An odometer is an instrument that measures the distance traveled by a vehicle. It could be electronic, mechanical, or a combination of both. Why do you think odometers would read differently than the actual mileage? The reason is that unfortunately, it’s not 100% accurate. There is no legal requirement that demands it should be. However,
An odometer is an instrument that measures the distance traveled by a vehicle. It could be electronic, mechanical, or a combination of both. Why do you think odometers would read differently than the actual mileage? The reason is that unfortunately, it’s not 100% accurate. There is no legal requirement that demands it should be. However, the Society of Automotive Engineers did create guides that mandated a minimum margin of error equivalent to plus or minus 4%. For example, if you were to drive 100 miles; the odometer should be able to show between at least 96 to 104 miles—well within the margin of error assigned to this component.
The mileage reflected on the car’s odometer can be an indicator of the car’s resale value. The reason is that the lower the number, the better the car components should be. You can compare the odometer rating to how much the car was used. The lesser time it has spent on the road, the less worn out the car’s components are. That’s why one of the things unscrupulous sellers do is tamper with odometers to make it appear as though the car had run lesser miles. This is called odometer fraud, busting miles, or clocking.
So if it’s true that the odometer can read differently than the actual mileage, is there a way to test this? If so, how do we test it? There are no machines or instruments that can measure the vehicle’s mileage with 100% accuracy. However, there are telltale signs on the vehicle that can help you determine whether the reading on the odometer is as reliable as it looks.
To test whether the odometer is reliable, you can check if it’s crooked or moves as you tap your hand on the dashboard. There’s a good chance that this odometer has been tampered with. You can ask for the title of the car and compare the mileage indicated therein to the one showing on the odometer, along with what is indicated in the maintenance and inspection records.
Try to carefully look at the notation. You know it’s a red flag if it’s obscured in any way. Watch and observe the numbers on the gauge, and walk away from the purchase if they are crooked, contain gaps, or jiggles when you bash your hand on the dashboard.
Examine the tires as well. They should be the original ones if the odometer only reads below 20,000; otherwise, you can find out for yourself depending on its wear and tear. The same goes for the rest of the car; examine its gas, clutch, and brake pedals—see how worn out they are and then compare that to the car’s mileage based on the odometer reading.
Finally, you can always ask for a vehicle history or search it online to determine whether there are discrepancies in the odometer reading. At any rate, be wary of this particular car component—especially when you’re buying used vehicles.