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How do I match my car paint with code?

Matching your car’s paint color precisely can be tricky but is important for a quality paint job. The paint code, usually found on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb, is the key to matching your car’s factory color. This code tells paint shops which formula to use to recreate the exact shade. Read on to learn how to find your paint code and use it to match your car’s paint.

What is a paint code?

A paint code is a sequence of letters and numbers that identifies the precise formula for your vehicle’s original factory paint color. Car manufacturers provide paint codes to paint and body shops so they can color match your car during repairs. The paint code indicates the right pigments, tints, and other ingredients to blend to recreate the color perfectly.

Paint codes are specific to the manufacturer, model year, and color offered. Codes will be different across car brands and for different shades of red, blue, black, etc. offered each model year. Using the right code for your exact vehicle ensures accuracy.

Where to find the paint code

You can typically locate your car’s paint code in the following locations:

  • Inside the driver’s side door jamb – Check the sticker that shows VIN info
  • Glove box or center console – May be printed on a sticker or metal plate
  • Trunk or hatch – Check sticker on spare tire compartment or latch
  • Under the hood – May be printed near the radiator support or front fender

The code will be a series of letters and numbers, often starting with a “P”, and be printed near other identifiers like VIN number, trim level, etc. It should clearly be labeled as “paint code.” Write down or photograph the complete code for reference.

Decode the paint code

Once you locate the paint code, you’ll need to decode it to understand the color specifics. Here is how to breakdown a typical paint code:

Code Segment Meaning
P Denotes paint code
BC/CC### Paint color and numeric code
1234 Manufacturing plant code

The key portion is the 2-3 letter color code followed by a 3-digit number. The letters identify the color while the number gives the precise pigment formula. Some luxury or vintage cars may have longer codes.

Match paint using code

Once you know how to decipher the paint code, here is how to use it to match your car’s color:

  1. Provide the full code to an auto paint store when requesting a match. Avoid using generic names like “blue” or “red.”
  2. The paint store will look up the formula in its databases and mix it precisely per the code.
  3. They may need to blend several pigments and tints to recreate the exact hue.
  4. Request spray out samples on cards to confirm color match before having paint mixed for the full job.
  5. Point out if color on newer replacement parts doesn’t match factory original paint.

Keep your code handy when visiting multiple paint shops to ensure you get an accurate match across vendors. Some high-end colors may require taking your car into the paint store for them to scan with a spectrometer.

What if there is no code?

On rare occasions, the paint code may be missing or too weathered to read clearly. Here are some options if there is no code:

  • Check all other likely code locations again thoroughly.
  • Contact the vehicle dealership with VIN to try to retrieve code.
  • Search online forums for the year, make and model to find info from other owners.
  • Use paint chip sample books at auto paint stores to visually color match.
  • Bring a vehicle part into the paint store for digital color scanning.

Matching the color without a code will require extra effort and may not produce an exact match. But with some detective work and paint blending expertise, shops can still achieve satisfactory results.


Using your car’s unique paint code is the best way to achieve an exact color match for body work and repaints. The code eliminates guesswork and reveals the specific pigments required to recreate the original factory color. With the sequence of letters and numbers in hand, auto paint suppliers can mix up fresh paint that will look as flawless as the day your car rolled off the assembly line. Checking for and properly utilizing paint codes helps guarantee a seamless color match and high quality paint job.