If odometers reset at 99,999 miles, how can I tell if a car has 58k on it, or 158k?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have been looking to buy a used truck. The problem I've been running into is with the odometer. On a lot of cars and trucks, the odometer does not go to 100,000 miles. It goes to 99,999 and then starts over again. If a vehicle's odometer says, 58,000 miles, how can I tell if it's 158,000 or even 258,000 miles?

TOM: You'd be hard pressed to find many vehicle in decent shape at 158,000 miles, Cary. By that time, even if they still run OK, most vehicles really show their age.

TOM: And there are some tell-tale signs of age in older vehicles.

RAY: Like a receding hood line?

TOM: No. Like a driver's seat that's particularly worn out. Like worn out rubber on the brake, clutch and gas pedals. Like a cracking and fading dashboard.

RAY: And if you're not absolutely sure, any mechanic worth his coveralls can certainly figure it out. For example, he can check and see how much sludge is under valve cover, how much compression the engine has, and how loose the suspension bushings are. He might even be able to tell just from how the engine sounds.

TOM: So I wouldn't worry too much about it, Cary. I can tell you from personal experience that you can't hide 100,000 miles. My '63 Dart has 105,000 miles on it, and it shows every one of them!

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