By ANGIE HICKS OF ANGIE’S LIST, Published: Monday, May. 26, 2014 – 5:11 am
As long as you don’t pay too much to get it done, having your vehicle’s identification number etched on its windshield and windows isn’t a bad idea. It might prompt would-be auto thieves to bypass your vehicle and could get you a discount on your car insurance premium, say top-rated auto experts.
In researching this topic, including conducting interviews with top-rated auto glass experts, insurance providers and even a member of a community police department’s crime prevention unit, our team found general support for the concept of etching a vehicle’s unique serial number on all major windows.
The number, known as the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, contains a one-and-only 17-character code. Carmakers started using VINs in the 1950s; in 1981 they were required and standardized.
On most vehicles, the VIN is stamped or engraved onto a metal plate attached to the lower left area of the dashboard. The number provides information about the vehicle’s make, model and year, and is a tool for identifying a stolen vehicle. However, thieves can grind down or replace a VIN plate.
Proponents of VIN etching say that having the number on the windshield and windows makes a car less attractive to a thief who wants to sell it or its parts but doesn’t want the trouble and expense of replacing windows.
You can buy a VIN etching kit for a relatively low price, from around $15 to $50. Here’s how a do- it-yourself kit typically works: You order stencils on which your VIN is printed, and apply the stencil to the glass. After applying etching cream, which contains ammonium bifluoride, you wait for a designated time before removing the stencil, leaving the number marked on the window.
Some law enforcement and insurance agencies provide VIN etching or schedule periodic etching events in which the service is free or priced affordably. Auto dealerships may also provide the service, though you may face significantly higher costs.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says at least 43 percent of auto insurers offer premium discounts for vehicles with antitheft devices, including window ID systems. Check with your insurance agent or company to find out if VIN etching makes you eligible for a discount.