Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Odometer wound back?

I often come across people who can't tell if the mileage on a car is genuine. The odometer reading can either be in analogue or digital. This usually involves cars which are more than 3 years old with very low mileage recorded on them.

That being said, I have sold a car with low mileage myself and own a car which travels only 5,000km (3000 miles) a year.

It is a sad fact that some sellers will alter and tamper with the odometer or swap instrument clusters to obtain a lower reading so as to get a higher sale price. This practice is illegal but I will inform you of a method I use to determine how genuine the mileage on a car is, it doesn't matter how old the car.

Cars on average if used daily will travel about 20,000km (12,500 miles) a year, so however many years old the car is, I multiply this by 20,000km. Any odometer reading lower than this calculation I classify as low mileage for that particular vehicle year.

The first thing I look at are the tyres (tires) of the car.

I will check to see if all the tyres (4 driven and 1 spare) on the car are the same size, spec, brand and model as specified by the manufacturer when the car was released for sale. Some cars come with a smaller spare tyre (spacesaver) but that shouldn't matter too much.

Next I will obtain the DOT code for the tyres which will tell you where and when each tyre was manufactured
and correlate that with the year the car  was made.

From Wikipedia.org -

DOT code

In the United States, the DOT Code is an alphanumeric character sequence molded into the sidewall of the tire for purposes of tire identification. The DOT Code is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The DOT Code is useful in identifying tires in a product recall.
The DOT Code begins with the letters "DOT" followed by a plant code (two numbers or letters) that identifies where it was manufactured. The last four numbers represent the week and year the tire was built. A three-digit code was used for tires manufactured before the year 2000. For example, 178 means it was manufactured in the 17th week of 8th year of the decade. In this case it means 1988. For tires manufactured in the 1990s, the same code holds true, but there is a little triangle (Δ) after the DOT code. Thus, a tire manufactured in the 17th week of 1998 would have the code 178Δ. In 2000, the code was switched to a 4-digit code. Same rules apply, so for example, 3003 means the tire was manufactured in the 30th week of 2003.
Other numbers are marketing codes used at the manufacturer's discretion. 

If the DOT codes don't match within a reasonable frame of time, something is wrong. Yes tyres do get punctured, yes they do wear out, yes they might get damaged and be unrepairable. However if it is a low mileage car I am looking at, the question I ask myself is, what type of driving warrants tyres to be replaced at such low mileage?

If it sounds too good to be true, it often is.

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