How to Tell If a Vehicle is 4WD by VIN?

Decoding the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will tell you a lot about a vehicle, including information about a vehicle’s drive train. You can use a simple VIN decoder to find out basic information or purchase a full vehicle history report to learn more. Even when you’re shopping at a reputable dealership, it’s a good idea to double check their vehicle descriptions and verify the facts about a vehicle before you make a purchase.

Key Takeaways

  • You can use a VIN decoder to determine the type of drivetrain in a vehicle, and it can tell you if your car is a 4WD.
  • If you’re shopping for used cars, decoding a VIN is an excellent way to determine if a vehicle you’re interested in is a 4WD.

How Do You Tell with VIN If a Vehicle is 4WD?

To determine if a vehicle is equipped with 4-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) by its Vehicle Identification Number, follow these steps:

  • Locate the VIN: The VIN is typically found on the driver’s side dashboard, visible through the windshield, or on the side door jamb. It is a 17-character alphanumeric code unique to each vehicle.
  • Identify the relevant character: The VIN’s 5th, 6th, or 7th character usually indicates the drivetrain type, depending on the vehicle’s make and model. The position varies among manufacturers, so consult the manufacturer’s VIN decoding guide for specific information.
  • Decode the character: Once you’ve identified the relevant character, consult the manufacturer’s guide or an try online VIN decoders to determine if the character corresponds to a 4WD or AWD system. For example, some manufacturers use a specific letter or number to denote a 4WD system (e.g., ‘G’ for a GMC truck). Others use a series of characters that may include other drivetrain options such as FWD or RWD.
  • Verify the information: To ensure the accuracy of the VIN decoding, cross-check your findings with other vehicle specifications such as badging, owner’s manual, or the vehicle’s build sheet.

Remember that the VIN does not always provide a definitive answer, as some manufacturers may not include specific drivetrain information in the VIN. In such cases, you may need to inspect the vehicle or consult the manufacturer for more details.


In conclusion, you can determine if a vehicle is equipped with 4WD or AWD by examining its VIN and decoding the relevant character. Consult the manufacturer’s guide or an online VIN decoder for accurate information. However, some manufacturers may not include drivetrain details in the VIN, necessitating further investigation.

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