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The modern 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) became mandatory for new vehicles sold in the U.S.
The first part consists of the beginning three digits, which tells us what company manufactured the vehicle and in what country.
A parts specialist sometimes needs to determine a vehicle’s country of origin to select the correct parts for a particular application, and checking the first digit of the VIN is a straightforward method of identification.
The second section of the VIN is contained in the fourth through eighth digits, and is a little less straightforward. The ninth digit is called the check digit, and is used mostly by motor vehicles departments and law enforcement for checking the validity of a VIN. Of course, once a manufacturer starts repeating numbers, it may eventually become difficult to tell if a VIN is from 1983 or 2013.
The eleventh position of the VIN takes the place of manufacture to another level, signifying the individual assembly plant. For those of us working in stores that mix paint, it is also worthwhile to note that Honda uses assembly plant codes as part of its paint codes.
The last section of the VIN is the sequential serial number that uniquely identifies a particular vehicle.
While a parts specialist may not use their understanding of VIN numbering every day, and rarely will you be asked to fully decode a VIN to identify what the customer is working on, becoming familiar with the parts of the VIN will certainly make life behind the counter easier. Copyright © 2012 Autos Weblog, All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners. All 1967 through 1972 Chevrolet 10 thruough 30 series trucks are identified by this model designation system. Accurate Differential Identification is the first and most important step in your differential repair, upgrade or overhaul project. The most accurate differential identification is provided by the bottom line of the tag number or axle tube stamp.
On GM axles made by Dana, the Bill of Material is usually stamped in the right hand tube underneath the spring. GM Vehicles come with a RPO code tag, usually located in the vehicles glovebox or door jamb. Need help identifying your differential or not sure which replacement or performance parts you need?


Without an ID tag, differentials are identified by the number of cover bolts, the distinctive shape of the cover, the number of ring gear bolts, and ring gear diameter. Known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), these three-digit prefixes are assigned to each automaker by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for vehicles sold in the U.S.
In this section, called the Vehicle Descriptor Section, manufacturers are given the opportunity to encode various information about the individual vehicle, but each manufacturer does things a little differently.
This number is calculated using a complex formula that assigns a numeric value to the other 16 digits of the VIN based on their position in the sequence. From 1981 to 2000, the letters B through Y were used (except for I, O, Q, which never appear anywhere in a VIN, and U, which never appears in the tenth position) to identify the vehicle’s model year.
Sometimes, unique components are manufactured or installed in different plants, and we need to use the eleventh digit to identify which option is installed.
Variant formulas exist for colors, depending on where they were assembled and painted, and this bit of information may make the difference between a “close match” and an “exact match,” as well as the difference between a satisfied customer and an unhappy one. If you’ve ever called the dealer to source a part, chances are they only care about the last eight digits of the VIN. From determining which engine option is installed, to verifying the year of manufacture, and even identifying the exact model or sub-model of your customer’s car, there is a great deal of information that can be discovered without ever opening the hood, or even making that trip to the other end of the parking lot in the rain only to find out that the “LX” or “DX” badge you were hoping to find isn’t there anymore. The following information is provided to help you identify the differential you are working on.
The BOM will identify the model number, the gear ratio, the type of differential, and all component parts. These BOM’s normally start with 60, and the first 2 digits are not typically dropped as in some cases with Dana ID tags. These tags have a wealth of information about your specific vehicle’s equipment and specifications. We have a huge parts inventory, and orders placed by 4PM Pacific Standard Time can usually ship out the same day! They can also be identified by whether the center section is an integral or dropout design.
The VIN is broken down into six components, and each part holds a key to decoding the identity of an individual vehicle. With increased globalization of manufacturing, this becomes more important in identifying options unique to certain assembly plants.


Some companies include emissions information, type of transmission, seat belt and airbag information, engine displacement, and body styles. Even though the seventh digit of the VIN can represent a number of things (model or body type, transmission, and restraint systems are the most common), for vehicles built through 2009, it must be a number.
Something as simple as a wheel stud and lug nut for a Ford Taurus might require a parts specialist to determine if the car was assembled in Atlanta or Chicago. Based on our breakdown, we know that gives us the model year, assembly plant and the serial number. Traditional BOM’s are 6 digits followed by 1 or 2 digits and start with the numbers 60 or 61. We will get into more detail in later articles, as we cover individual manufacturers and what they code into their VINs, but there is a common misconception regarding the eighth digit of the VIN.
This will always be a number (0-9), or the letter “X.” It is the least useful part of the VIN to anyone working a parts counter, but is still important in the grand scheme of the universe.
2010 saw the return of the alpha characters, starting with A, and continuing in the same pattern used in the 80s and 90s. In any given model year, only one brand Z vehicle with serial number 123456 will roll out of assembly plant X, so those eight digits can only be assigned to one vehicle. Professional technical support is available Monday thru Friday from 8am to 5pm Pacific Standard Time. On some tags, the first 2 digits don’t appear on the tag, but they must be used to identify the axle. While most manufacturers use the eighth position to identify the engine, not all of them do. In the aftermarket, we would require an entire VIN, since our catalogs cover more than one manufacturer.
For instance, you might see 5561-1 for the BOM, but the 60 has been dropped, and one would need to use 605561-1.
Later BOM’s may start with the first 3 digits of 200, but these are typically not dropped from the tag.



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