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Tips for New GPS Navigation Users

BY JONATHAN MELBY

You'll probably be a little anxious to get going when you first open the box and take out your GPS system. Here are a few tips that will help you get off to a good start.

Get a baseball cap

A GPS left sitting on the dash can be an attractive target for thieves. You can reduce the chance that yours will be stolen by keeping it hidden. One easy way to do this is to cover it with a baseball cap.

Help your GPS find satellites

A GPS receiver needs a little time to find satellites before it can calculate your initial location. This is harder to do when you're driving around (especially if you're changing directions or passing near large obstructions).

You can shorten the startup process by waiting in your driveway (or other open area) until satellite signals are acquired. Most models have a screen that shows the GPS signal status.

Mark a few waypoints

After your GPS has found its initial location, you should set waypoints for your home and a few other key locations. Familiar waypoints shown on the map make it easier to stay oriented as you're driving around.

Check your speedometer

Speedometers in many vehicles are inaccurate. If your speedometer and GPS don't agree, your GPS is probably closest to the truth.

Note: Speeds reported by GPS usually lag by a second or two, so you need to stay at a steady speed to get an accurate reading.

Ask people if they're in a new part of town

Newer subdivisions and office parks are often missing from GPS maps. If a destination is not in your GPS, let it take you to a nearby cross street and get directions from there. After you arrive at the destination, set a waypoint if you expect you might need to find it again in the future.

Make driving your top priority

GPS is fun to use, but be safe. Enough said.

Don't be bullied by your GPS

Your GPS may calculate routes that take you through areas you'd rather skip. Take the road(s) you want and let the GPS recalculate using your road instead.

If your GPS is stubborn and refuses the hint, most systems will let you setup "custom avoid" preferences to skip specific roads or areas. You can do this sometime when you find free time in a parking lot.

Watch the satellites screen

After the novelty of looking at maps of familiar areas has faded, you should spend some time watching the satellite status screen.

Although it's not especially productive, you can learn how sensitive your navigation system is to nearby obstructions that block GPS signals.

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