How To Read Watercooled VW Chassis Numbers
When ordering new car parts, your registration will help shortlist the right bits, but it's the vehicle's VIN – or 'Vehicle Identification Number' that provides the key to unlocking precisely the right components for your pride and joy. Read on and we'll explain all you need to know about watercooled VW chassis numbers.
Should you be searching for chassis number information regarding an air-cooled Volkswagen you will find all you need to know in our blog "what does my aircooled VW chassis number mean?"
Where can I find my VW chassis number?
The easiest place to start if you have the paperwork for your vehicle is on your registration document (called a V5 in the UK). Both your chassis number and engine number should be listed here. Do double-check the engine number if your vehicle has had an engine swap though, as it might not have been officially updated.
On the car, you might find it on the VIN plate under the bonnet and riveted on the slam panel, like a Mk1 Golf, or on the vertical surface by the O/S bonnet hinge on the Mk2 Golf and Type 25 / T3 models have their chassis number plate on the O/S A-pillar as you open the door. On later models, you will also find your chassis number stamped into the metal in the scuttle area below the front windscreen, or visible through the bottom right corner of the windscreen below the wiper blade, where it is affixed on the inside.
The chassis number should also appear on a paper sticker that will be placed under the carpet in the boot or spare wheel well on passenger vehicles, or under the dashboard on a commercial vehicle like a T4 or T5. These stickers will also show what options for brakes and trim were fitted and what the original paint code for the external bodywork was. We published a blog all about Volkswagen PR codes here.
A copy of this sticker would typically also be affixed inside your service booklet if you still have it.
Decoding VW chassis numbers before 1980
From 1965, like most other manufacturers, Volkswagen had its own nine or ten digit chassis numbering system. You could tell the model designation from the first two numbers and the model year from the third. The chassis number on a Mk1 Golf, for example, would begin with the number '17'. Bear in mind, the year referred to here runs from August to July – so if the third digit is '6', it was made between August 1975 and July 1976, making it a ’76 model.
The thing was, there was no worldwide consistency, and with each manufacturer having its own, bespoke numbering system, and to be honest just having a string of numbers was pretty useless when it came to ordering bits.
Hence, after all the car-makers agreed, a new ISO standard was introduced in 1980 and adopted by all manufacturers. This 'new' 17-digit system is able to uniquely identify every vehicle, with each digit in the string meaning something.
Identifying Volkswagen chassis numbers from 1980
Volkswagen vehicles made from 1 August 1979 (the start of the 1980 model year), therefore, took on this new format of VIN – digits 1-3 being the World Manufacturer Identifier, digits 4-9 the Vehicle Descriptor, and the remainder being the Vehicle Identifier.
In practice, therefore, you can 'decode' the number as follows:
Digit 1: Where it was made – S-W denotes Europe, 1-5 is North America
Digit 2: The manufacturer – for VW this is usually 'V'
Digit 3: Generally, the vehicle type – for VW cars, it's 'W', for commercials '1' for bus and van models they used '2'.
The VDS - 'Vehicle Descriptor Section'
Next, is the vehicle type with useful info about the model platform and body style. Digits 4, 5, 6, and 9 are all considered 'fill-in' digits, with 'ZZZ' being most often used for VWs sold in Europe. Those aware of the Volkswagen model type number system, as found on the aircooled models will spot the same reference style in place of digits 7 and 8. A few examples of these are '17' for the Mk1 Golf, '19' for the Mk2 Golf, '7H' for T5 Transporter, '70' for T4 Vans and pick-ups, and '86' for the early Polo. Interestingly some of these numbers did get recycled and Type 86 was also assigned to a 4-wheel drive prototype used during WW2. Hopefully, you'll be able to spot the difference when you come to check!
Digit 4: Z - fill in digit.
Digit 5: Z - fill in digit.
Digit 6: Z - fill in digit.
Digit 7 & 8: The VW type designation given to your vehicle.
Digit 9: Z - fill in digit.
What is my VW model type?
We gave a few examples of the VW model types above, but if you are curious as to what your vehicle designation code is we've compiled a useful chart to cross reference.
|Vehicle||Model Type||Vehicle||Model Type|
|Beetle (Brazilian, Mexican, Nigerian)||11||Arteon||3H|
|Scirocco Mk3||13||Corrado (early)||50|
|Caddy Mk1 (European Golf 1 pickup)||14||Scirocco Mk1 / Mk2||53|
|Golf Mk1 Cabriolet (and 1980 Beetle cab)||15||Golf and Jetta Mk6||5K|
|Jetta Mk1 and early Mk2 Jetta||16||Golf Plus||5M|
|Beetle (2012-on)||16||Tiguan Mk1 / Mk2||5N|
|Golf / Rabbit Mk1||17||Fox (European model)||5Z|
|Golf Mk2 (early models)||19||Polo Classic / Variant||6K|
|New Beetle (US market)||1C||Polo Mk3||6N|
|Golf Mk3 Cabriolet||1E||Polo Mk5||6R|
|Golf Mk2 and Jetta Mk2 (late models)||1G||T4 Transporter and Pickup||70|
|Golf Mk3 and Vento / Jetta Mk3||1H||Taro||74|
|Golf and Bora / Jetta Mk4||1J||T5 Transporter / T6.1 Transporter||7H|
|Golf and Jetta Mk5/Mk6||1K||T6 Transporter||7J|
|New Beetle Cabriolet||1Y||Sharan||7M|
|T25 / T3 Transporter Single/Double Cab Pickup||24||Touareg Mk2||7P|
|T25 / T3 Transporter Van, Kombi, Bus, Caravelle||25||Polo Mk1 / Mk2 including Derby||86|
|LT Transporter Mk1||28||Polo Coupe||87|
|LT Transporter Mk2||2D||New Beetle||9C|
|Crafter Mk1||2E||Caddy Mk2||9K|
|Caddy, Caddy Maxi Mk3||2K||Caddy Mk2 Pickup||9U|
|Fox (US model ex-Brazil)||30||T-Roc||A1|
|Santana Sedan||32||Golf Mk7||AU|
|Passat Mk2 Variant||33||Polo Mk6||AW|
|Passat Mk3 / Mk4||3A||T-Cross||C1|
|Passat Mk5||3B||Golf Mk8||CD|
|Passat Mk6 / Mk7 / Mk8 / CC||3C||Caddy Mk4||SK|
What model year is my VW?
The final set of digits in the chassis number put more of a spotlight on the specifics, such as the model year, the factory where it was built, and of course the unique serial number for that actual vehicle.
Digit 10: Model year. As before, 'MY' relates to the year from 1 August to 31 July, running sequentially starting with 'A' from 1980, 'B' for 1981 and so on... Simple, eh? Well, not quite because for some reason I, Q, U, Z and 0 are not used! Oh, and to confuse further, numbers and letters are used alternately (ie. A being 1980 and also 2010).
|Model Year (MY)||Identification Letter / Digit||Model Year (MY)||Identification Letter / Digit|
|1997||V||2015||F (and so on...)|
Which factory was my VW built in?
The eleventh digit in your chassis number reveals the place where the vehicle was built. You can see from the list, VW clearly made an attempt to assign initials that related to the factory name, but sadly it wasn't always the case. And when we thought we'd got over the confusion over build dates, there's an added element of uncertainty because some of the initials are duplicated. 'V' for example, could mean either Westmoreland (USA) or Palmela in Portugal. That said, a quick look at the first digit which specifies the region should help clarify things.
|Factory Name and Region||Identification Letter / Digit||Factory Name and Region||Identification Letter / Digit|
|Ingolstadt, Germany||A||Taubaté, Brazil||T|
|Brussels, Belgium||B||Uitenhage, South Africa||U|
|Chattanooga, USA||C||Westmoreland, USA (up to 1994)||V|
|Bratislava, Slovakia||D||Palmela, Portugal (from 1994)||V|
|Emden, Germany||E||Wolfsburg, Germany||W|
|Ipiranga / Resende, Brazil||F||Poznan, Poland||X|
|Graz, Austria||G||Pamplona, Spain||Y|
|Hanover, Germany||H||Győr, Hungary||1|
|Osnabrück, Germany||K||Anting, China||2|
|Lagos, Nigeria||L||Changchun, China||3|
|Puebla, Mexico||M||Curitiba, Brazil||4|
|Neckarsulm, Germany||N||Düsseldorf, Germany (Mercedes-Benz)||6|
|Mosel, Germany||P||Ludwigsfelde, Germany (Mercedes-Benz)||7|
|Anchieta, Brazil||P (yes, also a P)||Dresden, Germany||8|
|Martorell, Spain||R||General Pacheco, Argentina||8|
|Salzgitter, Germany||S||Wrzesnia, Poland||9|
|Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (up to 1994)||T|
The unique serial number
Occupying Digits 12-17 is the vehicle's unique serial number, starting with 000001. Now, we're not sure what would happen if production of a particular model from the same factory exceeded 999,999 in a single year but we guess despite Volkswagen's massive popularity and manufacturing ability that's never likely to happen!
Hopefully this article has helped you to understand what your watercooled VW chassis number means, and in return allowed you to order the correct parts, first time!
Should you have any questions, please post below, or drop our tech team an email email@example.com and they will be happy to assit.