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Speedometer vs Odometer: Difference Between Odometer and Speedometer

Team AckoApr 24, 2024

The speedometer and the odometer on your car's dashboard are two components that are crucial for giving you essential information about your journey. Although these two gadgets are usually positioned next to one another, they have different purposes and offer different data. In this article, we shall examine the function of speedometers and odometers and how they differ.




What is a speedometer?

A speedometer is an instrument that displays the speed at which a vehicle is travelling. It is an important instrument on a car's or other vehicle's dashboard, allowing the driver to monitor the car’s speed and maintain safe driving practices. 

How does a speedometer work?

The speedometer is typically located on the dashboard of a car, where it is easily visible to the driver. It consists of a dial marked with numbers corresponding to different speeds and a needle pointing to the vehicle's current speed.

The speedometer works by measuring the rotational speed of a component in the vehicle, such as the wheels or the transmission. This speed is then converted into an electrical signal by a sensor, which is then sent to the speedometer.

The speedometer then processes this signal and displays the corresponding speed on the dial. The needle on the dial moves in response to changes in speed, allowing the driver to monitor their speed in real-time.

Modern applications of the speedometer

While the speedometer was originally designed to display the speed of a vehicle, it has evolved to include a variety of other features and functions. Many modern speedometers include additional displays, such as a trip metre that tracks the distance travelled or a fuel gauge that shows the fuel level in the tank.

Some speedometers also include warning lights that alert the driver if they exceed the speed limit or if there is a problem with the vehicle's systems. For example, if the engine is overheating, a warning light may appear on the speedometer to alert the driver.

In addition, many modern vehicles are equipped with "smart" speedometers that can communicate with other systems in the vehicle, such as navigation or entertainment systems. For example, a speedometer may display turn-by-turn directions or play music through the car's speakers.

Finally, a speedometer is a vital tool for maintaining safe driving practices. By monitoring their speed, drivers can ensure they drive within the legal speed limit and avoid dangerous situations. This is particularly important today, where distracted driving and speeding are major contributors to traffic accidents.  

What is an odometer?

An odometer is an instrument that measures the distance travelled by a vehicle, typically a car or truck. It is usually located on the vehicle's dashboard and displays the total miles or kilometres it has travelled over its lifetime. Odometers are used to keep track of the vehicle's mileage for various reasons, such as maintenance and repair purposes, as well as to determine the vehicle’s value.

How does an odometer work?

An odometer works by measuring the rotation of the wheels of a vehicle. The odometer is connected to the vehicle's transmission or wheels, and it counts the number of rotations the wheels make. The odometer then converts the number of rotations into a distance travelled, usually in miles or kilometres.

In a mechanical odometer, a series of gears are used to convert the rotation of the wheels into the display of the odometer. The gears are calibrated so that each rotation of the wheels corresponds to a certain distance travelled, such as 1/10th of a mile or 1 kilometre.

In an electronic odometer, a series of electronic sensors are used to measure the rotation of the wheels. The sensors send a signal to a microprocessor, which calculates the distance travelled and displays it on the odometer. Electronic odometers are typically more accurate and reliable than mechanical odometers, and they can also be programmed to display additional information, such as fuel efficiency and trip distance. 

Differences between speedometer and odometer

The speedometer and odometer are two essential instruments in a vehicle's dashboard, and they play distinct roles in providing critical information to the rider. The speedometer measures the vehicle's speed, while the odometer records the distance travelled. While these two instruments may seem similar, they have significant differences, and understanding these differences is crucial for safe and efficient driving. Here are the differences between the speedometer and the odometer.





Displays the current speed of the vehicle

Measures and displays the total distance travelled

Type of reading



Units of measure

Miles per hour (MPH) or kilometres per hour (KPH)

Miles or kilometres

Reset function

Does not typically have a reset function

Does not typically have a reset function


Important to monitor the speed while driving

Important for maintenance and vehicle’s resale value


Located on the dashboard, in front of the driver

Located on the dashboard or instrument cluster

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions about speedometers and odometers.


Can the odometer be reset?

In most countries, tampering with an odometer or resetting it to a lower value is illegal. This is because an accurate odometer reading is essential for determining the value of a used vehicle and ensuring that buyers are not misled about the vehicle's history.

Can a speedometer be inaccurate?

Yes, a speedometer can be inaccurate due to several factors, including tyre size, vehicle wear and tear, and vehicle modifications. Sometimes, a faulty speedometer cable or sensor can also cause inaccuracies.

How can I tell if my speedometer is accurate?

The best way to determine the accuracy of your speedometer is to compare it to a GPS device or a radar speed gun. You can also check the accuracy of your odometer by comparing it to the kilometre markers on a highway over a long distance.

Can a speedometer be repaired if it is not working properly?

Yes, a professional mechanic can repair or replace a faulty speedometer. The cost of the repair will depend on the extent of the damage and the type of vehicle.

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on industry experience and several secondary sources on the internet, and is subject to changes. Please go through the applicable policy wordings for updated ACKO-centric content, and before making any insurance-related decisions.


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