What is a VIN (or Vehicle Identification Number)? Is it just a serial number for your car?
The answer to the question is no. The VIN is much more than just a serial number. The VIN is like your vehicle’s DNA and social insurance number all in one, and all vehicles built in North America since 1981 have one. It’s the 17 character long number typically located on the lower-left corner of the dashboard, in front of the steering wheel. There are other locations such as the driver’s side door, or front of the engine block to name a couple and if all else fails, check your vehicle owner’s manual.
The VIN includes all the information about your car, including the country of origin, the engine size, make, model, year, and trim package. Only the last six digits represent the actual serial number for the vehicle. The VIN image highlights information about each of the seven character groupings and what they represent.
There are many coded facts buried inside the VIN. Due to level of detail, the VIN is used as a pathway to other information about the vehicle, including the manufacturer recalls. The type of vehicle codes and the production sequence numbers are used to determine which recalls are relevant to this vehicle.
Can I decode my own VIN?
Yes, you can investigate your own vehicle’s VIN using one of these online VIN decoders. Some of the VIN websites are selling a paid service to provide you with recall notices or vehicle history, but the VIN decoding aspect is typically free to use. Test out one of the following decoders and see what you can find out about your vehicle.
What else can I check with the VIN?
Many business and government agencies, such as the following, use the VIN since it is a unique vehicle identifier.
- Ontario Drive Clean: Check a vehicle emissions test history. https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-vehicles-drive-clean-test-history#section-0
- Canadian Police Information Centre: Stolen vehicles can be checked using the VIN.
- Transport Canada & NHTSA: In Canada, Transport Canada’s website (http://www.tc.gc.ca) provides links to individual vehicle manufacturer recall sites. In the US, you can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website (NHTSA ) for recall information.
- Vehicle History: There are paid services that will provide you vehicle history (CarFax as an example). Before purchasing a used vehicle, it’s important to run a background report. You may discover there are outstanding recalls on the vehicle or the vehicle has undergone major accident or flood damage.
- Service History: Some websites such as myCARFAX (https://www.mycarfax.com) make it possible for you to check maintenance service history of a vehicle using the VIN (or even using a license plate number).
The VIN is important and it’s not just a serial number. It tells the story about your vehicle’s DNA.
Windshieldink recognizes the importance of the VIN. We are developing long term plans to incorporate the VIN into our Windshieldink member’s vehicle profile in order to provide additional services for everyone. Stay tuned for more on this in the future.
We’re always interested in hearing from you. Comments or questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.