Can You Repair The Car Odometer By Yourself? You'll Be Surprised!

If you have an older car where the odometer has manual numbers and it is stopped measuring mileage appropriately, then you might be able to fix the problem yourself.  While the process can be tricky (and you will want to make sure that doing it yourself isn’t going to void any sort of warranty that you still have on the car) and requires a steady hand, fixing your odometer is something that you can do at home to save money on a trip to the mechanic shop.

Identifying the Problem

Odometer RepairBefore you can get started on odometer repair the first thing that you will need to do is identify the problem. Some of these problems may be found on free VIN number reports.  For manual odometers, the most common problem is with a tiny gear that attaches the odometer and trip meter to the speedometer sensor.  Over time and use, this gear wears out.  Heat and lubricant can cause it to dissolve, and over time the teeth of the gear can become bent or broken.  If both the odometer and the speedometer are not working, then it is likely that the problem is more severe and will need the attention of a certified mechanic.

What You Will Need To Fix It

You will need to order a replacement gear before your start your odometer repair.  If you are familiar with the parts that your car takes, then you can try ordering what you need online.  Otherwise, your local auto parts dealer should be able to help you with locating the part that you need. You will also need a large flathead screwdriver for removing the speedometer from your car, and a smaller set of screwdrivers to do the work for.  Those used for computer repairs will work ideally in this situation.

Remove the Old Odometer

For most older vehicles, the speedometer can be pried carefully from the dashboard.  Be careful during removal to not damage other gauges or items on the dash.  You should never have to force it – simply use a flat screwdriver along the edge until it pops out.  Once free, you will need to unplug the connector and take the entire part to your work area.  Be sure to note how it plugs in as you will need to be able to put it back in once you are done with the odometer repair.

Taking It Apart

As you take apart the speedometer, be sure to put all parts in a safe place and in such a way that you will remember where everything goes.  Start by removing the screws from the back of the unit.  From there you can remove the soft metal trim ring that goes around the edge.  Be careful not to scratch the ring itself.  You can then remove the trip meter reset button by pulling the top of while supporting the assembly below.  This will give you access to the speedometer needle, which is the trickiest part.  You must be careful during removal or you will end up breaking the speedometer, leading to a much costlier repair.  Carefully rotate the speedometer needle clockwise until it stops.  Then lift up gently while continuing to turn until the needle comes off.  Once the needle is free, you can take the screws out of the faceplate and remove the circuit board and the motor.  What will be left are the drive gear and the pod where your broken gear is located.  Remove the old gear and replace it with the new one.

Putting It Back Together

Once you have swapped out the gear you simply put everything back together the same way that you took it apart.  Remember to use extra caution with the speedometer needle, pressing gently while rotating to reinstall.  If needed, use the stop points at max speed and 0 as guides to realign the needle.  Once everything is put back together, plug it back into the dash and reinsert.  You can now take a test drive to see if the odometer is recording mileage.

Things to Watch Out For

While performing an odometer repair is not a technically difficult one, it is a delicate one.  You must be able to handle the parts gently yet firmly to avoid breaking them.  Use a light cloth over your work space to make it easier to see small screws and to keep pieces from rolling away.

Preventing Odometer Tampering

If you think that doing this repair yourself will allow you to set your mileage back and cause the car to appear less used than it is, you are wrong.  It is very difficult to open the numerical wheels to make adjustments in either direction, and doing so could cause damage.  On top of this, keep in mind that any free carfax report will give odometer readings that have been noted when the car was bought, sold, or worked on by a mechanic.  Attempting to change the odometer reading is considered fraud and could decrease the value of your car.