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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ten things to do with that new auto GPS

Auto GPS giftWas Santa nice to you? Did you get a new GPS for your car? If so, here are a few tips for using it:

Register it – If you didn’t get a unit with lifetime maps, you should register it right away, because it may get you a free map update from Garmin, Magellan or TomTom. Do it ASAP because the clock starts ticking the first time you use your GPS; depending upon the company, you’ll have 30, 60 or 90 days to update it.  Here are the registration pages for Garmin, Magellan and TomTom.

Bake it – No, not in the oven! Let is sit under open sky (or at least on your windshield/dash), powered on, for 30 minutes or so, allowing it to download the latest satellite almanac. This isn’t a required step, but if you use it infrequently and find that it won’t lock satellites, it should get things working again.

Protect it – You might want to consider a carrying case, and I’ve found that a friction mount is a great anti-theft aid, eliminating those tell-tale suction marks on the windshield.

Stick it – Don’t want to spring for a friction mount? Here are two tips for a secure windshield mount – it will adhere better to a warm, clean surface, and a single drop of water on the suction cup often works wonders.

Explore it – Dig into those menus; find the options and check them out. Oh, and if you’re like most folks, make sure it is set for the fastest route; not the shortest.

Mark it – Not the GPS; your home. Here’s a tip, or if you’re concerned about thieves stealing your car with your GPS and garage door opener, set it for someplace a couple streets away; I’m betting you know how to get home once you get that close!

Don’t return it (to the manufacturer) – Got a lemon? Ignore the slip of paper that says do not return to store. The fastest and most hassle-free way to exchange it is usually to go through the place you bought it, especially if they have an easy return policy like Amazon.

Update it – I wouldn’t do this right away, because it takes so long to download a map that some people just let it run overnight. But once you’re ready (assuming you have a unit with lifetime maps or you got a free update), go ahead and do it. You’ll need to register it first (see #1 above). For Garmin units I recommend using their lifetime updater; for newer TomTom’s use MyTomTom (or TomTom HOME for older models).

Don’t trust it – Any GPS will occasionally give you a wonky route, so do the Reaganesque thing – trust but verify. Check the route preview map or list of turns to see if it looks right. And never ever turn onto a gravel road on public lands that you weren’t planning to take.

Read up on it – Here are some more tips for Garmin nuvi owners.

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

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