Fixing the Altimeter on my Garmin Forerunner 910XT
As many of you may know, I’ve had numerous problems with the altimeter on my Forerunner 910XT. Since lusting after the Forerunner 910XT back in October 2011, I bought one in February 2012. I then wrote a glowing report on the Forerunner 910XT with my first impressions – it did just about everything I wanted it to do, and did it well.
Everything seemed to be working well with it, except for one little hiccup when it produced a strange route a month or so later, but other than that it seemed fine. I used it pretty much everyday for all of my swimming, biking and running sessions, I used it in the gym and on my turbo trainer and recorded all of my training with it. It synced with my computer via Garmin ANT+ Agent software and from there to the various software that I use to track and analyse my training.
That was the way it was, me and my Garmin Forerunner 910XT spending far too much time together, sweaty, puffing and panting. Then in July 2012, after about 5 months use the altimeter stopped working. One day the elevation just suddenly jumped and then had me at close to 63,000ft all the time. Garmin were contacted and a returns number was issued. I paid for the postage to send it back and I soon has a replacement unit under warranty. Garmin’s warranty service was good and the new unit was functioning well.
Then in another 5-6 months the same happened again. the altimeter went hay-wire and ended up recording that I was at 63,000 feet and there were no ups and downs in my life. Once again I was without my (now not so) trusty Forerunner 910XT whilst it was sent back for replacement. Once again it cost me to send it back too. I was also now a little worried that the warranty would have expired if this happened again, so got Garmin to extend the warranty for me just in case.
Sure enough, in another 5-6 months, now July 2013 the altimeter did it’s thing and I had to call on the warranty replacement services of Garmin yet again. I had suggested that they simply make it possible to turn off the barometric altimeter within the settings on the watch as there was clearly an issue with it. Most people, myself included would be more than happy not to have a barometric altimeter. With no altimeter we could simply rely on GPS map data for the elevation readings once the workouts were downloaded to the computer. This didn’t happen of course but it seemed like a simple solution to me.
I was now onto my 4th Garmin Forerunner 910XT and was getting quite used to the warranty replacement service. I think I know the returns address off by heart as I seemed to be using it every 6 months, and sure enough, 6 months down the line in December 2013 I was using it again and was now onto my 5th watch from Garmin.
A friend of mine, Michael who was having similar issues with his 910XT then directed me to a forum post on Fast Twitch where some people were reporting that they had had some success with barometric altimeter issue simply by giving the two little holes in the back of the device a really good clean with hot soapy water and a toothbrush.
earlier this year my original 910xt (watch #1) stopped recording elevation correctly (as stated above). I got a warranty return and got a replacement (watch #2), which unfortunately had a very sticky button and was promptly returned. Watch #3 worked great for a month then elevations stopped working again. I swim daily, bike and run frequently…
I emailed Garmin and was about to send it back, before I came up with the idea to WASH MY 910XT. I put it in a warm water soapy bowl, and using a clean/unused toothbrush brushed the two barometer vent holes. And… it worked (recorded elevation changes) again! I recommend cleaning, it might be sweat, chlorine, river scum, sunscreen.. but that will be my first approach next time this happens.
I kept this in mind ready for the next time mine started acting up.
Sure enough, last week the barometric altimeter issue on the Garmin Forerunner 910XT once again reared it’s ugly head. The watch stopped recording elevation correctly and had the altitude I was at flat-line at around 3900m – In reality I was actually a lot closer to sea level than that!
So, out came an old toothbrush and I gave the barometric sensor holes on the 910XT a really good scrub with hot soapy water. I then let them dry out before turning on the watch to see what elevation I was at. Sure enough, it seemed to do the trick. At home the watch was recording that I was at close to sea level.
I then went out for a run which involved hill reps – the perfect test for an altimeter and I’m pleased to report that it was working a treat. The run consisted of 5x 3 minute hill reps on the Caer Gybi hill just outside of Machynlleth. A 3 minute climb here only takes me halfway up the hill, but there was already a Strava segment up to this point on the climb so I did that 4 times and then finished off with a longer 6 minute climb right to the top.
As you can see, the altimeter seemed to work flawlessy, reporting 4 even ‘ups’, 4 even ‘downs’ and then a longer ‘up’ to the top of the hill. Hooray, there were ups and downs in my data again! Better still, I also got the Course Record on the Strava segment here and also posted the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fastest times ever on the segment too. Success all round – The altimeter on my Garmin Forerunner 910XT seems to have been fixed by giving it a simple wash, and my training session was a good one.
Hopefully the altimeter will continue to work and next time it starts playing up a wash will do the trick. If not, it’ll be going back to Garmin again but it does seem to have helped this time so far.
Quite why Garmin have never suggested this simple procedure to me I don’t know. I doesn’t seem as though asking people to wash their device and to make sure the sensor holes are free from grime would be too much to ask. After all, when you think about it it is quite likely that these little holes would clog up over time considering the things we put these watches through. If this really has solved the issue then Garmin could save a lot of wasted time, effort and money by asking people to wash their watches before offering replacements under warranty. I’m sure they should have worked this out as being the problem by now as surely they must examine the returned devices to work out what has been going wrong with them?
I think I shall have to ‘pen a letter’ to Garmin – or at least fire off an email with a link to this blog post. In the meantime, I hope this little trick helps you with any problems you face with the barometric altimeter on your Garmin Forerunner 910XT. Please post in the comments to let me know if this has or hasn’t worked for you as it would be good to know if this is really the problem or if I was just lucky this time.