Friday, January 23, 2009

Broken eTrex Legend GPS


My Garmin eTrex Legend GPS is broken beyond repair. I am writing this post to express my frustration with myself rather then with the product itself. So please don't do as I did if you want your eTrex to serve you longer.

It all began one day when the eTrex started displaying vertical lines over the map. Similar to this:

eTrex Displays Vertical Line

Everything else worked fine - it was able to lock on to my position, menus were active etc. Funny thing was that in the beginning this was a random occurrence and it would 'fix itself' after 10 minutes of use. However after a month or so the lines were there for good - I would leave it on for hours and the dreaded lines would still be there.

Google to the rescue.

The answer was simple - this is something that just happens (design flow to eTrex's - there is a weak connection between the 'mainboard' and the display board (for lack of a better description). To fix it, one needs to open the GPS unit, clean the small ribbon cable and reconnect it. Here is the source of this info.

So I did and it fixed the vertical lines.

Yet couple of weeks later the lines were back. I decided to use a contac cleaner spray that I had lying around to improve the situation. Afte spraying the connector I thought why not spray the joystick base just in case sinc it's another well known problem with this units, so I sprayed it too.

Big mistake.

The joystick is mounted on the display board. The spray I had was PRF KONTAKT 7-78 and apparently it had 'good lubricant' properties. In result, there were several quite noticeable oil like spots on the display left from the lubricant residue that leaked in between the LCD and the backlight. To make matters worse it saturated the piece of paper (not sure it's plain pape but looks & feels like it) that sits behind the LCD. Once again I had to dismantle the thing once again and figure out a way to clean the spots. In my frustration I yanked something that looked like insulation tape that was preventing me from reaching the spots. (Click for larger preview)

broken eTrex

Even bigger mistake.

It turned out that the 'insulation tape' holds a bunch of hair thin copper cables that I effectively broke off the board and completely disconnected the LCD from its board. Nothing came up on this display ever again . . . Only after I broke it, I figured out that if I just slide a piece of printer paper behind the screen, it absorbs the residue from the contact spray and the spots were gone.

Major frustration.

At this time I've had the eTrex Legend for less than an year. All the maps I needed were uploaded to the device and I was pretty happy with it, there were saved tracks that were important to me and what not . . . It took me couple of months to overcome my anger with the ridiculous outcome of my 'repair' job and see if I could salvage the tracks from the GPS.

Laptops don't come with serial ports anymore.

And since I've sold my Desktop PC and only had a laptop with no serial ports I had to buy a USB to Serial adapter to be able to interface with the Garmin eTrex GPS. The base eTrex Legend has only serial connection available unlike the eTrex Legend H and the following models which utilize a USB connection.

To my surprise

. . . the computer connected with the unit just fine and I was able to retrieve my data. The GPS functionality was intact and using the laptop (and OziExplorer I believe) it locked on to the correct position. This gave me some hope and I brought it to the local repair service where I admitted to
have opened it myself. The answer was:

'It would cost you less to buy a brand new one.'

Bummer. Afterwards I did try to find the needed board myself to no avail. I basically threw away some $200 - the Legend sits in a box somewhere now - couldn't figure out a use for it the way it is now. 


The whole thing resulted in me buying the . . .

Holux 240

Holux 240

. . . and using it with my iPaq 6315 along with iGo. This combo gives me better and bigger colorful display and routing. Much more useful in a car (the legend was next to useless for a day to day car navigation) where you can toss the Bluetooth receiver (Holux 240) anywhere on the dash and position the display (iPaq) where it's easy to see without concern for sufficient signal strength etc.

iPaq 6315 and Holux 240

I welcome any ideas about a possible use for what's left of my eTrex.

P.S. For the curious I took some shots of the dismantled eTrex. These include the outer plastic shell plus the mainboard and the display board front and back views. Click to view full-sized images.

eTrex Parts Pics

Front Cover (Front)

Front Cover (Back)

Back Coaver (Front)

Back Cover (Back)

Display Board Front

Display Board (Back)

Mainboard Front

Mainboard Back


  1. Alex,

    I am very much in need of the back outer plastic case for my Legend. The clips that hold the cable in the back have broken off from heavy use and I can no longer connect my unit to my PC or the power cord in my truck.

    Can you help me out? Garmin wanted $79.99 plus s&h to fix it. That was WAY too much money for repair that I need.

    You can reach me at

    Thank you so much in advance,

  2. Please check my Blogger profile to view a picture of my broken unit


  3. Michael,

    Few months back I was able to fix my eTrex.

    I don't have any spare parts - sorry.

    Why don't you try ebay. Every now and then you can pickup an as-is unit for ~$20.