Seven ways to get the best out of your satnav

Satellite navigation is a real boon - but there are ways to make the most of it, and things to avoid. Here are seven tips on what to do - and what not to do.

1 Be discreet

Satnavs have memories with easily accessible data. Don't be tempted to specify your home address. If you put such details in, and so clearly, too, then if it's stolen, thieves will know where you live. And it will be odds on that you're not there, either. So they've got your satnav, the other contents of the glove box and now your address, too. Similarly, remember to delete your secret lover's address from the recent destinations list, you cad. Or to put it another way, if you suspect your significant other of wandering, the TomTom might at least show you where they've been straying. The brilliant Zoombak, sadly no longer available in the UK, transmitted its location at all times, making it an ideal lie detector.

2 Set it up before you set out

I know, I know, but it's worth saying. How many times have you been fiddling with the GPS en route, to adjust the volume or make the warning sound when you're speeding, because it wasn’t quite right when you started? We all think we can do it without losing concentration on the road. This may be true if you're just switching to night screen, say, but not if you have to concentrate on keying letters into the screen. Really you should pull over, no matter how annoying that seems. Better safe…

3 Listen up

Similarly, it's worth making sure the voice instructions are loud enough to cut through the gossip and the radio as you drive, so you don't even have to look at the gadget any more than usual. One manufacturer used to only have one English voice and this was an unbearably posh one. I have missed motorway exits because I turned him off (which, after all, was the effect he'd had on me). This is also an argument against those novelty voices you can buy, oh, so funny for a day or two but infuriating ever after.

4 Use common sense

Actively question the satnav. First, so that you don't drive through a "No Entry" sign or into an unspecified canal. The police won't be so keen on your defiant chant of "the satnav told me to". But also to make sure that you're going to the right destination. There are several places with the same name in Britain, and if you're abroad it may be even more challenging. So check the map details, how many miles and how long the journey - do they all match your expectations?

5 Use the features - you've paid for them

Like the excellent NavPix features on Navman's machines, where you can snap that best-kept-secret pub you found down a country lane using the built-in camera. The photograph will save the geotagging data as well so it can guide you back. Even the super-slim Navman S100, which doesn't have a camera, can still record where you are, just no pic to go with it. Similarly, if you have a TomTom with Traffic HD or sophisticated routing related to the time of day, make the most of it.

6 Be secure

Not just about your address - that circular mark where you spit-licked the satnav to the window is unsightly and tells a thief you may have something valuable on board. Some stick to the dashboard instead of the windscreen, which may be better. And make sure it's attached well - one sudden bump and a flying satnav could do some damage as it hurtles towards you. And make sure it's not between you and an airbag. Finally, some people even leave theirs on display when away from their car - what were they thinking?

7 Carry a road map

If you drop your satnav in a puddle or crack the screen, you're beggared. Ditto if it turns out that the battery was low and the one thing you forgot was the charger. An analogue backup that withstands falls and doesn't need batteries is worth keeping in the boot. It even offers a chance for nostalgia: "Darling, do you remember when we used this last time? We had that vile argument when you said I'd got the map upside down? Weren’t we a fine pair of hotheads?"


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