Volvo VIN Number: How to Understand the VIN

Updated February 21, 2017

A combination of 17 numerals and letters make up a vehicle identification number or VIN. Every vehicle for sale in the U.S. and Canada has been required since 1981 to be assigned a VIN by its manufacturer to uniquely identify it for insurance, government and law enforcement purposes. Consumers benefit, too: those in the market for a used car can check the VIN to ensure the car has not been stolen and/or considered unsafe. Each character of a VIN represents information about that vehicle, including where it was assembled and equipment specifications.

Look through the windshield to find the VIN on a plate attached to the top of the dashboard. Other common places to find a VIN on a Volvo: on the engine, on the car's firewall, in the left-side inner wheel arch, on the steering wheel or steering wheel column, and on the radiator support bracket.

Write down the 13-character VIN. The first character identifies where the Volvo was manufactured:

1 or 4 = U.S.

2 = Canada

3 = Mexico

J = Japan

K = Korea

S = England

W = Germany

Z = Italy

Notice the second character, which specifies the Volvo's manufacturer and should be the letter V for Volvo.

Note the third character, which identifies the vehicle type or manufacturing division, depending on the make and model.

Notice the fourth through eighth characters, which identify attributes like body style, type of engine and vehicle series, all of which vary depending on the Volvo's make and model.

Identify the ninth character of the VIN, which is the "check" digit. It verifies the previous VIN digits using a mathematical equation that assigns previous VIN letter digits numerical value. If the correct numeric remainder for that VIN is 10 (which is two characters), the ninth character will be "X" instead.

Note the 10th character. This tells you what in year the Volvo was made, though the numbers and letters repeat:

1 = 1971

2 = 1972

3 = 1973

4 = 1974

5 = 1975

6 = 1976

7 = 1977

8 = 1978

9 = 1979

A = 1980

B = 1981

C = 1982

D = 1983

E = 1984

F = 1985

G = 1986

H = 1987

J = 1988

K = 1989

L = 1990

M = 1991

N = 1992

P = 1993

R = 1994

S = 1995

T = 1996

V = 1997

W = 1998

X = 1999

Y = 2000

1 = 2001

2 = 2002

3 = 2003

4 = 2004

5 = 2005

6 = 2006

7 = 2007

8 = 2008

9 = 2009

A = 2010

Notice the 11th character, which identifies the assembly plant. Again, the characters stand for different plants depending on the model and make of the vehicle.

Note that the last six characters--the 12th through the 17th--are critical because they identify the proper part numbers for ignition, fuel, emission and engine components. Like the 11th character, these final characters identify different components depending on the make and model.

Use an online Volvo VIN decoder to correctly interpret those characters of your Volvo's VIN that vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle (see Resources).

Things You'll Need

  • Volvo (1981 or later)
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About the Author

Gail began writing professionally in 2004. Now a full-time proofreader, she has written marketing material for an IT consulting company, edited auditing standards for CPAs and ghostwritten the first draft of a nonfiction Amazon bestseller. Gail holds a Master of Arts in English literature and has taught college-level business communication, composition and American literature.