Detect tampered odometers: How to avoid getting tricked


The used car market in India is rising at a fast pace. With more people choosing the used cars over new cars, the chance of getting ripped off also increases. While there are quite a few scams that a used car dealer may throw at you but the most common one is the tampering of the odometer. Showing that the vehicle is much less used increases its value in the used car market and it is quite difficult to detect too. Here are a few ways that can save you from tampered odometers.

Tampering analogue odometers

Odometer Rollback Fraud

Most cars in the used car market have analogue odometers since most older cars offered the same. Tampering with the analogue odometers is quite easy and any workshop can do that. Using tools, mechanics turn back the digits in ten thousand places or lakh place to reduce the reading on the odometer substantially. A lower reading on the odometer definitely increases its value as the seller term it as a “sparingly used” car.

How to look for such tampering? Well, it depends on the mechanic who has done the job. You will notice that the digits are not properly aligned. The other way to detect the tempering is to check the odometer when the vehicle is about to cross 10,000 km. In tempered odometers, the digits will not turn properly and won’t click in its place.

Tampering digital odometers

After the arrival of the digital odometer in the market, most of us thought that it will be more difficult to tamper with them. However, modern technology, even digital odometers can be reversed. Since it is all electronics, there is no physical sign of the tempering too. These are done in the “meter repair shops” who hook up the instrument console to a laptop and flash the chipset to reset it. At times, replacing the chipset and re-soldering the set-up will reverse the reading. Physically, you may get to see ill-fitted instrument cluster, or maybe some moisture, or marks from screwdrivers along the edges.

Can you detect odometer tampering?

There is no foolproof way just by looking at the instrument console to find out if there is tampering. However, you can always ask for the service records from the seller and check if there is something unusual in it. For example, many people disconnect the odometer wiring and drive around without it or get the reading reversed after a couple of years of use. If a car has run for say 10,000 km in the first and second year but only 3,000 km in the following year, there is definitely something wrong and you should be more careful. Also, look for “next service due” sticker inside the glove box or the door frame or the windscreen itself.

You can also make out if a vehicle has run for one lakh km by the wear and tear inside the cabin. How the steering wheel looks, examine the brake pedal, gear knob and parts that most of us ignore. If you have any experience of coming across such a car, please do share in the comments section.