You may never need to locate or identify an engine number, but it’s one of the key pieces of information to confirm the bonafides of a car.
The engine number is often cross-checked with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) when registering or insuring a motor vehicle.
In Australia, the VIN and engine number are listed on registration papers.
Engine numbers were originally created as a serial number.
Before the modern era, it was common for cars to need replacement engines, or rebuilt engines.
It is an exhaustive process to update a vehicle’s engine number with the relevant roads and traffic authorities, but it is possible.
These days, engine numbers are primarily used to identify stolen cars and/or engines.
On modern cars, engine numbers are paired to VINs to help manufacturers identify cars in the event they need to be recalled, or if there is a service campaign or running change to update the vehicle to address an emerging fault.
Engine numbers are usually stamped into the engine block – the core of the motor and the hardest part to remove from a motor vehicle – rather than stamping identifiers on engine parts which can be easily removed.
Because engine numbers can be hard to find – unless you’re an expert on a particular model and know where to look – they are often repeated on the build plate. In some cases they may also appear on the self-voiding label in the driver’s door frame.
Issuing each vehicle’s engine with a serial number makes it easier for technicians, insurers, finance companies, and authorities to check the legitimacy of a vehicle. Engine numbers also make it difficult – though not impossible – for car criminals to forge.
In essence, engine numbers are another way to correctly identify the bonafides of a vehicle. The easiest way to find it is by checking registration papers. Some insurers only require a VIN, some require both a VIN and an engine number.
Although there is no specific international or universal standard for engine numbers, they typically range from 11 to 17 digits and often have a code that will be unique to each manufacturer.
This enables each manufacturer to identify each individual engine and when it was manufactured.
Although VINs are the primary vehicle identifying number, in rare cases engine numbers can also be used to check if a vehicle has finance owing, has suffered water or flood damage, or has been written off or stolen.