Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Ghost in the Machine

Luckily we didn't have any motorbike mechanical issues on the trip.  However, we didn't get through unscathed with all of our machinery.  The GPS unit on Oilburner's bike (my old Zumo 450) decided it didn't like the trip and wanted to reroute us, on its own.

It was strange to see the screen display change between map and settings constantly.  The screen display showed random, and unsolicited, selection of options or destinations.  Oilburner was getting ready to through it across traffic, hoping for it to land under the wheels of semi-truck.  I took possession and gave him my GPS, so he could do all the navigation from now on. (Thank goodness the 450 and 550 take the same cradles!  Interchangeable GPS', sweet!)

I can't say that I nursed it back to health.  It continued to behave poorly.  But usually after a couple of hours it might respond to my input instead of its own, and allow me to select a destination.  I wasn't as concerned with being navigated anywhere, though.  More, I just like being able to see the map and what is in the surrounding area.  Strangely, I like knowing if this water channel is a mere river, or the headwaters of a lake.  Especially in unknown parts of the world.

Interweb research revealed that this is a common problem with the Zumo 450 and 550 screens. Something happens to the touch screen, either scratches or grit or water, and it will "sense" phantom touches.  Though it usually takes a few years to manifest.  (Who keeps their 3 year old GPS' anyway??)  Oilburner stumbled up on ADVRider thread discussing the touch screen replacement.  (ADVRider = Adventure Rider.  Its forum is a garbage dump of information, from the useful to the tacky.  But we're adventure riders, there isn't anything tacky to us!)

I love my Zumo 450 (and now 550).  It is a rugged unit, withstanding the bumps, jiggles and drenchings that motorbikes put it through.  I've had the 450 almost 4 years.  Oilburners original Garmin GPS that has been installed on both of his RT bikes finally gave up the ghost months ago and Garmin replaced it with a 550.  (Nicely, Oilburner gave me the 550 citing it's black color was better on my bikes, while the silver 450 blended better on his.)  I know they are old devices, but I can't stand the new devices that are replacing them.  They are cheaper feeling (longevity) and actually have fewer features than the 450/550 offer. So I will stick with these for the time being.

As I was saying, luckily someone has figured out a cheap way around this issue:  Replace the touch screen (properly called the digitizer).  You can replace the LCD display if you want, but it wasn't required if nothing was wrong with it.  The digitizer costs about $18.  The digitizer + LCD  is about $45.  Oilburner went whole hog and replaced both.

Here is the process of replacement:

Take of its head!  (Remove the top cover)


Take out the heart (Remove the battery.  Notice all of the scratches.  That was Oilburner thinking there was a problem with the terminal connection.)

Loosen/Remove the screws securing the back in place.

Pry the back and front halves apart.  Similar to a clam, without any pearls inside.

Be careful here.  Gently remove the two ribbon cables from the board.  (The top strip of plastic is hinged and just pops up.)

Unscrew the screen from the front plate.

Old screen.  (New screen is basically the same, fewer scratches.  :^)  )

Closer up view of the ribbons.  As said, the top bit is "hinged" and just pops up.  Must make sure the ribbon is seated properly for the new screen.

Voila!  Reverse steps for reassembly and the unit works like new!

Item 1: Garmin will do this for you, calling it "refurbishing" and charge you a measly $150.  Oilburner could have gotten away with just replacing the digitizer for $18, but decided to go the fancy route.

Item 2: Oilburner somehow managed to foist this repair job on me.  I guess my better eyesight, more nimble fingers and younger brain were better suited to this work.  (It couldn't be that he was Tom Sawyer'ing me to get me to do all the work.  Could it??)

Item 3: No.  I did not steal the 450 back because some of it's Frankenstein bits were newer.  He says he likes that silver case...he can have it.

Now you know how to replace some GPS components.  If yours starts acting up, do some research and see if it might be an easy job instead of having to replace the entire unit.

Good luck!!


  1. Lori,

    Thanks for the tips! I'll keep that in mind for when I finally ditch my more than 5 year old Garmin GPS (there's your answer with respect to who keeps old ones, hehe). We have a modern one for the car but I really must upgrade the bike GPS. Mind you, it's not touch screen so it'll probably go on forever!)

    1. Hi Geoff!

      I'm getting ready to pull out the 12 year old eMap to put on the trail bike. So your are not alone in keeping the old ones. Hehehe. We have a modern one for the car too, but those don't need to be as rough and tumble as the ones for the bikes.

      So...being 5 years old are those maps?? ;)

  2. I've had my Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx for over 6 years and it has been working flawlessly. I updated the street maps two years ago and but haven't had too many issues to justify the cost. It doesn't have a touchscreen but is waterproof and is used for walks, hikes, bike trips and while traveling. I even use it in the truck on road trips. It Must have thousands of hours on it by now...

    So I am another old GPS user (in more ways than one!)

    1. Hi Richard!

      I KNEW we were a GREAT bunch. I see no reason to update when the unit is working fine. I just get frustrated that manufacturers will only support two models back. So if something major does happen, you have no choice but to move on. It's funny, but so few people like the newer models for the motorcycles that the 450's and 550's are still going for a very pretty penny. Even though they aren't support (or near to being). I like working on it like we did, I'm just glad it was something that could be fixed.

      Your 60csx is a bullet. That will last quite a longtime! I'm glad it is so portable. When my eMap was my only one (for 5 years) it also was the workhorse, going everywhere. I'm going to pull it out this week and get it running. I haven't turned it on it a couple years.

  3. Nice job, I just listen to the instructions from the gps app I installed on my display for me as its usually hard to see in daylight....better to keep eyes on road... Though it can be disconcerting after a long silent stint to suddenly hear the gps come to life and issue directions!

    Nice job on the digitizer swap!


    1. Yeah, hearing the voice would be startling. I've had that experience with the comma between me and Oilburner. If I am lost in my own thoughts and we haven't spoken in awhile...I've jumped.

      Do you generally follow the route suggested? Or is it for guidelines? We have been finding that we haven't liked the routes it has plotted lately. So I like being able to see the screen and we can modify the routes as we like. (Another reason it isn't connected to my headset. I can't handle the accusatory "recalculating" messages that occur often.)

    2. I use it mainly once I am close to a destination I've never been to. I prefer paper maps for the "big picture".

  4. Ghosts huh
    Prolly picked one up at the King's place ;)

    1. Uh oh! I hadn't thought of that! I wonder if his house is like the Bermuda triangle of Bangor? ;)

  5. Great little to-do post Lori - thank you.

    I'd prolly be inclined to toss it in traffic too, good thing cooler heads prevailed.