auto

Odometer may be robbing your cash

Terry Jackson

Is your odometer costing you money?

As bizarre as that question may seem, a recent lawsuit settlement has revealed that all odometers are not created equal. Some may cause you to lose your factory or extended warranty sooner than necessary.

The lawsuit involves a lawyer from Arkansas. In 2004, he noticed that the miles seemed to be clicking by faster than normal on his Honda Odyssey minivan.

The lawyer checked the odometer against some measured mileposts along the highway and found that the odometer was off by at least 5 percent.

He checked on some automotive message boards and found that other Honda owners had a similar complaint.

While it might not seem like a big deal, consider this: You have a 36,000-mile comprehensive warranty and something that normally would be covered goes bad at 37,000 miles.

If your odometer is off by 5 percent or more, you could actually be within the warranty period even if the odometer indicates otherwise. A manufacturer could take a hard-line approach and not cover the repair.

For warranties that extend to 100,000 miles, the mileage difference becomes more significant, as does the likelihood of an expensive repair.

The discovery about Honda odometers resulted in a class-action lawsuit that was settled last December. Honda admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to lengthen its mileage warranties by 5 percent for 2002 to 2006 Hondas and Acuras, and 2007 Honda Fit models. Honda says the issue has been corrected in all newer models.

The lawyers who brought the class-action suit now say they are looking at a similar case against Nissan, as well as other manufacturers. Honda and Acura owners who want more information on the settlement can go to odosettlementinfo.com or hondaodometerclassaction.com to learn more.

Drivers curious about whether their vehicles are accurately calculating miles traveled should find a stretch of highway where the state or federal government has installed mile markers -- which often are posted every tenth of a mile -- and compare what their odometer says versus the measured course.

Drivers who discover their odometer is off by 5 percent or more should bring it to the attention of the dealer's service department to see if the odometer can be adjusted -- most are computer-controlled. If the dealer can't or won't fix it, write the dealer and the manufacturer to point out the problem and how it may negatively impact your warranty.

Such documentation may help if you have to file a warranty claim when the vehicle is just a few miles over the limit.

If you have a question for Terry, e-mail him at Driving for Dollars. Save money on your car -- sign up for Bankrate's new weekend Car & Money newsletter.

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