How to Reset Odometer: Is it legal to Reset ?

Every car on the road has an odometer. The odometer is a device in your instrument cluster that calculates the distance traveled. It is typically in digit forms or identified in the form of mileage. The odometer is essential for keeping track of the distance traveled, for a tire change, oil change, and any scheduled maintenance. What if car mileage resets itself? It will be a significant concern. So, in this article, we will discuss at length how to reset odometer.

But before we get to that, I want you to understand that this article’s intent is for educational purposes and not for fraudulent activities, so you can legally reset odometer. The sole aim of writing this article is to save you from nightmares; suppose your odometer resets itself.

Is it legal to reset odometer?

Resetting your vehicle mileage for whatsoever reason without written permission from the authorities is known as odometer fraud – I’m sure you know what fraudulent activity is. Is it legal to reset odometer? Of course not, it is illegal. Odometer fraud is a federal crime in the united state and can land the perpetrator in prison. It has caused an estimated $4 – $10 billion consumer loss per a report by the National Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).

It is a serious crime in both federal and state laws. The USA federal government prohibits dissembling, resetting, or tampering with any car’s odometer to change the number of miles on the dashboard. Whether or not you do this to deceive potential buyers to make your vehicle look newer and sell higher can land you in prison.

When selling a car, the buyer should be given a written disclosure of the car’s covered mileage. Suppose the mileage has been tampered with, the law requests the buyer to write a statement on that effect. However, suppose the vehicle in question is older than 10years. In that case, the seller can sell the vehicle without providing any written disclosure regarding the vehicle’s mileage.

Odometer fraud can happen in several ways. The primary reason is when scammers want to sell used cars as newer ones and get higher pay. Regarding odometer fraud, let’s look at how these scammers and how you can reset your odometer mileage on older vehicles.

How to reset odometer

There are two common reasons you might want to reset your vehicle odometer. First, you might want to reset the odometer because the mileage resets by itself (which happens in rare cases), or you’re doing this for fraudulent purposes. If you want to sell your car, resetting the odometer makes the car appear newer and attracts more value. However, you needn’t forget there are charges for such a fraudulent act. Follow the below steps to know how to reset the odometer on Toyota, and any vehicle make.

is it illegal to reset odometer

Replacing the instrument cluster:  Most Japanese manufacturers put the vehicle mileage on the instrument cluster and not on the car computer. When you change the instrument cluster with a brand new one, the miles on the odometer will show zero. Suppose you decide to replace your instrument cluster with a used cluster from another car; the cluster will show the miles from the original vehicle.

Since this is a fraudulent act, why is it legal to reset the odometer? Replacing the odometer without filling out some paperwork is illegal. As you must have seen in few paragraphs above, there are laws forbidding odometer reset in the united states. The only legal way to replace your instrument cluster (not resetting the odometer) is to transpose the original miles from the former cluster before replacement.

Manipulating the knob: This is the simplest way to reset the odometer. Locate a knob on the instrument cluster. This knob does several tasks like showing the remaining fuel percentage and temperature evaluations. Interestingly enough, if you seek how to reset trip miles on a car, this knob can do the task. To reset miles with this knob, press and hold down the knob for few seconds; once the fuel economy comes up, your odometer will reset to zero.

Reassemble the Odometer: If you are a gearhead about car components and mechanisms like me, resetting the odometer on older vehicles will be an easy and straightforward task. All you have to do is take common mechanic tools like screwdrivers and pliers, remove the instrument cluster, and reset the mile values by hand before reassembling it.

In any case, some vehicle manufactures are aware of these tricks, so they decided to add a tamper-proof seal. That way, it won’t be easy to reset your odometer without getting caught if your vehicle has a tamper-proof seal.

If you have made up your mind to manipulate the odometer readings, ensure you match the readings with your vehicle’s lifespan. The average life expectancy of vehicle tires is 25k miles. It will be easy to detect odometer rigging if your vehicle tires look worn out and your mileage reads 15k.

DIY Odometer Reprogramming YouTube Video 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Q: Why is my digital odometer not working?

Ans: If you find out your digital odometer is not working, there is a likelihood your speed sensor is bad. These sensors are usually mounted with one 12mm or 10mm bolt holding them on the back of your transmission.

Q: How do you reprogram an odometer?

Ans: Reprogramming odometer on older cars is a lot easier than on newer cars. However, there are common tricks that can work on both, especially on Japanese cars. Most Japanese cars store their vehicle miles on the instrument cluster instead of on the car computer. So, the easiest and simple way of reprogramming your odometer on such cars is by replacing the instrument cluster.

Q: How do I fix my odometer?

Ans: Vehicles nowadays have speed sensors that read miles the vehicle has covered. The speed sensor is an electronic device fitted on the back of your transmission. If your speedometer is not working at all, slide under your vehicle and replace this sensor. Suppose you’re using an older vehicle with an analog instrument cluster. In that case, you can remove the instrument cluster and inspect the gears that drive the miles, and change them if need be.

Q: How do you know if the odometer has tampered?

Ans: The odometer of any vehicle can be tampered with the aim to increase the vehicle resell value. On newer cars like Ferrari, this is done using some set of odometer reset software. So how do you know if it has been reset? Physically inspect odometer tampering. Carefully inspect the odometer to ensure that all the numbers are well-aligned, readable, and do not look crooked. The next thing you want to do is inspect the tires’ lifespan. Insert a penny into the tire tread facing Lincoln’s head down if the tire tread covers Lincoln’s head, it’s still okay and it’s just 2/32 an inch.

Final word

Now that you have known how to reset odometer, it will be easy for you to detect odometer fraud. Remember that your vehicle’s odometer should be old as the wears on all the vehicle parts. However, before resetting your odometer, revisit the first few paragraphs of this article to understand the charges against odometer fraud.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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