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Motor Mouth articles 2011

Car clocking is on the increase

EVEN in these security-conscious times when people with enormous great brains have come up with ingenious ways to outsmart dodgy geezers as thick as a pair of planks, sometimes the baddies still find ways of beating the odds.

Car clockers – unscrupulous sellers who turn back the clock on their car’s mileage readings – are still prevalent and, in fact, the advent of digital technology has made their work easier to do and easier to hide.  

Older cars had a simple mechanical odometer which naughty people could easily remove and, using a screwdriver, wind back the miles displayed. But this practice would normally leave telltale traces such as minor damage or poorly aligned screws.

The digital odometers on modern vehicles can be quickly and easily altered with the use of diagnostic mileage correction software, readily available on the internet and which leaves no trace of interference.

HPI, the vehicle information experts, report a rise in so-called ‘mileage correction’ companies offering to alter a car’s mileage without asking too many questions. Spokeswoman Nicola Johnson says: “While altering a car’s mileage is not illegal itself, failing to declare that change to a potential buyer is illegal, but dishonest vendors see clocking as a victimless crime and an easy way to make extra cash.”

When the Office of Fair Trading investigated the issue and found very few legitimate reasons to alter mileage, they called for such firms to be regulated or banned. However, there are still around 50 active companies of this type in the UK.

Nicola Johnson says: “Clocking not only adds false value to a vehicle but it could add to the longer term running costs as it might have more wear and tear than the buyer realises. With more than 600,000 clocked vehicles estimated to be on the UK’s roads, it represents a huge threat to used-car buyers.

“Winding back just 1,000 miles on a car can add an estimated £100 to £400 to its value. Six out of every 100 vehicles checked by HPI reveal a discrepancy, showing that clocking is a more common occurrence than consumers might like to believe. It’s harder than ever to identify a tampered car so used-car buyers need to keep their wits about them.”

HPI have come up with some tips on spotting whether a car has been clocked:

           Check the mileages shown in the car’s service history and look for stamps from a genuine dealer. If in doubt, contact the servicing dealer and check the mileages they recorded at the time;

           Contact the previous owner and make sure their recollection of the mileage tallies with current displayed mileage;

           Check who the car was last registered to on the V5 document. If it was a company car and seems to have done fewer than 12,000 miles a year, alarm bells should ring;

           Check the mileage is the same when you collect the car as when you agreed to buy it – some clockers actually wind back the mileage for viewers and then return it to its original reading once the deal has been agreed;

           Check that the wear and tear on the car is consistent with its claimed mileage. Look for worn seats and steering wheels, and be alert for brand new easily replaceable parts;

          And consider splashing out a modest fee for an HPI check. The firm would advise that, naturally, but it can provide real peace of mind.

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