How to read a Nissan VIN number

Written by richard brown
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How to read a Nissan VIN number
A vehicle's VIN number can reveal a lot of its history. (Getty Thinkstock)

Every vehicle has its own seventeen-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A VIN can be used to find auto recalls, registrations, and vehicle warranty claims. It can verify auto theft and confirm insurance coverage. Each number and character in the VIN means something. Because the VIN is different on each car, many people use it to track a used vehicle's history before purchase. If you are seeking to purchase a used Nissan, learn how to read the VIN number and what it reveals about the car.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look on the dashboard of the Nissan on the driver's side. The VIN number will be stamped onto a thin plate and attached to the dash near the windscreen. You will see a line of seventeen characters, made up of digits and letters.

  2. 2

    Identify the Nissan's manufacturer using the first three characters. For example, JN1 means a Japanese-produced Nissan vehicle, while 5N1 means a U.S.-produced Nissan.

  3. 3

    Learn the Nissan's engine type using the fourth character in the VIN. Some examples are F for a KA24E engine and T for a VG33E.

  4. 4

    Understand the Nissan vehicle's line with the fifth character. For example, if you see a J, the vehicle is from the Maxima line, while a D means a Truck, Xterra or Frontier line. Identify the model change with the sixth digit---it will be a number from one through nine.

  5. 5

    Learn about the Nissan's body type with the seventh character. Some examples of what you might see on a Nissan include a four for a two-door coupe, a five for a four-door wagon, or a seven for a crew cab truck.

  6. 6

    Explore the features of the Nissan with the eighth character. The letter A means there is an airbag system, while Y means there is four-wheel drive. The ninth character is simply another features digit.

  7. 7

    See the Nissan's model year number with the tenth character. A Nissan from 1999 will have the letter X, while a Nissan from 2009 will display a nine in this spot on the VIN.

  8. 8

    Discover which plant the Nissan was made with the eleventh character. For example, a Nissan made in Canton, Mississippi, will show N, while one made in Kyushu, Japan, will have a W.

  9. 9

    Identify the Nissan vehicle's serial number using the last digits of the VIN. This serial number is unique to the vehicle and is assigned to it as it comes off the line. There is not another Nissan out there with the same serial number.

Tips and warnings

  • There are plenty of different codes assigned to each character, so consult a Nissan VIN decoding website for a complete list of what each character means (see Resources).
  • To confuse prospective buyers, car thieves remove a Nissan's VIN number plate easily and replace it with a VIN plate from a junked Nissan car of the same make and model that was legally purchased.

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