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Decode the VIN

If you’re like most people, you probably think a vehicle identification number (VIN) is just a series of random characters. Actually, each character in this highly structured code has its own meaning. In fact, deciphering these codes is a hobby for some car enthusiasts, including collectors who want to own one of the first or last cars to come off an assembly line.

When purchasing replacement parts for your vehicle, it’s always a good idea to have your VIN number available. Knowing how to read the VIN could help you purchase the correct parts for your vehicle.

Examples of Parts Needing Your VIN:

Decoding a Sample VIN

The info-graphic below provides a simplified look at a sample VIN. Keep in mind that vehicles manufactured before 1981 might have fewer characters than today’s standard VIN of 17 characters

Model Year & Country Codes

Model Year Character Codes

As shown above, the 10th character of the VIN indicates its model year.

  • A: 1980 or 2010
  • B: 1981 or 2011
  • C: 1982 or 2012
  • D: 1983 or 2013
  • E: 1984 or 2014
  • F: 1985 or 2015
  • G: 1986 or 2016
  • H: 1987 or 2017
  • J: 1988
  • K: 1989
  • L: 1990
  • M: 1991
  • N: 1992
  • P: 1993
  • R: 1994
  • S: 1995
  • T: 1996
  • V: 1997
  • W: 1998
  • X: 1999
  • Y: 2000
  • 1: 2001
  • 2: 2002
  • 3: 2003
  • 4: 2004
  • 5: 2005
  • 6: 2006
  • 7: 2007
  • 8: 2008
  • 9: 2009

Country of Origin Character Codes

The 1st character in a car’s vehicle identification number indicates the country in which it was manufactured.

Some of the country codes include:

  • 1, 4, 5: United States
  • 2: Canada
  • 3: Mexico
  • J: Japan
  • K: Korea
  • S: UK
  • V: France, Spain
  • T: Switzerland
  • W: Germany
  • Y: Sweden, Finland
  • Z: Italy