How Does An Odometer Break? (And How To Fix)

The odometer is one of the most important instruments you can find on your instrument cluster because it is responsible for tracking your car’s mileage.

Because the law is strict about your odometer and your car’s mileage, you need to make sure that it is working fine. But there are some cases where an odometer does indeed break and will stop working.

So, what are the common reasons why an odometer can break?

For older cars with analog odometers, the cables and the gears that allow your odometer to function can eventually wear down. Meanwhile, for newer cars with digital or electric odometers, the sensor can break down or there might be something wrong with the electrical components in the engine control unit.

Odometer Reset

It is important for you to make sure that your odometer is working fine because of you it is important to keep track of your car’s mileage.

That’s why you need to know the different reasons why your odometer can break so that you can easily find a quick solution that could help avoid such a scenario or even fix your broken odometer.

What are some of the common reasons why an odometer can break?

We all know how important the odometer is for your car because of how it allows you to keep track of your car’s mileage.

The mileage is an important factor when it comes to knowing when you need to have your car maintained or when you need to sell it.

Of course, the law is also so strict about your car’s mileage because your odometer needs to reflect the correct mileage whenever you are selling the car.

In that regard, you need to make sure that your odometer is always working well so that it will be able to keep track of the mileage correctly.

Otherwise, you might get in trouble with the law if you actually ended up selling your car but your odometer is not reflecting the right mileage because it got broken along the way.

So, now that we have said that there is a chance that an odometer can end up breaking or not working as well as it should, you might be wondering what are the common reasons why an odometer can break.

In that regard, we will talk about the reasons depending on what type of odometer you have.

For those who have older cars that are still using mechanical or analog odometers, you should know how those odometers work.

Basically, these mechanical odometers rely on gears and cables that connect the input shaft in the instrument cluster to the output shaft that can be found in your car’s transmission.

Whenever the tires move, the output shaft will prompt the cable to spin, which is then received by the input shaft, which will now allow the different gears on the odometer to move depending on how they were calibrated according to the car’s tire size.

As you can see, there are many different components that make up a mechanical odometer such as the gears and the cables responsible for allowing the mechanism to work.

So, from there, it becomes easy to point out how a mechanical odometer can break.

If the cable that connects the input shaft to the output shaft breaks, this becomes clear when both the odometer and the speedometer end up not working well considering that these two instruments rely on the same mechanism.

However, if it is only the odometer that isn’t working, then it must be because some of the gears that allow the numbers on the odometer to move have become too worn out.

In either case, the cause of the odometer not breaking can be directly traced to the different components that make up the entire system or mechanism that allow the odometer and the other instruments to work.

For those who own newer cars that make use of electrical or digital odometers, the way the odometer works can be quite different.

What happens here is that there is a magnetic or optical sensor that keeps track of a toothed wheel that moves accordingly to how the tires are moving as well.

Each movement that the wheel makes is tracked and recorded by the sensor, which will send an electrical signal to the car’s engine control unit or ECU, which is found in the instrument cluster. 

The ECU is the one responsible for controlling all of the different instruments on the instrument cluster such that it houses the data that is displayed on the car’s instruments.

From there, the ECU will use these pulses to calculate the car’s mileage, which will not be reflected on the odometer on the car’s instrument cluster screen.

So, the reason why digital odometer breaks can be a bit more complicated is because of how it relies on different electrical components.

For example, there could be something wrong with the sensor such that it isn’t keeping track of the pulses well enough.

Or there could be something wrong with the ECU itself in the sense that certain electrical components are hindering it from receiving the signals from the sensor.

Whatever the case may be, it is almost certain that a digital odometer might be more complicated to fix than a mechanical odometer.

Can a broken odometer be fixed?

Now that you know the common reasons why an odometer can break, let us get to know whether or not they can still be fixed.

The good news is that, yes, you can fix broken odometers regardless of whether they are mechanical or digital.

However, the way you fix them is quite different because, after all, these odometers function differently compared to one another.

Still, be happy about the fact that a broken odometer can still be fixed so that you no longer have to replace them.

How do you fix a broken odometer?

As we have established, broke odometers can be fixed regardless of whether they may be mechanical or digital.

In that regard, let us get to know more about how you can fix these odometers.

So, for a mechanical odometer where both the speedometer and the odometer are not working, the thing you need to know is that there must be something wrong with the speed sensor or even the cable that connects the input shaft to the output shaft in the transmission.

In that case, the best way for you to repair this is to have the speed sensor or the cable replaced, whichever the case may be for your car. 

Remember that even some of the older cars that use mechanical instrument clusters have already begun using speed sensors instead of the cable that connects the input shaft and the output shaft.

So, if it’s the speed sensor or the cable that may be broken, you can easily tell because the speedometer won’t be working as well. Having them replaced is the best way for you to fix the odometer and the speedometer.

But for mechanical odometers that are not spinning, then the gears are the problem because these gears that spin the odometer are made out of plastic and can easily lose a tooth here and there.

What you need to do here is to get new gears, disconnect the negative terminal in your batter, and remove the dashboard using screwdrivers (removing the dashboard or the instrument cluster will depend on the model of your car).

Once the cluster has been removed, pry it open carefully, locate the gear behind the odometer, remove it, and then replace it with the new gear.

Again, the way you do this depends on the make and model of the car because of how different dashboards or instrument clusters are designed differently.

Meanwhile, for digital odometers, the way you fix it can be quite tricky because of how different car manufacturers design their instrument clusters differently. However, if the root cause can be found in your car’s sensor, the solution here is to have it replaced.

But if it isn’t the sensor that is broken, you might want to take your car to your car’s nearest service center.

These people know how to best fix a broken odometer on the make and model of your car. That’s why it still is best to have a digital odometer fixed by a professional.

Nevertheless, you can expect digital instrument clusters to break at a rate much lower compared to mechanical instrument clusters because they rely on electrical components that are not as susceptible to wear and tear as the different mechanical components found in an older analog dashboard.

How much does it cost to fix a broken odometer?

So, if you are planning to take your car to the service center to have its odometer fixed in case it’s a job that you can’t do on your own, you should know that the cost of having it repaired can vary.

Depending on the mechanic and on the reason why your odometer is not working, the expenses can cost you somewhere between $200 and $500.

How do I know the mileage if my odometer is broken?

Finally, if your odometer is broken, how would you even know your total mileage?

For starters, once you have detected that the odometer is not working well, stop driving your car because you are not supposed to be driving with a broken odometer.

Mechanical odometers can be trickier in terms of how you can tell the car’s mileage because they don’t come with onboard memory. Instead, that’s why it is best to stop driving the moment you knew that the car’s odometer is broken so that the discrepancy between the car’s true mileage and the one reflected on the broken odometer won’t be too wide.

Meanwhile, it is easier for you to know your car’s mileage if the odometer is digital.

There are odometer scanners that you can use to access the ECU or the car’s onboard odometer memory so that you can tell the car’s true mileage, which will be reflected on the odometer scanner’s screen.

This is one of the biggest advantages that digital instrument clusters have over mechanical ones as the car will have the instruments’ data stored in the ECU.


Speedometer Stopped Working: How Speedometers Work and What Causes Them to Stop Working

How to Fix a Broken Odometer

What are some of the common reasons an odometer breaks on its own?