A vehicle identification number (VIN) contains a lot of information about the automobile it is assigned to. The industry began standardising VINs in 1981 so that the sequencing would become more uniform. While there are still variations among manufacturers, what has evolved is a 17-character code that is uniquely assigned to every automobile. Each character in the code has a different meaning and can be decoded with a few simple keys.
Find your VIN. Check your paperwork; most vehicle identification numbers are easily located either on your vehicle's title/registration documents or on the vehicle itself. Look at your car's dashboard near the window; on the inside door jams of either front seat doors; on the steering column; on the machine pad on the front of the engine; on the inner wheel arch on the left side; or on the firewall of the vehicle.
Obtain a manufacturer decode key. Decoding keys are available from reducefleetcosts.com and amsoil.net. From this, you can see the information represented in your VIN. Depending on the year, make and model of the car and its components, the engine type may be encoded in any position of the vehicle description.
Verify the year, manufacturer and model of your vehicle. The second character in the VIN tells you the manufacturer, the third tells you the model and the tenth tells you the year, according to vehicleidentificationnumber.com. All of this information should match the description of your vehicle.
Look for the engine code in the proper position of your VIN. Usually the fourth through ninth characters make up the vehicle description and check digit section for most American automobiles. They identify the body type, engine type and braking system. The exceptions to this are imports such as Audi, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Scion, Toyota and Volkswagen. These manufacturers often list the engine codes directly on the engine block.
Check the code. Many engine descriptions through 2003 are listed at the "VIN View" and "VIN equipment codes" resource websites referenced. For other manufacturers, contact your auto's dealership service centre, an auto parts store or other authorised independent auto service centre representative with the engine code to obtain an exact description of your engine type.