Car clocking is a subject to which we often return, and it’s never a happy duty. The sad fact is that there are still huge numbers of car sellers out there, both professional and amateur, who are perfectly happy to give the mileage readouts of their vehicles a quick haircut in pursuit of a thicker profit margin.
You may well think it’s a victimless crime – after all, if a car’s mileage is turned back a bit, so what? Car’s are reliable these days, aren’t they? Who really gets hurt?
Well, you or I get hurt. Or someone we know does. Or one of our kids. Why? Because clocking is about so much more than reliability, although things like replacement schedule for major engine components such as timing belts get thrown well out by a bit of odometer-fiddling.
On the safety level, things are so much more serious. We often just go by either our mileage readouts or the date on the calendar when it comes to servicing and maintaining our cars, and when you consider how important components such as discs, pads, suspension units and more are to just one aspect of safety – braking – you start to realise what a significant crime clocking really is.
EU to outlaw clocking firms
There is some supposed good news on the horizon though – the European Union has declared its intention to outlaw so-called ‘mileage correction’ firms by 2018. The companies purport to legally and correctly adjust the mileage of vehicles when it is appropriate to do so – such as, for instance, after a major engine change. The trouble is that they are a gossamer thin barrier away from illegal practices at the best of times, and it’s clear that a worrying number of these firms are frequently crossing over to the dark side, and using their equipment to alter the mileages of cars that have no business being changed.
Long gone are the days when a simple screwdriver and a steady hand was all you needed to trim a few thousand off the mileage of a car. Modern cars are supposed to have electronic odometers and anti-tamper mechanisms which are supposed to prevent fraud, but the milage correction firms have both software and hardware, technically legally available, which easily bypasses the security systems. With Motorcheck’s figures showing that as many as one in five cars on the road has been clocked, 2018 cannot come soon enough.
Is the proposed legal change sufficient?
The worry now that that the legislation won’t be robust enough, and will leave enough wiggle room around the edges for these companies to continue operation and to continue circumventing the law. Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers’ Association in the UK said last week that “Simply outlawing mileage correction companies by 2018 is not enough. In those three years thousands more cars will be clocked, hugely compromising the safety of cars on UK roads. A mileage adjustment company is not necessarily the only route for someone who wants to alter their vehicle’s mileage, so a broader zero tolerance stance must be adopted.
“Often when people think of clocking they get images of Swiss Toni-like car salesmen and suspicious second-hand cars, whereas in reality the problem is much more widespread with people from all walks of life engaging in the practice. Clocking is actually a growing issue and needs to be recognised as a serious crime due to the safety implications it poses to road users.”
There have been attempts at containing clocking in Ireland, primarily through the fact that the NCT system now requires the mileage of a car to be declared and recorded at each test, but this is only useful if the information is then released into the public domain – currently it isn’t, tied up in a welter of data protection issues.
Surely though, the time has come to be less sensitive about the protection of data and more sensitive about the protection of road users. Clocking is now, at long last, a specific crime in Ireland and we need to see more prosecutions, more fines and more enforcement of this life-threatening fraud. Only if the EU’s 2018 legislation is backed up with solid action will it have any useful effect.