No matter how you use them, GPS units can prove extremely valuable for tracking equipment, cargo, and other precious assets. With that said, even with a highly reliable device, you can still have issues with your GPS unit—and sometimes for unexpected reasons. If your GPS unit isn’t operating as usual, this troubleshooting guide will help you figure out what the problem is and how to fix it.
VERIFY THE POWER SUPPLY
One of the most frustrating issues with your GPS unit is a device that won’t turn on at all. If you’re dealing with this, the first thing to check is the power supply. For a hardwired unit, you’ll want to check that the vehicle or equipment you have wired the GPS to is sending enough power. Then you’ll want to verify that the cables and connections are functional. If you have a spare cable, try swapping them.
If your unit has a rechargeable battery, bring it up to 100% and try to power on your unit. If your GPS runs on single-use batteries, replace them and check for damaged or blocked connections. If a battery leaks over time, it can corrode the connections and prevent fresh batteries from making good contact—if you see signs of leaked battery acid, clean the connections and replace the batteries.
CHECK THE SIGNAL STRENGTH
Other common issues with your GPS unit might involve signal strength. Your GPS unit needs a clear line of sight to the sky in order to get the signal it needs from satellites to pick up on its positioning. Without a strong and constant signal, you might run into issues with your GPS unit being unable to update its position or accurately track itself. Try to place your GPS unit on your dashboard or somewhere else where it can have an unobstructed view of the sky.
Avoid placing your GPS unit under or inside materials that might impede its signal. For instance, if you’re mounting a GPS to a snowmobile, you’ll want to get a waterproof unit that you can mount to the topside. Avoid burying it under the seat (and passengers) or placing it under the equipment where it will not have a clear line of sight to the sky. Try repositioning your unit to see if it improves the signal strength.
If one of the issues with your GPS unit is that it doesn’t have a strong enough signal or it isn’t accurate, an antenna could be useful. With an antenna in the right place, the unit itself can be tucked away elsewhere. If you’re using an antenna, check to make sure that it is mounted in an appropriate location and then check the connection between the antenna and GPS unit. If you still can’t get a signal, check the unit and antenna for potential damage to see if these are causing issues with your GPS unit.
CALIBRATE YOUR SETTINGS
Changing a setting could cause a variety of issues with your GPS unit. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with your device settings and how they work to avoid issues with your GPS unit in the future. If you’ve recently changed settings before you started experiencing the issue, it’s likely that you need to go back through and double-check what you altered. If you have not changed the settings, it could be the default settings causing problems.
For instance, if your unit’s battery is draining quickly, it could be because it’s set up to send very frequent location updates. Try adjusting how frequently your GPS updates its location, and similar settings, to help extend battery life. Some devices have an energy saver mode that may be worth trying. Poor signal, an old battery, and other components can also contribute to a shorter battery life.
In order to determine whether what you’re experiencing is actually a problem or defect, it’s important to consult your owner’s manual and see what’s normal. For example, the manual will state what the expected battery life is for your unit with various settings and that can explain why your device is losing charge or not operating as you expected it to.
On the other hand, if the manual says your device should be lasting significantly longer than it is, that could signal a bigger issue, like a defective unit, and it provides grounds for reaching out to the manufacturer to ask about a repair or replacement. Any mention of the issues with your GPS unit in the user manual should warrant further investigation. If the manufacturer doesn’t cover the device with a warranty, check return policies.
INSTALL THE LATEST UPDATES
If you’ve gone down the list and you’re still not sure how to diagnose the issues with your GPS unit, or if your unit is showing signs of a firmware bug or similar problem, it’s important that you check your unit and make sure that you have the latest version installed. You might need to plug your unit into your computer and download the manufacturer’s app or software to check for and install updates. You may also be able to check over WiFi if your device has that capability.
If an update is necessary, follow the instructions in the device manual to update your unit and see if that resolves the problems you’re experiencing.
FACTORY RESET YOUR UNIT
As a “last resort,” you might try resetting your GPS unit to its factory settings to see if that resolves any problems. This is most feasible if you’ve recently updated your GPS and then started running into issues, or if you have a unit that was working fine up until a change in settings or other alteration. If you want to reset your unit, beware that all saved data and updates will be lost in the process.
To reset your unit, navigate to the settings menu and look for an option like “Restore Defaults” or “Factory Reset.” You’ll likely be asked to verify your selection. Follow the instructions given, or consult your user’s manual, to reset the GPS to its factory original settings. Fully charge your unit and turn it on again to see if the reset has resolved the problem.
CONTACT THE MANUFACTURER
In the event that issues with your GPS unit persist after trying all of these troubleshooting steps, it might be time to check your warranty to see if you qualify for a replacement.
Oftentimes, outdated firmware, user error, and other small causes can lead to big problems. If you’re ever in doubt about how to address an issue, you should always reach out to the device manufacturer for help.