Tuesday, September 3, 2013
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What's In a Vin?
Your car's Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, is pretty important. It's more than a serial number. A better descriptor would be your vehicle's DNA.
That long string of numbers tells the entire origin of your vehicle. Give it to your insurance agent, consumer loan officer or plug it into a search box to reveal your car's unique identity and history.
If you're in the market for a new car, or merely curious about the one already in your garage, this article is for you.
Learn the history of a vehicle you're considering through a service like CARFAX or AutoCheck. The services will search their database to reveal important consumer information. Learn how many times the vehicle had been registered, whether it had been titled as salvaged or junked, lemon history, accident history, frame or structural damage, airbag deployment, recall information and more. All by providing the VIN.
Every car has its own 17-digit VIN. Find it on a plate attached to the upper left side of your dash. It's also on a doorjamb sticker on the driver's side.
These numbers tell the story of your vehicle.
The first three digits are the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). First is the nation of origin or final point of assembly. U.S. built cars begin with a 1, 4 or 5. Canada's start with a 2, Mexican built vehicles begin with a 3.
Certain countries are represented by letters instead. Japan is J, Korea is K, England is S and Germany W.
The second position identifies the manufacturer. A for Audi, B for BMW, F for Ford, G for General Motors, etc.
The third digit represents the vehicle type or manufacturing division. So a VIN on a Chevy passenger car would begin 1G1, a Chevy truck would start 1GC.
The next six digits comprise the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS). Positions four through eight describe your car. The model, body type, transmission type and engine code. The ninth digit is a check to detect invalid VINs.
The last eight digits are the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). Position 10 is the trickiest. It designates the model year. The single digit code rotates the numbers 1 through 9 and letters A through Y. Letters I, O, Q, U or Z are not used to avoid confusion with digits similar in appearance. Although, it could be said the system itself presents enough confusion that it may not matter.
The digit refers to the last number of the model year with the letter Y representing those made in 2000. The number 1 means it was made in 2001. So 2=02, 3=03, etc. In 2010, we resume the letter scheme with A. B=11, C=12, D=13 and so on. Since they only use one digit to express the model year, the format is recycled every 30 years. A car with model year code 2 could have been built in either 1972 or 2002. But there shouldn't be any problem telling the difference.
You'll identify the manufacturing plant where the vehicle was assembled in position 11. Each automaker has their own set of codes.
Finally, the last six digits are assigned to your car on the assembly line. They are the production sequence numbers.
Every car is unique. Just like the person who owns it.
Never, Ever Give Up
Henry Ford once said: "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Readers who weren't on vacation last week might recognize this as the Quotable printed in the August 27th edition of GCFlash.
Few people embrace this wisdom as deeply as endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. Her fifth attempt to swim the Florida Straits was a charm, having successfully completed the 110-mile journey from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida. At the tender young age of 64. She is the only person to have conquered this challenge without the protection of a shark cage.
Her four previous attempts were cut short due to a myriad of reasons. Boat troubles, storms, current flow and jellyfish stings all caused her get out of the water before reaching her destination.
Not this time. Nyad wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night when the jellyfish are more active. She knew the gear would make breathing more difficult and would slow her down.
Yet she proved to the world that nothing could really slow down this lady. The trip would be impossible without the protection. It may take her longer, but she would get there.
The Straits of Florida is a treacherous body of water connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It separates the Florida Keys island chain from its Communist neighbor to the south, Cuba.
The Gulf Stream originates in its current. For centuries, mariners used this route to carry trade ships returning home to Europe. The powerful current and west winds launched their ships into the Atlantic with enough propulsion to traverse the open seas.
Home to at least 687 species of marine life, the Florida Straits are known as the Atlantic's biological hotspot. It holds the richest concentration of marine life in the Atlantic Ocean according to a study conducted by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science.
Think of predators like sharks, stingrays and barracudas. Game fish as in swordfish, marlin or tarpon. Poisonous fish such as jellyfish, Portuguese Man of War and lionfish. The complex diversity of the Coral Reef.
Hundreds of Cuban refugees lose their lives in the Straits each year in their quest for a better life than they had in their homeland. The stories told by those who were successful are bone chilling.
It's not an easy swim. In fact, it's known as the most difficult swim on Earth. Several have tried, none had accomplished the feat.
Australian Susie Maroney made the journey in 1997, but had the protection of a shark cage that also helped pull her along with the current.
Nyad is no stranger to endurance swims. In 1975, she swam 28 miles around Manhattan island in under eight hours. She swam 102 miles from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979.
After four failed attempts to conquer the Florida Straits, she may well have been the only person left who believed she could do it. Jellyfish stings ended her most recent attempt in September 2012. She tried once in 1978 at age 28 but winds knocked her off course. Boat problems and storms forced her to stop short of her goal twice in 2011.
At 64 years of age, and determined to give it one last try, Nyad entered the history books yesterday. She triumphed over 110 miles of raging waters after 53 hours' non-stop swimming.
Her mantra was find a way.
Nothing about the journey was easy. Nothing was going to be pleasant. She knew going in she would be suffering through the whole thing.
So why would she do it?
Nyad summed it up today on a CBS This Morning interview: "... all of us suffer heartache. All of us suffer difficulties in our lives. And if you say to yourself 'find a way,' you'll make it through."
She had three messages for the crowd awaiting her arrival on a Key West beach. One is we should never give up; two is you are never too old to chase your dreams; and three is it looks like a solitary sport but it is a team.
It's about time we heard something positive in the daily news. It's about time we witnessed an inspiring event rather than hear political bickering and world crisis. It's about time we had a role model like Diana Nyad.
Tip of the Week
Labor Day signals the traditional end of summer across most of America. Now is the time to find bargains on outdoor furniture, barbecue grills and lawn mowers.
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