Updated at: 27-08-2022 - By: Lucas

Odometers are found in the instrument cluster on the dashboard of every vehicle. The odometer displays the mileage traveled by your car, usually in digital form, and it allows you to better schedule tire rotations, oil changes, and other routine maintenance tasks.

There should be no tampering with the odometer. As a matter of fact, you may be asking whether or not it is unlawful to reset the odometer on an automobile. You don’t have to wonder any longer, since we’ve got all the answers right here.

How Can You Tell If An Odometer Has Been Reset?

Can You Reset Miles On A Car

It has been used by illicit car salesmen for decades to hide the mileage of a vehicle. Old-fashioned mechanical analog odometers might be easily reduced in mileage.

Driving in reverse or using a power tool to reverse a car’s mechanics was all it needed to cut a vehicle’s mileage by thousands of kilometers. “

The method of resetting the mileage has become more difficult due to the advent of complex auto computers and digital odometers (special software is required), but it is still doable.

There are an estimated 3% of all used cars sold in the United States that have had their mileage tampered with. According to an NHTSA investigation, nearly half a million cars are sold each year with inaccurate odometers.

Knowing the warning signals of odometer fraud is important in light of these figures. If you’re going to buy a used car, keep these things in mind:

Worn tires

The tread patterns on a car’s tires are a good indicator of how far the vehicle has been driven. There’s a discrepancy when the odometer displays low but the tires appear worn. Also, check the manufacturing date on the tires. When the odometer reads low but the tires are old, you know there is foul play happening. You should not have old and worn tires if your car has only done 7. 000 miles, for example.

Scratches on the instrument cluster

In cars that have the odometer in the instrument cluster and not in the computer there will likely be scratches and damage to the screws and casing. To roll back the odometer, criminals would need to get at it through the plastic seal and this is difficult to do without causing visible damage.

Wear and tear

Unless the car was hardly ever used, low mileage usually equates to a newer car. Cars that are fresh out on the road will have minimal wear and tear if any at all. If you notice the padding on the steering wheel is worn, the foot pedals are looking well used and the seats are not in good condition, chances are the car is not as new as the seller wants you to believe.

Look for damaged parts and replacements

New cars don’t need to have parts replaced unless something has gone very wrong. If the car is boasting miles of just 10, 000 but a look under the hood reveals a new alternator, a replacement battery, or lots of built up debris and corrosion in the engine, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to assume that the odometer may have been tampered with.

Is It Illegal To Reset Car Miles?

Can You Reset Miles On A Car-2

Resetting car miles is known as odometer fraud and it is a criminal offense in both state and federal law. A malfunction may damage your odometer and cause it to display the incorrect mileage and you may want to reset the odometer.

However, issues with a faulty odometer are rare, in most cases car owners wonder if they can reset the miles because they want to get a better sale price.

The truth is, whatever the reason, tampering with a car odometer is a crime. Unless you have been provided with written permission by the authorities, you should never be considering how to reset a car odometer.

Odometer fraud has been found to result in around $4 $10 billion consumer losses, so whilst it is a crime that comes with a prison sentence, it doesn’t stop some sellers from reducing the miles to get a better price.

A common prison sentence for odometer fraud is often within the region of 18 months up to 3 years. However, offenders with more serious convictions of vehicle odometer fraud have found themselves facing a long prison sentence, often around 7 years.

Can You Reset Miles On A Car?

Can You Reset Miles On A Car-3

Whilst it is illegal to turn back the miles on a car odometer, it is possible to do so. For example, if you have a car in your garage that you never intend on selling or taking on the road, it’s just there for you to practice your mechanical skills on, you can try to reset the odometer.

However, tampering with a car’s mileage is a crime and you should never forget that fact.

Car odometers have switched from analog to digital over the years and the mechanics have changed to reduce the risk of tampering and odometer fraud.

Modern car models may come with an anti tampering seal around the odometer on the instrument cluster, this makes it difficult to get to the odometer and change the mileage.

There are how to guides available online if you wish to know how to reset the odometer on your car. However, as resetting a car’s mileage is a crime, we will not be sharing the steps in this article. Instead, we have answered several frequently asked questions about resetting an odometer, we hope you find our answers useful.


Why is it illegal to reset the odometer?

It is illegal to reset an odometer as it is fraud. If you were to buy a car that has had its odometer tampered with, the seller will have sold it to you on a fraudulent basis.

The most common reason odometers are rolled back is to make a vehicle seem newer than it is and to be able to charge more for the false low mileage on the clock. Also, as cars age and do more miles, the vehicle can require more maintenance to stay safe and road worthy.

If a car’s odometer is displaying an incorrect number of miles, new owners may delay servicing the vehicle as they believe the car has not reached the required number of miles between this essential maintenance.

What happens if you reset mileage?

Resetting or tampering with a car’s odometer is a serious crime in both state and federal law. Odometer fraud has been found to cost consumers a loss of between 4 and 10 billion dollars!

If you are found to have rolled back the miles in a car, you can end up in prison. Deceiving buyers purchasing your car by resetting the odometer is morally wrong but is also a punishable crime.

Can you reverse an odometer?

Mechanical odometers can be wound back by driving the car in reverse. These classical style odometers use springs, cables, and pegs to turn as the miles go up and they can also work in the opposite direction.

However, analog odometers have not been used by manufacturers for many years now and digital odometers will only accumulate miles, regardless of if, you are traveling forwards or in reverse.

How do I know if my car mileage is genuine?

If you haven’t bought your car from a reputable dealer, you may be worried about the mileage. There are a few simple checks you can do to see if your car mileage is genuine.

Look at the overall condition of the car and the engine, if the state of the car does not seem to fit with the low mileage on the odometer, there’s a chance the mileage has been tampered with.

If the pads on the steering wheel, gear stick, and pedals look worn and well used but the car miles are low, something doesn’t quite add up and your mileage may be fraudulent.

Does replacing the engine reset mileage?

A new car engine does not reset the mileage on the odometer. An odometer is a record of all of a car’s components, it is not only linked to the engine. The odometer documents the distance traveled by your car during its entire ‘life’, regardless of any parts being repaired or replaced.


Is it illegal to reset the odometer in a car?

After reading this article we hope you understand that the answer to this question is yes. Resetting the miles in a car is a state and federal crime and odometer fraud can come with a prison sentence.

Despite the potential for time behind bars, there are still people in the USA today selling cars with the miles rolled back. We have shared the signs to look out for and we hope after reading this article you will know how to notice odometer fraud if you intend to buy a second hand car in the future.