Vehicles manufactured prior to 1981 utilized a 5-digit VIN number instead of the current 17-digit VIN system. The 5-digit Vehicle Identification Number offered limited details about the vehicle, including the manufacturer and model, but lacked the comprehensive information provided by the modern VIN system.
How To Read and Decode 5 Digit VIN Number?
A 5-digit VIN number was used on vehicles produced before 1981 when the current 17-digit VIN system was still not introduced. The 5-digit VIN number provides basic information about the vehicle, such as the manufacturer and model, but does not provide as much detail as the current system.
Step 1: Locate the VIN Number
The 5-digit VIN number can usually be found on different locations on the classic car. Here are some of the most common locations:
- On the dashboard, near the windshield on the driver’s side, and visible from the outside. This is the most common location for the VIN on classic cars.
- Inside the driver’s side wheel well. The VIN may be stamped on a metal plate or sticker inside the wheel well.
- Under the steering column. The VIN may be stamped on a metal plate or sticker under the steering column.
- On the firewall. The VIN may be stamped on a metal plate or sticker on the firewall, which is the metal barrier between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment.
- On a sticker located on the driver’s door edge or door jamb. The VIN may be printed on a sticker located on the driver’s door edge or door jamb.
- On the driver’s door hinge post. The VIN may be stamped on the driver’s door hinge post.
- On the driver’s or passenger’s side frame rail. The VIN may be stamped on the driver’s or passenger’s side frame rail.
- On major parts like the engine (though the engine may have been replaced). The VIN may be stamped on the engine block, though it’s possible that the engine has been replaced.
Once you’ve located the classic VIN number, write it down or take a photo of it so you can reference it later.
If you have trouble finding the VIN number on any classic car, you can always consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer.
Step 2: Determine the Manufacturer
The first character of the 5-digit VIN number represents the manufacturer’s name. Each manufacturer is assigned a unique code, which can be found in a VIN decoder chart. For example, “1” represents Chevrolet, “2” represents Pontiac, and “3” represents Oldsmobile.
Step 3: Determine the Year
The second character of the 5-digit VIN number represents the year. Each year is represented by a different number, which can also be found in a VIN decoder chart. For example, “1” represents 1971, “2” represents 1972, and so on.
Step 4: Determine the Model and Engine
The remaining three characters of the 5-digit VIN number provide information about the model and engine of the vehicle. The exact information provided varies depending on the manufacturer, but it typically includes the model name and engine type.
Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle with a 5-Digit VIN Number
When buying a used vehicle with a 5-digit VIN number, it’s important to be cautious and do your due diligence to avoid purchasing a vehicle with hidden problems. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Verify the VIN number: Make sure the classic car VIN number matches the number on the vehicle and the vehicle’s documentation. You can use a classic VIN decoder tool to verify the VIN number.
- Check for signs of tampering: Look for signs that the VIN number has been tampered with or altered, such as mismatched rivets, signs of paint or sanding, or missing VIN tags.
- Check the vehicle’s history: Use a classic car vehicle history report to check for any accidents, previous owners, or other issues that may affect the vehicle’s value or safety.
- Have the vehicle inspected: It’s always a good idea to have a used vehicle inspected by a mechanic before purchasing it. This can help identify any hidden problems that may not be visible during a test drive.
- Check for signs of wear and tear: Look for signs of wear and tear, such as rust, worn tires, or worn brake pads, that may indicate the vehicle has not been well-maintained.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that you’re purchasing a classic vehicle with a 5-digit VIN number that is in good condition and has not been tampered with. It’s important to take the time to do your research and make an informed decision when buying a classic car, as it can save you time, money, and headaches down the road.
Limitations of 5 Digit VIN Numbers
While 5-digit VIN numbers can provide some useful information about a vehicle, there are also limitations to what they can tell you. Here are some of the main limitations of 5-digit VIN numbers:
- Limited information about the vehicle: 5-digit VIN numbers were only used during a relatively short period of time, from the early 1950s to the early 1980s. During this time, the VIN number system was not standardized, so the information provided by a 5-digit VIN number can vary widely depending on the manufacturer and the year of the vehicle.
- Limited information about the vehicle’s history: Unlike modern VIN numbers, 5-digit VIN numbers do not contain information about the vehicle’s history, such as accidents, previous owners, or service records. This information can be important when making a decision about whether to buy a used vehicle.
- Limited information about the vehicle’s features: While a 5-digit VIN number can provide some basic information about the vehicle’s make, model, and engine, it does not provide detailed information about the vehicle’s features or options, such as air conditioning, power windows, or a sunroof.
- Limited availability of decoding tools: Because 5-digit VIN numbers are not used on modern vehicles, 5 digit VIN decoders for these VIN numbers may be less widely available than tools for modern VIN numbers. This can make it more difficult to decode a 5 digit VIN number and obtain accurate information about the vehicle. Classic Decoder is the first in the industry to provide vehicle information on 5 digit VIN numbers by giving classic car enthusiasts access to the classic car vehicle history report and classic car build sheets.
- Limited value for insurance and registration: Some insurance companies and state motor vehicle departments may not recognize 5-digit VIN numbers, which can make it difficult to obtain insurance or register the vehicle. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a replacement VIN number or a special registration for the vehicle
Decoding a 5-digit VIN number can provide basic information about a vehicle’s manufacturer, model year, and some basic features. While it may not provide as much detail as a 17-digit VIN number, it can still be useful for identifying the basic characteristics of a vehicle. It’s important to consult a classic car VIN decoder or seek the assistance of a professional if you need more detailed information.
Despite some limitations, a 5-digit VIN number can still provide some useful information about a vehicle, especially when used in conjunction with other sources of information, such as classic car vehicle history reports, maintenance records, and inspections. If you’re considering buying a vehicle with a 5-digit VIN number, it’s important to be aware of these limitations and to do your due diligence to ensure that you’re making an informed decision.