which engine does my car have

Which Engine Does My Car Have

Determining which engine your car has is important for using proper fuel and oil, diagnosing problems, assisting repairs, shopping for compatible parts, and understanding performance capabilities.

This guide explains basic ways to identify your engine and provides an overview of common configurations, locations, and specifications. We’ll look at finding details in owner’s manuals, under the hood, and from vehicle identification numbers (VINs).

Check Owner’s Manual

The easiest way to find your engine type is checking your owner’s manual or documentation from the vehicle purchase. It typically provides:

  • Engine type like inline 4-cylinder or V6
  • Displacement in liters like 2.5L
  • Fuel type such as gasoline or diesel
  • Horsepower and torque specifications
  • Engine ID code used by the manufacturer
  • Additional specifications like valvetrain and aspiration
Check Owner's Manual

Check Paperwork

The owner’s manual, Monroney sticker, registration, insurance documents or other paperwork associated with your vehicle may list the engine type. For older cars, decoding the VIN through paperwork may be limited but owners manuals often have detailed engine info.

Locating Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN):

Your car’s unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) contains keys clues about your vehicle’s specifications and is essential for identifying the engine type. The VIN is a 17-character code typically located on a placard on the lower corner of the

dashboard on the driver’s side, visible through the windshield. It can also often be found on the inner driver’s side door jamb. The VIN is stamped on a metal tag and serves as your car’s fingerprint, containing information about the vehicle year, make,

model, engine type, and other production details. Consult your registration paperwork or car manual to find the VIN, then use it as the starting point for decoding details about your engine. The VIN lets you accurately match your car to its factory specifications.

Locating Your Vehicle Identification Number (Vin):
Locating Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN):

Visually Inspect Engine Bay

Configuration such as inline 4-cylinder or V6. Count spark plug wires to determine cylinder number. Location including transverse, longitudinal, front, rear or mid-mounted. Single or double cylinder heads. Double overhead cam engines have two heads.

Badges, labels or cast logos identifying engine family or fuel type. Non-factory additions like turbochargers indicating modifications. Inspecting may reveal wear through leaks, noises or corrosion to help diagnose issues. Avoid extremely hot parts while looking.

Deciphering Your Car’s VIN

Once you locate your 17-character VIN, you can decode it to learn about your car’s details:

  • Write down the full VIN, including any letters and numbers. The first digit indicates the country where your car was manufactured. “1” or “4” are common, signifying USA.
  • Digits 2-3 reveal the manufacturer. Each automaker is assigned codes. “GM” = General Motors. The vehicle type is shown in digit 4. For example, “C” represents a coupe body style.
  • Digits 5-7 provide the model and platform information. This varies by automaker. The eighth digit shows the engine type. “G” indicates a gasoline 6-cylinder engine as one possibility.
  • Digits 9-17 identify the model year, factory, and production sequence of your specific vehicle. Cross-check your VIN findings using free online VIN decoders to confirm details like year, make, model and engine type.

Decoding your VIN by hand takes time but reveals a wealth of knowledge about your car, including the all-important engine specifications. Consult online VIN look-up tools to quickly supplement your findings.

Deciphering Your Car's Vin
Deciphering Your Car’s VIN

Examine Vehicle Identification Number

A VIN is a unique serial number assigned for identification and registration. Decoding it can provide engine details:

  • Model year narrowing search to available options
  • Manufacturer digits identifying who built it
  • Attributes revealing engine type, body style, factory, etc.
  • Online VIN decoders providing full reports

Consult parts stores for help decoding or use free websites. VIN data may be limited on older vehicles.

online resources

VIN Decoders

  • VinDecoderz.com – Free VIN lookup to get full vehicle history report including engine details. Just enter your 17-digit VIN.
  • DMV.org – Allows VIN decoding to extract engine type, year, make and model.
  • NHTSA.gov – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a VIN decoder tool.

Manufacturer Tools

  • Toyota.com – Toyota’s VIN lookup shares specs like engine type, transmission, drivetrain, and more.
  • BMWUSA.com – BMW’s VIN decoder provides detailed engine configuration data.


  • Decode This! – Free app for iOS and Android decodes VIN numbers. Extensive vehicle data including engine type.
  • My Car Specs – Mobile VIN decoder app providing engine, transmission, model, and other specs.

Online resources like VIN decoders, manufacturer tools, and mobile apps provide quick and easy ways to uncover your car’s engine details simply by inputting your unique VIN or other identifiers.

Examine Vehicle Identification Number
Examine Vehicle Identification Number

Common engine types

Gasoline – The predominant engine type, gasoline engines run on petrol fuel. Variants include inline 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder for efficiency, V6 and V8 for more power. Gas engines spark a fuel/air mixture with plugs.

Diesel – Diesel engines ignite fuel via compression. They offer high torque but require pricier diesel fuel. Mostly used in trucks and SUVs. Diesels are more efficient than gas engines.

Hybrid – Hybrid powertrains combine a gasoline engine with one or more electric motors. This allows the gas engine to run more efficiently. Toyota Prius is a popular hybrid.

Electric – Electric vehicles use only electric motor(s) powered by battery packs. No gasoline engine. Tesla Models S, 3, X and Y are popular electric vehicles.

In summary, key differences come down to power source (gasoline vs. diesel vs. electricity), combustion method (spark plugs vs. compression ignition), torque delivery, efficiency, fuel type used, and environmental impact.

Common Engine Types
Common engine types

Manufacturer Codes

Look for identifying codes and markings:

GM uses family codes and RPO codes with stickers and casting marks. Ford has alphanumeric codes cast into blocks along with logos. Chrysler “Hemi” indicates their special V8 design.

Honda uses letter and digit codes. May see “VTEC” for variable cam timing. Toyota uses numeric family codes or abbreviated names. VW/Audi uses letters and numbers along with casting codes.

engine size and configuration

Engine Size (Displacement)

Engine size is measured in liters (L) or cubic centimeters (cc). This refers to the total volume of the engine’s cylinders. Larger displacement generally provides more power but lower fuel efficiency.

A big 6.2L V8 has more power than a 1.5L inline 4-cylinder. Smaller engines offer better fuel economy but less torque and horsepower. Drivetrain is matched to engine size.

Engine Configuration

Layout options include inline, V, boxer, rotary. Inline has cylinders in a row, V has two angled banks. Number of cylinders also varies – 4, 6, 8, 10, 12. More cylinders typically allow bigger displacement.

Smoothness and power differs. Inline 6 is smooth while V8 layout balances power and smoothness. Some configurations like boxer provide a flatter profile but similar cylinders as an inline.

In summary, optimizing both performance and efficiency requires matching engine size and configuration to the vehicle’s powertrain needs and chassis dynamics. Larger engines suit trucks while smaller ones work for sedans.

engine size and configuration

benefits of knowing your car’s engine


Follow recommended maintenance schedules and procedures specific to your engine. This prevents premature wear. Use the proper oil type and viscosity grade to protect your engine.

The wrong oil can cause damage. Install the correct replacement parts and components designed for your engine. Improper parts don’t fit right.

Fuel Choices

Choose fuel octane ratings that match what your engine needs. Higher performance engines need higher octane. Know if your engine can use alternate fuels like E85 flex-fuel or diesel when applicable. The wrong fuel damages the engine.


Match aftermarket parts and modifications to work with your specific engine. Incorrect parts won’t provide benefits. Gauge how much you can safely tune or modify the engine without risking damage. Every engine has limits.

Knowing your engine type empowers you to properly maintain it, feed it the right fuels, and customize it to meet your needs. This optimizes performance and longevity.

Benefits Of Knowing Your Car's Engine
benefits of knowing your car’s engine

seek professional help

If you’ve purchased a used vehicle without complete service records or documentation, a mechanics can inspect and determine the engine type. For older or classic vehicles, the engine may have been swapped or modified from factory specifications.

A professional inspection can provide definitive identification in these cases. If the engine has aftermarket modifications or components added, the visual clues may be obscured. A mechanic can sort out what’s stock and what’s custom.

If you have limited mechanical knowledge or ability to safely inspect the engine yourself, it’s best to have a professional take a look. Dealership technicians specialize in your vehicle’s make and model and have proprietary tools and software to identify engines.

Seeking professional assistance can help accurately identify engines that are obscured by missing paperwork, age, modifications or complexity. With their experience and the right tools, mechanics can pinpoint the specifications.


Will my VIN number tell me what engine I have?

The VIN number contains codes that can identify the type of engine. Specifically, the 8th digit in the VIN indicates the engine type (e.g. V6, V8, I4). Using a VIN decoder, you can find out your engine type based on this digit. However, the VIN alone does not specify the exact engine size.

How do you find out your engine size using the VIN?

To find out the engine size using the VIN, you need to look at the 4th through 8th digits. This set of digits provides the engine displacement and number of cylinders. With a VIN decoder, you can use these digits to accurately determine the size of the engine in liters or cubic centimeters.

Where do I need to look, to accurately tell someone what size engine my car has?

To tell someone the engine size, you need to look at the VIN and decode the 4th through 8th digits. There are many free VIN decoders online that will provide the engine size after you input your full VIN. This will give you the precise engine displacement.

What is my engine size using my VIN number?

The VIN can be used to determine engine size, but a VIN decoder must be used. The 4th through 8th digits encode the displacement which must be decoded to get the exact engine size in liters.

What does a 1.2 litre engine mean?

A 1.2 liter engine is a relatively small engine displacement size. It indicates the total volume of all the engine cylinders is 1.2 liters. Smaller engine sizes like this are usually more fuel efficient but less powerful.

What does a 3.0L V6 engine mean?

A 3.0L V6 refers to a V6 engine with a displacement of 3.0 liters. The V6 means it has 6 cylinders arranged in a “V” configuration. The 3.0L indicates the total combined displacement of the 6 cylinders is 3.0 liters. This is a larger, more powerful engine.


To determine which specific engine your car has, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) must be referenced. While the VIN provides information about the engine type, such as inline 4-cylinder or V6, it does not identify the exact engine model.

The VIN engine codes must be decoded using a VIN decoder tool, which will specify details like the displacement, horsepower, and other characteristics. However, the precise engine model still cannot be conclusively identified through the VIN alone.

To find out the exact engine model, the best method is to check under the hood for the engine code sticker or engraved engine number. Additionally, reference materials like the owner’s manual or vehicle repair manual will provide detailed specifications on the manufacturer,

model number, and other engine details for your specific car’s make, model and year. In summary, while the VIN provides some engine information, the exact engine model can only be pinpointed using the physical engine identifiers or reference materials for your car.

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