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Odometer Reading – What is it & How to check it?

Odometer Reading – What is it & How to check it?
25 July, 2022

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.

In this guide, we show you how to read the odometer. We also explain what it means to roll back the odometer and how you can avoid becoming a victim of this practice.


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.


  1. Mechanical Odometer

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.

  1. Electronic Odometer

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.


The numbers you read on the odometer show you how many miles the vehicle has travelled. When you look at the odometer, you know how many miles are on that vehicle’s engine, transmission and other vital parts.

This measurement is important to know before you purchase a vehicle since the mileage determines a large part of the car’s value. Vehicles are often priced according to the model year, condition and mileage. The lower the mileage, the higher the resale value typically is.


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.

  1. When your fill-up the gas tank, reset the trip odometer.
  2. Drive normally until the next time your fill-up.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


It’s possible for the odometer to show the wrong measurement. If you have a mechanical odometer, you want to watch it periodically to ensure it is recording the mileage correctly. If you measure the distance you’ve driven, the odometer should accurately report it.

If the odometer isn’t working correctly, even a little, the mistake can quickly add up. Let’s assume that the odometer changes too soon, even by a little. It won’t take long before the car is showing far more miles than what has actually been driven, leading it to lose resale value unnecessarily.

It’s possible to have the fault repaired and get back on track. If you plan to sell your car in the future, this is something you want to take care of right away.

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