If you’re in the market for a used Ford F150 and have seen several options to buy, you need to be certain you’re getting what you’re paying for. After seeing a candy apple red F150 that is in your price range and meets all of the specifications you are looking for how sure can you be on what the sellers says the engine size, rear end, and transmission is in this particular model?
How do you know the year, engine, engine size, rear end, and transmission of an F150? The specifications for your F150 are contained in various identifying codes located on the truck. These codes are used by the auto industry to distinguish vehicles, with the characters in each code containing special information about the vehicle.
Of course, a lot of this same information can be found in the user’s manual of your F150. However, if your user’s manual is missing, or you suspect that the user’s manual is fraudulent or has been tampered with as a means of making the vehicle look newer than it actually is, then the specifications of your F150 can be verified by cross-referencing these identifying codes.
How to know what engine, rear end and transmission is in an F150
Knowing the specific construction of a vehicle, such as year, engine size, rear end, and transmission are extremely important considerations when dealing with vehicles, and you can never be too careful when buying or selling an F150.
While the majority of vendors are honest, there are a few bad apples out there who may go to any means necessary to conceal the true history of a vehicle.
This can extend beyond trying to hide service records and accident history to the actual owner’s manual fraud. While some owner’s manuals will honestly get lost over time, others can be misrepresented to mislead buyers.
In addition to being careful when buying a vehicle, you also want to accurately represent your F150 when selling. If, for some reason, your owner’s manual is missing, you will want to have a way to accurately verify the specifications of your vehicle to maintain a good reputation within the auto trading world.
How to know what size engine is in my F150?
How to know what size engine is in my F150? Your F150 has several codes stamped at various locations on the truck that contain a lot of relevant information pertaining to a F150’s engine, make and model. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is one of these.
The VIN is a 17-digit code that is like a birth certificate and social security card for a vehicle rolled into one comprehensive identifier.
The VIN should be included in the proof of insurance or at the bottom of any reputable online listing if the vehicle is for sale. If not, the VIN can be found by doing a manual inspection.
For Ford F150s the VIN is located on the dash in the bottom corner of the driver’s side windshield, or in the driver’s side door jam.
Now that you know what the VIN looks like and where to look for it, let’s take a look and discover all of the important information the VIN can reveal to us.
How to use the VIN to identify what your F150 has
Each of the 17 characters in the VIN contains specific information about your Ford F150. The first three digits are known as the world manufacturer identifier (WMI), and here is how it breaks down.
The first character contains information about the region of origin.
As Ford F150s are made in North America, this first character in a VIN will be the numeral “1.” The standardized starting VIN characters, for reference include:
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – made in North America
- 6 and 7 – made in Oceania
- 8 and 9 – made in South America
- A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H – made in Africa
- J, K, L, M, N, P – made in Asia
- S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z – made in Europe
The second character, in combination with the first, will reveal the specific country in which the vehicle was made.
While there are far too many countries and country codes to make an exhaustive list in this article, the Ford F150 is an American made truck, so its second character will be an “F.”
Therefore, the “1F” at the beginning of your Ford F150’s VIN shows that it is made in the U.S.
The third character of a VIN identifies the type of vehicle.
Each manufacturer has a different character code for the third position of the VIN, so you will want to check the Internet to discover what character your specific manufacturer uses for its vehicle types.
For a Ford F150, the third position in the VIN will be a “T,” the character that Ford uses to denote multipurpose vehicles.
How to use the VIN to identify F150 characteristics
So far, we know that by using the characters “1FT,” the VIN is telling us that our F150 is a North American multipurpose vehicle manufactured in the United States.
This should seem obvious to those familiar with F150s, and if for some reason those first three characters do not match with what you thought was your F150, then there is a significant cause for concern, as the vehicle you are dealing with is most definitely not what you thought.
However, assuming that these first three characters check out, moving down the VIN will reveal more specific information about the F150’s construction.
Vehicle descriptor section (VDS)
The characters located in positions four through nine of the VIN are known as the vehicle descriptor section (VDS). This section gives more detailed information about the vehicle itself and is sometimes referred to as the “attributes” section of the VIN.
The fourth character reveals information about restraint types, such as safety, braking, and suspension.
If you have a special, heavy-duty truck with eight-lug wheels or a towing package, this is the digit that will reveal this information. It may also indicate a specific safety restraint, such as if the vehicle has special airbag considerations.
For your Ford F150, the following fourth characters may be present, with the accompanying information revealing what type of safety and towing restraints your vehicle has:
- P – passive belts in a manual transmission
- B – active belts
- C – driver airbag and active belts
- L – driver and passenger (first generation) airbags and active belts
- F or K – driver and passenger (second generation) airbags and active belts
- H – driver and passenger front and side airbags and active belts
- D – driver and passenger front and side airbags and active belts in all positions
In addition to the different restraint types revealed by each of the aforementioned characters, the fourth position in a VIN will give details about towing capacity.
In a Ford F150, the L will be the most common fourth character, indicating a towing capacity of around 10,000 pounds.
The fifth character in the VIN reveals the series of the vehicle.
This is a very important position in the VIN for ordering parts because “Ford F150” may mean different things based on the series type. The fifth character can identify different body types and drive trains within the same overarching type of vehicle.
The sixth and seventh characters assist the fifth character in revealing additional information about the body type.
These digits will help you determine whether your F150 is a two-door or a four-door model.
Combined, the fifth through seventh digits in the VIN can help you accurately determine information such as engine size, driven wheels, body style, and similar factors.
When dealing with F150s, you may see one of the following combinations of fifth through seventh characters, along with their significance:
- F02 – Ford F-series, F150, regular cab, flare side, two-wheel drive
- F04 – Ford F-series, F150, regular cab, flare side, four-wheel drive
- F12 – Ford F-series, F150, regular cab, two-wheel drive
- F14 – Ford F-series, F150, regular cab, four-wheel drive
The following can help break down the meaning of some of these components revealed by characters five through seven in the VIN.
- F-series: this is a range of light trucks marketed as a full-size pickup, larger than the compact Ford Ranger in the Ford truck model range.
- F150: this is the payload capacity of the truck. The payload capacity is the weight of the stuff that can be carried in the vehicle, not to be confused with the towing capacity, which is the weight that can be pulled by the vehicle. In an F150, there are 1,500 pounds of payload capacity, meaning that 1,500 pounds of stuff can fit in the cabin and bed
- Flare side: this refers to whether or not the truck has those skinny bulges that flare out around the rear wheels. If the vehicle is identified as flareside, it will have such bulges around the rear wheels
Please note that the above are just some samples that you may see in the fifth through sevenths positions on your F150’s VIN, and there are many possible combinations of cabin sizes, drivetrains, and flareside options.
The eighth character in a VIN denotes the engine size of your F150.
This is a very important number because some vehicles made in the same year can come with different engines to meet the needs of different buyers.
Looking at this number will tell you what kind of parts are needed to service your specific engine.
Depending on the year of your F150, there is a wide array of engines and engine sizes that may come in your F150. In general, the characters in the eighth position of the VIN will denote the following engine configurations:
- B, C, D: an in-line four (I4) engine, which is a four-cylinder engine with all four cylinders mounted in a straight line along the crankcase in a single bank. This bank of cylinders may be oriented in either a vertical or an inclined plane with all the pistons driving a common crankshaft.
- 1, 2, 4, 6, E, K, M, T, U, V, X: this denotes a V6 engine, which is a six-cylinder piston engine in which the cylinders share a common crankshaft and are aligned in a “V” position.
- 3, 5, A, F, H, L, P, R, W, Z: this denotes a V8 engine, which is an eight-cylinder piston engine in which the cylinders share a common crankshaft and are aligned in a “V” position.
- S or Y: this denotes a V10 engine, which is a 10-cylinder piston engine in which the cylinders share a common crankshaft and are aligned in a “V” position. This is an uncommon engine configuration.
The eighth character in the VIN reveals a lot more information about the engine that is too extensive to list here, so this page can be used for reference.
In the Ford F150, a “T” is a very common eighth character in the VIN. This would mean that the engine is a V6 GTDI (gasoline turbocharged direct injection) engine that has 3.5 liters of displacement. It runs on gasoline and has between 264 and 272 kilowatts of power.
The ninth character of the VIN is known as the check digit.
This is a randomly generated compulsory digit for North American manufactured vehicles, including the F150. It is used to detect invalid VINs. The number that appears varies and is randomly generated by a complex mathematical formula developed by the United States Department of Transportation.
How to use the VIN to identify F150 year of manufacture
After using the world manufacturer identifier and the vehicle descriptor section to pinpoint the construction of your F150, the remaining eight characters (digits 10-17) can be used to identify each specific vehicle and are known collectively as the vehicle identifier section.
The tenth digit in the VIN will reveal the year of your F150.
The letters B through Y correspond to the model years from 1981 through 2000, with the letters I, O, Q, U, and Z being omitted, as they are too easily confused with numbers. The digits 1 through 9 correspond to the years 2001 through 2009, respectively. The alphabet started over once again in 2010 and will continue through 2030.
For example, an F150 with a J in the tenth position of the VIN will have been manufactured in either 1988 or 2018. It should be easy to tell, based on the eye test of interior features and overall vehicle condition, which model is the 1988 and which is the 2018 F150.
The character in position 11 indicates the manufacturing plant where the F150 was assembled.
This is often viewed as an unimportant digit in the VIN, but it can be significant if you have a limited edition vehicle, or, as is most likely in the case of your F150, there is any type of recall that needs to be traced back to a specific plant.
Light trucks, like the F150, will contain one of the following characters in the 11th position, indicating the specific plant where the truck was made:
- D – Avon Lake, Ohio
- E – Jefferson County, Kentucky
- H – Lorain, Ohio
- K – Claycomo, Missouri
- L – Wayne, Michigan
- N – Norfolk, Virginia
- P – St. Paul, Minnesota
- T – Edison, New Jersey
- U – Louisville, Kentucky
- Z – Hazelwood, Missouri
The last six characters of the VIN are the production line numbers.
This is a six-digit serial number that lets you know when the F150 was manufactured at a specific plant. Most will use a starting production number of 100001. So, for example, when the last six characters of the VIN are 123628, it means that your F150 was the 23,628th manufactured at the plant.
The production line numbers aren’t super important unless there was a change in manufacturer specifications at a certain point that may require a different part for repair.
If the F150s in a certain series changed door handles at serial number 104520 and your F150 is serial number 106389, your auto body shop will then be very interested in these digits.
Analyzing a sample VIN to know more about your F150
Now that we know all of the important information contained in the VIN of your F150, let’s make up a sample and break down what it is saying. This vehicle does not actually exist and is used for illustrative purposes:
- The first three characters, the world manufacturer identifier, tells us that the vehicle is a North American multipurpose vehicle manufactured in the United States.
- The fourth character tells us the vehicle has driver and passenger (first generation) airbags and active belts, with a towing capacity of around 10,000 pounds.
- The fifth through seventh positions identify that it is a Ford F-series, F150, with a regular cab and four-wheel drive.
- The eighth character tells us that it contains a V6 GTDI engine that has 3.5 liters of displacement. It runs on gasoline and has between 264 and 272 kilowatts of power.
- The ninth digit is the check digit. It is randomly generated by the United States Department of Transportation to ensure valid VINs.
- The tenth digit lets us know that the F150 was made in 2004.
- The 11th character reveals that the F150 was made in the plant in Wayne, Michigan.
- The 12th through 17th digits, or serial number, indicate that this particular F150 was the 526th manufactured at the Wayne plant.
How to know what rear end is in my F150?
In addition to the VIN, there are multiple other codes located at various points on the F150 that reveal even more specific information about your vehicle. Years ago, these option codes were printed on pieces of paper that were stuffed into the seat springs.
In modern vehicles, these codes are generally printed on a sticker and placed in the glove compartment or door jam.
One of these important option codes is the differential ratio which can be found on the differential tag, located on the truck safety compliance certification label on the door pillar near the driver’s side door.
This differential ratio, or axle ratio, is the formal way of saying “rear end.” It is important information because the ratio is determined by the number of revolutions of the driven wheels (axle) in comparison to engine and transmission revolutions. Ford may manufacture F150s of various differential ratios to meet the needs of consumers.
For example, a numerically lower ratio may be desirable to an owner who prioritizes fuel economy in his or her F150. A numerically higher ratio may be beneficial to those who are willing to sacrifice fuel economy for increased horsepower and hauling capacity.
After locating the truck safety compliance certification label on the door pillar, you will want to match the two-digit code in the axle box to the corresponding rear axle ratio. The following are some common codes for the Ford F150:
- 15 – this means that your F150 is equipped with a 3.15 axle ratio
- 27 – this refers to a 3.31 axle ratio
- 19 – this indicates a 3.55 axle ratio in your F150
- 26 – this means that your F150 has a 3.73 axle ratio
Limited slip or locking differential
In addition to these basic axle ratios, some F150s will come equipped with a limited-slip or locking differential. When this is the case, the following codes will be displayed:
- H9 – this indicates a 3.55 ratio with a limited-slip differential
- B6 – this reveals a 3.73 ratio with a limited-slip differential
- L6 – this reveals a 3.73E ratio, where the “E” refers to an electrically locking differential, while the prior two designations refer to standard locking differentials
A 3.15 differential ratio means that for every three revolutions of the axle, there will be 15 engine revolutions, while a 3.73 axle ratio means that there will be 73 engine revolutions for every spin of the wheel. The ratio with the higher revolution of the engine will be able to pull greater loads; thus, the need for some special locking rear ends that prevent slippage during towing.
It is vitally important to know the differential ratio of your F150 because it will help you determine its towing capacity. As mentioned in the section about VINs, the fourth character can reveal some information about an engine’s ability to tow.
However, two identical F150s with different axle ratios are capable of pulling substantially different amounts. For example, an F150 with a 3.15 ratio can tow about 8,000 pounds, while the same vehicle with a 3.73 ratio can tow 11,300 pounds.
It is important to know the axle ratio before attempting to pull too large of a load and permanently damaging the drivetrain of your F150.
How to know what transmission is in my F150?
Many people mistakenly think that the transmission for their vehicle is either automatic or manual, with nothing in between. However, there are many different makes and styles within these two categories, with different F150s requiring different transmissions and transmission fluids to meet the needs of their specific models.
How to know what transmission is in my Ford F150? Fortunately, there are ways to know which specific transmission your F150 uses. Much like with the rear end information regarding your F150, there is a special code that can help you identify exactly what transmission the vehicle contains.
When opening the driver’s side door of your F150, look for the same truck safety compliance certification label located on the door pillar on which you found the axle code. Next to the axle code, there will be a transmission section labeled “TR,” under which a single character will be used as the transmission identifier. Some common transmission codes for F150s include:
- E – this indicates that your F150 is a four-speed automatic overdrive and uses a 4R100 transmission
- M – this reveals that your F150 is a five-speed manual overdrive and uses a Mazda M5R2-C transmission
- U – this identifies a four-speed automatic in your F150, with an AODE-W/4R70W transmission required for operation
- 7 – is another indicator of a four-speed automatic for the F150. However, it will use an NAAO 4R100 transmission
After figuring out what kind of transmission the manufacturer included in your F150, you will then be able to explore the appropriate options for maintenance and/or replacement.
How to know your F150’s year, engine, rear end & transmission
The user’s manual of your Ford F150 will contain all important information regarding your vehicle’s make, model, and components. However, there will be times when the user’s manual is not available or not reliable.
Luckily, your F150 is manufactured with many valuable codes that can help you verify all of the specifics of your truck.
The vehicle identification number (VIN) is among the most important of these. Located on the driver’s side window dash and/or door pillar, the VIN reveals a plethora of useful information, including the year and engine type of your F150. As this is such an important code, be very skeptical of vehicles that have had the VIN tampered with.
The rear end and transmission information are also included in valuable option codes, located on the truck safety compliance certification label in the door pillar.
If, for some reason, these codes have faded, been removed, or become unreadable in any way, take your F150 to your local Ford dealer to try and get more information as to how to identify the specifics of your truck.
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If you’re interested in the F-Series range of trucks, then please check out some more on the F150.