Clouds on the horizon. Generally speaking, electronics and water don’t play well together. Usually. We’re going to look at ways to keep a motorcycle GPS dry. We will also discuss if it’s even necessary.
There are many different GPS models. Some are made for motorcycle use, others are made for use in a car. We discuss using a car GPS on a motorcycle in a previous article. Each type of GPS has different water resistant properties.
Ingress Protection Ratings
Weatherproof ratings are expressed in terms of IP rating. IP means Ingress Protection. You will see terms such as IP68 used. The first number rates the ingress of solid foreign objects. Most GPS devices made for motorcycle use are going to provide the highest rating which is 6. A solid foreign object rating of 6 means no ingress of dust is possible. This means dust cannot seep through the outer shell.
When it comes to water, the most important part of the IP rating is the second digit. A rating of 6 means the device is protected from high pressure water jets from any direction. A rating of 7 means the device is protected against complete immersion in liquid for up to one meter (three feet) for up to 30 minutes. Lastly, a rating of 8 means that you can immerse it in water for extended periods.
Now to confuse everybody a little further, we now have electronics rated as IPX7. An IPX7 rating means nothing is guaranteed on the solids part but the second digit can be used to determine liquid immersion capabilities.
So what’s all this come down to? Don’t strap your GPS to a submarine no matter what the rating. A rating of IP67 or IPX7 should keep your motorcycle GPS safe in light to moderate rain. If it’s raining heavily, you shouldn’t be riding, let alone using a GPS.
We’ll look at what all this means for a motorcycle GPS.
Interestingly, a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is rated as IP68. An Apple iPhone 7 is IP67. While the manufacturers don’t recommend taking the devices swimming, it’s good to know an accidental spill shouldn’t harm the phone (which costs a lot more than most GPS devices).
Motorcycle GPS Models
We’re talking about GPS models such as the Garmin Zumo series and TomTom Rider. These are GPS models made for use on a motorcycle. A motorcycle GPS is made to use outdoors. That term in and of itself suggests there is some weatherproofing that should be included. In the case of Garmin, they spell it all out on their Water Rating page.
Most recent Garmin Zumo models have been rolled out with a rating of IPX7. Makes sense. This means you don’t have to worry too much about them getting wet. Don’t leave on during a downpour but you don’t need to worry if it’s incidental exposure during light rain.
As to TomTom, you could have guessed they were going to match up to Garmin on this important rating. Their most recent motorcycle GPS being the TomTom Rider 400 is also rated as IPX7.
So there’s not much of a need to worry about keeping a GPS made for motorcycle use dry. You should take it in at the end of the day and not even plan on riding during a heavy rain. Bottom line, try to keep it out of the rain, but don’t worry too much it gets a little wet.
Car GPS Used on a Motorcycle
Here’s where it gets interesting. Generally speaking, Garmin and TomTom do not publish the IP rating of their car GPS models on their web sites. Makes sense. These are made to use in a car. Why publish the water rating?
However, we know a lot of people using a car GPS on a motorcycle. How do you keep a car GPS dry on a motorcycle?
You won’t be able to approach the IPX7 ratings achieved by a Garmin Zumo or TomTom Rider 400. You likely paid much less for the car GPS versus splurging for the motorcycle GPS. There’s good reason as the motorcycle GPS is made to withstand weather elements more so than a car GPS.
A Garmin Nuvi, Garmin Drive or TomTom Go isn’t made to use outdoors so don’t even think about getting it wet. Fortunately, there are mounting devices and holders available to combat the elements somewhat better.
Consider adding the Arkon Bicycle or Motorcycle Handlebar Mount with Water-Resistant Holder. A water-resistant case zips open and features a touch-compatible plastic face that allows you to operate the device while in the case. The case is attached to a handlebar mount that fits up to 1.25 inch diameter. There is a small opening at the bottom of the case to accommodate a power cable. This case doesn’t carry an IP rating but will help to keep your GPS dry in light rain. These fit many GPS models but specifically for those measuring up to 5.95″ x 3.12″ x .33″.
A similar weatherproof case is provided with the Techmount Universal Motorcycle Handlebar Mount Kit with GPS Case. This kit includes a heavier duty black metal mount coupled with the case. The case handles a GPS measuring less than 3.4″ by 5.3″ and with a depth at or less then 1.7″. That’s going to fit most GPS devices that have a 5″ screen but be sure to measure prior to purchase. These fit handlebars to 1.25 inches.
These solutions are weatherproof, not waterproof. They are good for occasional exposure to light rain.
Keeping it Dry
Use common sense. Even those motorcycle GPS models carrying an IPX7 aren’t made for a torrential storm so be sure to remove the device during serious weather. A car GPS like a Garmin Nuvi simply isn’t made for the rain so be sure to remove those when it’s getting cloudy. And most importantly, stay safe. Riding in inclement weather can be dangerous and should be avoided.
I’m Mike, the author of all of the articles on this site. MotorcycleGPSHub is written from many years of experience outfitting motorcycles with GPS devices and mounting configurations. I’ve had a chance to use not just the old school Garmin Zumo, but more contemporary GPS apps like Waze and Google Maps. To each their own. There’s a good market for a traditional motorcycle GPS as well as those that want to keep it basic with a smartphone app.