How to Troubleshoot a TomTom GPS System That Isn't Getting a Satellite Signal

By Benjamin Aries

With proper signal, modern GPS units are accurate to within several feet.
i Rayes/Photodisc/Getty Images

TomTom GPS devices are usually quite reliable, and can route you across town or even across the country. Like all GPS units, however, TomTom systems rely on a satellite signal to determine your location. If the signal is lost, the device cannot guide you. You can often solve this problem by checking for a few basic things, such as signal blockage or outdated software.

Signal Delay

A TomTom requires some time to find and lock on to GPS signals. If you are not receiving a signal, it is possible that the unit simply needs a few more moments. The location icon and driving view will turn gray while the TomTom seeks a signal. Leave the GPS sitting in one location for several minutes so that it can locate the necessary satellites.

Some situations can delay the acquisition of signal. If you are using the TomTom for the first time, or you've traveled a significant distance with the GPS turned off, the unit may need extra time to determine your position. Be patient and give the device ample time to lock on to the signal.

Signal Blockage

TomTom units contain a high-sensitivity GPS antenna, which can detect satellite signals under many different conditions. However, some objects can still block the antenna, preventing a solid lock. Ensure that the TomTom has a clear line of sight to the sky. Move outdoors and away from buildings for the best results.

It is possible for a heat-reflecting or "athermic" windshield to block the GPS signal. To check for this problem, allow the TomTom to acquire signal while you are outside of your vehicle. Move the unit onto the car dashboard. If the GPS loses the signal when you move inside the vehicle, the windshield may be to blame.

Software Updates

Outdated software can cause problems for your TomTom, making it difficult for the device to receive a satellite signal. A GPS must have recent software in order to predict the location of overhead satellites.

You can use TomTom's MyDrive or TomTom HOME applications to check the status of your software and update the GPS. These programs are usually included on a CD that comes with your GPS unit. Consult your TomTom user manual for detailed instructions on how to update your device. You can also download software from TomTom's website (see Resources).

Factory Reset

A factory reset may help your TomTom function properly if no other solution works. Depending on your GPS model, this option is listed as "Reset" or "Reset Factory Settings." You can find this function through the settings menu on your TomTom.

If you completely reset the TomTom, all of your personal settings and favorites are lost. You should only reset the device as a last resort, and make a note of any favorite addresses that you want to save for future use. The TomTom may require up to 45 minutes to acquire a signal after the factory reset.