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SAAB VIN codes explained

Until 1981, there was no common convention in force among vehicle manufacturers for stamping frame numbers on their products. This not only hampered accurate vehicle identification for government agencies, particularly when dealing with imports but reduced the success rate of vehicle recall campaigns. The new global system introduced in 1981 addressed these problems by introducing a standardized 17 digit number for general application to motor cars, mpvs (multipurpose passenger vehicles), trucks and buses. The system also included trailers and even trailer kits, motorcycles and vehicles that were incomplete (presumably vehicles supplied in knock down kit form). In order to cut down on transcription and and reporting errors, 17 character VINs do not use the letters O, Q or I.

The first 3 digits of a standard VIN code denote country of origin and manufacturer code, so SAAB cars tend to have a VIN that starts YS3.  Although that still leaves 14 characters to decipher, the task becomes much easier with the realisation that characters 12-17 are reserved for the vehicle serial number.  This leaves the remaining characters in positions four to eight for the VDS (vehicle descriptor section).

The VDS characters are used by makers to define model characteristics.  SAAB assign the following codes for VIN characters in positions 4-8:


In the accordion below, click the relevant tab header to display information about the model concerned:

SAAB 9-5 cars built between 1997-2008 (SAAB product code 9600)
E = 9-5
4 = 4 door saloon/5 = 5 door estate
5 = 5 speed manual/ 8 = automatic
A = 2.3 T
C = 2.Ot
E = 2.3t
G = 2.3 HOT
Z = 3.0TiD
W = 1.9 TiD

SAAB 9000

C = 9000
4 = 4 door saloon/5 = 5 door hatchback/6 = 5 door CS
5 = 5 speed manual/8 = automatic
B = 2.3i
J = 2.0i
M = 2.3 turbo
N = 2.0 turbo
P = 2.0 LPT
R = 2.3 Turbo Aero
U = 2.3 LPT
T = 2.0 turbo
W = 3.0 V6

A = 900
3 = 3 door/5 = 5 door/7 = convertible
5 = 5 speed manual/8 = automatic
B = 2.3i
J = 2.0i
N = 2.0 turbo
V = 2.5 V6
A = 2.0i
SAAB 9-3
Cars built between 1998-2003 (SAAB product code 9400)
E = 9-3
3 = 3 door/5 = 5 door/7 = convertible
5 = 5 speed manual/8 = automatic
C = 2.0 LPT
D = 2.2 TiD
H = 2.0 turbo
K = 2.0 Aero HOT
G = 2.3 turbo Viggen
SAAB 9-3 Sports Saloon
Cars built between 2003-2008 (SAAB product code 9440)
F = 9-3
4 = 4 door/5 = 5 door estate/7 = convertible
1 = 6 speed automatic/5 = 5 speed manual/6 = 6 speed manual/9= 5 speed auto
B = 1.8i
F = 1.9t
S = 2.0t
Y = 2..0 Turbo
U = 2.8t V6
V = 1.9 Diesel, 8 valve
W = 1.9 Diesel, 16 valve


Further information concerning VIN tag information

VIN tags provide more information than you might think - see text for explanantion

Recently, the author was contacted by a reader in the USA concerning the meaning of the 6 characters that appear beneath the VIN on the VIN plate that is fastened to the top of the front nearside wing. At first, it was thought that these may have been security related to verify the authenticity of the tag, perhaps using a checksum but this is incorrect.

The example (left), can be decoded quite simply by the simple expedient of running the VIN through the SAAB Electronic Parts Catalogue (EPC) but the information that is circled in yellow is harder to decode but fascinating for owners and enthusiasts.

To decode a VIN using EPC, click on the Tools menu, then select Vehicle Information and type in the number (the number automatically progresses to the second text box) and press the Decode button.

The VIN can be decoded using the SAAB Electronic Parts Catalogue (EPC) via the Tools menu if you select the Vehicle Information option

In the photo (left), the author has entered details of his 2003 SAAB 9-5 Aero. Reassuringly, the data provided by EPC confirms this.

The EPC, however, does not divulge details of the relevance of the six groups of characters that appear beneath the VIN on the VIN plate.

Dealing with the EPC and SAAB Workshop Information Systems isn't an arcane art but sometimes it mirrors the caption that used to accompany the cult sci-ffi series X files. ' The caption The truth is out there, somewhere' when dealing with SAAB software becomes 'what you're looking for IS in here, somewhere'. Logically, the information we need to understand the rest of the VIN plate should appear in the written overview of the VIN page...

Only it doesn't! What we seek actually appears in the section dealing with suspension. The EPC can be a bit quirky too: for instance, should you be seeking a part number for a screen washer jet for the front windshield, 'jet' would not be the search term you would enter in the text search box. Maybe something is lost in the translation but in SAAB speak, a jet for the washer system is a... nozzle!

Character position Refers to Our car Interpretation (refer to EPC to decode)
1 Front road spring GA Compression spring orange/blue, sport chassis 2002-2005
2 Rear road spring DY Spring, white/blue sport chassis (4 dr) 2002-2005
3 Front anti-roll bar J Sport chassis, 2002-2005 NLS superceded to 12761909
4 Rear anti-roll bar J Sport chassis, white 2002-2009
5 Front strut rating 6 Spring strut blue, sport chassis NLS superceded to 5336946
6 Rear damper rating BD Shock absorber kit, sport chassis 2002-2005


From the EPC, it is clear that a number of different codes exist across different models and specification varies according to year. Readers wanting their VIN codes interpreted are welcome to e-mail the author, who will endeavour to reply within 48hrs.

Anorak fact: the VIN plate is one of few labels that cannot be purchsed as a spare part. VIN tags can be replaced but are available only on application to franchised dealerships. Subject to meeting security criteria, tags can be supplied by a dedicated unit in Nykoping, Sweden.












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