Was Santa nice to you? Did you get a new GPS for your car? What? A handheld one? We’ll cover that tomorrow! Back to that auto unit – here are a few tips for using 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 60 or 90 days to update it. Here are the registration pages for Garmin, Magellan and TomTom.
No, not in the oven! Let is sit under open sky (or at least on your windshield/dash), powered on for a while, 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.
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 business end of the suction cup often works wonders. Personally, I find a friction mount much more convenient.
Dig into those menus; find the options and check them out. If you’re like most folks, make sure it is set for the fastest route; not the shortest. And be sure to set avoidances for things like gravel roads, ferries and u-turns.
Not the GPS; your home. Here’s a tip to make that work better.
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 usually means going to the place you bought it, especially if they have an easy return policy like Amazon.
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. For Garmin units you can use Garmin Express; 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
We’ve got more tips in our auto GPS FAQs.