If You Need Basic Information about Your Car, Check the VIN

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 04, 2017

Dear Car Talk:

I bought a used 2004 Ford F-150 XLT. I've read that whenever I want to order parts for this truck, I have to specify which model it is: an F-150, or an F-150 Heritage. How can I figure out which one my truck is? -- Steven

Ford introduced a brand-new F-150 in the middle of the 2004 model year. But it had a bunch of old F-150s still lying around. So it called the new F-150 the "2004 F-150." And it called the old one the "2004 F-150 Heritage," because that sounded better than "2004 F-150 Leftover."

The best way to determine which one you have is by having someone decode your vehicle identification number. Every car has a VIN, which you can find by climbing up on your hood and reading the little metal plate that sits where the dashboard meets the windshield. Or, if you want to save yourself the trouble, just look for it on your vehicle registration.

It has all kinds of information coded in it. It'll tell you the year, the model, the engine size, the transmission, the drive ratio of the differential, whether you got the salesman to throw in free floor mats ... it's all there, encoded in the VIN.

So you can call or visit your local Ford dealer, and ask the parts department to enter your VIN and see what you've got. If you go in person, and they're in a good mood, they'll probably even give you the whole printout. Or you can find websites online that will decode your VIN for you. Enjoy your new, old truck, Steven.

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