My Dodge Avenger was made in 1996, and the odometer is currently showing 270K miles, just to give you a sense of the age of the vehicle. I've been getting suspiciously high mileage for at least the last year or so. The mileage app I'm using (Fuelio, highly recommended) says my average mpg is 43, and one fill-up recently my mileage was over 51 mpg.

So I finally used the My Tracks app (which uses my phone's GPS) and compared its readings to my odometer. I did this several times, and it seems my odometer is consistently showing 1 mile for about every 0.61 actual miles I drive. For instance, on one trip my odometer showed 26.6 miles, and My Tracks said 16.2. At that ratio, my mileage is closer to 26 mpg, which sounds a lot more realistic for this car.

So what would be causing this odometer inaccuracy? Just about everything is stock, and I'm using the standard tire size.

I know this is a long shot, but any chance my odometer might actually be registering km instead of miles? The ratio is just about right (1 km = 0.62 mi). I have no idea why it would be doing that since it's a US vehicle. It's probably also relevant to mention it's a mechanical odometer, so it's not like I can press a button to switch between miles/km. I've done some googling, but I've only found one similar instance.

More details:

  • The car was built and owned entirely in the US
  • I purchased the car in a wrecked condition from a salvage yard and had it rebuilt
  • I'm fairly certain the odometer was registering miles when I first bought the car
  • To the best of my knowledge the instrument cluster was never changed
  • I was having an unrelated problem at one point and changed the ECU with one I bought from a salvage yard in the US. Replacing the new ECU with the original did not correct the issue.
  • The transmission was also rebuilt at one point
  • Don’t be shy, what is the marque and model of the car?
    – theUg
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 3:45
  • 1996 Dodge Avenger. It shares most of the same internals with the Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse.
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 15:42
  • @bmaupin I have updated my answer and need some more info, please comment on my answer, with the answers and I will see if I can help you solve this. Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 16:09
  • @bmaupin I just read your updated edit, lol. I will do some more research and see what I can come up with. Have you had the car since it was new? Do you know that the odometer was measuring correctly before? Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 16:11

6 Answers 6


If your speedometer is accurate, you can check that with your GPS or phone as well. The only real option is the cluster (The thing with all the gauges and odometer). You can send it off to have it repaired, or get a used one from a junk yard. If you ever sell the car you are legally bound in most (if not all) US states to tell the buyer of an odometer discrepancy. Just document the current mileage when you change the cluster and what the new cluster had when you installed it. If you get your current cluster repaired then I would just make a note of the mileage when you repaired it.


Others have suggested that this normalish, but this is a major difference in mileage traveled vs mileage reported by the odometer, this is not a normal condition.

I do find it interesting that one mile = 0.621371 km, so if you speedo is correct and reading in mph, your odometer is measuring km. Now depending on where the car was manufactured the odometer may be in km and not miles. Do you have a switch to change from km to miles? Is the readout digital for the odometer?

The odometer is turned by a stepper motor which get's it's input from the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) which get's it's information from the VSS (vehicle speed sensor). The speedometer gets it's info from the PCM as well. So if the speedometer is showing you the correct speed then we know the VSS is sending the correct info to the PCM.

I see two possibilities

There is a problem with the PCM or PCM programing (software) that is causing the Odometer to read Km, causing the computer is turning the stepper motor too fast.

The wrong stepper motor or gear in the cluster has been installed, either at the factory or when a repair was done.

Since you don't know if it was ever reading correctly you don't know if it's been that way from the factory, or if a repair prior to your ownership caused the problem. If it's been that way from the factory you car has considerably less miles on it that the odometer shows. Proving that is another problem entirely.

  • I thought the same thing (I just updated my question)! There's no switch to change from km to miles as it's a mechanical odometer. It's a US vehicle, and I believe it was built in Illinios in a joint plant run by Chrysler and Mitsubishi (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Star_Motors)
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 16:28
  • @bmaupin Do you know for sure if it's ever been correct? Have you had the car since new? Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 17:44
  • I don't, and I haven't. I'm not sure if it's relevant, but the transmission did go out over 5 years ago and I had it rebuilt.
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 18:54
  • @bmaupin I have updated my answer. Also when and from whom (dealer or individual) did you buy the car. Do you have the odometer disclosure statement from when you bought the car? Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 20:06
  • 1
    I bought it back in 2000 from a friend who had a dealer license. The car had been wrecked and I knew some people who I helped fix it up. I don't remember getting anything other than a title, and I don't think I have the original since I've changed states since then. I just so happen to have a spare PCM, so I might give that a shot first. I'm not too worried about the existing mileage being incorrect since I plan on driving it into the ground and not selling it, but it would be nice to have it working right from now on. Thanks!
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 20:58

While your speedometer sounds particularly inaccurate, the simple fact is that almost all car manufacturers design their speedometers to be inaccurate because of speed legislation in many countries:

From thecarexpert.co.uk, EU law says that

A speedo must never show less than the actual speed, and must never show more than 110% of actual speed + 6.25mph. So if your true speed is 40mph, your speedo could legally be reading up to 50.25mph but never less than 40mph. Or to put it another way, if your speedo is reading 50mph, you won’t be doing more than 50mph but it’s possible you might actually only be travelling at 40mph.

To ensure that they comply with the law and make sure that their speedometers are never showing less than true speed under any forseeable circumstances, car manufacturers will normally deliberately calibrate their speedos to read ‘high’ by a certain amount. As your satnav is not the designated device by which a car’s speed is measured, it does not need to incorporate any fudge factoring.

Additionally, as a tire wears down, the speed shown will creep higher and higher in relation to the real speed (because the tire has a smaller diameter, it will end up spinning more times per mile, indicating a higher speed)

  • 2
    I don't think this explains the drastic inaccuracy of my odometer. I do know if I'm driving 65 mph and drive past a sign that shows me my speed, it might show 60 mph. But that's a much less significant ratio than what I'm seeing with my odometer inaccuracy. If it was the same ratio as my odometer inaccuracy, my speedometer would show 65 mph but I'd actually be driving 40 mph. I don't think tire wear would affect my odometer accuracy this significantly either, especially since my tires aren't very old.
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 15:19
  • I also just noticed you used the word "odometer" in your comment, but the quote never mentions the odometer. In my case it seems that the speedometer and odometer calibrations apparently aren't tied together. In addition, while I can understand why manufacturers would calibrate speedometers in this manner, it seems like it would be important to have an accurate odometer since it affects the value of the car, maintenance intervals, etc.
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 15:26
  • Updated - I should have used speedo throughout, yes, and I agree that yours seems particularly inaccurate. I wonder whether you have the correct tires on it...
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 15:35
  • Yes, I'm using the correct tire size (205/55 R16)
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 15:43

I'll go with a combination of the standard overstating of mileage on the car (well put by Rory) and also GPS inaccuracy... I've been doing Road Rally for a long time and a big part of that is precision mileage measurement. As an instrument rated pilot, I also have a strong interest in GPS navigation.

One of the things I learned when experimenting with GPS for Road Rally is that it does a couple things that cause it to understate mileage. It doesn't pick up the extra mileage from going up/down hills properly and it tends to cut corners (it'll grab a sample a little before you get to the corner and a little after and connect them with a straight line shorter than the actual mileage traveled).

GPS is great tool for figuring out where you are at a point in time. It is also great at telling you how far from some other point you are at a specific point in time. It's not a great tool for taking a whole bunch of those points and adding them up accurately (samples take time, and you can't do continuous samples without killing the battery, so they're periodic and therefore susceptible to additive error). Also, standard GPS vertical height measurement is poor due to the low angle of the GPS constellation. With WAAS support, height measurement becomes much more accurate (as it involves at least 1 high angle satellite), but not all devices/applications support WAAS (or even height measurement at all).

  • 2
    GPS inaccuracy doesn't seem right: 1. The results I'm getting with GPS are identical to the distances I get when I look up the route in Google Maps 2. I would imagine if it was GPS inaccuracy, the results would be much closer, and not so consistent. I've measured 3 separate routes and the ratio of the odometer distance to GPS distance is consistent.
    – bmaupin
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 15:11

It sounds to me as though your car was imported from a country which uses KM. It may be that it's had it's instrument binnacle replaced at some point in the past with an import unit.

Typically it's fairly easy to convert a KM speedo to MPH by simply removing the perspex and needle and sticking a replacement facia marked up with MPH over the speedo. It's significantly harder to change the odometer from KMH to MPH so this may be what has happened.

There is a slim chance that the odometer supports both options and there is a switch (or jumper) hidden away on the back of the cluster which has been set incorrectly from the factory. This setting could conceivably be controlled from the ECU but I'm not familiar enough with your model of car.

Manufacturers inaccuracy is usually legislatively limited to a maximum error of 10% with most modern cars being inside a 2% error so based on your massive over-read, I'd say it's set to KM almost certainly.

  • The car was built in Illinois and bought new by someone in Virginia before I bought it. I may not have clarified, but the odometer wasn't always innacurate since I've owned it, and I've never replaced the speedometer. My best guess is that it changed to kilometers when I changed the ECU, although for some reason it didn't change back when I reinstalled the original ECU.
    – bmaupin
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 12:28
  • ...or, a long shot here, it has a MPH / KM switch hidden away somewhere that's somehow become switched to KM? Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 12:44

You mentioned that transmission was worked on. Was the differential changed to a different ratio? A friend of mine years ago had a pickup truck that went into the shop reading miles per hour and came out reading in kilometers per hour. His speedometer was mechanical (pre-digital days) and was cable connected to the transmission.

  • 1
    The new differential would have to have 66% shorter gearing than the old one to cause this. This would almost halve top speed, and double the rpm.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 8:40

I'm going to weigh in and say the odometer stepper motor control PCB in the cluster has been switched to a KMph pcb from the original MPH cicuit board.

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