How to avoid odometer fraud and why it is important when buying used cars


The odometer helps to know the number of miles a car has traveled. You need to be on the lookout for odometer fraud. Here’s how to avoid it when buying used cars!

Nigeria has a thriving market for Tokunbo and Nigerian used cars. Here on Naijacarnews, we’ve positioned this site to dish out car tips and advice to help car owners make the most use of their cars-both brand new and tokunbo. When buying a used car, one of the car parts inspection we've always advised buyers to look into is the odometer. This is because a car's odometer can be tampered with by some car dealers who want to make more money off a used car that has a negative history. They roll back the odometer so you wouldn't know the exact number of miles a car has run. A car whose odometer has been rolled back is a risk to the buyer, with regards to the car's durability and safety on the road.

This post will be sharing with you how to avoid odometer fraud if you intend buying a used car.

To start with, let's see how the odometer works in a vehicle. This is going to help you become more aware of the operations of an odometer. This information isn't specific to any vehicle. It’s for all vehicles.

1. How the odometer works

An odometer is a device used for measuring the distance a vehicle traveled. When the odometer is set manually to show a false mileage, it is called odometer fraud.

The odometer has a direct connection with the speedometer. The odometer and speedometer jointly collect data from the vehicle's Body Control Module (BCM) which generates a signal and the odometer gets to record it. There is a Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) found inside or secured to the transmission. It detects the rotation speed of the final drive gear.


The odometer acts an important role in a car purchasing deal

The odometer is fitted with a trip meter, also known as trip odometer, which lets users find out how many mileage the car has driven for a particular trip. Also, the odometer is resettable. And this is where odometer fraud is exhibited.

2. How to avoid odometer fraud

Odometer fraud is common automotive scam car buyers get to witness often. It is evident in the used car market where car dealers trick buyers into believing that a car hasn't been driven for long, by rolling back the odometer. Let’s see how to check for odometer fraud when buying a used car.


Some buyers are greedy enough to roll back their odometers

2.1. Inspect the odometer to confirm the number of miles

  • The average mileage a car can go for a year is 12,000 miles. Let’s say a car is just five years old and its odometer shows a figure that's way fewer than 60,000 miles. Here, it’s an indication that someone may have altered the odometer.
  • Take a closer look at the numbers written on the odometer. There are some car manufacturers who program the odometer to show asterisks (*) when the mileage on it is changed.
  • For General Motors, the numbers on their mechanical odometers are separated with black space between each number. If you don't see a black space but rather white or silver space, it's a sign that the odometer has been tampered with.
  • For mechanical odometers, their numbers should align correctly.
  • Check to see if there are fingerprints inside the plastic cover.

Video: You sure need help spotting out an odometer fraud, watch this video

2.2. Request to see the vehicle's inspection or maintenance record

The inspection records of the vehicle always carry the mileage. Compare the mileage written on the record to the number on the odometer. If there's any inconsistency with the records, know that an odometer fraud has taken place.

2.3. Examine the dashboard for missing screws

If the car's dashboard isn't properly fixed or a screw is missing around the dashboard, the odometer may have been changed.

2.4. Check the brake pedal

A worn out brake pad says it all, especially when the odometer reads low mileage. The floor mats are to be checked too.

2.5. Have a mechanic inspect the car for wear and tear

A mechanic knows a car part that was newly replaced on an older vehicle. Beware of a car whose odometer says 30,000 yet it has new car parts. Ordinarily, there may not be any need for a car parts replacement until it has driven 60,000 miles.

Here's how the odometer came about.

3. A brief history of odometer

The odometer was invented by a Roman engineer and architect by name Vitruvius in 15 BCE. Then, the odometer made use of a chariot wheel, which in the Roman mile, turns 400 times. It uses a 400 tooth cogwheel that rotates each mile. And for each mile, the cogwheel engages that drops a stone/pebble into the box. You are able to know how many miles you've gone by counting the pebbles.


The oldest odometer was created in the ancient Rome Empire

Present day odometers created by the likes of William Clayton uses separate gears which now controls each digit.

>>> See our car care section for more car maintenance tricks and Car buying&selling tips as well!

Jane Osuagwu