Digital Odometer Rollback

For 20 years +/- we have always purchased pre-leased cars with low mileage and in almost new car condition. In May 2009 we purchased a 2006 VW Jetta 2.5 standard 6 speed pre-lease with 34K on it. Unfortunately we got hit head-on in Bangor, Maine last December 4th which totalled that car. Once the insurance company settled up and gave us a check to purchase another car we went back to our local dealer and purchased another 2006 pre-leased Jetta Triptronic with 33K on it and almost every accessory possible for that model year.

Now, I have a son who works for a dealership in California that came to visit a few weeks ago. He seems to think that this latest Jetta has had an odometer rollback. He drove the car, and looked everything over very carefully and he said that just from certain things he sees he think it has been rolled back. Is it possible to roll back a digital odometer? And, if so where can I go or who can I see to have it verified as a rollback or not? Or, can this even be verified?

We are happy with the car but since my son mentioned a few things I can’t stop being suspicious.

Exactly what “things” did your son mention?

It seems to be human nature for people to try to find something to demonstrate their knowledge, especialy young adults to their parents. They’re subcosciously stll struggling for respect as an adult.

I recently dealt with this myself. I helped a close friend find a new used car. After searching for a very long time (2 years about), looking at countless cars she found a 2002 Corolla with 58,000 miles on it in truely like-new condition. She showed it to both her grown girls and their husbands. They all found reasons to question it.

I test drove the bejesus out of that car and then went through it with a fine tooth comb. Every bolt. That car is truely in like-new condition. The normal wear patterns on the bottom door jams, the plastic scuff protectors, the kickpanels, the pedals, and the carpets aren’t even there. Since she bought it, I’ve driven it for day trips (with her) a number of times. It’s in perfect condition.

If your car is running great and you’ve seen no signs of abnormal wear, than without additionals detail of your son’s comments I’m inclined to think your son is simply acting like a normal young adult. I would not lose any sleep over it. It is not unhealthy.

Post back.

Check with carfax and your local VW dealer. Print out the car’s service history and compare the mileages recorded with the dates of service.

It’s not as easy to roll back a digital odometer as many people think. There is no “odometer chip” on a circuit board – odometer functionality is spread throughout many different circuit boards on the car.


I am curious, didn’t you have your mechanic check out this used car before you bought it? What was your mechanic’s opinion about the car?

Thanks for the reply. However, my son is 50 years old and not some “young adult” and has been with the dealership for many years. He has never criticized any other pre-leased vehicle that we’ve bought or tried to sell us one from where he works. He is in California and we’re in Maine.
Anyhow, he just saw a few things and said "it might be possible to have been rolled back. I’m not too excited, losing sleep, or worried but rather curious.

I have seen on a Brit TV show that a laptop was used to roll back an odometer with the appropriate program and connector, so it is possible. Easy? I don’t know.

I did a CarFax prior to purchase and all looked Kosher. However, CarFax is only as accurate as the data submitted to it. For instance, I have a 1999 Dodge Pickup with 149K on it but CarFax only shows data three owners back at 57K.
Also, if you go to this link; you’ll find a whole lot of information on digital odometer rollbacks.
Here again, I’m not too concerned about this but rather curious.

We bought the car, as we have three other pre-leased ones, from a more than highly reputable dealership so we didn’t have any mechanic check it out. No need since this dealership would not dare sell one if they know it was a rollback. We know them very well. However, shortly after purchase, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced and a few other small things but at no charge to us.
I mentioned the rollback idea to our sales guy but he said he thought not.

Another way to do it would be to get a donor board from another car’s odometer and swap it with yours. So if you have a wrecked car with 10,000 miles on it, and swap it into a 90,000 mile car, suddenly the old car is new again.

It’s not just one board, but spread throughout many circuit boards on a car. It would be more expensive to replace all boards than any savings in rolled back miles.


I don’t care if I am buying a car from my mother, I would still get it checked out by my mechanic. Even the most reputable dealerships can miss something when they do their inspection.

It’s easier than ever. In the days of mechanical odos, if you spun them backward, they were designed to scrape on the dial so you’d know. Changing one was relatively difficult to do. Now, it’s a software exercise and fairly easy to obtain the tools. Probably not something the average seller would be able to afford but if you sell a lot of cars, it could pay for itself in a short time…assuming you’re the type to cheat people.

The odometer memory is stored on a single chip on a single board. On many cars, they can be “flashed”…People who lease cars must pay a very heavy penalty if they exceed the agreed on maximum mileage allowed. This is where any roll-back would occur. If done carefully, so the mileage recorded at state inspections and dealer service appointments was plausible, the fraud would go undetected.

Say a medical salesman was driving the car 4000 miles a month. But every month he erased 3000 of those miles. Now the car looks like it’s being driven 1000 miles a month…No alarm bells go off…

In the past, devices that claimed they could “calibrate” digital odometers would show up on e-Bay now and then…They sold for big bucks…

Of course we have talked about the problem and how big it is and how easy it is to do it before.

Since you posted here, you must want a second opinion. We can’t give you an educated second opinion until we know what things your son said he saw.

“…the catalytic converter needed to be replaced and a few other small things…”

The catalytic converter is warrantied for 8 years or 80,000 miles. It is highly unusual that a 2006 car with 33,000 miles would need this work. That is one indicaiton that the odometer may have been reset. Other indications are excessive wear on the pedals or driver’s seat surface. At 33,000 miles the tires should be OEM, not replacement. What tires do you have on your Jetta? I’m sure that we can determine what the OEM tires were; they should last 50,000 miles or more even without rotation.

BTW, with 33,000 miles on it, you should have changed the transmission fluid once. Has that been done? If not, you can get it done at the next service.