What is VIN Etching?

Mary McMahon

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etching is a technique which is used to deter car thieves by making a car less appealing to steal. It involves etching the VIN into the windows of the car, making the car easier to identify and making it harder to take the car apart and sell it for parts. In addition to deterring thieves, VIN etching can also aid in vehicle recovery. For both of these reasons, the practice is recommended by many law enforcement organizations.

VIN etching makes a vehicle less appealing to thieves.
VIN etching makes a vehicle less appealing to thieves.

The VIN is already included in many locations on a vehicle, including the engine, the dashboard, and the door plate. VINs are installed by the manufacturer and they are used to uniquely identify a vehicle for a variety of purposes, from ensuring that the right part is ordered for repair to signing up for car insurance. As a general rule, car parts which include a VIN are harder to sell, because people often assume that they are stolen, and as a result, a car which has been subjected to VIN etching will be less valuable in the eyes of thieves.

Auto glass companies can provide this service for their customers, and some public service organizations also offer free VIN etching in their communities. People may be able to take their cars to a police station, chamber of commerce, or similar organization on a set day to receive free etching from professionals who specialize in glass etching. These events are usually well advertised, and people can also organize them; members of a Neighborhood Watch, for example, might opt to hold a VIN etching session to get people involved in the group while improving neighborhood safety.

It is also possible to obtain etching kits which can be used at home. These kits include a stencil and the acidic paste needed to etch the glass, and they are usually very affordable. People should be careful when using a home etching kit, as the acid can be very dangerous: if it's designed to eat through glass, imagine what it can do to the body! These kits vary in quality, and it is a good idea to practice with a piece of scrap glass such as a microscope slide before starting to etch a car.

Cars which have been subjected to VIN etching may be eligible for lower insurance premiums. Many insurers like to actively encourage their customers to add anti-theft devices and deterrents to their vehicles by lowering premiums when customers take these measures. If the car is stolen, the etched parts can aid in vehicle recovery as well, which makes the practice very appealing to insurers.

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Discussion Comments


I have never heard about this before, but I bet it really would work pretty well in some areas. I live in a large city but don't actually have a car. If I did, though, I would try this- while it might not keep me from being robbed, VIN window etching really would help people identify the car if it was reported as missing.


A personal note. I'm pretty smart, but I'm very curious. It's a rare posting that I don't click on to the enlarged version to read.

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