RAC Cars News


The problem of digital clocking

By raccars Published

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In these days of digital technology and computers in cars, we might have thought that old motoring issues such as the ‘clocking’ of cars were things of the past, but new figures would suggest that, in fact, the practice is increasing. To wind back the mileage of a mechanical odometer was relatively straightforward but involved physically turning the dials with something like a screwdriver. Often, this left behind evidence in the form of damage to the instrument binnacle but, in the case of modern digital odometers, physical damage is not apparent and such tampering can be harder to spot. All that is required is a laptop connected to the car’s diagnostics port and the correct software.

Sadly, clocking cars is big business and it is on the increase. A study by car history firm, HPI, has shown that the practice increased by 3% last year. The percentage of ‘clocked’ vehicles on the market is now thought to be just over 7%, or almost 500,000 of the 6.8 million second hand cars sold in the UK last year. The reason for the practice is simply financial. The mileage of a used car is a major factor in its value and a low mileage example of a certain model can easily fetch thousands of pounds more than a high mileage car of the same age and model.

It will come as a nasty surprise to many motorists to find out that the practice of clocking is not in itself illegal. Instead, it is against the law to sell a car that has been clocked without making the buyer aware of it. This has led to the growth of a shadowy industry, where for as little as £50, a car can be clocked perfectly legally.

HPI consumer services manager, Shane Heskey has pressed the Government to make such firms illegal but his e-petition on the Government’s website attracted only 1,000 signatures, a huge way short of the 100,000 required to force a parliamentary debate. He explained his organisation’s concerns: "Research we conducted with CAP last year found that popular models, such the VW Golf, can double in value if they have 60,000 miles wound down. There is also a safety concern. Any vehicle that has done a lot more miles than the owner realises could have components that have been excessively worn, even if they look fine."

Although the practice is currently legal, there appears to be no valid reason why a car should be clocked, so perhaps UK motorists should press the Government again for changes.

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