VIN Numbers – why the secret?
The Vehicle Identification Number of your vehicle is it’s personal ID and of course we don’t advocate anyone send in a picture of his car, registration and VIN number for security reasons but what is that which makes the publication of batch numbers so secret?
There are countries which publish batch numbers, publish the failures and even manufacturers publicly recalling vehicles for safety reasons. But yet, buying a manual for a vehicle falling within specific VIN numbers would be the easiest way to know that you have purchased the correct manual, that you do have a vehicle that has modification ‘x’ and certainly most importantly that the car you are buying is the car specified. There just seems to be no common ground yet auto trading is one of the largest and robust industries to be in.
The Canadian authorities have it right: Canadian Police Information Centre – search a VIN to see whether it has been stolen. Sadly this is not a common trend, almost as if we want the car to remain stolen. Is this for insurance reasons – you don’t want the car back? Sorry, but this apathy galls me.
If you need to know more about VIN go to Wiki
Case # 1 – no reports, lots of action
Here’s an interesting case, my #1. I know two people having the same problems with their vehicle, same year and same model. Did a search on Google. No apparent issue. Asked the manufacturer whether there are any issues with this specific model – an alleged ‘no’. A freelance mechanic told me that he makes a mint out repairs to these vehicles as it gets treated as out of warranty.
Case # 2 – lots of reports, no action
Case #2 – well known manufacturer, very popular vehicle, about 15 years back (1996~1998) – all with a common problem but explanations varying from “wiring problem”, “engine control”, the “black box thingy” to “poor riding habits”. All of these cars had one common problem though – intermittent in nature and engine would just die. Local newspaper has Mr. X taking one of the local dealerships to task – he paid $1300.00 to have his new vehicle fixed (replacement of ECU) which they treated as out of warranty. Not even a week later it failed again and they then wanted to charge him the same. Obviously he hit the roof – the newspaper got involved and hey presto, brand new car. No VIN number given, no recall, no nothing. My brother had the same car – he eventually traded it in – month after month this new car just gave hassles. Here’s the thing though, a certain government department bought a batch of these, all with the same problem. This information came from a friend who worked in this department. While we don’t like to be hoodwinked don’t you think it is time that Joe Public start become just a little bit more proactive?
Case #2 fascinates me because it just shows us how complacent we really are. What makes it better is that someone is going to buy this car second hand and it’s going to come with the very same problem that the original owner had. No, I do not know what the cause of the problem was although everyone suspects the ECU. No VIN numbers given, no recall but yet I still see these same cars parked on the side of the road 15 years later. Sad, very sad – but true.
Putting yourself in the legal spotlight
The problem as I see it is that manufacturers will do something about it (million kudos to Toyota, they may have had their own share of woes but their name always comes out fully intact) – if it is handled properly from the word go. But it won’t be handled properly, with social media we are going to open ourselves up to a civil lawsuit by making unsubstantiated claims based on hearsay which can hurt the reputation of a manufacturer because we don’t always know what is libel and what is not.
Furthermore, the internet makes us all invincible, we all read things which are wholly inaccurate and feel that as this is the case, let us act on it. Just how much harm do we do to ourselves when we self-medicate based on what we read on Snake-Oil Sam’s website with regard to herbs, spices and all things nice? Be cautious. The VIN numbering system is a very viable concept but it is not used anywhere near it’s full potential – it comes across as cloak and daggers stuff which is not good practice. This also depends where you reside. The good old American boys seem to have a good grip on things – and so they should. Elsewhere? Third World?
Invalid VIN Numbers
Do you own a car which has an invalid VIN? I do. The check digit is incorrect – after looking at the vehicle VIN on the chassis and comparing it to the registration papers I found the culprit, an incorrect digit had been given. One digit out and the whole thing is void. Now the question is a) how did the traffic authorities let this slip by and b) the car used to go for regular servicing but not once did the dealer correct this. Hence the reason for this article.
VIN Numbers – In the real world
One database – we don’t need to go to the GM website to look up a VIN number, it is supposed to be unique. Your car gets stolen – the authorities tag this car immediately in the VIN database under a stolen property section. You change the colour – ditto. You change the engine – ditto? Does this happen? No. In fact this is all supposed to happen. Your VIN is your auto social security number. And DNA. This article was not written to undermine what has already happened, there has been an immense amount of proactivity already as of 2014 but the problem is consolidating these records.
VIN numbers are your only way to track a car’s history and unfortunately most people are not aware that buying a stolen car can land you in a whole heap of trouble where you in all likelihood will lose the car once the whole mess is unraveled.