How Are VIN Numbers Interpreted?

A Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, indicates a vehicle's make, model, serial number, year and country of manufacture. The first character or group of characters in the number indicates the country from which the car came. Some countries are indicated by number - such as the United States, which is represented by a one or a four - while others use letters, such as East Germany, which is represented by SN through ST.

The second character or group of characters indicates the manufacturer of a vehicle, such as an A for Jaguar or a J for Jeep. The next group of characters indicates the type of vehicle, the body style, the engine type, the braking system and other car features. The ninth character in the sequence is the VIN accuracy check determined by the Department of Transportation.

After the VIN accuracy check, the next character tells the model year, such as eight for the year 2008. The year is followed by characters representing the assembly plant where the car was produced. Last is the serial number, which is determined by the manufacturer and indicates if the car is a first or last production run.

The VIN is usually found on the driver's side near where the dashboard meets the windshield, on the driver's side door jamb sticker or on the original engine and hood.