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I brought my 2002 Saturn SL2 in to replace a battery and seal; only when I brought the car into the shop my odometer read less than 23,000 miles and afterwards it read 91,000 miles.

I was able to get records from two places that I had previously brought the car to that clearly tell the true odometer readings, proving that there was no way I was able to put an additional 65,000 miles on the car in that short time period. Any ideas of what I can do?

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    It appears to me you bought a car which had the mileage rolled back on it. The only way I'd consider myself wrong in this is if you bought it new. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 21 '15 at 8:31
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    @Paulster2: So you think the shop did something that caused the odometer to revert to the correct value? What could that be? Or are you just saying that erratic odometer behavior could be caused by previous tampering (and that 91,000 is not necessarily the correct value either)? I agree that a 13 year old car with only 23,000 miles is extremely unusual, even suspicious. – Nate Eldredge Apr 21 '15 at 13:33
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    When an odometer has been tampered with, sometimes they stay where they are supposed to and other times it can revert. This really depends on the vehicle and the device used to monkey with the odometer. The battery replacement could have caused. The mileage is actually stored in several places (I've heard like nine). I'm thinking the original mileage could have been stored in permanent memory, with the altered mileage stored in the displayed memory which may be volatile. When the battery power was gone and the residual power drained, the odometer reverted back to main memory. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 21 '15 at 16:26
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    @Paulster2 are you actually going to answer the question? At least one of these comments is probably what happened. – Bob Cross Apr 22 '15 at 16:25
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    @Joshua: It would help a lot if you could say what you know about the vehicle's history. Were there previous owners who could have tampered with the odometer? Does the history and condition of the vehicle make it plausible that the true mileage is in fact 23,000? – Nate Eldredge Apr 23 '15 at 18:00
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Saturn had a recall on this problem on L-Series vehicles. You may be having a similar problem on the S Series although I cannot find any information on it for your vehicle. Below is the recall info on the L-Series.

2000 - 2002 Saturn L-Series Vehicles (All Models) # 02-C-02 - (Aug 16, 2004)

INACCURATE ODOMETER READING AFTER LOSS OF BATTERY POWER (REPROGRAM BCM)

2000-2002 SATURN L-SERIES VEHICLES (ALL MODELS)

All Saturn Retailers and Service Providers

Saturn has decided that certain 2001 and 2002 model year L-Series vehicles were produced with Body Control Module (BCM) software that has a potential to calculate odometer values inaccurately. This can occur only after the vehicle has accumulated approximately 20,000 miles and the battery is then disconnected or power is interrupted for other reasons. In addition, certain 2000, 2001 and 2002 L-Series vehicles serviced with a replacement Body Control Module may exhibit the same condition.

To prevent the possibility of this condition occurring, retailers will upgrade the BCM software.

VEHICLES INVOLVED

Only selected 2000 - 2002 mode/year L-Series Saturn vehicles within the following VIN ranges will require this campaign:

2002 Model Year VIN Range (All Models) = 500037 - 515922

2001 Model Year VIN Range (All Models) = 500033 - 592301

2000 Model Year VIN Range (All Models) = A VIN listing of involved vehicles is shown for your reference.

It's at least worth checking out. Check with your local shop or GM dealer about reprogramming the BCM. Note this is not just correcting mileage in the BCM it's a software update. You can't just change the mileage in the BCM.

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Here is how this could have happened on the 2002 BMW I used to own. I know the guts of that car particularly well, I am sure the Saturn is similar.

The mileage is actually stored in two places in the car. One place is the instrument cluster and the second is in the DME (the "computer"), both of those will count up the miles independently. If the cluster is replaced it will have an incorrect mileage, but you can use the scan tool to have the cluster updated to the "correct" mileage as stored in the computer.

My bet is that when you bought the car, it had a junkyard or tampered instrument cluster put in that showed an incorrect 23k reading while the car's computer retained the correct 91k reading.

When a battery fails it often generates lots of incorrect error codes because the low voltage confuses various sensors. So, after the battery was replaced the garage attached their scanner/programmer tool and fixed those errors.

One of the errors they fixed was correcting the incorrect cluster mileage using the mileage stored in the car's computer.

The garage did nothing wrong in all of this. If you want to find out who is responsible for the 65k of instant mileage and depreciation, you would needed to go back to the person who sold you the car and fraudulently misrepresented the mileage.

I'll include the same caveat as @Paulster2, if you bought this car new something much more interesting must have happened.

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It appears to me you bought a car which had the mileage rolled back on it. The only way I'd consider myself wrong in this is if you bought it new.

When an odometer has been tampered with, sometimes they stay where they are supposed to and other times it can revert. This really depends on the vehicle and the device used to monkey with the odometer. The battery replacement could have caused. The mileage is actually stored in several places (I've heard like nine). I'm thinking the original mileage could have been stored in permanent memory, with the altered mileage stored in the displayed memory which may be volatile. When the battery power was gone and the residual power drained, the odometer reverted back to main memory.

I don't think the shop would have done anything to actually cause this ... they'd have no reason to do something which would change the mileage on the vehicle. I would put it most likely on the person who sold the car to the dealership who is probably the culprit, but it could just as easily have been the dealership who did it. The thing you should believe to be true is that the odometer was messed with. What you don't know is the who and not way to really prove the who. Again, this all is an educated guess on my part, but seems plausible.

  • And, No, to answer your question... I don't believe that the shop did anything to the cars odometer to show the correct mileage. I believe since the odometer is digital... that perhaps when the car battery was changed a malfunction occurred causing the reader to be wrong and was altered by mistake . This could lead to a number of possibilities as to what had taken place. – Joshua Potvin Apr 22 '15 at 19:31
  • Either way... the car was brought in with fewer miles on it than afterwards when the car battery was replaced. Perhaps the battery was so old in fact that the battery it's self was too low to supply enough energy to the rest of the car to properly keep all of the systems in check. Which would explain why the cars odometer was reading what it was after the new battery was put in the old ones place!? – Joshua Potvin Apr 22 '15 at 19:31
  • Whatever the case... the cars value was dropped greatly by the fact that the odometer is messed up. I believe that after the car was brought out of the shop and parked that a worker had neglected to tell anyone of the difference in the odometer and didn't mention it to anyone until this was noticed while driving away. Since the shop was put in charge of this task and was paid for the job. It should ultimately be the shops responsibility to figure out what took place while it was in there procession. "JUST a few thoughts" – Joshua Potvin Apr 22 '15 at 19:31

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