How To Decode a 13 Digit VIN Number (Step by Step Guide)

popular classic cars

A 13 digit VIN number is a series of numbers and characters unique to each vehicle. Unlike the standard 17 digit VIN number being used today, there are vehicles with a 13 digit VIN.

These are known as classic vehicles. To decode a 13 digit VIN number, the simplest and best way is to use an online classic VIN decoder.

What is a Classic VIN Number?

This is a unique VIN number that is associated with vehicles manufactured before 1981. The unique VIN number given to each vehicle is created from using a 13 digit sequence of letters and numbers.

Some manufacturers issue 13-digit VINs, while others issue 11-digit or even 9-digit VIN’s.Each character in the sequence provides a different information about the vehicle such as the manufacturer, place of origin, place of assembly, model year and vehicle type. Decoding a 13 digit or less VIN is very easy.

Step 1

Look at the first digit of the VIN number to see the manufacturer’s country of origin. Vehicles manufactured in the United States will have a 1, 4 or 5 as the first digit in the VIN number code

Step 2

The second digit in the sequence is used to determine the manufacturer of the vehicle. For example, Jaguar is represented by the letter “A,” 

Step 3

The third character in the VIN number sequence to find out the vehicle type. For example, a passenger sedan would have a number of “3” 

Step 4

Examine the fourth to eighth characters to find out the identification of the engine type, brake system model, restraint system and body style. The ninth character of the VIN number series is known as the VIN number “check digit” verification, which checks the previous VIN numbers for accuracy. 

Step 5

Read the tenth character of the VIN number sequence to determine the model year of the vehicle. If the vehicle was manufactured between 2001 and 2009, the digits will appear as 0-9. 

Step 6

Find and examine the eleventh character of the VIN number sequence to determine the manufacturing plant of your vehicle. Unlike the manufacturer’s country of origin, this number represents where the vehicle was assembled. 

How do I Find My Classic VIN Number?

A VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is the 13 to 17 digit number that is assigned by the manufacturer to an individual vehicle. Decoding a VIN can uncover a number of information about a car, including its country of origin, model year, trim level and engine size. 

Usually, the VIN can be located in these locations of your classic car

  1. It’s stamped into a plate that’s mounted on the dashboard near the windshield
  2. It’s stamped on the driver-side door jamb.
  3. It’s also stamped on the engine’s firewall.

How Do I Find The History of My Classic Car?

If you own or are looking to purchase a classic car, it may not be easy to find the vehicle history because classic VIN numbers were not the standard 17 digits we find today. So where do you go to do a classic car VIN search? 

Performing a classic VIN lookup can be a daunting task and there are several ways to go about  it. Here are some of the most common ways for getting the history of a classic car.

  • Use an Online VIN decoder

One easy way to perform a classic VIN check is to use a service like ours. This service collects information about cars from all over the country and stores it in their database. This information includes the vehicle specifications, title information and accident reports. 

  • Conduct a NHTSA Check

You can go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to lookup the history of a classic car. The NHTSA is a government agency that keeps a database of all cars in the United States. The database contains information like the year, make, model, and other basic information of the car. It also includes vital information about the accident history.

  • Use an Online Forum or Community

Going to online forums and communities dedicated to classic cars can also help you find information about the history of a classic car. In these forums, you will find several classic car enthusiasts who are passionate about classic cars and will be ready to help others find information about their cars. It is believed that forums can be a great place to find the  pictures, specifications, and owner’s manuals of classic cars

  • Contact the Original manufacturer

You can also contact the original manufacturer of a classic car for its history. Definitely, many manufacturers will have data of all the cars that they have ever made. This information could be the year, make, and model, and information about any recalls that it may have had.

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