VIN numbers still retain a certain air of mystery, even though they
have become fairly standardized and -- in theory at least -- shouldn't
be all that tough to decode. But not all manufacturers are equally
forthcoming about how they use the codes, particularly when it comes
to detailed equipment specs on individual cars, so this makes decoding
a tricky prospect.
But as you discovered with the Ford F150 site, there are some publicly
available internet sites that can be a huge help.
Here are two that will get you 90% of the way there:
The first is the closest you'll get to a VIN encyclopedia:
"The vehicle identification number is divided into four parts: the
World Manufacturer's Identification (WMI - three characters); the
Vehicle Description Section (VDS - five characters); the check digit;
and the Vehicle Identification Section (VIS - eight characters). When
decoded, the VIN tells the country and year of manufacture; make,
model and serial number; assembly plant and even some equipment
The site lays out what it calls the Position Section Information:
1-2 WMI country code
4-8 VDS equipment codes
9 check digit
10 VIS model year
11 manufacturing plant
12-17 serial number
10 VIS model year
11 manufacturing plant
12-14 WMI suffix
15-17 serial number
The section information is all clickable, and clicking will take you
to some actual code information.
For instance, clicking on "2-3 manufacturer" takes you to:
which includes information like:
FB Ford Motor Company bus (E350/E550)
FC Ford Motor Company stripped chassis
FD Ford Motor Company incomplete vehicle (cutaway cab)
FE Ford Motor Company incomplete vehicle (cutaway cab)
FF Ford Motor Company "glider" kit (no engine or powertrain)
FF Ferrari SpA
FM Ford Motor Company multi-purpose vehicle (Explorer)
FT Ford Motor Company truck
FY Flyer Industries Ltd./New Flyer Industries
GA Chevrolet van
GB Chevrolet van chasis
and so on (I don't know how many FF's or FY's you'll be coming across,
but you're likely to get quite a few FT's and GA's).
Similarly, clicking on the other section links will take you to pages
for the model year codes, etc. You should be aware, though, that not
each section is readily decodable -- it depends a lot on which car,
which model, and what sort of information you're looking for.
If you print out a number of these pages, you can put together a
pretty handy reference sheet that you can post right on the wall, and
use it decode your VIN's as they come through....
You can take advantage of the online decoders that tar_heel_v-ga
mentioned in his comment earlier, an example of which can be found
"AnalogX VIN View is a free online VIN decoder that allows you to see
the information about your vehicle that it contains. VIN View supports
decoding of any vehicle identification number that was issued after
1978, which is when ISO 3779 was established to make a uniform way to
There are a number of these types of decoders online, but from what I
can see, they all seem to work pretty much the same.
As far as I know, these tools are the best there is online for the
type of task you're after. However, before rating this answer, please
let me know if anything here is unclear, or if you need additional
information. Just post a Request for Clarification and I'll be happy
to assist you further.
All the best,
search strategy -- Google searches on:
"vehicle identification number"
Clarification of Answer by
03 Oct 2004 10:52 PDT
Thanks for the very kind comments (and for the stars, of course!).
As far as alternatives to VinPower, I've taken quite an extensive
look-see, and there really don't seem to be any. I think this one
company has really created its own market for VIN decoding that can
imported into an existing system.
There are a number of sites that link to extensive resources about the
automobile industry, and they all mention VinPower as the only option
for this sort of thing. For instance, have a look at:
Motor Vehicle Information
They mention CarFax and other services for online checking for a VIN,
but the only stand alone system they mention is VinPower. Same deal
at a lot of other sites.
On the other hand, everything I've seen so far has talked very
favorably about VinPower in terms of both its capabilities and it
price, which is deemed reasonable.
Hope this helps. And best of luck...