VIN is an acronym for Vehicle Identification Number. You know, that pesky, unintelligible number your insurance company asks you for. Well, here's a little about it. Let's call this...

Everything you wanted to know about a VIN but were afraid ask.

Beginning with the 1981 model year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, required manufacturers selling over the road vehicles in the United States to produce the vehicles with a 17 character Vehicle Identification Number.

The standard establishes a fixed format, including a check digit and applies to all passenger cars, multi purpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, trailers, and motorcycles with a gross weight of over 10,000 pounds or less.

What do all those numbers mean you might ask?

The VIN is actually broken down into three distinct sections. The first section designates the World Manufacturers Identification. It is three characters in length and each character is coded to identify the Nation of Origin, Manufacturer and Make/Type of vehicle. Here's a sample, all values are theoretical

Character 1 = X, X= Japan
Character 2 = X, X= Toyota
Character 3= X, X = Passenger Car

The second section has five characters and is designated as the Vehicle Description Section. The Vehicle Description Section identifies the vehicles Model, Body, Style, and Engine. Here's yet another sample.

Character 4 = X, X = 4 Door Sedan
Character 5 = X, X = 1.5 Litre Engine
Character 6 = X, X = Corolla
Character 7 = X, X = Transmission Type - manual vs automatic
Character 8 = X, X = Equipment such as air bags, daytime running lights, etc

Character 9 = X, X = a check digit

The third (and yes, last) section of the VIN is the Vehicle Identification Section. It is eight characters in length and describes such things as model year, plant of manufacture and sequential production number.

Character 10 = X, X = 2000
Character 11 = X, X = Tokyo
Character 12 thru 17 = 1,2,3,4,5,6

So there you have folks, we've just described a 2000 Toyota Corolla, 4 Door Sedan with a 1.5 litre engine, manual transmission with daytime running lights and air bags. It was made in Tokyo, Japan and was the 123,456 car produced of that type in that plant.

If your still with me, I'd also like to point out that the values for each of the VINs can and will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer thereby wreaking havoc in trying to read these things.