Troubleshooting Guide: Why Is My VIN Number Not Working?

Have you ever heard of a secret code that cars have? Well, it’s called a VIN, which stands for Vehicle Identification Number. It’s like a car’s fingerprint, and it helps us figure out all kinds of cool stuff about our cars. But guess what? Sometimes, this magical VIN isn’t working correctly, and that’s what I am going to talk about today.

Why is my VIN number not working? Okay, there are several reasons for a malfunctioning VIN. In short, it can be damaged, corrupted, fraudulent, or incompatible number. May be your vehicle is brand new (VIN not included in the system), or too old, or has history report issues. Besides, technical glitches or system errors can also sometimes cause VINs not to work.

In this blog, I will explain all the reasons why a VIN fails to work. Also, you will learn about the possible ways to make it work again. I hope you won’t mind spending a few more moments with me till the end.

What is a VIN Number?

VIN is a unique 17-digit code used by the automotive industry to recognize individual motor vehicles. According to Wikipedia, these vehicles include cars, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds (source).

It contains valuable information about the vehicle’s origin, manufacturer, model year, and serial number (source). However, you will find no 2nd vehicle with the same VIN in operation (source).

You can locate your VIN in these places (source): door jamb, front frame, rear-wheel well, engine block, and doorpost. You may also check the lower right corner of the vehicle dashboard, in front of its steering wheel. Here’s an example of VIN of vehicles made from 1981: 4Y1SL65848Z411439 (source).

Importance of Why You Need a Working VIN

According to sources like Autocheatsheet and Capitalone, a properly functional VIN is essential for any vehicle. Particularly, when you want to buy or sell a car, or look for its parts, you can get info from the VIN.

VIN separates your vehicle from others. Also, you can track the history of a car, including previous ownership, accident records, maintenance, and repair.

Even when you go for registration, the authority will ask you to provide the VIN. It ensures that you are the actual owner of the vehicle. Moreover, insurance companies use it to verify the details of a car and assess insurance claims accurately.

There are also records of vehicle recalls by their VIN. It helps in timely communication and resolution for vehicle owners for better safety.

Reasons & Solutions for VIN Numbers Not Working

How to decode the VIN of a vehicle? Well, use the VIN decoder tool from NHTSA on their website to decode the digits (source). Also, you can check resources like WikiHow, YourMechanic, and Forbes Wheels for step-by-step guides on this matter.  

As I said, there are multiple reasons for “Why is my VIN number not working?” Now, you will learn more about those causes.

Damaged or Corrupted VIN Number

VINs can get damaged due to various reasons, like physical damage to the VIN plate, tampering, or errors during data entry. Another potential cause is data corruption. It can occur during writing, reading, storage, transmission, or processing of computer data.

In the case of vehicle instrument clusters, the VIN stored in the clusters may be lost or corrupted. It may require the installation of a new cluster or repair (source). However, some signs of a damaged or corrupted VIN are illegible characters missing, altered, and inconsistent digits.

How to fix it

The manufacturer is the only entity allowed to change a vehicle’s VIN (source). Contact them to report the issue and seek their guidance on how to proceed. Again, you may get help from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to solve incorrect or damaged VIN.

Incorrect or Invalid VIN Number Input

The presence of illegal characters in VIN, like letters I, O, Q is an example of a mistake you may make when entering the VIN (source). Again, inconsistency between the VIN on the vehicle and the title may indicate alterations or errors.  

Since 1981, all vehicles manufactured for road use must have a 17-digit VIN. If the VIN you are trying to decode is shorter or longer than 17 characters, it will be considered invalid. Sometimes, VINs may not provide enough specific information to identify the exact vehicle model or trim level (source).

Possibly, the data provider you use may not cover the specific vehicle or region range you work with. So, you will experience some issues like invalid VIN input. Again, simple mistakes or transcription errors made during data entry or documentation can also cause the same thing (source).

How to fix it

Check if there are any invalid characters in the VIN. Then, you must ensure that the VIN has 17 digits. Less or more than this won’t work in the decoder tool. Suppose you want to know specific information like the exact vehicle model (e.g., Camry LE, XLE). In that case, you will need additional identifiers like model number, package codes etc. Next, study your data provider’s service or consider others that cover a broader range of vehicles and regions.

Fraudulent or Altered VIN Numbers

For sure, fraudulent or altered VINs can be a severe issue when buying or selling a vehicle. It may happen through VIN cloning, tampering, and removal of digits. Often, the vehicle thieves copy a VIN and place it on a different one. So it becomes obsolete or illegitimate (source).

Then, the tampering refers to altering or changing the VIN to hide its true history or ownership. Usually, it is done by physically altering the VIN plate or forging documents with a different VIN (source). In the case of VIN removal, it helps thieves to prevent the vehicle from being traced or identified.

Some signs of altered VIN are mismatched numbers, damages to the VIN plate, and inconsistent vehicle story.

How to fix it

Detect fraudulent VINs by using the VINCheck Lookup service by NICB. Through this, you can check out the record of an insurance theft claim or any previous reports of the vehicle (source). You may also check DMV’s website to identify if a VIN has been cloned or used to conceal the identity of a stolen vehicle. Besides, the NHTSA’s VIN decoder may help in this problem. Please do not forget to report suspicious activities and consult legal professionals.

Vehicle History Report Issues

Well, the history reports provide detailed information about a vehicle’s history. You can learn about its make, model, trim, body style, engine type, and transmission (source).

Besides them, you can also learn about a vehicle’s past, like accidents, title problems, odometer rollbacks, recalls, and more (source). The reports also provide insights into the condition, maintenance history, and ownership records. Now, if your vehicle has terrible history reports, the VIN will surely fail to work.

How to fix it

If you want to deal with this issue, first, you should double-check that the VIN matches the VIN on the vehicle itself. Otherwise, transposed or incorrect digits may give you inaccurate results. Then, you can obtain vehicle history reports from reputable sources like Carfax or AutoCheck. After collecting them, compare them to find any inconsistencies or missing information.

Technical Glitches or System Errors

Like others, technical glitches or system errors can sometimes cause VINs not to work. These errors can be database or server errors, software bugs, compatibility issues, or data synchronization problems.

Database errors can happen due to server downtime, connectivity issues, or data corruption. These issues can prevent the VIN from being recognized or processed correctly. Then, the VIN recognition system may have some software failure or compatibility issues. It happens if there are programming errors, outdated software versions, or conflicts with other software components.

The inconsistencies or delays in updating the VIN records across different systems or databases may also cause VIN not to work.

How to fix it

You can start by checking if it is a temporary issue. If so, you can refresh the page or try again after a certain period to see if the problem is solved. The next thing I would suggest is that clearing the browser’s cache and cookies can remove outdated or corrupted data being stored locally. It will help to make the VIN work again. You may also try using a different browser or device to check VIN info. And keep the software and plugs up to date.

Brand New or Too Old Vehicle

Suppose your vehicle is brand new or has recently been manufactured. Then, it may take some time for the VIN to be included in the system. So, when you enter VIN to the decoder tool, you may not find any data regarding the vehicle.

If you have an old vehicle, you should obtain its complete history, like its past owners, maintenance records, and any reported accidents or damage. Otherwise, the VIN decoder won’t show proper information or fail to work.

How to fix it

If you see the VIN is not included in the system (for new vehicles), wait accordingly to get the vehicle registered to the VIN database. You can ask the manufacturer for this purpose, and they will show you how to write VIN. For an old vehicle, you may contact a professional or an attorney in navigating the process.

Final Words

“Why is my VIN number not working?” – I guess you are not going to complain about it to your friend or family. After all, I have included all sorts of reasons for VIN failure.

In return, I request you to follow the reasons mentioned and ways to fix them quickly. Of course, an active vehicle identification number or VIN can save you, your money, and time.

Anyway, thanks for reading this long blog!

Leave a Comment