Can the digital odometer of a car be reset?

This is how you recognize odometer manipulation

Do you want to buy a used car and are you wondering whether the car's odometer could have been tampered with? Are you interested in how mileage tricksters work and are you looking for ways to detect odometer manipulation? Find out here how easy it is to reset a speedometer, what risks this falsification entails and what you should pay attention to when buying a used car so that you can rely on the mileage of the car.

Speedometer adjustment: quick and cheap

In the past, turning back analog odometers required technical skill and tools such as a drill and vice. With criminal energy, on the other hand, almost everyone today manages to manipulate a modern digital speedometer.

For a few euros, you can use “service providers” or you can lend a hand yourself. Everything that mileage fraudsters use for this: handy manipulation devices that access the vehicle's digital service interface via the car's on-board diagnostic socket (OBD). With the special software of these freely available diagnostic devices, which are available from around 100 euros, the mileage can be turned back as desired. And that even on several control units of the car, which makes the later detection of the manipulation even more difficult.

The whole process only takes a few minutes and requires little effort - because the speedometer does not have to be removed. ADAC and the authorities estimate that around one in three used cars now has odometer manipulation. There are various motivations for deliberately falsifying the odometer reading.

Increase in value

The year of manufacture and mileage are among the most important criteria when determining the value of a used car. The mileage of the car indicates how much the components of the entire vehicle have been stressed so far. Mileage of 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 kilometers are the “magic limits” for the loss of value and thus the purchase price. According to ADAC estimates, the average increase in value due to odometer manipulation is around 3,000 euros per vehicle.

If you look at the used car prices published by ADAC for autumn / winter 2019/20 (as of 10/2019), you can calculate how the mileage affects the sales price. Example Opel Corsa GSi (E), built in 2018: The new price was 20,040 euros. As a used car, this vehicle costs around 13,000 euros with a mileage of around 23,000 kilometers. If, on the other hand, the speedometer of this 150 hp three-door model already shows 53,000 kilometers, the purchase price is reduced by 12 percent. If fraudsters turn the speedometer back by 30,000 kilometers on this model, you would be paying over 1,500 euros too much for your new used vehicle.

Leasing residual value

Odometer manipulation also serves to prevent the agreed mileage of a leasing contract from being exceeded or undercut. With this, lessees try to adhere to the agreed mileage limit - in order to save deductions for the residual value and avoid leasing penalties.

The speedometer is sometimes manipulated with particularly criminal energy before the first visit to the workshop is due - usually the first TÜV after three years. You can find the wrong data in the service booklet and on invoices for smaller jobs such as changing tires.

Guarantee services

The new car warranty varies in scope and duration depending on the manufacturer. Many brands - including Audi, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Mercedes, Opel, Peugeot, Seat, Renault and VW - have a two-year guarantee on new vehicles with unlimited mileage.

In the case of Dacia, Honda, Mazda and Nissan, the new vehicle warranty only expires after three years - or before that, if the odometer reads 100,000 km before it expires. Other manufacturers also attach their guarantees to mileage limits. With such models, the odometer manipulation pursues the goal of obtaining free guarantee or goodwill services from the manufacturer if the mileage is too high.

Risks of a fake mileage

The fewer kilometers your new used car shows on the speedometer when you buy it, the more new it will feel. Psychologically certainly a positive effect. But is the mileage correct? Odometer manipulation carries some real risks. As the mileage increases, so does the wear and tear on important components. These are also safety-relevant and those that, if not properly maintained, can result in costly repairs.

Manufacturers therefore recommend service intervals at which components have to be checked or replaced after the specified mileage. By manipulating the speedometer, it can become really expensive for you as the new owner of the vehicle in extreme cases.

If you rely on a fake odometer reading that you do not know about, you may miss an important inspection. Then no specialist checks or replaces the wear-prone vehicle parts at the right time. For example, if you do not have the timing belt changed in good time - depending on the make and model, the manufacturers usually specify a mileage between 60,000 and 120,000 kilometers - this can lead to engine damage.

In addition, the mileage can be used to estimate what maintenance you will have to do in the foreseeable future (you can find the mileage or time intervals recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for maintenance in the service booklet). These routine inspections according to the maintenance plan are also important for you in order to optimally maintain the functionality and value of your vehicle.

If you buy a young used vehicle with a new vehicle warranty that is still valid, if the odometer is tampered with, you run the risk that the brand workshop will refuse to provide free repairs in the event of a warranty claim.

Not to be forgotten: In the worst case, a manipulated speedometer harbors the risk of accidentally editing or deleting security-relevant data. After all, the counterfeiters intervene massively in the vehicle's electronics via the software.

Look closely and recognize trickery

You can find out what you should consider when buying a used car in our tips for buying a used car. But how do you know if the speedometer has been tampered with? As a rule, it is not as quick and easy as turning back a speedometer.

The reason for this lies in the inadequate safeguarding of the software functions in the vehicle electronics by the manufacturers. Even automotive experts or workshops do not have the technical means for a 100 percent reliable diagnosis.

However, if you pay attention to a few things when buying your new used vehicle, you will very likely notice possible odometer manipulation.

Pay attention to signs of use

The overall impression of the used car gives you an initial indication of odometer manipulation. Does the condition match the mileage of the car? Even if the steering wheel, seat covers or other parts may have been replaced, it is worth taking a critical look.

inner space

Worn steering wheel and gear lever, damaged seat upholstery and worn pedals do not match a speedometer display of 15,000 kilometers.

Headlights

Another indication of a manipulated speedometer are dull or badly scratched headlights and windows when the mileage is low.

tires

A vehicle with a mileage of less than 20,000 kilometers is normally still on its first tires. These should also not be older than the vehicle. The DOT number provides information about the year of manufacture. The number 3018 z. B. means that the tire was manufactured in the 30th calendar week of 2018.

Check and compare documents

Further indications that something is wrong with the kilometer display can often be found in vehicle papers and other documents. Here you should look carefully and ask.

Service booklet

In a complete service booklet you will find the respective mileage for all inspections recommended by the manufacturer. Check whether the kilometers driven in the intervening periods appear plausible.

If you want to, however, you will consistently turn the speedometer down before each visit to the workshop - then the entries will not help you any further. It should make you puzzled, however, if a booklet that is several years old is always provided with the same stamp and handwriting. It is unlikely that the same employee will always make the entries - or that the stamp color will not change.

Repair invoices

In addition to the service booklet, old repair invoices are also of interest to you. It is worthwhile to make the effort and compare whether the mileage of these additional workshop visits match the entries in the service booklet.

AU and TÜV reports

These documents also contain information on the mileage on a specific date. Another possibility for a cross comparison with other papers.

Check oil change

When a workshop changes the engine oil, it leaves a sticker or a tag. On it you will find a note when the next oil change is due. Does the speedometer show 30,000 kilometers and the next oil change is due at 120,000 kilometers according to the workshop entry? Then be suspicious, because the oil is usually changed every 30,000 kilometers.

Read out and compare vehicle memory

When fraudsters reset the speedometer, they often overlook other control units in modern vehicles that also record the odometer reading. This includes the counter for maintenance intervals, the fault memory and the control unit of the air conditioning system. Have the relevant vehicle memory read out for your used car in a specialist workshop. Among the data logged here you will find mileage, which should be plausible when compared with other data available to you on paper.

If you suspect odometer manipulation, let the workshop determine the production date of the speedometer and control units. They may have been replaced and are younger than the vehicle itself. The seller can always prove an exchange due to a (very unlikely) defect with invoices without any doubt. However, this tip also applies: Professional fraudsters don't give you a chance to discover such irregularities - they manipulate all relevant memories.

Carry out a used vehicle check

You have a good chance of tracking down odometer manipulation with a used car check. ADAC, DEKRA, TÜV and workshops put your used car through its paces. The meticulous inspection covers the entire vehicle, from the interior to the engine, transmission, electrics and brake system to the underbody, wheels and axles. The experts compare the condition of the car with the mileage, so that a counterfeit mileage rarely goes undetected.

Use Carly as a smart sniffer dog

For more and more used cars there is now a smart solution to discover fraud with the speedometer adjustment. The Carly app - extensive diagnostic software - works with a vehicle-specific Bluetooth adapter that is already available for many brands.

Using the "Used car check" function, it reads out various data and shows on your smartphone after a few seconds whether the odometer has been tampered with. In addition, this app calculates the average speed the vehicle has reached so far. Does it determine, for example, 15 km / h from the odometer reading and operating hours? Then be suspicious.

Rely on safety with heycar

No matter which used car you choose: At heycar, no vehicle has more than 150,000 km on the odometer. Why can you be sure of that? Because heycar works with selected, certified dealers in your area who meticulously check every vehicle in their workshop.

In addition to looking at the mileage, the checklist also includes checking the mileage meter and speedometer. With this extensive used vehicle check, the first clues can be found quickly in the event of odometer manipulation. A specialist will notice when the gearshift is too easy at 15,000 km, the turn signal lever has flaws, parts of the odometer have been replaced or the headlight glass shows signs of excessive wear. You can trust used cars from heycar.

You get daily registrations or annual vehicles with a new vehicle guarantee - and all other vehicles with a one-year used vehicle guarantee at no extra charge. No car is more than eight years old.

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