Health & Safety

July 27, 2012

Vehicle GPS units: What everyone needs to know

Courtesy of

This GPS unit was left in the bracket attached to the windshield in the sun. The battery overheated and exploded. Experts advise not to leave GPS or other electronic devices in the sun to avoid this outcome.

We love our cars. We become dependent on them. We rely on our cars to not only get us to and from work but in many cases to tell us how to get where we want to go.

Most new cars today come with the option for a GPS navigation system. For older vehicles, there are aftermarket systems available. These are smaller units that can be installed in almost any car on the road today. They can tell the driver where to go, the fastest route to take and even update the route due to changes in traffic. Navigation systems can be a useful tool but, like anything else, they are subject to failure.

In August of 2010, Garmin, one of the leading GPS receiver manufacturers, issued a recall on 1.25 million in-car units due to the possibility of the battery overheating and causing a fire. The following devices were included in the recall: nüvi 200W, 250W, 260W and nüvi 7xx (where xx is a two-digit number). Of the 1.25 million, 800,000 were sold in the U.S. To learn what units are affected, visit

Recently, a GPS unit was left in the bracket attached to the windshield in the sun in a car at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif. The battery overheated and exploded.

The cause of the explosion is still being researched. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of a similar occurrence. Experts advise not to leave GPS or other electronic devices in the sun to avoid this outcome.


Safety recommendations for vehicle accessory devices

  • Avoid leaving any device plugged in when not in use (including chargers)
  • Avoid leaving any device in direct sunlight when the vehicle is parked
  • Use protective window shades to limit temperature and exposure to sun
  • Discontinue use if wiring is damaged or there is any other defect
  • Only use devices according to manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Periodically check manufacturer and safety websites for recalls

Following these simple rules can significantly reduce the chances of a situation occurring similar to the one at China Lake. For more information, call the Luke Air Force Base Fire Prevention Office at (623) 856-3766.

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