How can you tell if the meter in your car is twisted?

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Although in our country it is already illegal, it is still not uncommon that before selling the car owners decide to roll back the odometer. However, it is worth knowing what is the actual mileage of the vehicle. How to recognize the counter turned back?

Mileage vs. technical condition of the vehicle

When buying a used car, one of the first things a potential buyer will pay attention to is its mileage. It is often the primary determinant of the choice. The mileage is the condition of the odometer, which can tell a lot about the technical condition of a vehicle. As the length of use and intensity of use increases, so does the wear and tear on individual parts. In short, the higher the mileage of a car, the worse its condition is, and at the same time the lower its value. After buying a car, which has already driven a considerable amount of kilometers, a new driver must prepare for a number of additional costs associated with the replacement of parts and necessary repairs.

Overdriving happens very often

Although odometer reversing is illegal in Poland, you can never be sure that your mileage is accurate. In fact, only documented odometer can prove anything and have meaning for us. In the case of older cars, 200,000 kilometers is an insurmountable limit. Therefore, sellers of their cars very often decide on a dishonest and also very risky step, which is to roll back the odometer. A car with lower mileage is much more attractive for buyers – the seller can also count on higher profit. It is worth mentioning that from May 25, 2019 it is allowed to roll back the meters only if they are replaced due to damage, which must be confirmed by the Vehicle Inspection Station. Such a crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison!

Many people are accustomed to the fact that most cars available on the second-hand market are vehicles with corrected odometers. Unfortunately this makes a lot of buyers suspicious of cars with low mileage – even if it is correct.

How to spot an odometer that has been readjusted

Incorrect mileage is a really big problem that can confuse many a driver. Fortunately, there are a few proven ways to tell if the odometer has been run backwards. When you inspect your car, there are a few things you need to look for that will give you an almost definitive indication of the vehicle’s condition

The interior of the vehicle

This is something that we should take into account first. The degree of wear on the upholstery and the driver’s seat can tell us many things. By analyzing the condition of the cabin equipment, we will be able to approximately determine how long and how intensively the vehicle was used. Worn seats can also be a sign of poor quality of materials used, but a trained eye of a professional or a person who often has contact with the brand will dispel all doubts.

In the case of the interior of the vehicle, it is worth keeping a special vigilance, because it is something that can be easily replaced or renewed. Therefore, you should not suggest a beautiful appearance of the upholstery, because it does not necessarily indicate low mileage. However, it is worth paying attention to the less noticeable details – for example, the degree of wear and tear on the gear stick and the wear and tear on the pedal pads. Their poor condition can indicate a high number of kilometers traveled. With a deeper analysis we will even be able to find out whether the car was used more often on highways, or perhaps in urban conditions. Frequent trips on the freeway are less likely to damage the interior of the vehicle, for example the gear lever or the clutch and brake pedals.

Number of owners

Another indicator that can show the mileage of the car is the number of previous owners. It can indicate the degree of failure of the vehicle, as well as high or low mileage. Of course, this information can be interpreted in many ways, but sometimes it can be a really valuable clue. It is also worth remembering that in the case of subsequent owners, there is an increased risk of dishonest behavior on the part of one of them – usually we will not be able to get to the source of the problem if the odometer was rolled back by one of the previous drivers.

Traces on an analogue meter

For cars with an analogue meter, it’s very easy to recognise any tampering. If you try to reduce the mileage, any scratches, worn screws or other mechanical damage will be visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, more and more cars have digital counters, which are reversed from a dedicated program on a computer or even a smartphone – after connecting the appropriate module to the OBD II connector.

Reading the mileage after connecting the car to the computer

A vehicle with an electronic odometer can be a salvation for many drivers. In this case, it is enough to connect the car to the computer in the workshop and determine the actual mileage. It is worth mentioning that for some brands of cars, mileage is digitally recorded not only on the meter itself, but also in the gearbox module or GPS navigation. Therefore, at an authorized service center for a particular brand, we can easily check the real mileage of the vehicle, even if it does not have a service history.

VIN report

The VIN report is the most accurate and reliable source of data about the vehicle. The information it contains includes technical data, incident history, factory defects, equipment options and much more. However, what potential buyers are most interested in is 100 percent reliable information about the vehicle’s mileage. This solution can rule out many problems.

Since 2014, during the annual mandatory technical inspection, the diagnostician is required to write down the current odometer and enter it into the system. Everyone will have access to this information, because it is available on the government website All we will need is the registration number, VIN number and the date of first registration in the country. This is one of the best ways to find out about the technical condition of the car.


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