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Four issues with my eTrex Vista HCx...


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Has anyone seen issues like the following with their GPS? Any suggestions? It's well past warranty and probably not worth a repair...


1. On external power, the unit will never lock onto satellites. In fact it never even finds them. If I switch to batteries it will work. My late father told me it was always that way.

2. It won't start up on 1.5V alkaline batteries, and I have trouble with lithium (unknown voltage). Only 1.2V nickel batteries work consistently.

3. I can't seem to get a very good lock under heavily wooded areas, even with WAAS and the compass. I've spent many hours looking for a single cache within the 30' radius circle which was the best this unit could give me. My iPhone is often much more accurate in such situations.(Or, is it that many caches nowadays are logged with iPhone-determined coordinates?)

4. Until recently, my laptop would not recognize the unit when it was connected by USB. I was able to get that repaired, however.


I've been unable to update the chipset but successfully updated the software to the latest. Thoughts? I'm wondering if it's time to get a new unit...

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1, 3 and 4 seem like things that may be resolved with a firmware update. Is it current?


edit:: sorry, i missed that last comment about updating it.


Well, i had an etrex vista (cx, i think), and i can't say it did any of those things. Sorry. :(

Edited by zihyer
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I wonder if these are all related to number 2 and that the unit just isn't receiving proper power from the batteries. The old eTrex line just wasn't built for longevity, and many of the technologies within it are out of date and no longer supported. If you are looking for an excuse to upgrade your GPS, you may have found it.

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Thanks for the responses. Yes, it may be time to find a new unit. One detail I forgot to include: years ago, some batteries were allowed to corrode badly within the HCx. I wouldn't be surprised if that is causing problems with its power regulation now, despite the fact I had it professionally cleaned. Ah well.

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Well, I'm still scratching my head over here. I contacted Garmin, and the first thing they recommended was to update the software. Makes sense. I got the base software updated to 3.20 no problem, but I'm having trouble with the chipset software. Every time I try to update via WebUpdater, the unit resets in the middle of the update process, during the "erasing previous chipset software" step. Then I get a "the unit is not responding" error, and the update stops.


Has anyone else seen this? Any way to get around it? Other than a factory reset I have no other ideas at this point.

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I seem to remember than turning off the compass helps when you get near ground zero. Instead of the unit relying on the compass and satellites, which may interfere with one another and send you back and forth across the area. Make sure the GPS is not in "locked on road" setting. Best of luck, Peoria Bill :>)

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Thanks for the direct download link, but I don't know of any way to install it directly. I'll read some of the discussion topics and see if I can figure it out tough.


Interesting that turning OFF the compass would make it more accurate (or, perhaps a better way to put it: "more closely match the other guy's coordinates"). Well, that's assuming that you remembered to calibrate it. I always keep it on as I assume that will help with the accuracy. I'll try that, thanks.


One more question: if I do get another unit, my top 2 requirements are GPS accuracy, especially in high-cover areas (dense woods, etc.), and battery life. I don't care much about having touchscreens or color or other fancy bells & whistles, and I don't care if it's a new unit. I don't even care if it's Internet- or cell-enabled. I would like to get something that's both GPS and GNAS compatible though. What would you suggest?

(And yes, I'll be browsing the forums for answers to that question as well.)

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I seem to remember than turning off the compass helps when you get near ground zero.


I believe you have this backwards. The Garmin units I have used automatically turn the compass off when your moving speed exceeds about 2 miles per hour. When your movement speed falls below 2 miles per hour, the compass is automatically switched back on and the unit uses compass only to indicate direction. My phone apps do the same thing. Locus even lets you tweak the "switch point' in the settings. It's when you're standing still that the compass is MOST useful.

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You can turn the compass on or off on the HCx, though even when it's "on" if will shut itself off if you're going over a certain speed. You can customize that speed - I have mine set to < 5 mph.


I usually only turn mine on when I'm at the landing zone in order to save battery power. Unfortunately, this typically means I have to calibrate it fairly frequently.

Edited by BFG99
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