Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) - Here are things you need to know!


Posted by: Jane Osuagwu

Share this post:

Latest news articles

A vehicle identification number is found on every manufactured vehicle. Here’s all you need to know about it, including VIN lookup and VIN etching!

Every manufactured vehicle comes with a vehicle identification number assigned to it for proper identification. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is regarded as a key to safety in the automobile world. Many car owners and motorists have also come to see its importance as it provides information about the history of a vehicle. Here in this post, Naijauto will be providing you with enough details as regards everything you need to know about the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

1. Vehicle identification number - What does it mean?

Vehicle identification number commonly known as VIN or frame number is a unique serial number auto manufacturers assign to motor vehicles, motorcycles to help identify them individually. Here in Nigeria, it's popularly called Chassis number. VIN was first used in the US in 1954. From its first appearance to 1981, there was no accepted standard for how VINs should be, so different automakers made use of a different format. Not until the US government along with car manufacturers came up with a standardized VIN system. Then in 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the USA decided to standardize the format.

The approved format required all on-road motor vehicles that are sold should have a 17-character Vehicle identification number. These characters don’t include the letter O, letter I and letter Q to avoid confusing them with numerals like 0,1, and 9. Since then, the automotive industry has integrated the VIN into vehicle components. Globally, there are four competing standards that are being used to calculate the VIN. They include;

  • FMVSS 115, Part 565: This standard is used in Canada and the United States.
  • ISO 3779: European countries and many countries around the world use this.
  • SAE J853: This standard and that of ISO are very similar.
  • ADR 61/2: The Australian countries use this standard.

Modern vehicle identification numbers are now based on the two related standards that were originally put out by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). They are ISO 3779 which was issued in 1979 and ISO 3780, issued in 1980. Though compatible, these standards have been implemented differently and have been adopted by the United States and the European Union.


The VIN is a 17 character serial number used to identify a vehicle

Importance of knowing the vehicle identification number of a car

Several folks don't know the importance of knowing a car's VIN. Here’s some of the information a VIN verification or inspection will help you know.

1. A correct VIN check will help you ascertain if a vehicle has been in an accident or if it's a flooded car. With Nigeria being a dumping ground for used cars, one needs to be thoroughly informed as these Tokunbo cars look pristine after undergoing pimp work. VIN checker will also help you know the extent of damage done on an accidental car.

2. Checking the VIN of a car will reveal the last mileage and know if its odometer was rolled back. Many Tokunbo car shoppers aren't aware that the car's odometers are rolled back to make it appear newer.

3. A correct VIN inspection will show you the number of people that have bought the car and also if it was stolen before exportation. If the car has passed through many hands, then something is wrong with the car.

4. Another thing a VIN check does, is to know if a car has been recalled for one defect or the other. It also shows you the type of recall.

Having known the importance of a VIN check, here's how to locate the VIN of a car.

How to locate the vehicle identification number of a car

The car's VIN can be found on the dashboard, from the driver's side. To easily spot it, stand outside the vehicle and look at the dashboard from the driver's side of the car. You’ll find it at the corner of the dashboard that's closer to the windshield

And if you can't find it on the dashboard, you can check the driver's side door. Open it and look at the area the door is fastened when it's closed. You may likely see it there. Check the below image for illustration.


Car owners are advised to etch their VIN on their vehicles as a way to protect against car theft

>>>You might like to check the Decoding Nigeria plate number abbreviation

2. Vehicle identification number etching, lookup, and more

After folks purchase a car, they're advised to etch their vehicle. Vehicle identification number etching is the process of permanently engraving a vehicle's registered VIN on its windows and windshield. The Nigerian police and insurance companies recommend car owners etch their VIN on their vehicles as a way to protect against car theft. This is because a vehicle that's etched is always difficult to sell off if it's stolen. Some parts of the car are inscribed with the VIN and can be scratched out but having it on the windows means car thieves will have to replace the window if they want to sell a stolen car. This becomes expensive and time-consuming for them.

And if you want to know your VIN, a way to go about it is to conduct a vehicle identification number lookup. There are VIN free checks on the internet for people who want to conduct a vehicle identification number search. This is done on VIN check websites where people are expected to enter a car's VIN in the space provided. The search box shows the information for the searched number and the vehicle's country of assembly among other information.

And after knowing your VIN, how do you read and decode the characters? Here's how to go about it.

First, a VIN comprises 17 characters which include numbers and capital letters. See what a vehicle identification number sample looks like.JN3MS37A9PW202929.


Vehicle identification number sample

How to read the vehicle identification number

Use this detailed explanation below to read the VIN of any car,

  • The first character represents the country that manufactured the car. So, if you see J, it shows the car was made in Japan.
  • The second character shows the name of the car manufacturer. For instance, T is for Toyota while N is for Nissan.
  • The third character is used to state a Brand's subdivision.
  • The fourth character is for highlighting any special option on the car. An example is a heavy-duty or towing package.
  • The fifth character represents the various generations of a car's lineup.
  • The sixth and seventh character shows the body style the vehicle is made up of
  • The eight-character is used to know the size of the car's engine.
  • The ninth character helps to prove the authenticity or fakeness of a vehicle.
  • The tenth character shows the year a vehicle was manufactured.
  • The eleventh character tells the location of the production plant that made the car.
  • After decoding the eleventh character, the remaining character shows the production line of the vehicle.


Every character found in the VIN has a meaning

>>> See Lagos state vehicle registration & plate number verification

3. Vehicle identification number - other useful information

The vehicle identification number is similar to the fingerprints humans are known to have. And so, it's unique. Here’re some useful facts about the VIN.

All VINs have 17 characters.

No two vehicles have the same VIN code just the way humans don't have the same fingerprint.

Each character that's reflected on the VIN means something.

A VIN doesn't contain the letter O, the letter I and the letter Q to avoid confusing them with numerals like 0,1, and 9.

Don't rely only on the VIN report gathered as it may have been changed. Go further to do a visual inspection for confirmation.

4. Conclusion

A vehicle identification number helps you to properly identify vehicles and the different elements in them as well. This article has explained the concept of VIN and just about everything you need to know about the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

>>> Check out our tips and advice section for other related topics

>>> Get the best Foreign Used, and Nigerian used cars at our cars for sale Do check them out!

What is VIN etching?

How do I find my VIN?

What is a vehicke identification number?

Jane Osuagwu

Jane Osuagwu

Car prices

Jane Osuagwu is an automotive writer at She's a car enthusiast who loves creating educative and informative topics on cars, ranging from maintenance tips to updates on the latest trend in the auto industry in concise and friendly writing. 

Jane is also a blogger and loves reading, inspiring people and getting involved in personal development projects.

See more