Few things are more frustrating than when your GPS watch isn’t working.
This is even more exasperating when it happens right before a run!
But fear not! In this article, we are going to uncover some methods to get your watch back in working order. Some of these are quick fixes, and others are a bit more complicated.
We’re going to focus on Garmin watches since they are the most popular GPS watch brand on the market. But many of these tips apply to other brands as well.
Knowing how to fix your Garmin when it’s not working is valuable knowledge, so bookmark this page for future use!
Let’s dive in!
1. Optimize GPS Signal
By far, the most common Garmin problem is GPS issues.
Because most runners and athletes use their Garmin for outdoor activities like running, cycling, and hiking, inaccurate or spotty GPS can be extremely annoying. Even worse, it can mess with your data and disrupt your training plan.
Learning what’s behind this and how to deal with it will save you a lot of grief!
Reasons for GPS Problems
Some of the reasons for GPS issues include losing connection with the satellite, signal obstruction, out-of-date firmware or software, cluttered GPS data, incorrect phone settings, or being in power-saving mode.
Nailing down the actual problem can be tricky. Thankfully, there are ways to fix it even if you aren’t sure what the problem is.
Restart Your Watch
This is always an easy step, and you’ve lost nothing if it doesn’t work. Do this as your first step and see if it helps. Some Garmins have a “GPS reset” function, which you can try before restarting your watch.
You can also try clearing your cached GPS data, which can be done fairly easily in your GPS settings.
If your GPS only acts up when your battery is low, it could be the power-saving mode on your watch.
Sometimes, power-saving or ultra-trac modes can throttle the GPS functionality to preserve the battery life. GPS is never fully turned off, but it becomes much less accurate in order to preserve the battery.
You can disable this mode; however, it might cause your watch to lose power mid-run. A better alternative is to make sure the watch has plenty of charge before heading out.
Check for Obstructions
First, check your device. If dirt or debris covers sensors, it might interfere with the signal. But there can be other types of obstruction too. For example, if you’re in an area with a lot of tall buildings, the signal could be obstructed.
Check Your Satellite Settings
Many Garmin watches have a range of different GPS satellite settings, and if they’re not enabled, you may struggle to get signal. Make sure both GPS, GLONASS, and any other types of GPS you have are enabled, and you should get fairly accurate GPS.
2. Reset the Device
A reset can be an effective method to fix a huge range of problems. It’s simple but sometimes it’s the only thing that’s needed to fix your watch.
Soft Reset vs Hard Reset
The difference between these two types of reset comes down to how they’re performed. A soft reset is initiated through the watch’s software, while a hard reset is done using the hardware.
In other words, you need to find “reset” in your watch menu and select it to do a soft reset or simply navigate to “switch off” or “restart.” A hard reset involves resetting the watch using the power and volume buttons to force a restart.
No data is lost during either of these resets, so you can perform either one of them at any time with no fear of damage to your information or stored data.
If you decide to perform a reset to troubleshoot your Garmin issue, try a soft reset first. Once your watch has restarted, try a hard reset if it’s still giving you issues.
3. Check for Basic Connectivity
Connectivity issues can be blamed for many Garmin problems, not just poor GPS! This is easy to check and fix in most cases. So if resetting your Garmin doesn’t help, move on to connectivity.
A low battery can affect connectivity. If your battery is low, charge your Garmin device before trying other methods. This could solve issues like GPS connectivity, notifications not coming through, and a range of other things.
Connected to Charging Cable
If your phone doesn’t seem to be charging properly, make sure it’s properly connected to your charging cable. Especially if your cable is magnetic, leaving it for hours without realizing it’s not actually connected can be easy.
Smartphone & Laptop Compatibility
Make sure your smartphone and computer are compatible with your Garmin. Most watches are compatible and quite easy to connect, but you may need to refer to the instruction manual to ensure you’re doing it right.
4. Update Firmware and Software
It can be easy to miss updates when they’re released, especially if your watch isn’t set to update automatically. You should check for updates every few months because Garmin releases updates fairly regularly.
Why It Matters
Running on an old operating system can cause many issues, and you won’t have the new protection the update offers. Each new update includes fixes for bugs that have been discovered in the old version.
Updates also bring new features, so you might miss out on new, exciting functions if you’re still using the old firmware and software.
How to Check For Updates
Most Garmin watches have a very similar process to check for updates. In your Settings menu, scroll until you find “System.” Under this heading, you should be able to see if there’s an update pending.
While you’re here, it’s also a good idea to set Auto Update to “On” which will send you a notification right on your wrist every time a new update is released.
5. Clear Your Cache
If you’ve had your watch for a long time, you may run out of storage or memory. This can cause it to run slow, lose connectivity, or other problems.
Why It Matters
If your storage is full, there’s no room for new data. This means your latest activities may not get saved, and it may also slow your watch down, making it frustrating to do anything on your watch.
Plus, your Garmin will eventually keep showing you a message about your storage being full, so get ahead of this by just clearing it up.
How to Do It
Most Garmin watches should have a similar process, although you may need to explore a little to find it on yours. Find “History” in your menu. You may need to press and hold the menu button on some models to find it.
Find a menu item called “Options” or something similar. From there, look for something called “Delete All Activities”. Select it and wait for the watch to do its thing.
Note that this won’t delete all your records—just the background data. You can still find your previous workout records on the watch, so there’s no need to worry about taking this step.
You can also do this in the Garmin Connect app. Once you’re signed in, navigate to “Activities,” then “All Activities,” and delete the activities you want to eliminate. This is a bit of a longer process, but it might be helpful if the first way doesn’t work.
6. Troubleshooting Specific Issues
Are the above methods not helping? Here are some specific issues you may encounter with your Garmin, and how to resolve them as quickly as possible.
Watch Not Turning On Or Responding
Press and hold the power button for 15 to 30 seconds. You’ll need to be patient here because it can feel like it takes ages. The watch should turn off. It may switch on by itself, but if it doesn’t, you can press the power button again until the logo appears on the screen.
If your watch refuses to turn on, check that your battery is charged. Don’t assume—a watch battery can drain very quickly in certain circumstances, and it could be an easy fix!
Inaccurate Heart Rate Monitoring
If you’re worried about inaccurate heart rate monitoring, there are a few things you can do to increase its accuracy. The first thing is to make sure your watch fit is right and it’s in the right place on your wrist.
Wear it below your wrist bone, with the watch face on the top of your wrist, and there should be no gap between your wrist and the sensor. If you can fit your finger between your watch and your wrist, it’s too loose.
Once your fit is right, make sure the heart rate sensor is clean. You should give it a wipe after every workout to prevent residue or dried sweat from accumulating on it.
You should also make sure you’re using the right activity profile when exercising, as this will change the algorithm and could present inaccurate data.
It’s also important to know that heart rate monitors may not work as well on tattooed skin, so move it to an untattooed wrist if you can. If you have tattoos on both wrists, you may want to consider a separate heart rate monitor for activities.
Problems Syncing Data to Garmin Connect
First, make sure your internet connection is working. If it is, check if your Garmin Connect app needs to be updated. Occasionally, Garmin’s servers may be down, but this is unlikely.
Other potential issues include low battery, which can prevent the uploading process from finishing, and corrupted data, which is less likely. Restart your app, update it if necessary, and clear your cache.
7. Contacting Garmin Support
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still struggling with the same problems on your Garmin, it might be time to contact Garmin Support and ask for their help.
It’s a good idea to try everything you can first to make sure you know what’s been done so you don’t waste time trying things you’ve already tried.
8. As a Last Resort… Reset to Factory Settings
If nothing works, then a factory reset might be your only option. This is a permanent action, so it should only be used as a last resort.
What Happens During a Factory Reset
A factory reset gets rid of all data on your watch. Apps will be uninstalled, data will be deleted, and your storage will be wiped clean. Your watch will come back empty and like it was out of the box.
Interestingly, some Garmins have a feature called “Restore Default Settings,” which takes your watch back to the original settings without erasing all the data.
However, it’s hard to tell which watches have this setting and which only have a full factory reset, so take caution.
Precautions to Take First
If you’re considering a factory reset, take the time to back up your important data before you do it. Make a note of apps you’ll need to reinstall, save all your important information on Garmin Connect, and make sure there’s nothing left on the watch to lose.
How to Do a Factory Reset
On most Garmin watches, scroll through your Settings menu and go into “System.” Here you’ll find a “reset” option, where you can select “Delete Data and Reset Settings.”
You’ll be prompted to confirm this decision, and once you click on “Continue,” it’ll reset the watch and wipe your data.