What Engine is in My Car? 3 Ways to Find Out

What’s under the hood?

Whether you’re buying, selling, or repairing, knowing the answer to “What engine is in my car?” can be super helpful.

Having a handle on the size and type of engine in your car can help you determine its performance capabilities, maintenance requirements, and value. 

It’s also useful to know when shopping around for car insurance or finance quotes. Most insurance companies and lenders will use the engine size to calculate monthly premiums or the lending price for a new vehicle. 

In general, the larger the engine, the more powerful it is, meaning it’s more likely to be seen as a risk by an insurer. This can make vehicles with larger engines more expensive to insure. 

In this article, we explain how engine size is measured and help you figure out what type of engine is in your car.

How is engine size calculated? 

Engine size describes the volume of fuel and air that’s pushed through a car’s cylinders. It’s measured in cubic centimetres (cc) and specified in litres, rounded up to the nearest tenth of a litre. 

So, for example, a car with a 1,190cc engine would be described as a 1.2 litre. In other words, 1.2 litres of fuel and air can be pushed through the engine’s cylinders.

Generally, the bigger the engine, the more fuel and air it can push through, giving you more power. 

Example: What CC is a 1.6 engine?

A 1.6-litre engine has an approximate capacity of 1,600cc (ranging anywhere from 1,551cc to 1,649cc).

What litre engine is my car? 3 ways to check engine size 

1. Check your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

The easiest way to find out your car’s engine size is to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number — also sometimes referred to as the “VIN number”).

A Vehicle Identification Number is a unique 17-digit code made up of letters and numbers. It’s used by the global auto industry to identify individual vehicles, including cars, vans, motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters. 

You can find your VIN in the V5C logbook, at the top of the second page under “VIN/Chassis/Frame No.”. 

You’ll also find it on several areas of the car itself (otherwise known as “visible VINs”). Check under the hood or on the outside of the vehicle at the front of the driver’s side dashboard to locate your car’s ID number if you don’t have your logbook handy.

Decoding your VIN

The 17-digit code found in your V5C and stamped on your car contains information about where your car was manufactured, the manufacturer, car type, brand, body style, engine size, model, and model year. 

You can plug your VIN into a website (like this one) and receive a report breaking down all of this info for you. But decoding your VIN yourself is pretty straightforward:

  • The first 3 digits are the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI). The first character tells you where the manufacturer is located, while the second and third characters are assigned to different companies. All UK VIN numbers start with “S” — for example, SHS for Honda, SAJ for Jaguar, or SAL for Land Rover.
  • Digits 4 to 9 are the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS). These numbers tell you more about the type of vehicle, body style, and engine size and type.
  • Finally, digits 10 to 17 are the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The first two digits highlight the car’s model year and which plant manufactured the vehicle. The last six characters make up a serial number to identify your specific vehicle.

Will my VIN number tell me what engine I have?

Yes. The 8th digit of your VIN will tell you more about your car’s engine size and type. This is usually a letter. Once you have this letter, you can call your manufacturer and ask for more information about your engine type and size.

And if you need a replacement part for your engine, the 8th and 10th digits (your car’s model year) should be enough to help you source what you need. 

2. Check the owner’s manual

If you want to learn more about your car’s engine, flip through your owner’s manual. In addition to explaining your vehicle’s gadgets and gizmos, you should find a detailed section covering all the technical details and data relating to your engine. 

While some of it can be difficult to decipher, you should have everything you need to provide technical specifications to interested buyers if you’re selling, or vital information for a mechanic if you need something fixed or replaced. 

3. Have your engine inspected by an expert

Finally, perhaps the most obvious approach is to leave it to an expert. A qualified mechanic can safely pop your hood and inspect your engine, identifying the size, type, and necessary parts should it need any repairs.

This is a particularly good idea if you’ve purchased your car second hand. Sometimes, the engine won’t match what’s in the manual, as the previous owner may have had it swapped or altered (also known as making “aftermarket modifications”).

You’ll want to be certain that you understand your new car’s engine to keep it running in tip-top condition.

How many litres does my car hold?

The amount of fuel your car can hold has more to do with the size of your fuel tank, rather than the size of your engine. 

If you want to know more about your vehicle’s fuel capacity or fuel economy, break out your owner’s manual. Check the contents to find a section detailing the size of your fuel tank.

Generally speaking, the average fuel tank size ranges from 45 to 60 litres. For example, a 1.4-litre Corsa can hold 45 litres of fuel when full. 

Of course, larger vehicles will often have larger fuel tanks as they require more fuel to reach their higher performance levels.

What size engine is best for a new driver?

As soon as you pass your driving test, you can drive any road-legal car — so long as you have car insurance

However, most insurers will consider your relative inexperience alongside the type of car you’re insuring and the power of its engine when providing a quote. 

They may view a new driver getting behind the wheel of a powerful car with a large engine to be a higher risk and will charge you higher monthly premiums to offset that risk.

In general, it’s often safer (and cheaper) for new drivers to make their first car one with a smaller engine — at least until you’ve built up more experience on the road. 

How do I find out what engine is in my car? Quickfire summary

To recap, you have a few options when it comes to finding out what size of engine is in your car. 

You can check your 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN), which you’ll find in your V5C logbook or stamped on various parts of the car itself. Once you have the code, contact your manufacturer for more information. They’ll need the 8th digit (usually a letter) to tell you more about your engine’s size and type. 

Alternatively, you can check your owner’s manual for your engine’s technical details and data. Or if you’d rather delegate matters, you could take your car to a qualified mechanic for a closer inspection.

Knowing your engine size and type can be useful if you want to make repairs, replace parts, or sell your vehicle. And both insurance companies and lenders will take your engine size into account when providing quotes for car insurance or finance.

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