Garmin Nuvi car gps as a budget >$250 adv setup

Discussion in 'GPS 101 - Which GPS For Me' started by B1, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    get quite a few questions about this setup so thought i'd do a comprehensive post. if you are limited to around $200 to $250 for a new gps and RAM mount this could be worth looking at. used three different models and never had failure from gnarly offroad use, from what i can see on the forums the expensive dedicated motorbikes are just as likely as these nuvis to get bounced around into oblivion (apart from power socket input, read on).

    [​IMG]

    WHICH NUVIS CAN YOU UPLOAD CUSTOM ROUTES TO?
    (updated jan 2014)
    the garmin nuvi 1450 and 1490 were very popular as they were cheap and had the big five inch screen. when phased out, for a year garmin took away the ability to upload custom routes from your computer. perhaps there was customer backlash as they have introduced it again to a pile of the nuvi models but in a different way...

    go under apps and look for trip planner. the garmin saleman i spoke with reckons that if the "trip planner" app is there (i'd suggest askinng the retailer if you can return or exchange the gps if you can't upload a file from a PC just to be safe). keen to hear how people go with this. the salesman i spoke to is sure that these are the current models (2014) that will work: 2457, 2497, 2557, 2597, 2797 and 3597.

    NOTE: some of the more advanced models have an auto orientating screen that can't be turned off, i've been advised this is useless for riders as bumps will send the screen flipping around. so if you are looking at the current garmin range, it may pay to ensure you can turn off any auto orientating screen feature.

    so what about older models? the 3700 series works, provided the gps has software version 4.50 or newer (update via the garmin site). you can still find the old 500 models around - these are actually waterproof! i did find the small screen hard to read, and it is a bit slow on the screen refresh and data transfer, being an older model.

    i can personally vouch for the 1450t and 1490t working fine as i've used those for a few years now and have the big five inch screen for easy navigation on the fly. other inmates report the 2595 works well and you can turn off the auto orientation on these.

    I CAN'T UPLOAD CUSTOM ROUTES TO MY NUVI BUT IT DOES HAVE A MEMORY CARD SLOT
    if your model doesn't accept custom routes but does have a memory card slot, apparently there's a tricky way to go about it if you release your inner geek. with some messing around, you can create an overlay map with your chosen route built in, so a nice pink line will appear actually in the map. obviously you won't get data like how far it is to your destination etc because it's not technically a route, just part of the map. see this post for details.


    GOOD STUFF ABOUT THE NUVIS
    - miles cheaper than dedicated garmin motorbike gps units
    - auto routing or direct routing compatible
    - up to a five inch screen (actually there's a 7 inch model but no waterproof case to fit it as yet)
    - just pop out and put in the stock mount for use in the car
    - nice bright screen for outdoor use
    - very cheap to replace LCD screens and digitizers, buy direct from factory for only $30 or so on ebay.


    BAD STUFF ABOUT THE NUVI
    - not water or dust proof without an appropriate case
    - most models can only stores 10 routes in the working memory at once (but usually you can store 100 on the gps for importing when needed)
    - only a few hours on battery charge, definitely needs hardwiring for rides over two hours long
    - it only keeps the last 400km or so of tracklog in memory, the rest you have to acess from an archive file (just a bit tedious)
    - can't have too many points in a custom route so may need to split up longer routes (150 points max if i remember rightly)
    - no bells and whistles like camera, geo tagging, mp3 player, photo tagging, built-in microwave oven etc.
    - the power socket at the rear needs some support or you can lose power over bumpy ground (i use a bit of foam in the waterproof housing)
    - can't easily turn off flags or proximity alerts when approaching a waypoint (but can edit gpx coding though, see this post).


    MOUNTING A GARMIN NUVI
    pretty easy to set up with ram mounts. the heavy duty cradle will usually be around $40 to mount to the handlebars. some riders have just taped up the loudspeaker holes and ride like this even in dusty conditions apparently... but you won't get away with it in wet weather! a few drops of water on the screen and it will get inside fast and stop working (i did manage to dry mine out over a few days and it all worked again fine).

    for some time, i used this setup and just put a clear oven bag and two rubber bands on the gps when things got dusty or wet. but eventually i opted for the fully waterproof case below.

    [​IMG]

    you can get a RAM aquarbox case and just add the necessary handlebar and arm mounts. probably around $60 to $80.

    [​IMG]

    the case bit bulky if you are tight on space in your cockpit. i used a bit of foam around the power socket to make sure it stays in place over bumpy tracks. the case is quite deep so you can always hollow out the foam packing supplied and store stuff back there. i just carry spare 3 amp fuses for the power cord, but you could put your watch and phone in there to keep them waterproof on tricky creek crossings. if you get the long RAM arm mount then you can move the GPS around quite a bit although it is a bit more prone to changing position when jolted over rough ground.


    OFFROAD MAPS
    the nuvis only come with street maps. if you are after offroad maps, you can buy topo maps direct from garmin for around $200. you'll also see them on ebay for as low as $40 although these won't be necessarily official garmin resalers. :D these are pretty handy if you are going off the beaten track... when you get to state forests they will often show many of the fire trails as dotted lines but remember they are relying on govt data so often tracks or dirt roads have been closed down, overgrown, or not repaired after flood damage etc.

    in australia, the "shonky maps" are a great free alternative that have plenty of offroad detail. for the USA, just google around or look at www.openstreetmap.org. riders often contribute their tracks to this project so the detail can be far beyond that of the garmin topo maps, but in other places it will be very sketchy.

    here's an example of the garmin topo maps when you zoom out, the contours can be handy to see the terrain steepness up ahead.

    [​IMG]


    PLANNING YOUR ROUTES
    you can use garmin mapsource or basecamp to plan your routes on your computer then upload to the gps. basecamp has more features but is a lot harder to learn, some geek designed the interface whereas mapsource is comparatively simple. if you use some other kind of software, you can always export the file in the gpx format, then just transfer it to the file on your gps for importing. this will be a folder called "gpx" under the "GARMIN" folder. then just import the file for use as per instructions on this thread.

    download basecamp for free from garmin. or google "Free and Legit Copy of Mapsource". good tutorial for mapsource here.

    if you want to record your tracklog when riding so you can download it later, read this post on now to set your nuvi up.

    HOW TO UPLOAD AN OFF ROAD CUSTOM ROUTE WHERE THERE ARE NO ROADS (OR MY MAPS WON'T AUTO ROUTE)
    see this post here.


    SETTING UP THE POWER
    a very basic way to do this is just get a waterproof cigarette lighter power socket and wire this in somewhere on the bike. lots of bikes have a spare power cable in the wiring harness behind the headlight. or you can tap into the park light or similar. keep in mind every time you turn the key off the nuvi will go into shut down mode and you need to hit a button to make it continue on battery power. if this would be too annoying, just wire directly to the battery.

    if using a cigarette lighter power socket, then use the stock power cord supplied. you'll need to make sure it doesn't wobble around in the socket over rough ground. it's critical to use the supplied garmin power cord, it has a bit of circuitry in it to ensure the gps works properly and doesn't go into data transfer mode for computer use. it also has a built in fuse and ensures the correct voltage for the nuvi.

    one thing to keep in mind... where the power cord goes into the back of the nuvi is a weak point. over time, bumps can mean the socket in the garmin gets widened and eventually contact becomes intermittent. i've only had this happen after thousands of miles on gnarly tracks (and garmin just gave me a new gps!) so now when i put my plastic bag on i make sure the rubber band is placed over the power cord to hold it steady and prevent movement.



    THE NUVI THREAD HERE ON ADVRIDER
    for more info on nuvis, or if you have any questions about this setup, just go to the thread below:

    Nuvi Threadfeast - If it's Nuvi for Autos - it goes here



    .
    #1
  2. mmod

    mmod Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    28
    Awesome info, thanks. This is very helpful for a GPS dummie like me. I have a Nuvi 40 mounted down low on the bars pointing up and it was hard to see in the sunlight. I moved it up on the windshield so it points at me and is a lot better to see now but still lacks the ability to install a custom route. Was thinking about the Zumo 350 but $700.00 wow.
    I'm going to look into one of these now. Other than the normal features of the car GPS the only other option I need is the ability to install a custom route. I don't think I need a 5" screen so of the one's you mention which one do you think is the best?
    #2
  3. davsato

    davsato Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    799
    Location:
    southern England
    im currently setting up a 2595LM on the bike. it cannot be used with mapsource, so youre stuck with sucky basecamp.

    also, you cant just put a USB socket on your bike, it has to go through the garmin vehicle power cable adaptor thingy. otherwise it'll charge up ok but go into mass storage mode and you cant use it as a GPS. (i think this is something to do with the lifetime maps)
    this is my experience with the 2595LM, there are dozens of nuvis now maybe some are different
    #3
  4. Kafn8td

    Kafn8td Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 31, 2012
    Oddometer:
    179
    Good info I appreciate it. Was trying to figure out how to add routes on my garmin 50LT today.
    #4
  5. Fudge

    Fudge Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    51
    Location:
    Naperville, IL
    The Nuvi 500 Is waterproof, the only one I know of.
    #5
  6. lvscrvs

    lvscrvs Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    700
    Location:
    norcal
    excellent post b1... thanks

    i've been using a garmin 755t for the past few years... some random notes on this model

    + you can get them used for about $60 on ebay
    + it has an audio out jack... allows me to hardwire mine to my autocom and get turn-by-turn directions into my headset
    + takes custom routes --- i used to use mapquest (not to be confused with mapsource) to make custom routes and download them direct to my unit... more user-friendly interface than garmin's software, but now i am forcing myself to use basecamp so i can share routes more easily with others
    + city navigator shows a lot of forest service roads in my area
    + you can download mp3s and listen to music if you have an autocom type system to route sound through

    - the screen is very dim, so it is hard to see during the daytime
    #6
  7. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    i've only used the 1350t, 1390t and now the 1450t which are all 5 inch screens. i'd just get the cheapest model you can with the 4.3 inch screen, and of course make sure it takes custom routes. the garmin site will mention the specific features of each model.

    really? bummer. i assume you have tried just saving the route in a gpx format on your computer, then copied it manually to the gpx folder on your garmin?

    correct. the setup i described uses the garmin power cable to go into a weather proof cigarette lighter power socket thingy. and the garmin power cable has a little fuse built into it (worth getting a few spares for long trips too, the fuses cost almost nothing). i have seen a custom setup where a guy bought an aftermarket fuse and voltage regulator "thingy" so he could hardwire to the battery.

    yep, i had one of those for a while and being waterproof was very handy. it's a very small screen though but that can be useful if you have a small cockpit. from memory, the processor was a bit slower in them and i think you could be a bit more limited with how many points you can have in a custom route.

    POSSIBLE OPTION TO USING MAPSOURCE OR BASECAMP
    have a look at bike route toaster. it's a lot more intuitive than either garmin program to use. you can use google's sattelite maps so you can actually see the terrain you are crossing, very useful if you are way off the beaten track as you can follow visible tracks through deserts or even forests if you can see through the tree cover often enough. found some spectacular tracks this way.

    if you register, you can also save your tracks on their website, handy for sharing with others.

    uploading your file just takes a bit more work than hitting a transfer button though. once your garmin is connected to your computer, just save the route in a gpx format to the gpx folder on your garmin. you should then be able to start up your gps, import the file, then display it on your screen.
    #7
  8. GMess

    GMess Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Brisbane Inner North-west
    Thanks B1. :clap
    Made me shoot down to the Kluger and get out the 2455LMT I bought at Dick Smith only a week ago when the TomTom calibration went. I reckon $149 with life time maps was cheap enough.
    Followed your instructions and got the diagnostics to record as .gpx but doesn't seem to be a way to alter the file size. Also found how to get the log to show on the screen. Will go for a run in the SUV later today with a son driving so I can fiddle about :roflat the same time and see what I can do outside just using it as I had intended.
    Basecamp recognises it but MapSource won't. Has ability to add maps but haven't worked through that yet. Specs say 100 routes and 1000 waypoints. I can drag a route into either the device memory or onto the microSD - any advice on how to get to that route?
    #8
  9. GMess

    GMess Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Brisbane Inner North-west
    OK. Recording through diagnostics as a .gpx file works fine though I have only recorded a short trip so far. Was able to get that back into Basecamp OK as either a track log or as a route. To delete the log, though, I had to go to Apps/Where I've Been/Clear Travel History.

    To find a route loaded from Basecamp I need to go into Apps/Trip Planner. I have been able to bring it up on the map on the device but it looks like it has been abbreviated. Need to investigate that though it might be because the route was an amalgam of a couple of others.

    Still need to work through loading another map but, even running City Navigator, I can still work up a route in Basecamp and load it on to the Nuvi. I guess I can create one in Mapsource then import it into Basecamp. Not sure yet how the device will handle a route on roads absent from the City Navigator map.

    Clearly a lot to learn but, for $149, it is looking like an option worth trying.
    #9
  10. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    no need to delete your track log unless you want to. as mentioned, the garmin will just keep the last 600km or so in memory and delete anything older than that.

    i have no experience with basecamp or city navigator. if you get stuck, you can just export your route from the pc as a gpx file, then place it in the gpx folder on your garmin nuvi.

    re: maps, one of the good things about the expensive garmins is you can swap maps in the menu after you've loaded topo maps or similar. with the nuvis it aint' so easy. transfer your new maps to the garmin. then with it connected it to your computer, find the pre-installed street maps and change the name to something different so the garmin won't automatically select it (i usually just add "street-maps" to the end so it's easy to identify later.

    then name your new map set "gmapprom" so that the garmin will automatically select this new map on booting up. it needs to be in the same folder as the existing street maps. messy but not hard once you get the hang of it.
    #10
  11. GMess

    GMess Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Brisbane Inner North-west
    Thanks Barry. When all else fails click on "Help" - with the Nuvi connected in Basecamp, right click on the device internal storage and then click Install Maps. Lets me install the Shonky full topo OK. I can select either City Navigator or Shonky Map in the map settings.

    I'll leave it like that for the moment so it loads the city maps in the car. I'll look at sorting the renaming later. What is nice is that I can record tracks I take getting to and driving around some bigger grazing properties in the SUV without having to take my old GPSMap60 as well.
    #11
  12. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    yep, pressing F1 for the help section in any software is handy but hardly anyone ever seems to use it. :lol3

    got inspired by an inmate's post here about just cutting up the black plastic from one of those document holders to make a shower-proof cover for the nuvi and also decrease the direct light hitting the screen. here is his version (he says its a bit mangled in the photo).

    [​IMG]


    here is what i've come up with. just used double-sided tape but may get some stainless steel staples into it as a backup. the foam is to stop it wobbling around as the ram mount only provides a fairly small area of support to the plastic.

    [​IMG]

    heading out for a ride with scattered showers today so will see how well it works. i put some duct tape over the microphone hole on the front (see pic) and the loudspeaker in the rear to reduce moisture getting in. i figure in very wet conditions i would just transfer the nuvi to the clear plastic section of my tank bag.
    #12
  13. Grinnin

    Grinnin Forever N00b

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,983
    Location:
    Maine
    That "shower shield" above IS mangled; it was more rectangular when I made it. It hasn't recovered yet.

    The back has 2 layers of plastic and the whole thing vibrated sometimes because of the small support that you mention. I added a layer of aluminum flashing between the 2 layers of plastic and it cut down on the vibration.

    I have also trimmed the bottom corners back since that photo so perhaps it's time for a new photo showing all the pieces. Soon. (That'll also give me a chance to make all the parts flat again instead of warped.)

    EDIT: I didn't mean to lie, but it's a piece of steel from a very thin 3-litre olive-oil can. You can see the reinforcing ribs :lol3. Notice the cut-away for the power cord to exit to the right. On the left, the piece of steel pushes the short power cord into the nuvi and I don't usually unplug that end, only the free end of the short cord.

    For corners, screw-holes, and the slot I used a small gasket punch to make the holes. This plastic required a very firm backing for punching holes or it would split.

    [​IMG]

    Now I get to press the parts flat before reassembly.

    Thanks for the thread.
    #13
  14. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    update on the weather shield. just back from a six day adv ride over 2300km of mostly dirt. it definitely made viewing the gps much easier as most of the time it kept the sun from hitting it directly.

    when it rained, i angled it downward but the air turbulence meant that drops of water occasionally hit the screen regardless. eventually there were enough of them to collect at the bottom of the screen and seep through enough to stop the touch screen working until it dried out two days later. so i wouldn't call it shower proof!

    [​IMG]

    i think i'll have to lash out on the $80 ram aqua box below for rides i know will be wet ones. the only thing i didn't like about this case was i took it outside at the store and the plastic caught a lot of glare so will probably be hard to read in the sun.

    [​IMG]
    #14
  15. AJC

    AJC Reformed Roadaholic

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2011
    Oddometer:
    56
    Location:
    Pomona
    Now i'm confused. Firstly B1 thanks for all your input on this, you've dramatically simplified what was, for me at least a fairly daunting subject. As a result I've just bought myself my first GPS, a Nuvi 2455LM and really started to get to grips with it all. I've managed to get my head around Basecamp, loaded the Shonky maps onto my device, plotted a route on Basecamp and exported it to the Nuvi. I loaded the route onto the Nuvi screen through apps/trip planner but here's where I've hit a brick wall. The route shows as a line with a series of flags but where a flag appears on a section that is 'off road' the route has gone and instead a direct line appears to the nearest road. I'm assuming its because of the 'auto recalculation' which apparently cant be switched off in the Nuvi. I've tried changing the navigation mode to off road which makes no difference and i've tried running the .gpx file through Ponikiller to unflag the route but then the whole route just disappears. So how do i get the Nuvi to just keep the original route?
    #15
  16. Grinnin

    Grinnin Forever N00b

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,983
    Location:
    Maine
    Nuvi GPSs always calculate routes through the points. To make it go where you want you may need LOTS of points.

    If your route goes on logging roads or ATV trails, they may show up on OSMaps. You can download Garmin-routable OSMaps, put them on your Nuvi (simultaneous with NAVTEQ maps) and the Nuvi may show the route you want. You may need to switch to bicycle mode to follow some "roads".

    If your route is truly off road you need tracks, not routes. No Nuvi supports tracks. With tracks no GPS will tell you where to turn or how to stay on the track. The GPS will display the track as a line on the screen and it's your job to stay on top of the line as you ride.

    When I'm off road I use my Nuvi to show where I am. I don't expect it to show a pre-defined route or track.
    #16
  17. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    if you buy the garmin topo australia & new zealand maps (version 3 and onward), it will auto route along off road sections, except for very minor tracks that appear as dotted lines on the maps.

    however, as the post above, i find it easier to just use a lot of waypoints and use direct routing, which is a series of straight lines between the points.

    so in mapsource, create your route using direct routes....

    EDIT / PREFERENCES / ROUTES

    draw your route using enough straight lines to approximate your route. you'll need to work out how many points your gps can handle before it spits the dummy. my 1490t doesn't seem to like more than 100 points usually so i split long rides into sections.

    next, upload the route to your gps. then you'll need to do the following....

    TOOLS / MY DATA / IMPORT ROUTES / .... select the route and click IMPORT

    then go TOOLS / ROUTES / and choose the route you want.

    then scroll down and go RECALCULATE / OFF ROAD / OKAY'

    then click SAVE so you don't have to do all that again each time you use the route.

    back track and again go TOOLS / ROUTES and select the desired route.

    scroll down and hit VIEW MAP then hit GO.

    you get to choose if you want the gps to navigate you to the start, but remember it will only show a straight line as it is in direct routes mode.


    complicated? yes. garmin is hopeless when it comes to making user-friendly interfaces but once you get the hang of it these are great budget offroad units. if your menu is different you'll just have to find out where these bits hang out on your gps.
    #17
  18. ausguy

    ausguy Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    58
    Shonky maps does not have auto routing try it with city nav
    Aus
    #18
  19. AJC

    AJC Reformed Roadaholic

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2011
    Oddometer:
    56
    Location:
    Pomona
    - this is all i want to achieve. So as I understand it I need to

    to give me a fixed track not a route so that the device is not trying to recalculate the route.

    The problem is that the Nuvi 2455 doesn't have any TOOLS / MY DATA / IMPORT ROUTES / type of menu options. All it has is the Trip Planner option and this only recognises the routes I import and doesn't recognise the tracks. Even using the maximum of 1000 waypoints on a very simple route and setting the unit to 'off road' still doesn't give me the required result, just auto calculated routes from each waypoint and as far as i can tell there's no way to turn off recalculating on the device. It looks like i'm buggered. Any other ideas or do I now have to sell my brand new unused Ram mount?
    (By the way I downloaded Mapsource to try that but it has no USB drivers so I couldn't get it to work with my device and the forum says Garmin are dropping it in favour of Basecamp).
    #19
  20. B1

    B1 Carbon-based bipedal

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,497
    Location:
    Arse-trailer
    just to get technical, a "track" is different to a "route", you will never get a track to show on a nuvi gps. i think i mentioned it earlier, a track is a record the gps makes of where you actually have been (usually an acqua colour line) while a route is something you have created, or the gps auto-calculates for you.

    i think there must be a way to import a route planned in mapsource or basecamp. the website states you can store up to 100 of these on your gps so it's just a matter of finding out where to do it in your menu system, then follow the steps i mentioned as closely as you can to stop it auto-routing. i'd try garmin suppport if you are stuck but from what i've heard their support is pretty lousy...
    #20