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Garmin Directs Users to Send GPS Units Home

Garmin Directs Users to Send GPS Units Home

Owners of Garmin GPS navigation units should check whether their devices are among the 1.25 million units Garmin has recalled based on fears of overheating and fires. Only 10 devices are reported to have caused actual problems, resulting in no injuries, but Garmin stressed that a defect in a supplier's part could lead to a fire hazard "in rare circumstances."

By Richard Adhikari
08/26/10 11:25 AM PT

Garmin on Wednesday recalled 1.25 million Nuvi GPS navigation units worldwide due to a battery problem.

Of those, 765,000 were sold in the United States.

The recalled units may overheat, leading to a fire hazard, Garmin said.

The models affected are some units of the Garmin 200W, 250W and 260W families, and a few in the 7 series.

Although the fire hazard was identified in only 10 GPS devices from these families, Garmin is recalling all possibly affected models because "We want to make sure we get all the ones that could possibly be affected," Garmin spokesperson Jessica Myers told TechNewsWorld.

Garmin Owners Call Home

It's not clear whether the problem lies solely with defective batteries or involves other parts of potentially affected GPS units.

Garmin said the recalled products "contain batteries manufactured by a third-party supplier within a defined date code range and that have a specific printed circuit board (PCB) design." The interaction of those two items could "in rare circumstances" increase the possibility of overheating, which may lead to a fire hazard, Garmin said.

The company wouldn't specify exactly which models are affected. Regarding the items in its 7 series, Garmin only said they were the 7xx and 7xxT models (wherein the letter 'x' stands for a digit).

"We're not providing a specific year or date code range," Garmin's Myers said. That's because only some units within the model series named are affected, she explained.

Owners of the suspect Garmin models can visit this site for information. They'll be asked to enter their unit's serial number, and if it's among those affected, they'll be instructed how to return it to Garmin at no charge.

Owners in the U.S. and Canada who can't access the website can call 1-866-957-1981.

Garmin will replace the batteries of the recalled units and put a spacer between them and the units' PCBs at no cost to the devices' owners. The battery manufacturer will help defray the cost of the recall, Garmin said.

It's not clear whether Garmin will take any action against the PCB manufacturer.

"We're not releasing that information," the GPS maker's Myers said. Garmin will not replace the PCB boards, she added.

Just a Wee Little Problem

None of the 10 reported incidents has caused significant property damage or injuries, Garmin said. Its recall is a proactive measure.

"Customer safety and product integrity are important to us," Garmin's Myers said.

Such a widespread recall, based on only a few incidents, is unusual for a consumer electronics manufacturer. After all, Apple didn't recall the iPod nano even though there have been reports of some device overheating and catching on fire, and the Japanese government has ordered it to publish on its website information about how to get replacement nano batteries.

The recall may be related to Garmin's continental lineage. Garmin International's parent, Garmin Limited, is located in Switzerland. "Europe is far less kind than the United States when it comes to situations like this, which can be company killers, so firms there are far more aggressive at correcting such problems," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

"This doesn't appear to be Garmin's fault, and supplier problems seem to be happening to everyone during these tight times," Enderle added. "Garmin's bigger issue is that people just aren't buying personal GPS systems that much anymore because in-car GPSes are provided as a default; cellphone GPSes are becoming vastly easier to use and more common, and the old GPS systems seem to work well for extended periods so people aren't replacing them."

DIY-ers Not Wanted

Owners of recalled GPS units should not try to replace the batteries themselves, Garmin stressed. The battery is a lithium-ion unit.

"If you replace the battery yourself, it could void our warranty," Garmin's Myers pointed out.

"GPS systems have built-in batteries, and if you try to replace them yourself and do it wrong, it will short and that could result in the very thing you're trying to prevent, or simply destroy the device," Enderle said.


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