You Just Got an In-car GPS. Now What?

Get the most from your new in-car GPS

GPS navigational system on dashboard of car

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An in-car GPS can prove invaluable when navigating unknown terrain. But before you head out on your first trip using a GPS navigation system, you should spend some time learning how to use it.

What's in the Box

Your GPS device will likely come with a windshield mounting bracket, which includes a suction cup and a "dashboard disk." The disk has an adhesive backing that allows it to be secured to a flat, smooth surface. This will also accept the suction cup if you'd prefer not to mount the bracket to the windshield.

Some brackets have adjustment nuts, and others have simple friction joints to adjust the position of the GPS device. Learn how to mount and dismount the GPS from the bracket.

Your GPS will come with a power cord that plugs into your car's power port. It may also include a USB cable to connect to your personal computer. Pricier models with traffic tracking and avoidance features may come with a traffic receiver that picks up FM traffic signals. Many models also come with a CD that includes the full-length manual, as well as software for interfacing your GPS with a personal computer. Connected GPS devices sometimes include additional online services and updates.

Password/PIN Protection

The first time you power up your GPS, you will be asked to set your local time zone. You may also be prompted to opt in or out of password protection. Password protection is in place primarily to protect your personal information if your GPS is stolen. It's inconvenient to input a password or PIN every time you start your GPS. Some GPS units don't require a password or PIN at startup when located in a pre-selected "safe" location, such as a home or work address.

Explore Key Features

You'll save yourself some confusion if you get to know your GPS device's menu system ahead of time. Keep your quick-start guide handy as you explore. Set your home address so that your "home" button works properly. (The home button directs you home from wherever you are located.) Learn how to enter destinations and how to increase and decrease the speaker volume. You should also know how to switch between day and night modes; many models do this automatically based on a light sensor.

Pair Your Phone

If your GPS has Bluetooth wireless connectivity and hands-free phone features, now is the time to pair up your phone and become familiar with the calling features of your GPS device.


Follow basic guidelines for using your GPS system safely and properly. For example, you should never operate the device while driving.

Preventing Theft

Remove your GPS and its windshield suction mount from your windshield and stow it out of sight every time you park in a public place. GPS units are common targets for thieves and their high-tech, visible nature makes them ideal for smash-and-grab style larceny.

Take It With You

Consider taking the GPS itself with you if you are walking or taking public transit in an unfamiliar place. It will continue to help you find your way. Part of the beauty of the new generation of GPS devices is their portability. Also, if you are parked in a large parking lot, such as a stadium, amusement park, or mall lot, set your car's position as a waypoint and you'll never lose track of your car again.

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