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How to power a Garmin GPS with a plain USB cable

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I don't know how long this will stay on the market, but if you use an older Garmin GPS, get one of these while you can.

Definition of "older" Garmin GPS: Any Garmin nuvi, Drive, DriveSmart model made before 2020 that uses the mini USB connector (the one that looks somewhat like a little trapezoid on the small end). Newer models 2021 to present use USB-C, such as the Garmin DriveSmart 66, 76, and 86 and DriveCam 76 all come provided with the appropriate USB-C cable...

...which will not work in a 2022 or 2023 Chevrolet Silverado truck. I'll get to that in a minute.

I own a bunch of older Garmin GPSes because I'm ridiculous like that. But I can confirm that for several models that yes, this cable does work. I can also confirm that even the FM-based traffic reception works too for certain models.

How the cable works

The cable is here.

This cable is for charging only. No data. The way it works is that there is a tiny printed circuit board inside the mini USB side to specifically to prevent current overload.

The cable is also wired so that yes, your Garmin GPS will not go into "PC Mode", which is what happens if you try to use a regular computer USB cable.

What Garmin models do the cable work with?

A ton of them. It's compatible with just about every model from 2007 all the way to 2019.

A few of these include the nuvi 40, nuvi 50, nuvi 2597, nuvi 2599, nuvi 2689, DriveSmart 50 and so on.

The only automotive models I can see this not working with is anything that has a built-in dashcam. I only know of two models like that, the nuviCam and DriveAssist.

Bonus: Enables free traffic reporting on several models!

There's a catch to this. The catch is that the model has to be one that has a built-in traffic receiver, and you have to be in an area that has traffic coverage.

Some nuvi models that have a built-in traffic receiver: 2457LMT, 2497LMT, 2597LMT, 2599LMTHD, 2689LMT, 55LMT, 56LMT, 57LMT, 58LMT, 65LMT, 66LMT, 67LMT, 68LMT.

Some DriveSmart models with built-in traffic receiver: 50LMTHD, 51LMTHD, 60LMTHD, 61LMTHD.

The way to find out if your model has the built-in receiver or not is to boot the GPS, go to Settings > Device > About, and look for Built in traffic receiver: Yes.

For example, from the pile of GPSes I own, I found out yes, my 2597LMT does have its internal traffic antenna enabled using this cable, but not the 2555LMT (it requires a cable + traffic antenna like the GTM36).

The nerdy explanation of why this particular USB cable works to enable traffic: It basically does the same thing that the Garmin TA20 cable does without the requirement of a 12V connection. This is why it is able to enable traffic reporting on certain models. If the model could ordinarily receive traffic data using a TA20, it can also receive traffic data using this USB cable.

2022/2023 Chevrolet Silverado owners

As all '22/'23 Silverado owners are aware, General Motors did not include a 12V outlet on most models of this truck, instead opting for USB. However, GM did not include a "full power" USB-C port either and it's limited to just 4.5 watts...

...meaning it will not power a Garmin DriveSmart 66/76/86, even with the included cable it comes with.

However, the USB cable will plug into the larger A style port and power an older nuvi/Drive/DriveSmart. The model that would probably suit best is the DriveSmart 65, although that model can't be used vertically. If vertical use is required, a good used nuvi 2689 or 2699 would be the better choice. And bear in mind I own a 2689LMT and can 100% confirm the cable works with it and enables free traffic reporting.

I would assume (but can't confirm) that GM at least used a 2.0A for the larger A style USB port. If so, then yes, the cable should power and charge a DriveSmart 65 and absolutely will power and charge a nuvi 2689/2699.

On a final note for this, no, the cable does not light up at the mini USB side as seen in the illustration above, nor does it have a little window where you can see the circuit board. That's just for show. It looks like any other A-to-mini-USB cable, but what is accurate is that yes, there is an L shape on the mini USB side to make it easier to mount your Garmin GPS when the cable is connected.

Published 2023 Mar 30

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