VIN Verifications and the CHP (California Highway Patrol)
As mentioned in my other blogs, outside of the DMV & licensed VIN verifiers like myself, the next group of people that can verify your vehicle are peace officers, more specifically, the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The REG 31 form indicates that a DMV employee, licensed VIN verifier, or peace officer can verify your vehicle – so if you have a cop buddy, they can do a VIN verification for you as well – however, sometimes they don’t know how to do it and it results in you having to re-do it (I’ve seen it happen several times before).
In my experience, and as the DMV’s & CHP’s website indicates, when you are referred to the CHP for a VIN verification it is for a few of the following reasons:
  • Your vehicle falls into a category of vehicles that have “a high probability of the vehicle having identification numbers (VIN) switched or being used for stolen parts” – this is directly from the CHP’s website.
  • Your vehicle is salvage/junked.
  • You are missing your Federal Certification Label and there is no primary VIN
  • Motorcycles that had previously been registered in CA but fell off of the DMV system due to inactivity or a motorcycle that is having an engine swap.

In essence the VIN verifications the CHP conduct involve more scrutiny – they are not simply attempting to locate a VIN – but what they are trying to determine is if there is evidence of tampering, altering or swapping of VINs. The DMV can conduct these verifications as well, however, if they feel the need to, they will refer you to the CHP for a more in depth inspection. This is why there are vehicles which licensed VIN verifiers like myself are PROHIBITED from verifying vehicles that fall into the categories listed above. It is also mentioned on the CHP’s website that local CHP and DMV offices discuss and determine what type of vehicle will AUTOMATICALLY be referred to the CHP – these are your newer Toyotas, Hondas and maybe even Nissans – late model vehicles that have been salvaged or junked.
You will notice that with the reasons I have listed above there is the potential of parts being swapped out or VINs to be re-assigned to other vehicles. This is one of the “tricks” that car thieves use – they steal a car from out of state and have the VIN tags from a junked or salvaged vehicle re-assigned to the stolen vehicle. To the un-trained eye this vehicle will pass the inspection, however, to the trained eye, they would’ve stopped the registration of a stolen vehicle. It is good to see that the DMV and the CHP have mechanisms in place to halt and deter theft. The CHP has a few other programs that are un-related to VIN verifications, however, they are for the public good – such as the random inspections of heavy commercial vehicles.
When a customer comes into my office with paperwork indicating that it was referred to the CHP I automatically advise the customer to not look for alternatives to the CHP because if it was referred there it was for a reason. However, I will admit that sometimes the DMV refers to the CHP “just because”. This is an issue because getting the CHP to verify your vehicle requires an appointment, and to get an appointment at your average CHP goes weeks out, unless you are lucky, or have a “copy buddy”. Also, the requirements that the CHP has are not like one for a licensed VIN verifier or DMV tech, they will sometimes require that you have receipts & documentation to substantiate the claims that are being made to ensure that no fraud is being committed and no stolen parts are being used.

As a consumer, after learning these things about CHP verifications – I will strongly advise the following: do your due diligence. If you are purchasing a vehicle from a “curbstoner” – an unlicensed car dealer/car flipper – dudes that sell cars off of Craigslist – and you see a “salvage certificate” – do your due diligence. I strongly advise that you stay away from “curbstoners”, however, the reality is that people will continue to buy from them. Contact a registration service like ours and come in with the paperwork before you commit to buying; let us verify that you have the proper paperwork. Also, insist that the inspection be done prior to the sale being complete. Make certain that the paperwork burden is complete prior to you buying the vehicle. 


One of the things that I have wanted to write about for months now is a common issue or problem if you want to call it, with permanent trailers & coach trailers. What problem am I talking about? Well, to sum it up very simply it is this: trailer manufacturers are cheap! Exactly what do I mean? I have been to a few trailer manufacturers and what I have observed is that they do not spend the extra money to stamp the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the frame. Stamping the VIN on the frame is not the only way to put the VIN on the frame, you can also weld a pre-stamped metal plate, or, if you want to do like some big trailer manufacturers just stamp the last 6 digits of the VIN.
What do most trailer companies do to put the VIN on a trailer? They use a label that is adhered with some sort of adhesive. The problem with this is that the exposure to sun, dirt & water will destroy the label over time. It has been the case with several of my customers that they have a really faded label – so much so that at times it is impossible for me to do the VIN verification. Sometimes I have to look at the label at the right angle to be able to see the VIN. Furthermore, anyone can simply take a blade, metal brush, and some Goof-off or other type of dissolvent and take that sticker right off.
Now you may be wondering why this has been something I’ve wanted to write about for so long. The number 1 reason is for fraud & theft prevention. When you make it easy for a thief to swap or remove VINs you make it easy for them to re-register the trailer without detection by law enforcement or fellow VIN verifiers. Most trailers don’t stand out too much so it is easy for someone to steal your trailer and drive away with little to no problem – because most trailers look alike!
Another reason I think this issue needs to be better addressed by trailer companies is that an owner of a trailer can be the owner for several years and when they decide to sell it off to a new buyer the sale may not go through because the VIN is not visible – making buyers reluctant to buy. It is not an issue that many owners of trailers think of right away because they are not thinking about selling it right away, but it is something to keep in mind – always think of what may happen.
Just recently I verified a $100,000 trailer – YES - $100,000 car hauler for a customer that owns a race team – and I could not locate the VIN – I had to contact the manufacturer who told me that the VIN is underneath the trailer, on a metal rail, and that not all of the VIN was there, it was only partial. Think about that for one second: you have a $100,000 trailer that can easily be stolen and re-titled in another state or country by simply removing the Federal Label and stamping a VIN on it. It is too easy – and trailer companies need to wake up to this problem.
Another customer of mine who owns a janitorial business had his trailer taken from right in front of his house - $25,000 worth of equipment was stolen along with the trailer itself. A stamped VIN all over the trailer would not have prevented this crime, however, it certainly wouldn’t make it easier for the criminal to re-register the trailer.
What should your take aways from this be? Well, outside of my blog I have not heard anyone else address this issue. There is no public voice that is putting pressure on the trailer manufacturers and also this isn’t a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed. However, if you are reading this article, and you own a trailer – protect your assets. Take the necessary precautions to prevent theft and make it harder on the criminal. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Look for a company that does metal etching: you can order a few metal plates made for you with your VIN number on it and have a welder weld them to your trailer. I would suggest you get ridiculous with it and make one or two of the metal VIN tags large and have a few more welded around the trailer’s metal frame.
  • Use a clear silicone waterproof sealant on your Federal Label: spray something like Loctite or any other similar product to protect the VERY important Federal Label. This label is important and you cannot simply request a duplicate for it. With water and the sun hitting it, direct exposure to the elements will drastically reduce its lifespan.
  • Make heavy duty, industrial strength stickers for your trailer: if you want to take another approach, go ahead and have stickers made – but make sure that they are heavy duty and are capable to withstand the elements and make sure that they are very hard to remove!
  • Have a painter paint your face on your trailer – now this last one will probably ensure that no one steals your trailer – ever – but I’m just kidding! J
  • If you have any questions or suggestions please contact me. If you need a VIN verification done on your permanent trailer, coach trailer or camp trailer – give me a call and I will get it done!