What is the Difference Between Odometer Vs Speedometer in a Car

Whenever you plan to have a long drive, the most important element to consider is your speed and the distance you have covered while driving. This is because your auto insurance company might want to know if your car got crashed during your journey. For this, your vehicle’s instrument cluster should be working properly.

In the instrument cluster, it may become confusing for beginners to figure out what to expect from which instrument, especially the odometer and speedometer. Although both are an important part of a vehicle but become perplexing sometimes. Therefore, here’s a brief discussion of speedometer vs odometer.

How would you Differentiate Odometer Vs Speedometer?

The speedometer, as the name depicts measures the speed of a vehicle at a given time. Whereas, the odometer is responsible to measure the total distance covered by a vehicle from day one till its entire lifetime.

The recordings at the odometer are permanent and cannot be reset. Another meter in the instrument cluster, which is often placed in modern vehicles is a trip meter. A trip meter normally works like an odometer but the distance it counts is limited between trips.

It does not count the distance traveled the whole lifetime but the ones between the last and current trip. Also, it is resettable so may come to zero and shows a new reading every time by comparing the last drive to the newest.

With the constant innovations in technologies and the way, instrument clusters are digitizing. Multiple different and classy instruments can be found specifically in electric cars. However, odometer and speedometer are not something new in the vehicles but what makes them new from the already existing instruments in the cluster?

Odometer – Used to Measure the Distance

Odometer Used to measure the distance

When it comes to knowing how far the vehicle has come and when it needs to monitor performance and to see the distance covered, a driver always looks at the odometer. It is one of the most important components of the instrument cluster.

That’s because the odometer tells you how much distance the car has covered in its entire lifetime. You can keep track of the distance your car has covered. Also, it tells the total mileage of the car which is necessary to know while you resell the car or purchase a used car.

For certain car dealers, the odometer is one of the most essential components that they check for making their price while dealing with used cars. The readings of the odometer will tell you the exact age of the car showing the mileage it has covered.

For instance, a 10-year-old car might show you 30,000 miles which may be considered good health compared to the one which is five years old and has driven 100,000 miles or more. Specifically, you can easily figure out from the odometer how much a car is banged on the road just by looking at the odometer.

How Does an Odometer Work?

How does an odometer work

Odometer works according to the movements of the car wheels. This means the time wheel is moving to make rotations, and the odometer counts them. In the latest car versions, the odometer has an optical and magnetic sensor attached to the transmission which counts the rotation of the toothed wheel in the transmission of a car.

However, in the old cars, the mechanical odometer is used to measure the distance traveled by the car from the output shaft attached to the transmission. It is also connected to the input shaft which used a cable to control the panel.

Hence, all these instruments are used to measure the rotations of the tires so the odometer can make the readings on the bases of every rotation and calculate the distance traveled by car in a given period of time.

In addition, these odometers are timely calibrated according to the size of the tires to estimate accurate mileage. Due to the reason that an odometer tells the distance traveled by a car, which is important while selling a car, an odometer is protected by law. This means the act of tempering or trying to alter or modify the readings is illegal.

Speedometer – Measures the Speed of a Vehicle

Speedometer – Measures the speed of a vehicle

Another important component in the instrument cluster you would find is the speedometer. Unlike the odometer, the speedometer is the one component that the driver looks at often while driving. However, this is something very important when you are driving on a busy road or on a road where you have speed restrictions. Again, it plays an important role in everyday driving.

Not only does it measure the speed of a vehicle, but it is also important to keep track of how much speed a vehicle is moving at a given time. It is also important to check your speed when you are on a highway or a road with school or hospital signs.

It may be crucial to maintain the speed because of the accident-prone areas or areas with high security. Also, you need to check on your speed when you are convicted and want to avoid pullovers from traffic cops.

With all the above discussions, you might have got an idea about how it is important to have a speedometer and to check it frequently.

Many improved and latest models of the vehicles show the speed on the dashboard of the car in a digital format. Whereas, the classic speedometer shows with an arrow how fast you are driving.

If we see the similarities instead of comparing the speedometer with the odometer. Similar to an odometer, a speedometer uses the same procedure or mechanism to measure the speed of the vehicle by measuring the rotations of the wheel per hour. However, instead of measuring the distance, the speedometer calculates the speed of the vehicle by using the same transmission mechanism.

Trip meter – Used to Measure the Trip Distance

It may sound interesting to many drivers reading to this end because not every car has it and not everyone knows about it.

The trip meter is something new in the vehicle instrument cluster function and is appealed to by a lot of cars due to its extraordinary functionality to blend with other meters in the cluster.it is easily readable and has both analogue and mechanical trip functions.

No matter how much it looks interesting or useful in the new electric vehicles, you may never find it in the old cars as they don’t find the trip meter as important as the odometer or a speedometer.

A trip meter might be useful for those who want to know how long they have traveled since they last stopped. It is also handy for the services that provide vehicles for rent. They would find out how much the car has driven.

To make it more understandable, let’s take an example. Count today as one trip and let the trip meter count the miles you have traveled throughout the day regardless of how many times you have parked the car or kept it idle.

When you monitor the whole mileage, simply take the notes of your today’s travel. Now, if you want to take notes for tomorrow’s trip, simply reset the meter to zero and let the trip meter do its work.

Depending on the driving needs, you can make a whole week of your trip like if you are going for a family trip or a long drive, etc. So basically, a trip meter can be reset and set to zero to see your trip mileage information.

 A Comprehensive Comparison of Odometer Vs Speedometer

The main purpose of the speedometer is to measure and keep the track of the speed of a vehicle.An odometer is something that tracks the distance in terms of mileage a car has travelled throughout its lifetime
The speedometer reaches a zero point when a car gradually decreases its speed and comes to halt.

In contrast, the odometer stays on the counter where the car last stopped.

It continues with its last reading when a vehicle resumes driving.

The speed is measured in miles per hour.The distance is measured in kilometres and miles
The latest and most powerful cars have a speedometer with the speed measurements up to 800 mph or 500 mph.Every car with an odometer has the same point of measuring the distance with 6 digits (999,999).

How Can you Fix if  Your Speedometer Or Odometer is not Working?

How can you fix if your speedometer or odometer is not working

If you notice that your car’s odometer or speedometer is not working, here’s are some quick fixes;

  • Back in the days when there were old cars in demand, odometers were attached to a wire with the transmission to count the wheel rotations and the distance covered. If the odometer stopped working, then mostly there was a fault at these cables. But these types of cables and wires cannot be fixed.

  • Modifying these cables brings the reading to zero which is illegal. This is why new cars and models do not have this system. They are more modernized and mostly digitized. To fix them, an entirely different approach is followed.

  • A reverse technique is followed. A device named speed sensor is taken down to measure the speed. In this case, a mechanical signal is modified into an electrical signal which shows the speed on the dashboard. This technique is followed for both analog and digital odometers.

  • As for the speedometer, you can visit your car dealer or a mechanic to either check and repair the speedometer or simply replace it.


Both the odometer and speedometer display real-time records of speed and the distance a car has traveled, the only difference being the former also tracks the overall distance while the speedometer restores to the starting point, pumping up again with and for a new drive.

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