Odometer Tampering: What is It and How to Avoid It?

  • Published On: 19 March 2019
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Used car buyers beware as menace of odometer tampering rages.

Analogue Odometer Tampering
Digital Odometer Tampering
Odomegter Reading Form
Analogue Odometer Tampering
Digital Odometer Tampering
Odomegter Reading Form

You have heard about it, and have also suspected it, however, let us tell you that this is true. Tampering with the odometer is the oldest trick in the books of used car scamsters. As tough as it is, tampering with the odometer is a reality and can be done. Also, let us bust a myth for you that digital odometers are safe from tampering, they are not. As it is said, it takes one to know one, so in order to save yourself from odometer tampering, you must also be aware as to how odometers can be tampered with. Not that we are encouraging odometer tampering, but a knowledge of the same to avoid it is also vital.

Analog Meter Tampering

Analog odometers are the meters where the numbers are put on a wheel and the wheel rotates to indicate the distance travelled by the vehicle. This kind of odometers are pretty easy to be tampered with. While modern cars do not feature analog meters anymore, the used car market is a home for older cars, and therefore tampering with the meters of these old cars is rampant. Upon removing the meter from the dashboard of the car, one can easily rotate the dials and set back the distance travelled by the vehicle. The motive behind this kind of tampering is to make the car seem newer and hide the distance clocked by it so that it ca be sold for a price higher than what it deserves.

A shoddy job is what often gives the game away in such tamperings, and often you’ll find that the numbers are not aligned properly because of the poor job done on tampering with them. What makes this more dangerous is that this tampering is not detected soon as often people find this out after they have run the vehicle for nearly 10,000 kilometers.

Digital Odometers

Let us clear the myth for you that digital meters cannot be tampered with, as they say, a lock is only as good as the thief. A decade ago, and digital odometers were considered relatively safe as the chances of them being tampered with was nearly non-existent as the scamsters were not that familiar with the new technology. However, cut to the present and you find that even digital meters are not out of reach of crooks. What is worse is that since the entire process is fully digital, a person with decent software knowledge and a laptop can do the tampering, and to add the misery, since the entire tampering will be electronic, it will be difficult to find out about it.

In order to tamper with the readings on the meter, one only needs to remove the car’s console, and connect it to a laptop or a smartphone and flash the desired reading on the meter. Replacing the chip on the board of the meter is also fairly common. If not done by a professional, misfit of console, smudge marks, marks from screwdrivers etc. are the tell-tale signs of tampering of speedometers. Car resellers often disconnect the speedo cable on the car, use it and then connect it before selling to another customer again. 

Detecting Odometer Tampering

The simples way to find out whether the odometer in the car has been tampered or not is to tally the service center’s records with the odometer readings of the car. The service centers keep a detailed account of the cars the service and tallying the intervals of service of the car with the current reading can give you a clear picture of whether the odometer has been tampered with or not.

Searching for “next service due” stickers inside a car is one way how you can get hold of the service center number or contact for you to enquire about the car. Apart from the usual investigation a keen look at the wear and tear on the car can also give you an idea of how much the car has run in its life. Cars with a lakh kms under their belt generally have signs of wear and tear on steering wheel, brakes, gear lever, seat edges etc. The tyres are a major giveaway about the distance a car has travelled, that is if the owner has not changed them. You can also open the board of the odometer chip and if there is fresh soldering on the chip, the meter has surely been tampered with.

Author: Sridhar@cartoq.com

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