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Garmin Etrex Vista HCx - Shuts down when USB plugged in

I have had this reliable GPS for years and last night after I plugged in the USB the unit shut down. A message appeared while in Basecamp with an indication of some kind of a USB power drain or low voltage (did not capture the message screen and hit enter too fast). Anyway I unplugged and replugged, check batteries, tried multiple Garmin interface cables, deleted waypoints and tracks, tried another computer at still it shuts down every time I plug in the USB.

I read on some other forums that others have had similar issues but it is unclear if it must be fixed by Garmin. My unit is out of warrantee.

My question: Anything I can do to fix it without sending it to Garmin? Any luck with a full reset of the unit? I will be in the Sierra Backcountry in a week and looking to use this GPS.


  • sussamb 829 Points
    Certainly worth trying a hard reset as it won't do any harm, but I'm not hopeful ...

    You say it 'shuts down every time you plug it in', on my old Etrex I tended to plug it in then switch it on ... maybe try that?
  • Also see which interface is set to the unit. Should be set to "Garmin" protocol for communication.
  • Hard reset completed, satellites connected, and verified the Interface (Garmin Data Format -Not connected)

    The GPS turns off when connected just like it did yesterday.

    As sussamb suggested: "on my old Etrex I tended to plug it in then switch it on ... maybe try that?" Tried that, still same problem.

    Garmin web site says $89 to look at the unit....
    Any experience with what they really charge after they fix things?

    With that kind of investment and the chance for additional costs (shipping and parts and other labor), it may be best to break down and upgrade to an eTrex 30. I bought one for a friend and put it through the paces for a week but I prefer the user interface to the Vista better although this is slightly overcome with the additional features offered in the eTrex 30..

    I use this primarily for trail and cross country navigation in the deserts and mountains after creating tracks and waypoints on the computer...
  • alanb 557 Points
    Typically Garmin repair is an exchange ... for a fixed cost, you send your unit in and they replace it with a refurbished unit of the same model. I know they do this with nuvi's and am guessing they do the same with handhelds. You could call Garmin support to confirm this and get the exact cost. You will have to decide if it is worth it. I would probably use it as an excuse to buy a new model :)
  • Just one more thing. Have you tried to update (reinstall) the vista software via WebUpdater? Otherwise etrex 30 seems to be a good choice. :)
  • Boyd 2007 Points
    Strange, haven't heard of that one before. Have you tried plugging it into an external power supply instead of a computer? Does that also cause it to shut down?

    Personally there's no way I would spend $90 (plus shipping) to repair an older model like yours when it could be replaced with an eTrex 20 for $160. The newer device would give you compatibility with BirdsEye satellite imagery and scanned USGS 24k topo maps, custom maps (.kmz files) that you can make yourself plus GLONASS capability which makes more satellites available.
  • Boyd, you make a compelling argument..New unit is looking better by the hour... I will be using my friends Etrex 30 this coming weekend and will see how that works out. I have used the birdseye view feature on this unit. Nice feature... Another friend will lend he a pair of 655Ts... All I need now is a bigger pack to carry them..!

    As far as updating through WebUpdater,.... with the unit shutting down whenever the USB is connected..... I don't think this will work.

    For external power source..Once connected the unit shuts down.

    BTW, you and others have mentioned issues with the compass on the Etrex 20/30.. Has this been fixed..? IF not where can I read about it?

    Thanks for the timely feedback.. This is the way forums should work..

  • sussamb 829 Points
    There's no issue with the compass on the Etrex 20 (I have one) but the electronic compass on the Etrex 30 has caused some people some problems. Mainly seems to trouble the geocaching community, various threads on it here:
  • There is a trick you can try to update it. (but have a feeling you have already made your choice:)) I watch it over in youtube. Download the vista software from here:

    and start Updater.exe. Then:
    1. While Vista is turned off, hold the joystick up.
    2. While holding the joystick conect it with the USB cable. (don't release the joystick) It should appear on Updater.exe.
    3. Then press ok and wait till the software is again preprogrammed.
  • Boyd 2007 Points
    There's no issue with the compass on the Etrex 20 (I have one)
    There's no issue with the compass on the eTrex 20 because it doesn't have one. :lol:
  • sussamb 829 Points
    Yes OK, I know strictly speaking you're right ... it doesn't have an electronic compass but it does have a 'compass' that shows heading etc when you're moving :twisted:
  • gnubar 0 Points
    I have the very same problem with a Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx.

    Today I managed to "bring it back to life". Apparently a resistor part of the usb power supply circle is defect, which causes the device to be shut off, when connected to a USB power source (or a normal USB-Port either).

    My workaround now was to isolate the V+-Connection between the case and the board of the GPS and reconnect it through a variable resistor. I will provide some values for the resistance tommorow.

    The resistor could be either soldered on the board or inserted into a specially built cable (which then must not be used with other devices).

    This way I could now save my waypoints and tracks stored on the device.
    I will provide my final solution, when ready.

    Vive la resistance!

    /EDIT: If you look on the device from the back, with the USB-Connector on top, the V+-Line is the rightmost. Also opening the device is done by carefully removing the gum around the device (begin at the bottom), the tape beyond that and finally pressing it a bit together to release the clips holding it.
  • gor_ran 0 Points

    I have same problem with Vista HCS. Please give a solution how to fix the machine. Is it possible modification of usb cable and how to do it. What is the value of the resistor? Where is this resistor in the device? Please send me a chart in the mail
  • My Etrex Legend HCx now suffers from this. I'd like to get some recent waypoints off of it. Has there been a follow up on the value of the resistor required?

    And can a resistor of that value be placed for the V+-Line pin externally (in a modified cable) without bothering to open the GPS device? (I think so, but just confirming).

    Worst case, if I don't hear back, I'll put a potentiometer in line with this pin in a cable, and tweak it until success (hopefully!).
  • Help! Garmin Etrex Vista HCx - turns off when USB is connected. Hope only for you
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