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Just bought a 2002 Saturn LS, odometer doesn’t work

I bought a car from a small auto dealer. After driving it home I noticed that the odometer doesn’t move. Even the trip meter doesn’t work. There was no mention of this to me and I paid for a car at the stated milage. What can I do about this?

Asking here is a waste of time. The only place that might help is the lot you purchased from . But if the paper work says ( Sold As Is ) then you will have to pay to have this fixed . Also any vehicle over 10 years old the mileage does not have to be certified as correct.


It would be extremely unusual for a 17 year old car to be sold under any conditions other than “As Is”–ergo, no warranties of any kind. If you approach the dealer nicely, he might agree to replace the faulty instruments, but he is under no obligation to do so if the car was sold “As Is”.

The only other possibility that I can think of is to sue him for fraud because the stated mileage can’t be proved. However, the cost of an attorney would likely be higher than the book value of the car.

My advice is to have a mechanic look at the car now, and assess its overall condition. If it is in decent condition overall, just maintain it properly, and continue to drive it. If he finds that it is not in good overall condition, then plan to sell it soon.

Yes I was more worried about over paying being that some of the price would be based on mileage. I looked over the paperwork and they wrote exempt under the mileage so nothing I can do about it, since the car is over 10 years old. It is a good running car and still happy with my purchase just thought might be able to lower the price since milage was different then I was told at time of purchase.

Just be happy driving it. You will need to makes guesses as to when to perform routine maintenance such as oil changes. Once bought a Pinto, primarily as a beater, had 98K on it, I didn’t notice that the odometer didn’t work until after three months! But it never let me down in four years driving it and I abused the car.

On these cars, if the speedometer and odometer both do not move, look to a defective output speed sensor or associated wiring. If the speedometer does show the correct speed, but the odometer reading never changes, look to a tampered/replaced instrument cluster. The VIN and mileage are stored in the instrument cluster, and also in the PCM and/or BCM. If swapped with a used cluster from a different car, the odometer will remain “frozen” at whatever value it had in the other car.

Of course, proving fraud at this point would be nearly impossible, but without a functioning odometer, it will be difficult to plan and budget for maintenance. There are companies which sell remanufactured instrument clusters, which can program the correct VIN and mileage (read from the other computers in the car).

Years ago, when shopping for a used car, I would bring a roll of masking tape and stick a piece of tape over the odometer. This was back in the days when it was easy to roll back an odometer.
One car I bought was a 1968 AMC Javelin back in 1971. The car ran well and a checkout by a mechanic gave it an o.k. I did note the odometer reading and it was 33,000 miles. After the mechanic had checked out the car, I rooted through the glove box and found the car had had a state inspection 3 months earlier with an odometer reading of 55,000 miles. The dealer was wanted $1650 and my worn out 1961 Corvair. The book retail on the Javelin was $1695 and wholesale was $1200. I showed the dealer the inspection record and he became very upset. After telling me he didn’t need people like me calling him a crook, I calmly told him that I wasn’t accusing him of turning back the odometer. I just said I couldn’t give him a low mileage price for a high mileage car. When he asked what I would pay for the car, I offered $1200 and the Corvair. He accepted my offer. To show him I was as honest as he was, I went to the bank and got the $1200 in cash in $10s and $20s. I put the money in a paper bag and gave it to him. When he started to ask me about the money, I replied “Sir, I am not going to ask you anything about the car and I don’t want you to ask me where I got the money”. The dealer’s profit was what the salvage yard gave him for the Corvair. We put 100,000 more miles on the Javelin and I sold it for $600. I still wish I had that car. It had the wonderful AMC 232 6 cylinder engine.

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I grew up in Minneapolis in the sixties, it was common for dealers to roll the odometers back to zero!
Most offered a 30 day, 3000 warranty.

Back in the '40s and early '50s–before it was illegal to roll back the odometer–it was standard operating procedure for Cadillac dealers to turn back the odometer to zero on Caddys that were traded in. They used the slogan… A previously-owned Cadillac is as good as a new car of any other make.

It’s possible this is something simple to fix, like a connector has come undone. Don’t assume the worst.

In the future, the common advice here whenever buying a used car is to have it inspected by your own mechanic before writing any checks.