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What year is that?

By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Editor

With each vehicle that’s brought into a bay for service, there are certain pieces of information that technicians need to know. Year, make and model are usually first to come to mind, followed by engine size and type. This is important because not only are replacement parts cataloged based upon this information, but so is service information, which in many cases needs to be referenced during service. Many technicians have found out the hard way that being off by as little as one model year in either direction can result in the wrong part being ordered, or the wrong diagrams being referenced.

Finding this out is usually quite simple. Identification labels can typically be found in the driver’s side door jamb, or at the very least, the VIN can be decoded to provide this information. Technicians usually write this down on their paperwork during vehicle check-in, but sometimes when things get busy around the shop it doesn’t happen right away. Cars are being brought in and out, concerns are being verified and diagnosed, and customers are dropping off and picking up their vehicles.

Figure 1 S1380069

A vehicle’s identification number and production date can usually be found on a label in the driver’s door jamb, such as this one from a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu.

Technicians know this scenario all too well: sometimes you’re at the service desk, looking up parts or service information, and you’re not exactly sure what year or model the vehicle is that you’re working on. This usually means trudging back out into the shop, or even taking a long walk across the parking lot to find the subject vehicle. Not only does this take extra time, but it also wears on you by the end of the day.

Our friends at Continental have a new tool we can use to help make this task a little easier. They’ve created a website at partfinderelite.com which includes a tab called License Plate Search. It’s not something we’re used to seeing, but it really can be helpful. All you need is the vehicle’s license plate number and state where it’s registered; the website provides year, make, model and engine information.

Figure 1 partfinderelite.com screenshot

Continental’s website partfinderelite.com has a license plate search function that provides state registration information.

Imagine you’re looking up parts for a car that you’ve already parked out in the lot. You know it’s a Chevy Malibu, but you’re not sure exactly what year it is. The car is all the way across the lot, and you can see it from where you’re sitting. Good thing the state makes license plate numbers so big! Just type in the plate number and select the state, and you get vehicle information, as well as Continental part numbers.

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States use large fonts so it’s easier to read license plate information from a distance.

This information, of course, comes from state motor vehicle registration records, which can have discrepancies upon occasion. For the most part, however, they’re quite accurate and at times can help you provide great service to your customers. Try it out for yourself, and let us know what you think!

Which website do you use often that helps you repair vehicles? Do you run a website that technicians need to know about? Drop a line to steve@macsw.org or visit our website at www.macsw.org and let us know about it!

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