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Can You Determine Automotive Paint Colour By VIN

Your car's VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, tells a lot more about itself and how it was made than it might seem. It's by no means some random set of letters and numbers scrambled together. Practically a vehicular version of personal identification, those jumbled characters are able to inform you of a car's specifications, country of origin, where it was made, and so much more.

It's for this reason then, that a lot of people wonder about whether they can determine their car's paint colour using that VIN code. After all, it might be an easy way to find out your exact colourway for a quick touch-up or reference, just by looking at your VIN. Long story short, you cannot find your car's exact paint code by reading the VIN itself. But you're getting close. 

Granted, it might not be the most practical way to go about things these days. Often, the owner's manual could house your car's paint code. Or, many online paint shops can let you sort out the make and model of your car, making the process of finding paint a lot more pain-free. Still, it can be done in a pinch if you need to, rather than having someone use a colour matching machine...

What Is A Car's VIN?

The Vehicle Identification Number has been around for a long time. However, it wasn't until 1981 that this has been standardised. Prior to 1981, each country can have its own VIN, making it a bit confusing. Back then, you can get at most 11 characters, and you're likely not able to find the paint code here. It's different post-1981, with a 17 character VIN that still remains in use today.

As to where you might find the VIN, the location of the VIN plate varies from one car to the next. Usually, it can be found along the driver's side door jamb, or along the firewall somewhere within the engine compartment. The radiator is a good place where you could find the VIN, as well as along the boot lid. In some cars, the VIN might appear inside the glove box.

How Can I Read The VIN?

Once again, your car's VIN is a complex mixture of letters and numbers. While at first it might seem daunting to try and understand what it all means. Although, this is quite simple once you learn the order, and its corresponding number. Remember, there are 17 characters in total... 

  • 1st Character - The first letter you see (though often a number) tells you the country where your car was manufactured.
  • 2nd And 3rd Characters - This informs you of the car's manufacturer (not the brand, but the maker). Moreover, the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th characters could also combine to identify flexible-fuel vehicles.
  • 4th To 8th Characters - The 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th characters of the VIN altogether let you know about the specification of the car, like its make, model, engine size or type, and so on.
  • 9th Character - The 9th character in the VIN is a special security authorisation code, as designated by the manufacturer.
  • 10th Character - The 10th letter of the VIN will tell you the model year of the car.
  • 11th Character - The 11th VIN code would pinpoint the assembly plant that put together the vehicle.
  • 12th to 17th Characters - The 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th characters in the VIN are all reserved to make up a special serial number for the car.

 Going back to our introduction earlier, know that the VIN itself won't automatically reveal to you the exact paint code. So, you won't be able to find a clear-cut "RED" or "BLUE" through the VIN. Nonetheless, there are many online platforms - such as paint shops - where you can input your car's exact VIN, and it'll show you the variance in the paint formula within a 'colour code'.

So, How Do I Get My Paint Code?

The key data to find here is the 'paint code', or 'colour code'. This is often a three to four-letter code that'll tell us exactly what shade of paint you have on your car. The colour code is a plate or sticker, just like the VIN, and can sometimes be found right next to it. Along the door jamb or frame is a good place to start looking for the colour code. 

Then again, each carmaker and model will place it in different parts of the car, as we mentioned earlier. The 'colour code' is what you'll have to search through if you want to figure out what exact shade of paint adorns your car. Meanwhile, the VIN is only able to tell a paint shop the variation in the hue, as the paint can vary quite a lot from one year to the next, and in between models.

These subtle changes can even happen on the same car, as the black on one model year might not be as dark or light as it is come next year's model. This is why you need both the colour code and the VIN, for those times if you need to get a paint touch-up kit to match your car, or are looking for a respray. Thankfully, some websites do make this easier on you.

How To Know Your Car's Paint Code The Easy Way 

Sites such as Chipex can give you several options in expediting the process of finding your car's colour code. You could, for example, be given a phone number to contact the main dealership of your car, and thus able to get the colour code from there. Though if you're reluctant to speak to someone, the colour code panel can still be found on your car.

On Chipex, for example, you can input the make or manufacturer of your car. It'll then show you a diagram of the precise location of the paint code, and the letters or numbers to look out for. For example, we've learned that VW hides its colour codes inside the boot, BMW keeps it hidden in the engine compartment, while Jaguar keeps it nice and simple by putting it by the door column.

In short, knowing the VIN is not enough to tell you the paint code of your car. But, finding it does get you close, and it can inform you of the subtle variation and formula used in the paint. What you need to find most of all is the colour code, an item where finding it can in itself be a game of scavenger hunt. Still, that's one great way for the next time you need to know.