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Most Common GPS Tracking Problems Experienced by Users

Most Common GPS Tracking Problems Experienced by Users

Andrew McMennamy

GPS monitoring devices and other navigation systems have been helping people of all walks of life by providing location and direction information and solving GPS tracking problems. In addition, this technology has greatly benefited industries in improving management and increasing productivity, efficiency, and profit.

Employees no longer have to worry about payroll deductions caused by login failures because GPS automatically tracks and records the time they spend at work. Companies save on fuel, delivery services can see to it that all vehicles they use are following scheduled maintenance, and people even receive insurance premiums. It is easy to use and comes with an app and website that are all easy to navigate, basically making tasks easier and operations smoother.

But just like anything else, the GPS tracking system, too, is susceptible to error when used improperly. Here are the usual GPS tracking problems that many users have experienced.

Even with the most up-to-date mapping and navigation software, your GPS tracker is still at the mercy of its satellite network. Accuracy problems can arise from a variety of conditions, from atmospheric to terrestrial. When a satellite isn't able to transmit its position (a situation called an ephemeris or orbital error), it won't be able to establish a link with your GPS tracker. Atmospheric conditions, specifically in the ionosphere and troposphere, including variations in plasma activity, temperature, pressure, and humidity, can cause calculation and accuracy errors in the satellite network.

Bad satellite signals and signal interference are some of the most common glitches, and they happen when something gets in the line of sight between your GPS tracker and the satellite network. Without a clear and strong signal, your device can't accurately establish your location. Tall buildings, dense foliage, mountains, and even reflective objects can cause such a problem.

Common GPS tracking problems

Here are some of the most common GPS tracking problems users experience with their device because of these conditions.

Device won’t start up.

If this is a vehicle tracker, check if the key is not turned to ACC or IGNITION position or if the power cable has not been connected to the GPS navigation unit. A fuse might have blown up behind the GPS tracker or in the radio system. If so, replace the blown fuse with a fuse of the same amps. Lastly, some models require full charging before being started up, so check the manual to see if this is the case.

Map does not appear on the screen.

It is possible that the scale of the navigation map is either too small or too large. Try to change the scale of the map. You should be able to see the navigation map on the monitor now. If the map still has not appeared, try to search for a place on the search bar, and if the problem persists, contact your nearest product distributor/reseller for further assistance.

Travel routes look like a mess of lines.

If you are using a GPS tracking server and while loading its history you experience other problems, it might be caused by incorrect time zone settings. All GPS devices must send data in 0 UTC time zone, except mobile devices using GPS tracker application. To do this, set 0 UTC time zone in the device's accuracy settings and clear object history.

Device does not send updates.

The device has not transmitted the latest positioning data to the server, and the old positioning data is still displayed. Trackers get their location from GPS satellites, so make sure the tracker is placed somewhere it can get a GPS signal. They can’t be inside a metal enclosure like a trunk or toolbox. Also, they may not be able to get a GPS fix inside a metal building, an underground parking deck, etc. So if your tracker isn't reporting, there is a possibility that it just doesn't know where it is at the moment.

Perhaps the most common reason a tracker might not be reporting is because of poor cellular service. Your tracker sends its location back over the cellular network, so adequate cell service is required. If your tracker hasn’t updated in a while, there is a good chance it’s in a cellular dead zone and will update as soon as it moves out of that area. A great way to test your tracker if you just got it is to drive around for a few minutes with the tracker. This usually solves any connectivity issues that may be the result of poor cellular service in one spot.

Device is giving wrong directions.

Over the years, business and personal vehicles are being equipped with GPS maps. GPS maps are incredibly useful . . . if they work. There also have been remarkable failures where drivers were given wrong directions from their GPS map. Wrong directions not only make drivers miss their destinations but can also put drivers in dangerous situations. For example, some tourists almost drove into the Pacific Ocean because they followed their GPS. Instead of driving down the road as suggested by the map, the tourists were stranded in mud and were pulled by a tow truck.

Maps quickly go out of date. The directions your GPS device compiles are based on digital maps provided by a mapping and navigation company that has partnered with the device manufacturer. These can cause GPS tracking problems, and the electronic map in your GPS may miss new roads that have been built and instead contains roads that do not exist anymore. Many handheld or stand-alone devices can be updated for free by connecting them or the removable media card directly to a computer and downloading new, updated maps from the digital map provider. With frequent downloads, your GPS device will have the most current routing information.

Location tracking is not accurate.

Accuracy problems are usually caused by an error in location. It's probably because your antenna is having difficulty in picking up or maintaining satellite signal. This means it is not properly positioned. You need to transfer your antenna or GPS device to a place where it has a clear view of the sky like in the trunk of a car.

Device gives sudden location movements even if device is still.

Like inaccurate location reports, jumpy location movements are also caused by weak GPS signal. Make sure that the device's antenna has good reception. Mostly such issues appear with cheap devices. If location accuracy is crucial, always choose high-quality, best reviewed devices.

I'm receiving false geofence alerts.

This occurs when geofence boundaries are set too small and GPS Drift is making the device jump inside and/or outside your defined geofence boundary. Delete your small geofence boundary and create one in the same location, but make it larger. It's better to, for example, put a geofence around your entire neighborhood, rather than just your house.

I'm receiving too many alerts.

This occurs if you have your SMS phone number or email address for alerts entered multiple times or if multiple geofence alerts and overlapping or duplicate areas were created. Delete duplicate SMS phone numbers or email addresses. Do this by clicking Remove Email/SMS for Alerts under the Change Settings menu to solve your GPS tracking problems.

I am having a problem in accessing device path history.

Tracki, currently the most cost-effective and reliable tracker in the market, can log driving activities. To access the history data, you have to log in to their website. Accessing the information should be simple and quick, but in case you encounter download errors, 99.99 percent of it are because of computer issues. It could be enabled firewalls, outdated firmware, or incompatible technology. Fortunately, any computer issues can be fixed by contacting technical support.

Troubleshooting Your Device After Encountering Problems

If you follow the instructions that come with the software to connect your GPS tracker to your computer, usually getting the two devices talking is painless. Follow this set of steps to identify the possible culprit for your connection troubles and GPS tracking problems:

  1. Always ensure cables are plugged securely. While you’re at it, check that the tracker is turned on.
  2. Make sure that the baud rate and the protocol are the same in both the GPS receiver and the interface program. Double-check this again if you can’t establish a connection. Even if the baud rates match, they may be set too high, causing communication errors. When in doubt, lower the baud rate. You can either step down a rate at a time or go directly to 4,800 or 9,600 baud. Although this is slow, this rate shouldn’t generate errors.
  3. Make sure that the correct COM port is specified. If you still can’t get a connection, try different COM port numbers until you find one that works.
  4. Always check the user manual, online help, or the support section of the vendor’s website for specific information on interfacing with a GPS tracker's app. If you can’t get your GPS tracker to communicate to your computer and you happen to have a PDA, turn off the PDA synchronization program first. PDA synchronization software that’s running in the background is a frequent culprit in causing GPS receiver interface issues and GPS tracking problems.

Precautionary Measures

These should all go without saying, but just in case these are not obvious enough for some, here are precautionary measures when handling trackers for your GPS tracking problems.

  • Keep the tracker away from direct sunlight or any place that is too hot or too cold.
  • GPS trackers are a delicate electronic device. They need to be handled with care. Also don’t try to shake them violently.
  • Protect the tracker from dust and liquids.

Post updated on 9 May 2024

Author information:
Andrew McMennamy

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