BMW VIN – what it is and why we need itVlad Bolboceanu
- BMW owners who want to send us their faulty electronic module for a repair
- BMW owners who need to diagnose a faulty BMW module
- Prospective BMW owners looking to make a car purchase
The BMW VIN at a glance
Usually, when you contact an electronics repair centre with a problem with one of your BMW electronic modules (navigation, bluetooth, sound amplifier etc), it’s not enough to give only a description of the issues. For us, at Mura Car Accessories, it’s sometimes a requirement that our clients provide in the Repair Request Form the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for the auto on which they use the electronic unit they are sending us.
As a rule of thumb, if you see a field labelled VIN number in our repair request form for your particular unit model, please fill it in We describe below what the VIN is and where you can find it.
A car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), a 17-characters sequence, is a unique identifier of one particular vehicle, like a social security number for a person residing the USA, for example. If you know your VIN, you can track your car’s unique features and specifications, but also recalls, registrations, warranty claims, thefts and insurance coverage.
Why do a BMW VIN check?
Verifying the VIN number shows you specific car details, from the year of manufacture and general features to its original equipment installed. It will also let you know what upgrades are available for your BMW model and which features that you always wanted can be added to your car.
Last but not least, you may need to check your VIN when troubleshooting symptoms with electronic modules on your car. Your VIN will tell you what modules you have on car from factory, in case you don’t know this information yourself.
On our side, we need the VIN number for two reasons:
- so we can program it into your unit, should we need to reprogram your BMW’s navigation, for example
- or we need it to check what infotainment electronic modules you have on your car. Your VIN tells us if your car is equipped with a bluetooth module, with a sound amplifier, what version of navigation unit you have, etc. If you tell us your VIN when you first contact us with a description of the fault, we can suggest appropriate troubleshooting steps before you send the unit over for a repair.
Where to find it ?
For safety reasons, manufacturers decided to insert VIN on a non-detachable part of interior
- Most of the vehicles nowadays have the chassis series at the bottom of the windscreen on the driver’s side.
- Also located on the driver’s side door jamb
- In case you’re away from your car, just check the Insurance card
What does it mean ?
There is really not much you should know about the raw format of the VIN. You normally use an online tool (a VIN check or a VIN decoder) to get useful information from your VIN. But, if you are curious, here is a short summary. The VIN implements the ISO 3779 specifications and the 17 characters are grouped into 3 segments:
- WMI (World Manufacturer Identifier) / first 3 digits represent the unique coding for each producer, place of manufacture and vehicle type.
- VDS (Vehicle Descriptor Section) / next 6 digits offers nothing more than a general description of the vehicle type.
- VIS (Vehicle Identifier Section) / last 8 digits Their combination indicates the particularities for each car such as the year of manufacture, the place of production, the type of bodywork and engine.
How to check your VIN for troubleshooting
At Mura Car Accessories we normally use this website or this one. All BMW VIN check websites have access to the same database, so it doesn’t matter which one you use. You only need to input the last 7 digits of the VIN, which provide us with the exact information we need.
Mind that, in order to avoid confusions, the VIN number never contains the letters Q, O or I which can be easily mistaken by 1 or 0. So, if you see an ‘0’, read that as ‘zero’.
The following real example of a common problem will help better understand why the VIN is so important.
Let’s imagine your CCC, one model of the BMW iDrive navigation module, is malfunctioning. You came across our CCC repair web page or our blog post dealing with correctly diagnosing a CCC navigation fault and you read there that the symptoms you experience can also be caused by a faulty MULF bluetooth or Logic 7 sound amplifier. Normally, as a BMW owner you don’t know what the latter units are, let alone if they are installed on your BMW. Therefore you use your VIN number to obtain this information. For our particular example with the faulty CCC navigation, you can find detailed instructions on how to troubleshoot your symptoms in the Troubleshooting other possibles causes section here.
Apart from the VIN decoder tool there is also available on the Internet the VIN Check tool. The difference between these two is that VIN Check provides valuable data you may need to know before buying a used car, for example, and you want to make sure the owner or agency gave you the correct and complete details. It contains a full vehicle history report with information about vehicle registration, service and repair info, accident reports and even it checks a database of stolen cars.
Wrapping it up
We certainly hope that this article answered most of your questions and showed why we need to bother with yet another piece of information from the manufacturer.
If you want to get in touch, you have a message or want to share something with us or with our readers, please leave a comment in the section below. Stay tuned for more articles on the workings of your favourite brands.