I cut the cigarette lighter (male) end off an old cell phone car charger and hooked it up to the two ends of the power wire going to the cradle however when I plugged it into the lighter hole, it doesn't work. I know the cradle and power wire are good as I touched the wire to the battery terminals and it fired up, no problem. Am I not getting the same 12 volts through the cigarette lighter?
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It's probably the fuse in the charger that's blown. The fuse is in the plug that goes into the cigarette lighter socket. At the end of the plug there's a ring, usually silver coloured but sometimes black, which you unscrew to get at the fuse. When you unscrew it the plug comes apart. Be careful not to lose the silver tip at the end of the plug which may fall out. You can get a replacement fuse at any shop that sells garmin satnavs or at any car accessory shop.
You need to check if the charger is working properly first before you can tell where the problem is from. Try to use the charger in another cars cigarette lighter or the power source, if it works there, then it means the problem is from your cars power source and cigarette lighter and if it does not work, then it means it is the charger that is faulty and need to be replaced. Hope this information was helpful.
You can get accessories including the car charger from http://www.gpsnow.com/Garmin_nuvi_255_Accessories.htm However it's likely that if the car charger is not working that the fuse is blown. The fuse is in the plug that goes in the cigarette lighter socket. To get at it unscrew the ring at the end of the plug. Be careful not to lose the small metal tip. When you unscrew the ring the plug comes apart and you'll see the fuse. You can get replacement fuses at any shop that sells garmin satnavs or car electrical accessory shops.
Before changing the fuse make sure your cigarette lighter socket is working by testing it with the cigarettel lighter or some other accessory.
I assume you have checked the cigarette lighter to be sure it's working. The most likely problem is the fuse in the power cord/charger. The plug which goes into the cigarette lighter socket has a ring at the end of it. Unscrew the ring, taking care not to lose any small parts, and it comes apart. Replace the fuse and it should be ok.
Did you drain the battery completly? Have you tried another battery yet? I've come across this issue once, seems the owner drained the battery completly. Leaving it hooked to the mains with the mains charger for almost a day did solve the issue. I'd try a new battery first.