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Decoding a VIN


Step 4: Figuring Out the Features

More than just telling you what model of car you have, this section often describes the type of engine and platform the car uses. How this is used is based on the country and company in question, but most companies selling cars in North America have similar formats. Since we know our car is a Ford or a Mazda, it's fairly easy to decode what HT82H means.

The first digit, H, is a safety code and indicates that the car has front and side airbags. Other digits include "B" for the use of active belts but no airbags. The letters "L" and "F" or "K" indicate different generations of airbags.

Digits five through seven, in this case T82, tell us what kind of vehicle this is. Using this handy guide to Ford VINs we know that Ford uses "T8_" for the Mustang coupe. Even more exciting, it's a either a Mustang Bullitt, Coupe GT or Coupe Shelby GT. If someone is trying to sell you a Mustang and claims it's a "GT" hardtop but its VIN says "T80," they're lying to you.

Picture of a carThe most important digit, if you're trying to determine what engine the car has, is the eighth one. In this case, the digit H indicates that we have a car with Ford's 4.6-liter modular V-8. If the digit was an "N" it would indicate a V-6 and we'd know something was fishy. If the code was an "S" we'd know we had a Coupe Shelby GT on our hands.

Step 5: Using the Check Digit

Most companies use the ninth digit, always a number, as a check digit. Using a complex mathematical equation, they can determine if the product of multiplying all of the numbers and letters in the VIN besides the 9th digit, when divided by 11, has a remainder equal to the check digit. If it does, the VIN is real.

If you're a total math nerd, you can follow these instructions. If you're a little lazier, you can use this calculator to determine if your check digit is correct.