What is odometer reading? Wondering what an odometer reading is and how to read it? This article explains everything you need to know.
Your car’s dashboard contains many gauges and measurements, but the odometer reading might be the most important. This random set of numbers means more than you might be aware of.
Whether you have a mechanical or electronic odometer, you can read the numbers that are shown. These numbers show how many total miles the vehicle has been driven. However, there are some ways these numbers can be messed with, giving you a false impression.
What Is an Odometer?
An odometer is a device for measuring the distance traveled by a vehicle. The odometer usually lives in the vehicle’s dashboard. “Odometer” derives from two Greek words meaning “path” and “measure.”
An odometer may be digital or mechanical. Each cog on a mechanical odometer represents a digit. The cogs turn in response to the rotation of the wheels via a drive mechanism and cable.
A windowed casing shows only the current mileage of the vehicle and not the mechanical parts. Digital odometers use a computer chip to track mileage, storing data in the engine control module (ECM). The odometer will digitally display the current mileage.
A vehicle may also have a trip meter or trip odometer. Unlike the regular odometer, you can reset the trip odometer at any point. A vehicle may have several trip odometers. Trip meters can be highly beneficial for recording the distance traveled over a specific time, making it easy to determine how many miles per gallon your vehicle gets for each fuel tank.
The resale value of a vehicle is often significantly affected by mileage. The lower the mileage on a car, the higher the resale value. When a seller manually sets an odometer to display a falsely deflated mileage, they commit odometer fraud or “clocking.”
The idea behind clocking is to make it look like the vehicle has traveled less mileage than it actually has. The mileage in cars with a digital odometer is stored in the engine control module, making it more difficult to change the mileage manually.
Mechanics must maintain records of the odometer reading each time they service a vehicle. Authorities instituted this rule to combat odometer fraud. Many car service companies use this information to help buyers detect possible odometer fraud.
How Does The Odometer Work?
The odometer is a measurement device that shows the total distance travelled by the car. It’s found on the car’s dashboard. Two Greek words come together to form the word “odometer,” leaving us with the meaning of path and measure.
There is also a trip odometer on most cars. Unlike the standard odometer, the trip odometer is easy to reset to show how many miles were travelled during a specific time. It’s a helpful tool if you want to figure out the approximate gas mileage of your vehicle.
Why Is The Odometer Important?
An odometer is important because it essentially tells you how old your vehicle is and how much it has been used.
If you own a 2015 Corolla in the year 2020 and the odometer says 100,000 miles, you know the car has been driven about 20,000 miles per year, which is above average.
Mileage determines a lot of the value of a vehicle because as a car is used, the parts start to get worn and need replacing. This is why a vehicle with over 200,000 miles is often worth a fraction of what it cost new.
What is Odometer Reading?
You read the odometer’s displayed digits from left to right. If the speedometer is in mph then the odometer reading will be in miles. If the speedometer is is km/h then the odometer reading will be in kilometers.
The mechanical odometer is constructed with a few cogs. Each one represents a numerical digit. However, the mechanical odometer operation actually begins at the car’s transmission. The small gear used to change the odometer is found attached to the transmission.
The drive cable for the speedometer is connected to this gear, with the other end reaching the instrument cluster. As the car moves, the transmission gear also turns in conjunction. The drive cable connected to it changes the digits on the odometer.
As can be seen by the illustration above, the counting begins on the right. This particular odometer shows 160,648 km. All of these numbers will reach a peak value before resetting to zero and starting again. However, the mechanical odometer numbers can often be slightly off-centre, making them more difficult to read.
The electronic odometer design is newer than the mechanical type. It’s a digital odometer that is run by the electrical system. While there is still a special gear measuring the mileage, there isn’t a drive cable. Instead, a magnetic sensor is used to count how often the gear turns with the transmission. The mileage is then shown by the numbers reflected on the dashboard electronically.
The electronic odometer is more accurate than a mechanical one and it’s not as easy to alter. If you look at the illustration above, it shows the mileage of the vehicle at 100000 km, revealed electronically.
Odometer Reading Terminology Explained
There are a few terms and phrases to become familiar with when you’re figuring out the things you should know about your car’s odometer reading.
What Is an Odometer Reading Statement?
Also known as an odometer disclosure statement, the odometer reading statement is a document that comes with a bill of sale when a car transfers ownership that states the accurate odometer reading at the time of the ownership transfer.
What Does Odometer Reading Reported Mean?
The odometer reading reported means that the owner reported the odometer reading to the DMV through an odometer disclosure statement.
What Does Odometer Reading Exempt Mean?
Some vehicles are exempt from needing odometer disclosure statements, so in a sale, the owner can write “exempt” on the title where they would typically record the mileage.
Vehicles with a model year before 2011 that are ten years old are exempt. Vehicles manufactured since 2011 need to be 20 years old before they’ll be exempt from odometer reporting.
Odometers become less accurate as cars age and rack up miles. Also, if a car was driven over 100,000 miles and didn’t change hands, it can be challenging to tell accurate mileage unless the owner discloses that the odometer rolled over.
The exemption is federal, so some states have slightly different regulations and exemptions.
What Is a Federal Odometer Reading?
The Federal Odometer Act requires owners to report vehicle mileage during sales and prohibits tampering. When the seller records the odometer reading, it’s a federal legally binding document.
What Does Odometer Reading No Tenths Mean?
When you fill out forms like the odometer disclosure statement for title transfers, the blank for the odometer reading often says “no tenths.” This phrase simply means that you should write down only whole numbers, not the last digit on the odometer that measures tenths of a mile.
What Is a Certified Odometer Reading?
An odometer disclosure statement is a certified odometer reading because the document is legally binding. When you write the odometer reading on the disclosure statement with the date you took the reading, it becomes the certification date of the odometer reading.
How To Calculate Fuel Economy With The Odometer?
You can use the odometer to figure out the approximate fuel economy of your vehicle. Knowing what the car should be getting, you can determine if the engine isn’t working as it should.
- When your fill-up the gas tank, reset the trip odometer.
- Drive normally until the next time your fill-up.
- At that filling session, write down the number of gallons you added and take note of the trip mileage since the last fill-up. This shows how many miles you drove for that many gallons of gas.
- You can divide the number of miles driven by the number of gallons you put in the tank. For example, if you drove 200 miles on 10 gallons of fuel, the average fuel economy was 20 mpg.
To get the most accurate reading, try to record the mileage for an entire tank of fuel. You can also perform the test several times to see a better average.
How Accurate Are Digital Odometers?
Digital odometers are now more common than ever. For one, they are cheaper to install than traditional, mechanical ones; this makes them ideal.
By going digital, you can also implement plenty of new features into them, such as more trips.
With this technology also comes more advanced tracking systems. Each car manufacturer is different, and technology is always improving.
Some systems now use GPS to track the vehicle’s mileage, while others track different vehicle aspects to get the most accurate number possible.
Having a digital odometer opens up the possibility of more accurate tracking, more features, and a better visual experience through the display.
Is It Illegal To Change the Odometer Reading?
Yes. The Federal Odometer Act makes it illegal to tamper with a vehicle’s odometer reading to change the numbers or interfere with the odometer’s operation to display false mileage.
How Can You Verify an Odometer Reading?
You can use the steps listed above to check the odometer reading online through CARFAX, VIN lookup websites, and your state’s DMV services. A title search at the DMV will give you the last recorded odometer reading.
If those numbers are old, you can look for an oil change sticker on the windshield or receipts in the glove compartment. Most oil change stickers suggest the next mileage when you should have an oil change. Their documentation and receipts may also list the number.
Does Tire Size Affect Odometer Reading?
A car’s odometer measures tire rotations based on a tire’s circumference times rotations. The tire’s size doesn’t matter as long as it’s the original size built onto the car. Manufacturers calibrate the odometer to record distance accurately based on the original tire size.
If you change to a smaller or larger tire, you’ll need to have your mechanic calibrate the odometer to the new circumference measurement for it to record the mileage accurately.
What Is the Average Odometer Reading on a New Car?
Most new cars will show mileage on their odometer reading of between 10 and 50 miles. Some vehicles might display as many as 200 miles if they came from a dealership or factory to a showroom some distance away.
Even a brand new car will have more than 0 miles on the odometer because new cars will show miles from being moved during transportation.
If a new car has 200 miles, it might have been transported from a distance or have been used for many test drives before you purchased it. A new car at a dealership lot is more likely to have an odometer reading of three digits than one delivered to you from the factory.
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