series.
Digits: Both alphabetic and numeric characters are used in these positions, as desired by the manufacturer. These digits will identify items such as the model, series, body type, engine type or restraint system.

Ninth Digit: Is the check digit. The check digit is calculated based upon a mathematical formula which assigns a numerical value to every alpha character in the VIN. All characters than have a numeric value and are multiplied in a standardized equation. The sum of the products are then divided by eleven. The remainder from the divided number becomes the check digit. If the remainder is ten, the check digit will be an "X." For additional information on the calculation of the check digit, please see below.

Tenth Digit: Denotes the year of manufacture. Will always be an alphabetic character (T = 1996, V = 1997, W = 1998, X = 1999, Y=2000) through the 2000 model year. The numbers 1-9 will be used for model years 2001 through 2009, with the letters A-H to be used for model years 2010 through 2017.

Eleventh Digit: Denotes the assembly plant.

Twelfth through Seventeenth are the sequential production numbers.


Assign to each number in the VIN its actual mathematical value and assign to each letter the value specified for it in the following chart:

A=1   G=7  N=5    V=5
B=2   H=8  P=7    W=6
C=3   J=1   R=9    X=7   
D=4   K=2   S=2    Y=8
E=5   L=3   T=3   
F=6   M=4   U=4 

Multiply the assigned value for each character in the VIN by the position weight factor specified in the following chart:
1st = 8 10th = 9
2nd = 7 11th = 8
3rd = 6 12th = 7
4th = 5 13th = 6
5th = 4 14th = 5
6th = 3 15th = 4
7th = 2 16th = 3
8th = 10 17th = 2
9th = check digit

Add the products from steps 1 and 2 and divide the total by 11.

The numerical remainder is the check digit which would appear in the 9th position in the VIN. If the remainder is 10, then the letter "X" is used for the check digit.

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