How to Repairing Scratches on a Plastic GPS Screen

GPS devices are frequently in contact with fingertips and fingernails, thrown into pockets and backpacks and generally subjected to many things that scratch the screen. Finer scratches on GPS screens are quickly removed using mild abrasives, restoring your GPS unit’s screen to a like-new appearance. In addition to cosmetic improvements, removing scratches can also improve visibility of small map details that may otherwise be obscured, especially in direct sunlight.

Determine Screen Material

Prior to selecting the compound used to remove scratches on your GPS device, you need to figure out what the screen is made from. It may look like glass, but chances are it’s not. In addition to glass, GPS screens are made from plastic or acrylics. Like laptops, most GPS screens incorporate a protective coating that can be removed through overly aggressive scrubbing. Tap the screen with your fingernail, listening and feeling for telltale signs of plastic or glass. Examine the screen at an angle, looking for a satiny finish, indicating a glare coat.

What to Use

Plastic and acrylic GPS screen scratches are commonly remedied by using toothpaste and a clean microfiber cloth. Remember to select toothpaste, not gel, since paste incorporates the necessary abrasives. Glass screens may require diamond paste, commonly used by watchmakers to remove scratches from glass and sapphire watch crystals. Don’t use any compound requiring a high-speed buffer or rotary tool. Heat generated from high-speed buffers and the water required to cool the glass to prevent cracking are both enemies of LCD panels and other internal electronics.

Procedure

Start by taking a small dab of toothpaste or diamond paste roughly the size of a pea on a clean microfiber cloth. Use painter’s tape to mask off the areas you don’t want in contact with the compound. Gently rub the compound on the scratches in a circular motion. With toothpaste and plastic screens, don’t rub hard or the protective coating will disappear, leaving a shiny spot on the screen that will reduce screen visibility. Periodically wipe away the toothpaste, checking your progress. With glass screens and diamond paste, start with 4 micron paste if you have deep scratches, eventually progressing to one-fourth micron. Rub for about 10 minutes, or until the scratches are gone, revealing a clean screen.

Screen Protectors

If the bulk of scratches on your GPS screen are of the hairline variety, applying a screen protector over the top should satisfactorily mask their appearance. Screen protectors work equally well for plastic and glass screens, preventing further marring. Clean the screen with a gel-based spray-on screen cleaner, removing finger oils and other contaminants. Apply the screen protector as instructed by the manufacturer, taking care not to touch the adhesive backing. Smooth out any air bubbles using the edge of your driver’s license or a credit card until the screen protector is smooth and perfect.

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