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lighter socket adaptors


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Ok guys, I really need your best advice on this one.


I am now on my THIRD Etrex in 5 months!!!


The first one quit powering up when I attempted to use it in my car with the lighter socket cable. I put it down to a bad unit and got a replacement unit from Walmart (thank goodness for their 90 day return and exchange policy).


When the second one quit as well after a few weeks I figured something was wrong and did some investigating. Through this forum I discovered that some of the Garmin lighter adapters apparently allowed a power spike through to the units. So back went the unit to Walmart (this time for a credit, more about why later) and a call to Garmin got their promise to ship me a new lighter adapter at no charge.


The new adaptor cable arrived as promised and I bought a new Etrex Vista HCx from Walmart online. I had paid $288 plus tax for a Legend Cx in the store and found I could buy a Vista HCx for $236 online. So the only good thing to come out of it so far was the timing happened to coincide with the introduction of the new models and I discovered that online was far cheaper than in store. Oh yeah, Walmart also does free delivery to the store of your choice for pickup.


So here I am with a new unit and a new adapter cable. So can you guess what my question is?


I don't want to fry a third one. So can anyone provide any additional info on this problem and whether there is a preferred method of connecting and powering in the car? Should I start the car first (initial surge from car battery) and then plug the cable into the GPS; plug the cable into the lighter socket and finally power up the GPS? Should I power up the GPS on batteries first and then attach the cable to the GPS and finally the cable to the lighter socket or what?


I hope there is an expert here who KNOWS the best way to handle this. Thanks to all for any input.

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Hi Mike;


Something you might consider doing is picking up a small 12 volt gel cell and wiring a cigarette lighter plug to it so that you can plug it into your car's cigarette lighter. Next wire a 12 volt plugin to the the battery so that you can plug your Garmin into it.


This will act as a power supply for your unit as well as a big filter preventing spikes. This will provide continous power while starting or when the moter is turned off.

Edited by LinXG
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The older Garmin units worked on voltages ranging from 6 to 40 volts. However, I don't know what voltages the new ones accept. The companies do sell a cigarette lighter adapter for their GPSs so I guess they have decided that using such a device is harmless to the GPS.

Edited by phern47
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Thanks for the responses so far. (My name isn't Mike LinXG)


Surely I don't need to resort to Rude Golberg type connections like that LinXG. Garmin sell this lighter adapter specifically for connecting their Etrex Legend and Vista GPSs to the car power.


They may have decided it is harmless phern47 but it has fried 2 units so far on me! I have come across other instances of this happening when doing some research here on the Internet. It was attributed to bad adapters but as you might imagine I've lost some confidence in the adapters at this point.


I just thought someone might know when is a spike likely to occur and whether making the connection and powering up in some particular sequence is a safer way to do things.


When I talked with Garmin they acknowledged the problem and did say it was probably better to connect after the car is started up. But that means every time you stop at a roadside rest stop and turn the car off, you would need to remember to unplug the GPS and then when you get back in the car, start the car before plugging it in again.


It may well be that how you go about connecting and powering up shouldn't matter at all and it is just a case of my having got one of the bad adapter cables but I'm looking for some knowledgeable experts here to give me some confidence before I use this new one in the car again.

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I have a Vista HCx that I use regularly with a 12V adapter, but it's an aftermarket that I bought on E-Bay. It has a coiled cable and I liked that better than Garmin's straight cable. I'm not sure how much I've used it (certainly more than 20 hours), but I haven't had any problems and it's been through several vehicle stop/start sequences.

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Thanks for the responses.


I guess it should work without any problems. Having apparently got a bad adapter cable has shook my confidence in the whole process. I think I'll just have to go ahead and start using the new cable and see what happens. Garmin can't be selling the cables if this happens all the time.

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The spike is likely to occur when you start your engine (even though most sockets are off while starting). If you adapter does not have good filter/regulator you can get a voltage spike. To be extra cautious, have it unplugged when you start. A direct connection to the battery as mentioned above will help.

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Have you ever wondered if might be a problem within your cars lighter circuit?


I have a Garmin OEM one, and have no issues using it even passing it back, and forth between two vehicles.


I too had two Garmin Legend Cx's fail, and I am on my third, a refurb. I never did use the 12 V power adapter, but each of mine failed to start up after a use in the car. Without any real proof, I think the cause of my failures was static electricity when I slide out of the seat and touched the door to close the door. Sometimes I get a real zap. I now ( when I remember) leave the GPSr on the passenger seat, get out of the car, touch the door, get zapped, then reach in and pick up the GPSr.


Good luck,


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I don't know if the garmin ones provide straight through 12v? that would cause some voltage changes on the line.


but any generic USB cig plug is only 5v and likly regulated. so it should never change. I haven't actully tryed mine yet. but you just plug the garmin USB cable into it. it doesn't have it's own cable.

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but any generic USB cig plug is only 5v and likly regulated. so it should never change. I haven't actully tryed mine yet. but you just plug the garmin USB cable into it. it doesn't have it's own cable.


I've been using a USB power cord (cell phone car adapter) on my GPSr off and on for about a month and it seems to work fine.


Does anybody know if I'm risking frying my 60csx?? :)

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Does anybody know if I'm risking frying my 60csx?? :)

You should be just fine. Depending on which vehicle I'm in I use either my hard-wired cig-lighter plug made from a garmin I sliced and diced or my more mobile cell phone charger. No problems ever with either.

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I've powered my Venture HC off a power adapter for an old HP IPaQ sync cable. (picked it up from Staples, Discontinued Item, scrapped the cable, initially bought the plug to recharge a MP3 player in the car.)

(the tail end is a USB A socket, and a red LED)


One suggestion! I read this in a manual for my Cell phone..


Plug the adapter into the socket 1st, before connecting the device.. Some of the adapters use a regulator IC, and the initial burst through could jump to 15-16V with the engine running. (which is probably frying the GPSr.)


Stephen (gelfling6)

Edited by gelfling6
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the problem could be the cars alternator, they actually put out a alternating current and it is "rectified" into a direct current. when the rectifier goes snafu it can feed alternating current to your d.c. powered accessories. the system inyour car is somewhat shielded,; the computer , and other electronics. but it may effect add ons ,(gpsrs) adversly. have your cars charging system checked at a local Auto Zone they will do it for no charge. pun intended.

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I've used a Garmin cigarette lighter connection in my truck and my wife's car for 2 years with no ill effects to my 76CSx. I leave WAAS on, the magnetic compass on, the backlight on, alert sounds on, etc. It saves me the hassle of low batteries - especially when using it for autorouting on trips or to caches.

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I believe the 76 series is the same as the 60 series in that if you power it through the serial port, it is regulated within the unit and even if the altenator goes snafu and allows negative voltage on the 12v output, the gps 's regulator protects it. The Etrex units powered throgh the usb port probably depends on the adapter to provide this function. Thus an adapter with insufficient capacity to handle spikes or negative voltage would likely cause damage to the GPS whe such events occur.

Edited by stickman756
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