How to check for odometer rollbacks

Written by ehow contributor
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Despite stricter laws and increased enforcement, fraudulent odometer rollbacks continue to cost car buyers billions of dollars each year. By obtaining a detailed history of the used car you wish to purchase, and by carefully inspecting the vehicle for wear and tear, you can determine whether or not the odometer has been rolled back.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Vehicle history report
  • Maintenance records

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  1. 1

    Check for odometer rollbacks on a used car by carefully inspecting the condition of the vehicle to see whether the wear and tear correlates with the mileage total. For instance, you should look for worn arm rests on the driver's side, which may indicate that the car has seen more use than the mileage indicates. You should also look for worn gas, clutch and brake pedals that can also give you a good idea of how many miles the car has really traveled.

  2. 2

    Examine the odometer carefully for rollbacks by seeing whether the rows of numbers are aligned properly, with no spaces in between. A sharp rap on the dashboard may also cause the numbers to shift or jiggle, which is another sign that the odometer has been changed.

  3. 3

    Look at the title of the car to check the notated mileage against the actual reading on the odometer. Ensure that the mileage notation on the title is easy to read, and has not been altered or changed in any obvious way.

  4. 4

    Ask to see the official maintenance records of the vehicle from a dealer or local garage. You can also look for maintenance stickers on the windshield of the car, the door frames, in certain location in the engine compartment or in the glove box. The mileage should be noted on every service invoice.

  5. 5

    Inspect the tires on the vehicle to check for an odometer rollback. If the used car in question has fewer than 20,000 miles on the odometer, the original tires should still be on the car.

  6. 6

    Obtain a detailed car history, which should list the latest documented mileage of the car, from an online source such as Carfax. In addition, the car history report should tell you whether the vehicle has ever been in an accident, as well as whether there has been a history of odometer tampering in the past.

Tips and warnings

  • The digital odometers in newer cars have not been able to discourage unscrupulous car sellers from rolling back odometers. In fact, it is easier to tamper with a digital odometer without detection, due to the lack of moving parts within the mechanism.

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