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Dec 19 2011

It is not uncommon for some of the people that express interest in our VIN data to have little experience with automotive data in the past. They may be new to the company/position or they may be looking to apply an existing business model in a new way that requires a VIN decoder or vehicle data. Many times these people are not quite sure what to expect to get in return from decoding 17-digit VINs. Below is a list of 10 things that you can expect to be returned when decoding US passenger and light-duty vehicle identification numbers.

1. Model Year

The model year is required to be identified by the 10th digit of the VIN (with a little help from the 7th digit)

2. Country of Origin

The first digit of the WMI section of the VIN (positions 1-3) will identify the country where the vehicle was manufactured.

3. Manufacturer and Manufacturing Plant

The manufacturer of the vehicle is identified within the WMI by the 2nd and 3rd digits of the VIN. And the 11th digit is used to identify the plant that produced the finished vehicle. These two details are required by law (NHTSA and Transport Canada) to be encoded in the VIN. This enhances traceability if quality and/or safety issues are discovered with the vehicle later on.

4. Brand or Make

This is the badge the vehicle is sold under. For example, VW is the brand the Routan Minivan is sold under, but it was manufactured at a Chrysler plant in Canada. The brand and make used to be identified uniquely within the WMI. However, since the model year 2010, the 4th digit (first vehicle descriptor digit) can be required to identify the vehicle's brand/make.

5. Vehicle Type

Vehicle type is captured consistently in the VIN. It was once required to be captured in the WMI, but since the model year 2010, the vehicle type requirement has shifted to the vehicle descriptor section (VDS).


6. Engine

The VIN pattern is specific to a unique engine from the OEM. The engine block, cylinders, number of valves, and displacement are always specific to VIN, while aspiration and fuel type -- though almost always captured by the VIN -- can be excluded. There may also be minor differences in the horsepower, torque, and other technical details of the engine that are not VIN specific.

7. Drive Type

The different variants of driven wheels available for each vehicle are almost always captured in the VIN. For example, the F-150 has unique VIN patterns that identify the 4X2 and 4X4 drivetrain variants available on the model.

8. Body Style and Doors

When a year/make/model combination has more than one body type, cab type, or door combination, each variant is captured by unique elements of the VIN pattern.

9. Restraint

The VIN does not usually capture all details of the passive (think seat belts) and active (think airbags) restraint system. However, it does identify at a general level the restraint systems installed on the vehicle.

10. GVW Range

Though the GVW Rating and curb weight of the vehicle are not VIN specific, the GVW range or "tonnage" category of the vehicle is. This allows you to identify the category (light, medium, or heavy-duty) or "tonnage" of the vehicle. This is most often useful for insurance and extended service contract/warranty providers, as this detail is often factored into the quote provided to a potential customer.

In addition to the above vehicle's details that are tied directly to the VIN Pattern, DataOne Software is able to use our industry and OEM-specific relationships, as well as our expertise to provide additional valuable details to the VIN reference. This may be data that is specific to a unique vehicle style decoded by the VIN. In cases where more than one vehicle style is tied to the VIN Pattern, common details that are shared between a number of vehicles, like upholstery or safety features, can be returned.


Continue on to our next article VIN Decoding 101 Part 6: Exceptions to the VIN Decoding Rules

Related post: 10 Vehicle Details Not Decoded By the VIN Pattern

VIN Decoding 101: Article Index


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