Power for a Garmin or TomTom Motorcycle GPS

Lightning BoltPurchasing and installing a Garmin or TomTom motorcycle GPS device is half the work.  Installing your new GPS is often much more difficult.  After figuring out where to put it, you need to determine how to power it.  We covered How to Mount a Garmin Zumo or TomTom Rider GPS in a prior article.  That’s a great article to figure out how and where to attach the motorcycle GPS on your bike.  Often, hardwire is the selected method to get power to your motorcycle GPS and that’s what we’ll talk about in this article.

First – If all of your anticipated rides are short in duration, you may not need to worry about hooking up power.  Most motorcycle GPS devices, certainly all Garmin Zumo models made over the past five years, have an internal battery that lasts for several hours.  If you don’t mind charging the device prior to the ride, stop here.  You just need to mount the GPS and you’re all set.  So go read that article on how to mount it, and you’re all set.

The rest of this article is for those that need to power the GPS while riding.

Most motorcycle GPS devices come with a hardwire cable connected to the cradle.  That implies that you need to connect it somewhere on your motorcycle.  I’m predicting future motorcycle GPS devices might present the buyer with a DC option since a greater number of motorcycles have a DC outlet installed.  However, as of today, the majority of motorcycle GPS devices are in need of a hardwire connection.  The hardwire is connected to the motorcycle cradle.  Sure, there’s a DC cable available, but that’s for using your GPS in the car with the car cradle.  Using the Garmin Zumo  or TomTom Rider car cradle on a motorcycle is not recommended.

Attachment of the hardwire cable is fairly simple but it’s important to follow the manufacturer instructions very carefully.  In terms of installation difficulty, I would rate this as moderate.  If you do not feel comfortable working on your motorcycle or car, a trip to the mechanic should take care of it.  I always defer to a mechanic when dealing with electrical projects, and recommend you do that too.

Generally, there are two wires coming out of the cable, black and red.  The red cable usually has a fuse attached and the black wire is the ground.  Ideally these wires should be connected to an accessory terminal within a fuse block.  You should check with the dealer or manufacturer regarding location of this attachment.  That’s the cleanest way.  Normally, the accessory terminal is powered with the rest of the motorcycle.  If your motorcycle is off, so are all the accessories.

Others may opt to connect these cables directly to the motorcycle battery.  Be careful if opting for this type of installation to prevent injury to you or damage to the GPS.  It’s difficult to provide detailed instructions for doing this since every situation is different.  Be sure to disconnect the negative terminal first and then reconnect it last to prevent any issues.  As I stated before, I like to use a mechanic for this.

You’re likely to find the cable length is longer than necessary.  You need to ensure that the wires are secured to the frame of your motorcycle as it snakes its way from the battery or accessory terminal to the cradle.  I always found cable ties to be a handy way to do this.  You can also consider stashing excess cable in a saddle bag or magnetic gas tank storage bag.  Just be sure there is no dangling cable to get in the way.

Now that you have the GPS mounted and powered, you just need to figure out how to use it.  Get your GPS setup prior to starting your ride and stay safe.