An odometer is a device used to measure the distance traveled by a vehicle. The kilometer counter, as it is known in some places, is usually found on the dash of the vehicle. The word “odometer” is derived from two Greek words that mean road and measure . An odometer can be digital or mechanical . Mechanical-type odometers are generally made up of several gears, and each tooth on the mechanical odometer represents a numerical digit. These teeth rotate in accordance with the rotation of the wheels through a drive mechanism and cable. A casingwith window shows only the current mileage of the vehicle and not the mechanical parts. Digitals differ from mechanical ones in that a computer chip is used to track mileage and current mileage is displayed digitally.

What is an odometer?

It is a device that can measure the distance that is traveled by a vehicle whose result is shown in the instrument panel that owns the vehicle, but can also be used in agriculture , stress testing , road safety and other various industrial applications.

  • What is an odometer for
  • Story
  • Characteristics
  • Odometer Parts
  • How does it work

What is an odometer for

The odometer has different types of uses in addition to being used in vehicles to measure the distance traveled. It can be used in the automotive industry , on bicycles, in modern gym equipment such as the treadmills that we see in gyms, in technical assistance devices for people with motor problems such as wheelchairs, in surveying , surveying and in any other activity in which it is necessary to make an exact measurement of a distance when traveling, regardless of whether it is walking, on flat surfaces .


Calculating distances has been a concern for humans since prehistoric times . And it was this concern that managed to create devices that could calculate the distances traveled, and this is what we know today as an odometer. This allowed to accumulate the information of the route of a journey.

It is believed that its origin was in China , around 300 AD, as a Chinese writing from that time mentions a type of instrument used to measure the distance traveled on travel. Also in the works of Pliny and Strabo who enumerate the distances of routes that traveled with Alexander the great .

Previously the invention had been awarded to Archimedes of Syracuse in the First Punic War and there was talk of the Vitruvius odometer which was based on the chariot wheels measuring 1.2 meters in diameter and turning 400 times in a Roman mile. For each revolution, a pin on the shaft connects a wheel gear teeth 400 back and gave a complete revolution per mile. This connected to another gear with the holes along the circumference. The distance would then be given by counting the number of pebbles.


The characteristics can be divided depending on the type of odometer, which are with their respective characteristics:

Vehicle odometer : the vehicle’s gearbox transmits the vehicle’s movement to the speedometer by means of a flexible cable that is attached behind the instrument panel . The higher the speed of the vehicle, the faster the magnet rotates and the greater the drag on the drum produced by the magnetic field of the magnet.

By measuring only the speed , the drum drive system is used to arrange a series of gears that receive the movement that is transmitted by means of the flexible cable through an endless screw and that retransmit it to another drum which moves the graduated wheels. that are interlocked, marking the distance traveled every 100 meters, one kilometer , tens , hundreds, etc.

Manual odometer : Also called measuring wheels , and they use gears . The most common have a single wheel, although there are also two wheels. They can work on the mechanical principle , just like the vehicle odometer and others are electronic . Its function in geology , topography and even agriculture is complemented by measuring tapes and distance meters, tachymeters, pedometers, rangefinders and more sophisticated devices such as levels, theodolites and stations.

Odometer Parts

The odometer is made up of the wheel and gears, nails, wedges, and graduations.

How does it work

A mechanical odometer basically works by means of a series of gears that have numbers on their edges and that communicate with the wheel through a series of cables . The gears are calibrated to move at a certain speed depending on the turns of the wheel and with the number corresponding to the distance traveled.

With this principle and the addition of gears, mechanical odometers were developed , which today have been replaced by digital ones . Both of them retain the same operating mechanism, based on a wheel whose rotation drives a series of gears that allow the distance traveled to be calculated.

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