Odometer Replacement Laws: What You Need To Know

Do you have an odometer that needs replacing? You may be wondering if it’s legal to replace it yourself.

Odometer tampering

When you sell a car, the odometer must be accurate. Lower mileage increase the vehicle’s value. So some car owners may be tempted to dial back the odometer before selling their car. It’s actually quite illegal, according to the Federal statute 49 U.S. Code § 32703. It states that:

  • A person cannot “disconnect, reset, alter, or have disconnected, reset, or altered, an odometer of a motor vehicle intending to change the mileage registered by the odometer.”
  • A person cannot “with intent to defraud, operate a motor vehicle on a street, road, or highway if the person knows that the odometer of the vehicle is disconnected or not operating.”

Committing odometer fraud is a crime. What happens if the law finds that you committed odometer fraud? You would need to pay a $1,500 fine or treble damages (whichever is greater) on top of attorney's fees. It's a pretty serious offense. So if you have a broken odometer, are you inadvertently breaking the law? That's not always the case.

Your Car Is Still Keeping Track Of The Miles

Digital odometer

Even if the odometer is broken, your car still has the mileage stored somewhere. This only applies to modern cars, though. If you have an older car, chances are the mileage isn’t stored anywhere. In that case, either:

  • Stop driving your car until you get the odometer replaced
  • Keep track of the miles your car has traveled and then manually set the right mileage on the new odometer

The federal law states that if your car was made before 2010, you're not obliged to disclose the mileage when selling it. Yet, you should always be diligent about keeping the mileage accurate on the odometer. It's the right thing to do.

In modern cars, the mileage is stored electronically. Depending on your make and model, you may find it in the:

  • Gauge cluster
  • ECU
  • BCM

When you install your new instrument cluster, the new odometer will automatically display the mileage. That’s why it’s safe to replace the instrument cluster. You only have to make sure that the mileage is correct. What if, for some reason, something goes wrong during the replacement process and the odometer isn’t showing the correct mileage? You can give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you make sure that the odometer is showing the right information.

It Is Legal To Replace The Odometer Yourself

If you’re worried about the legality of replacing the odometer at home, don’t be. It’s perfectly legal to replace the odometer yourself. The only thing you have to do is to make sure that the odometer is displaying the correct mileage.