“I’m Jones 767, he is Jones 459 from Builth Wells and my oppo here is Jones 829 from Pontnewenydd. This is a Welsh regiment you see and with so may Joneses unless we use numbers we don’t know who’s who”. I paraphrase from that great film “Zulu”.

Numbers rule our lives and like all ex-servicemen I can recall my naval service number without thinking about it. Since then like most people I have a UK national insurance number, passport number, NIE number etc. etc. I guess when we lived in caves then there may well have been only one Ug, Nog or Inga, but with expansion came impersonalisation and how else would we be known to the authorities or their slaves, the bureaucrats? So like it or not numbers are important

Registration numbers and VIN

Our cars and other vehicles have a registration number; this number is allocated when a vehicle is first registered and is only changed if we obtain a personalised number in the UK or when we re-register the vehicle here in Spain. This number may indicate the age of the vehicle or in the case of Spain when it was re-born. The number can relate to any vehicle irrespective of whether it’s a motorbike, car or campervan. The number that defines a vehicle exactly is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This number contains vital information about the vehicle such as who made it, when, the engine type and so on. It is commonly referred to as the chassis number, because of where it is normally stamped

Where have you VIN?

So you present your car to the ITV station because it is being re-registered and as part of the process, the VIN is recorded. Not just recorded but a facsimile is taken, typically by rubbing a pencil across a piece of paper revealing the number, just like you may do on brass artefacts in a church. The number is then checked against the car documents to ensure a match. Most manufacturers are proud of the number and place it in a prominent place in the engine compartment, some like to keep it warm and snug under a strip of carpet, others hide it in the boot; the Americans normally do not bother, but the Japanese like theirs to self destruct by putting them behind a wheel arch where they are exposed to plenty of water and road rubbish thereby gradually disappearing. The world wide standard in VIN numbers now is for them to contain 17 digits, though older vehicles contain fewer and many Japanese vehicles only 12; just thought you may like to know that

If your VIN cannot be read or does not match the paperwork, your car will not pass the inspection. Ah, I hear my fellow anoraks crying, there is always one behind the windscreen. Yes, true, but this is on a small plate, normally riveted, and easy to change if the car has been stolen and the bad boys want to disguise its identity which is why so much attention is paid to it at the ITV

Mismatches can and do occur and there are various ways of dealing with this depending upon the problem, but as this is top secret classified information, I dare not reveal it or I may suffer a severe blow in the chassis!

European Type Approval

During the late 90’s a system evolved to identify batches of vehicles meeting European approved standards so that these vehicles could be accepted for registration in any EU country. In a similar way to the VIN it defines a vehicle. The number will look something like this e1397/270040* and shows amongst other things in which country it was approved and when, but more importantly gives the exact specification. For those of you who are resident of Spain, this number is critical if you wish to import or re-register a vehicle. So long as there have been no changes to the vehicle which may invalidate the Type Approval, the vehicle can be re-registered with no problem. Without this number or where the vehicle has been altered it may not be possible to re-register. Exceptions do apply, but these can be expensive to deal with

Incidentally, it does not matter where in the world the vehicle was made; it is whether it complies that is important. For the serious petrol heads or train spotters, this number is also know as homologation or in Spain contrasena

I can hear it now. “This bloke is full of crap; he doesn’t know what he is talking about. I re-registered my old banger in Spain and it definitely didn’t have this homo thingy”. Quite true, no not that I don’t know my axle from my ear hole, but where a car was pre-owned before moving to Spain it can be re-registered under the “Change of Residence” regime where the normal rule book is suspended so as not to prevent free movement of personal goods.


So how does this information help us? You may wish to check your VIN against the paperwork to ensure that they coincide so that you do not have a problem later on. Finding the VIN can be fun; you may want to involve the kids in this to retain your sanity; promise them a trip to McDonalds (other fast food restaurants are available!) if they can find it and check that it is in good nick as it will be checked during all ITV inspections. This is even more important if you are thinking about re-registering.

Homologation number? There is a space for this on your UK log book, but you will be lucky to see it as DVLA like to take short cuts, coffee breaks or just don’t bother. This number is found on the “weight plate” in the engine compartment or door pillar. If you are resident, check that any vehicle that you are considering importing has this or you may just waste a lot of money

Numbers are important. Aren’t we all number one?