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What is my paint code by VIN?

Knowing your vehicle’s paint code can be important for a variety of reasons. The paint code tells you the exact paint color used by the manufacturer and allows you to get an identical match if you ever need a paint job or touch up. With the paint code, you can ensure any body work blends properly with the original factory paint.

For most vehicles, the easiest way to find the paint code is to look at the VIN or vehicle identification number. In this article, we’ll explain what a paint code is, where to find it using your VIN, and how to use paint codes for body repairs.

What is a Paint Code?

A paint code refers to the specific paint formula used on a vehicle’s exterior. It considers the paint type, color, and any metallic or pearlescent additives used. The code is assigned by the vehicle manufacturer and is specific to the year, make, model, and color of a particular vehicle.

For example, a 2023 Toyota Camry LE in Celestial Silver Metallic may have a paint code “1F7.” This code would only apply to 2023 Camry LE models painted that specific silver metallic color from the factory. A different color, trim level, or model year would have a different code.

Paint codes are important for accurately matching the original factory paint during any repairs or touch-ups. Auto paint is made by mixing precise amounts of pigments, binders, additives, and thinners. The paint code provides the exact “recipe” for blending that color.

Without a paint code, you may end up with a noticeably different shade that doesn’t match the rest of the car’s exterior. Paint codes eliminate guesswork and ensure an identical color match.

Where to Find the Paint Code on a VIN

For most vehicles made after 1981, the easiest place to find the paint code is within the VIN or vehicle identification number. The VIN is a unique serial number assigned to each vehicle during production.

VINs are standardized to 17 characters and encoded with information about the vehicle. Here is an example VIN with a breakdown of what each character signifies:

Character Meaning
1 Country of origin (made in U.S. = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
2 Manufacturer (G = General Motors, J = Ford, etc.)
3 Vehicle type or classification
4-8 Vehicle attributes like engine type, restraint system, model, series, etc.
9 Check digit used to validate VIN
10 Model year
11 Manufacturing plant
12-17 Production sequence numbers

The paint code is usually part of the 4-8 character section, which encodes vehicle attributes. For GM vehicles, the paint code occupies the 4th slot. For Ford, it’s the 5th character. Chrysler paint codes are in the 6th spot. Other manufacturers have their own conventions.

Once you know the position in the VIN, you can simply look up the digit and reference a paint code chart to find the color. Online resources and vehicle forums may provide specific guides for finding codes by VIN for your make and model.

There are some exceptions where the VIN doesn’t list the paint code. This may include:

– Older vehicles made before 1981 when VINs were standardized to 17 characters
– Newer electric vehicles that use a different VIN format
– Manufacturers who don’t encode paint into the VIN

In these cases, you’ll need to check other labels on the vehicle to find the code. Common locations include:

– Door jamb or door frame
– Inside the glove compartment
– Under the hood on the radiator support or strut tower
– Trunk lid or tailgate

Dealership service centers can also retrieve the paint code if it’s not readily available elsewhere on the vehicle.

Using Paint Codes for Body Repairs

Knowing your exact paint code makes repairing body damage much easier. Here are a few ways paint codes are used for collision repairs or paint touch-ups:

– Ordering paint – You can provide the code to an auto paint supplier to order the correct color. Single-stage paints only require the base paint. For tri-coat or multi-stage colors, you may need clearcoat and tint formulas as well.

– Blending panels – If a repaired panel doesn’t blend properly with the original paint, the code can help diagnose improper color matching. The shop can adjust to achieve an identical match.

– Adding graphics/stripes – Applying racing stripes or custom graphics requires painting over original factory paint. The code ensures graphics coatings blend with the base color.

– Spot repairs – For small scratches or chips, paint pens allow touch-ups using the original paint code. The color and finish match the surrounding area.

– Replacing body parts – When replacing a damaged front bumper, door, or other body panel, get the OEM part painted in the factory color before installing. The paint code helps match adjacent panels.

– Full repaints – A complete respray of the entire vehicle requires using the factory paint code to maintain consistency. Aftermarket colors may not precisely match other original panels.

Without the paint code, repair shops have to manually match the color by eye. This can result in slight variance from the original shade. The code eliminates guesswork and human error for a perfect match. It also allows shops to access proprietary OEM paint formulas used by the automaker.

Finding Codes for Older Vehicles

On older vehicles before VINs had standardized formats, the paint code may not be as easily identifiable. Some places to check include:

– Glove box, trunk, or door jamb stickers – Under the hood or inside the doors, stickers often list paint codes along with other info like accessories.

– Body tags – Riveted metal plates attached to the firewall or wheel well have paint codes stamped in. Check for tags inside the engine bay.

– Deck lid or door – Under the trunk lid or inside a door, you may find paint codes stamped into the sheet metal along with part numbers.

– Owner’s manuals/dealership records – Manuals and original purchase paperwork sometimes list the paint color by name or code. Dealership service records may provide codes as well.

Without factory labels, shops can still perform paint analysis to identify colors on vintage vehicles. Paint meters and spectrophotometers measure color properties like hue, chroma, and values to match older paints.


Knowing your vehicle’s paint code makes getting a perfect color match for repairs far simpler. For most vehicles, you can find the code within the 4-8 character section of the VIN. Just reference a VIN decoder guide to locate the paint code based on your make and model. With the code, auto paint suppliers can recreate the factory color for flawless spot repairs, panel blending, and full resprays.