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Can Car Meter Reading Be Misleading?

September 2, 2022

Car meter reading plays an important role in evaluating the general condition of the automobile. It should be accurate and precise. Faulty odometer reading can become a reason for legal charges. So it is essential to know everything about the function of an odometer, how it works or when it is changed. Getting accurate information will help you protect yourself from any possible issues in the future. Have you ever thought about what factors affect mostly on your decision to buy an automobile? What is your main criterion for determining the lifespan of an automobile? Have you ever found yourself the victim of odometer fraud? I suppose the answers to all the above-mentioned questions are related to mileage-related data and its accuracy. 

Let’s get started and find out more about the issues related to the reliability of the odometer. How to read it accurately and when it can be misleading. Keep on reading to learn more.

What is the purpose of car meter reading?

It shows the measured distance traveled by the driver. Traveled distance is the number of wheel rotations times the tire circumference. It serves several purposes such as indicating mileage. It is useful information for any driver who does not want to skip scheduled maintenance. Moreover, it helps to determine fuel consumption. Modern vehicles also have a trip meter, also known as a trip odometer. The driver can reset it anytime  and record the distance traveled in any particular journey. As you can see, car odometer reading serves multiple purposes. Odometer may be electronic, mechanical, or electromechanical.

Why do we need car meter reading?

What are other meters and gauges on my dashboard?

Your vehicle has other instruments for measuring purposes. Sometimes the mechanism of working is the same as the odometer. Hence, people confuse them with each other. Let’s name some of the most common and define their functions.

Speedometer. Unlike the odometer that is used to measure the total distance traveled during the car’s lifetime, it is used to keep track of the current speed of the automobile. As usual, drivers keep a close eye on it. It allows them to control the current speed, so it helps them stay safe in particular places where there are speed limits. Hence it plays an important role in everyday driving.

Tachometer. This instrument measures the working speed of the engine, typically in Revolution Per Minute (RPM). RPM measures the number of engine cycles and then indicates the appropriate time to move between speeds. In short, it measures engine running. So, it plays the important role in extending engine lifespan.

AMP meter. Ammeter – An instrument for measuring either direct or alternating electric current, in amperes. Without the charging system, an automobile’s battery will be depleted, causing it to stop running.  If it remains full and there is minimal demand, the ammeter should be close to zero.

Accurate odometer reading is key to fleet management

Fleet management is the management of cars, vans, trucks, trailers, private automobiles used for work purposes. It involves a variety of functions such as leasing and financing, maintenance, licensing and compliance. It also involves supply chain management, accident management, telematics (tracking and diagnostics), driver management, speed and fuel management. So, it is an effective instrument for companies to increase efficiency and productivity.

Vehicle odometer reading helps fleet managers to make reasonable decisions related to a car. Those data assist them to determine the right time for maintenance, repair and life cycling.   Hence, odometer accuracy is decisive in this case. Those companies use technologies such as GPS and telematics to make sure that car km reading is 100%  accurate. Sometimes, those devices are not a proper solution. Drivers are asked to report any error in odometer figures. Most drivers report honestly but there are several cases of possible errors. The reason for them varies. In the following paragraph, I will clarify what can be a reason for messing up your odometer.

Can car meter reading be messed up?

The short answer is – yes. Sometimes drivers spot that their odometers go too fast and it does not show the right mileage. If you suspect that your odometer is unable to record mileage correctly, you should take measures as soon as possible. Because false mileage-related information makes life hard for you. Here are the most common reasons for inaccuracy:

Wrong tire size. As we mentioned, wheel rotation determines the figures on the odometer. If you change tires and they are different from the stock tires and you don’t consider calibration of your odometer, that’s why the odometer works badly.

Kilometers or miles. Sometimes drivers do not take into account that their odometer is calibrated for one particular metric system.  It becomes a reason for misreading. For example, if you buy an automobile in the USA, there is a good chance that the odometer shows figures in miles. On the contrary, if you purchase your auto in Europe, an odometer will show kilometers. As we know one mile is equal to1.6 kilometers. Hence, a kilometer is less than one mile, and if the odometer counts kilometers, it seems to run faster. All you need to do is to identify the metric system.

A broken odometer. Another simple and logical reason why your odometer does not work properly is that it is broken and needs repair or replacement.

Is it possible to change the car odometer reading on purpose?

Yes. Nowadays it is surely possible and common practice among motorists for a variety of reasons. Needless to say, it is illegal to reverse mileage. The main function of this manipulation is to alter mileage-related information on high-mileage automobiles to increase their value. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimates that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings. This crime costs American car buyers more than $1 billion annually.

Organizations that roll back and wholesale to dealers practice odometer fraud. In most cases, people do it for personal gain.

Manipulating a mechanical odometer was done manually in the past. As for digital odometers, it’s necessary to remove the automobile circuit board or use various kinds of rollback devices that are available on the market. However, all mileage correction tools have the same mechanism. They allow you to adjust figures at your will. But the point is that the mileage-related data stays the same in the vehicle’s internal computer. Anyone who makes an effort can discover a clocked odometer.

Unlike other correction tools, a premium-quality device from Germany, known as a mileage stopper works differently. It is not for changing existing mileage on the odometer. It just stops the mileage recording process from all control units. Even though manufacturers created it for testing purposes, many people use it as a mileage correction tool because it offers untraceable performance. According to the manufacturer’s recommendations, this device serves legal purposes and you should only use in a controlled environment.

Can someone manipulate car odometer reading?

How to protect yourself from odometer fraud

Due to the car odometer reading importance for buying a preowned car, it is essential to know how to spot and check odometer tampering. To put it simply, you have a choice: trust your intuition and senses or use more comprehensive methods. Consider the following tips to avoid becoming the victim of odometer fraud:

Examine wear and tear. If you can examine the automobile, do it yourself. If you are not sure, take the automobile to a mechanic, who knows better. For example, if the odometer says 20,000 miles and has new parts which are not necessary until  60,000 miles, you have a reason to suspect.

Check maintenance records. Ask for inspection stickers and compare them to the vehicle odometer reading.

See original title. Ask the seller to show you the original title. It’s the seller’s duty to write in the mileage from the odometer on the title when selling the automobile.

Request a vehicle history report. It’s one of the most convenient solutions. All you will need is a VIN code and you can order the history report online. 


All in all, you already know how crucial is car km reading. However, it can sometimes be misleading. Various factors cause the inaccuracy of the odometer. In most cases, people use mileage correction devices to alter mileage-related data for a variety of reasons. The main reason is to attract potential buyers and increase the value of the automobile. When buying a used automobile, do your research as long as it is possible. It will avoid possible future issues. Good luck!

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