GPS Issues: How to Deal with GPS Outages

Because of the nature of the technology, it’s very common to encounter GPS issues. 

As the name implies, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global satellite navigation system. 

This means you should be able to access it regardless of location.

However, the number of visible GPS satellites differs from area to area. As such, not all regions have the same coverage or GPS reliability. 

Nevertheless, there are certain things you can do to maximize your access to the GPS constellation and remedy some issues. 

This is what you’ll explore in this guide.

Why are GPS Issues so Common? 

So many industries rely on GPS, from trucking/transportation (fleet tracking) to engineering and city planning (land-surveying). 

On average, GPS is accurate within 5m (+/- 16 feet) for civilians.

However, there are circumstances that can impede GPS’s accuracy. GPS satellites have a 20,180 KM (12,540 Mile) orbital height. 

This makes them Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. Accordingly, they are more susceptible to service interruptions than Starlink’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. 

This is largely due to their proximity to the Earth. Ultimately, the GPS signal has to travel long distances to reach your device. 

Not all signals share the same quality or strength. Some signals are stronger than others.

Ideally, your location should be visible to at least four satellites that send signals to your device. 

However, you may be lucky enough to be in a location with eight satellites orbiting above it. The greater the number of satellites, the stronger the signals and the more accurate the GPS is.

This is one way your location can play a major role in GPS’s efficacy. 

GPS will also struggle due to the terrain and the structural and geographical complexity of an area. 

GPS doesn’t do well against obstructions. Thus, you may struggle to capture accurate readings from gorges, canyon-like areas and urban areas with large buildings. 

Nevertheless, these are just a few examples of how and why GPS issues can occur. Let’s look at a few others.

Conceptual Image Global Positioning System Gps

Conceptual Image Global Positioning System GPS

Main Causes of GPS Issues 

While GPS is arguably the most popular Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), it isn’t the only one available to civilians. 

Many issues that GPS is susceptible to may also plague services like GLONASS and Galileo.

Galileo suffered two infamous (arguably) outages in 2019 and 2020.

 Nevertheless, you should be able to apply much of the information in this guide to non-GPS GNSS solutions.

Some of the main culprits of GPS issues include: 


The previous section lightly touches on this. But GPS signals require unobstructed passages to reach your device. 

This means that your GPS device may not work if you have a roof above your head, if you’re surrounded by trees, tall buildings, etc.

Your GPS may also be interrupted by terrible weather conditions. Even a simple overcast may disrupt services completely.

Traffic Wireless Network Intelligent Navigation Systems

Traffic Wireless Network Intelligent Navigation Systems

Idle Times and Cold Starts

Your GPS or location services can go idle if you have not used them. 

To preserve power, your device may put your receiver and its software in an inactive state.

When it switches back on, it will require some time to recalibrate and find the closest GPS satellites.

 It will then download data from this satellite to determine your location and time. 

This may sometimes take up to five (or more) minutes if your device solely relies on GPS to capture this information.  

Not Enough Power

Your device may be low on battery power. Your smartphone’s GPS tracking and location features are a huge power drain. They can deplete up to 38% of your battery power between charges. 

When battery-operated GPS tracking devices are low on power, they try to conserve energy by going into a power optimization state. 

This is fairly common with smartphones and smartwatches. They’ll lower the brightness of the screen and reception strength to prevent the device from shutting down completely.

Interference or GPS Jamming 

GPS Jamming devices are outlawed in North American countries like the United States. However, this doesn’t stop people (especially criminals from using them). 

Satellites essentially send signals using radio frequencies. A GPS jammer interferes with radio frequencies on the GPS satellite channels. This blocks your device from receiving said signals. 

While we don’t recommend it, you can get a GPS jammer to detect and obstruct hidden GPS trackers in your car.    

Nevertheless, this isn’t the only radio frequency disturbance you need to worry about. Other devices that use electromagnetic radiation may also interfere with your GPS device.

Software Issues

Your GPS device may be displaying the wrong information because the software or application you’re using is faulty. 

If you’re using a smartphone, try a different application as a reference. You should also consider rebooting your device (smartphone or not).

Your device may be in need of a firmware update or a factory reset. It’s best to consult the guide if you run into any hardware or software-based issues.

Gps Sos Location Device          

GPS SOS Location Device          

Outdated Hardware

As with most technology, GPS hardware is always evolving. Hence, it’s quite possible for your device to be obsolete because it’s older.

The quality of your device’s hardware may also play a role in how well it captures and records GPS signals. 

Cheaper phones and devices have a harder time receiving and capturing signals from satellites.      

How to Deal With GPS Issues

The causes the previous section mentions may cause lost GPS signals, bounce, multi-path signals and drift.

 There are a few ways to prevent or reduce the occurrence of these issues: 

Update/Upgrade Your Device

If you’re using a low-end smartphone, smartwatch or GPS receiver, you should consider replacing it with a midrange to high-end one.

 High-end devices tend to produce better results.

Of course, this will depend on what you can afford. It’s also a good idea to research the hardware before you purchase it.

 If GPS is an important aspect of your multi-function and communication device, consider reading reviews with a heavy emphasis on this topic.

Using Additional Measures

Most modern smartphones (Android and iOS) do not solely rely on GPS for their location services. 

Instead, they use cellphone networks such as 5G and wireless internet connections like Wi-Fi to reinforce their tracking and timing data.

Real Time Gps Tracking System Vector Stock Vector

Real-Time GPS Tracking System Vector Stock Vector

If you want more reliable navigation, it’s best to turn these features on. 

If you can’t replace your device (as suggested in the previous section), you should consider adding a third-party Bluetooth GPS receiver.

You can then use your smart device to connect to it and extract more accurate positioning data. It’s also important to ensure your device(s) is always charged. 

We recommend procuring a power bank to charge your device when you don’t have a power outlet near you.   

Charging Power Bank Portable Powerbank

Charging Power Bank Portable Powerbank

Keep GPS On

As previously mentioned, your device may put GPS to sleep when not using it.

This allows it to conserve battery power. You can change this under your power settings (on most smart devices).

If you want more accurate tracking and navigation data, you must prevent your phone from terminating or putting the GPS service to sleep. 

Furthermore, if you’re using an app to navigate (like Google Maps), do not close it or hop onto another app while using it. Try to keep a square focus on it.

Hand Young Woman Searching Location Map

Hand Young Woman Searching Location Map

Optimize the Position

It’s best to position your GPS device as best as possible. Do not try to use it indoors. When driving, place it near the open window to maximize signal reception.

 Elevate as best you can, if possible. When navigating, try to avoid forested areas or urban areas that may impede the signal.   

Closeup Persons Hand Using Gps Navigation

Closeup Person Hand Using GPS Navigation

GPS Issues: Final Thoughts

GPS issues are quite common. We may never eliminate them. Old GPS satellites lose their operational capacity from time to time.

 When this occurs, the US government replaces them. Moreover, they may decide to increase the number of satellites in their constellation. 

Nevertheless, as with Starlink outages, you can monitor and check GPS status using

It contains helpful information, graphs and other visual tools to help you track GPS’s status. 

Sometimes, it’s best to wait for the weather or until GPS handlers address any satellite network issues.