- we spotted this pretty amusing vehicle identification number (vin) on our long-term honda cr-v hybrid.
- that led us to wonder, did honda do that for fun or was it an accident? (honda said it was the latter).
- each digit in a vin signifies something, and here's our guide to what it all means.
farts are funny. a car's 17-character vehicle identification number (vin) is typically anything but. undaunted by this normally overlooked chasm in comedy, the honda cr-v hybrid brings the two together by sneaking "fart" into its vin. we first noticed this a few months ago. when we were done laughing—is it funnier because it's a hybrid?—we wondered if honda did this on purpose, and if there's any oversight preventing more nefarious four-letter words from infiltrating a vin.
since the 1981 model year, automakers have been required to follow the 17-character format below. the code of federal regulations (cfr) 565.13 and 565.15 specify, among many, many other excruciating details, that the characters on a vin must be at least 4 millimeters tall and in a sans-serif font. another fun fact: the letters 'i,' 'o,' and 'q' are never used in a vin, to avoid confusion with '1's and '0's. those sections of the regulation also define what goes in each position in a vin. using our long-term cr-v hybrid as an example, here's what those characters mean:
the first three characters are the "world manufacturer identifier," which is assigned by the engineering group sae international and identifies the country, automaker, and sometimes the plant in which the vehicle is built. in this case, honda says it uses "7fa" for vehicles built in its indiana plant. the country can often be identified by the first digit (1, 4, or 5 = u.s.; 2 = canada; 3 = mexico; j = japan; l = china; s = united kingdom, w = germany; z = italy). our cr-v was built in the u.s., but that isn't always the case for a vehicle with a leading '7'.
characters four through eight are specific to the automaker and typically include vehicle details such as the powertrain and body style.
the ninth spot is a check digit that ensures the vin is valid, which helps insure against fraud. it's calculated by a formula developed by the u.s. department of transportation.
the 10th digit indicates the model year. it repeats every 30 years (e.g., k = 1989 or 2019, l = 1990 or 2020, m = 1991 or 2021).
the 11th character indicates the plant in which the vehicle was built, with each automaker maintaining its own set of plant codes.
the last six digits are a sequential number identifying a specific vehicle and its position in the production run. with six digits, an automaker would need to build a million examples in a model year to run out of space. some low-volume vehicles instead use the first three of these digits to identify their maker. in that case, they don't get a unique world manufacturer identifier from the sae, and the fact that it will be using these later characters to identify the automaker is signaled by a '9' in the third spot of their vin.
a honda spokesperson says the cr-v's barking-spider reference was not intentional. and the national highway traffic safety administration (nhtsa), the agency responsible for managing vin submittals, confirmed that it's up to the automaker to police any untoward messages found in its own identification numbers.
while we were putting this story together, jalopnik happened on a particular cr-v hybrid vin with even more tucked into it.
in the cr-v's case, the whole thing was a happy accident, and what turns out to be an incredibly complicated, multi-organizational fart joke—teed up by the sae's "7fa" world manufacturer identifier and brought home by honda's "rt6" designation for the cr-v hybrid. you're welcome, world.