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January 30, 2004 12:08 AM

Broken: Car's mileage display

Here's a picture I took of a rental car a few months ago. Why is it that many new cars have a mileage display without tenths of a mile? There's no way to track your progress when the directions say "go half a mile and turn left."

I can't imagine any reason why auto makers would remove a useful feature like that. It doesn't save them money; there's no tradeoff where drivers are actually helped by the removal of tenths. Seems like an obvious step backwards in the user experience of the car.

(I also don't understand why a digital display is better than analog - you used to be able to see the numbers turning over, giving a very accurate sense of the mileage. But even a digital display would be OK, if it would show the tenths of a mile.)


Push the button once and you get the trip odometer which has a 0.1 mile resolution. Hold the button in for more then a second and you reset the trip odometer.

When did the affordances on electronic devices become so expensive that we now have time-based actions? In the last five years I've seen them show up in everything from audio equipment to wristwatches.

Posted by: Matthew Siegler at January 30, 2004 06:55 AM

I was coming to say the exact same thing.

They took tenths off the mileage, so that it was easy to tell at glance whether you were looking at the mileage or the trip meter.

Posted by: Brad Wilson at January 30, 2004 09:03 AM

PS: Digital is less easy to tamper with than analogue odometers...

Posted by: john miller at February 4, 2004 04:21 PM

Nobody said a digital display was better than analog :-) but its almost certainly cheaper than analog, and less prone to breakage.

It also allows the designer to cram more functions into the same space (mileage and trip meter) while overloading the control. Why the designer thinks this is a good thing, I have no idea.

Posted by: Carl Zetie at February 4, 2004 06:31 PM

If you press the trip button you will see it has tenths

Posted by: Jack at February 6, 2004 10:17 AM

If you press the trip button you will see it has tenths

Posted by: Jack at February 6, 2004 10:17 AM

"Tenths or no tenths" is a poor means to distinguish odometer vs tripometer. It's digital.. run by a program (I am a programmer). In the grand scheme of things (ie: the cost of the car) a couple more digits in which to put textual labels to the menus would have been quite simple. A simple T/O or T/M distinction for trip vs odometer/mileage (however you want to look at it) is MORE than plausible.

I too have a car with such a convoluted digital display, and sometimes it really irks me. (shouldn't I be paying attention to the road, not pressing buttons for varying durations to clear a tripometer?)

Posted by: Two-Bits at April 10, 2004 03:24 AM

Hehe, that is the display face of either a 2000-20004 Cavalier/Sunfire.

Posted by: Camaro SS at August 6, 2004 12:44 PM

Oh, well that explains it- the Cadavalier is one of the least logical vehicles on the planet. I have a friend who has one with the sunroof, there is no way to close the sunroof if the electric motor fails.

You've likely also noticed that the fuel guage if obscured if the wheel is tilted at any other angle than poker straight....

Posted by: Please stop me at October 5, 2004 10:02 PM

yea tool that pic i took that pic and if you have it on this site when i return you better hope i am in a good mood cuz i design compter virouses for a living your hear if you not not believe me just wait till december the 2 ND it will be down cuz my virouse will take over have a nice day

Posted by: sean at November 23, 2004 11:39 PM

Sean, stop making virus threats and learn to use periods.

Posted by: Brian at February 24, 2005 02:24 PM

SOrry for this late post - but anyone smart enough to write virus code would not misspell it! HA! Also - 1. I believe the webmaster uses a Macintoch, good luck making a virus for a UNIX system noob 2. Most likely the web server is a Linux or UNIX system since most are now adays. Im sure both the webmaster and the server admins over at the hosting company have logged your IP and turned it over to the FBI. 3. It would not be his problem if you destroyed the web hosting server - because it is most likely not his. Have you ever heard something called backup? No? Well its this thing that most servers do.


Posted by: Henry at April 13, 2005 12:15 PM

sean, your as dumb as brick.

Posted by: James at April 24, 2005 09:45 PM

I thought this was about speedometers?

Posted by: imnotright at May 3, 2005 06:36 PM

Maybe we can make an IQ test that resolves to tenths...

I would have to say I miss watching a line of nines flipping over. I know the 99,999 to 100,000 was a momentous occasion for me.

Posted by: ManiacalV at May 24, 2005 06:22 PM

You are a moron, You press the reset button to view the trip meter and press again to see the odometer the odometer is not to tell you how many tenths of a mile are on the car but to tell you how many miles are on a car if you are going to sell a car the tenths have nothing to do with the mileage i'm sorry but i know no one who is like wow it has 73,422 and 6 tenths of a mile on itwhat the hell? Odometer for cars total mileage Trip is for the tenths of a mile quit whining and get on with yourself moron

Posted by: Ben at May 26, 2005 08:40 AM


"sean, your as dumb as brick."

Said the man who doesn't know the difference between "you're" and "your."

Anyway, my current car (and 3 previous cars) has the tenth only with the trip. I've never even considered the absence of it from the odometer a problem at all.

Posted by: JT at October 17, 2005 02:32 PM

I miss my (pretty much)computer free '74 Dodge Dart Swinger V8

Posted by: Timm at November 4, 2005 03:33 AM

What are you talking about? Odometers have never had tenths on them. They have always had six digits and the trip meter has always had four.

Odometer: ###,###

Trip Meter: ###.#

(No commas or periods, but I am saying what those numbers represent.

Posted by: Jake Nelson at November 19, 2005 07:48 PM

ive heard digital ones were distracking

Posted by: B.J. Dilla at December 6, 2005 12:37 AM

(im impersonating sean)



Posted by: sean at February 27, 2006 03:34 PM

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