Garmin fenix Water Leakage Issues Appear, Design Flaws To Be Fixed By Mid February 2013

The Garmin fenix is a great GPS watch but some of the early models have had an inability to withstand even shallow water.

“Garmin has acknowledged the problem with this GPS watch unit and is very good about warranty work on defects, so I am quite confident they will have it fixed soon”, says Rusty Squire, President of the Heart Rate Watch Company. He adds, “Garmin has always been great, like when the Garmin 610 charging units failed upon initial introduction they warranted everything quickly”.

We were not really aware of the issue until a Navy Seal’s Dad contacted us to tell us that his son’s watch had leaked in just a quick dip in the pool. That seemed odd, so we immediately replaced it and then right away, he got the same result.

We talked to Garmin this week and they are aware of the problem, in fact we returned all of our existing stock today. I know these kinds of disappointments and setbacks can lead to a lot of chatter and finger pointing trying to “brand” a product as a loser. I’m telling you right now, in the words of our chief tester John Yarington – “the Garmin fenix is a winner and it is the real deal”!

For those of you who did get early units that have been affected by this we want you to know that both the Heart Rate Watch Company and Garmin will totally stand behind you. We will get you new product immediately in mid-February if you have a unit that has been affected by moisture or has stopped working.

This is not our normal type of blog post and we did not want to sugar-coat anything. The Garmin fenix has had an issue, as occasionally happens in a new unit, however, we are very confident based upon our initial testing that this watch will recover just fine and hold its own as the navigational king. Remember, it does 1,000 waypoints compared to just 100 for the Suunto Ambit and anyone who knows anything about navigation knows this is a huge difference maker.

Yarington is taking his Garmin fenix for a massive backcountry skiing adventure in Russia with the legendary mountaineer and extreme skier Ptor Spricenieks, so we will try to get some access to his maps and post them when he gets back – if he ever comes back that is.

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28 Responses to Garmin fenix Water Leakage Issues Appear, Design Flaws To Be Fixed By Mid February 2013

  1. rabbit says:

    Isn`t it a reason for a general recall for the fenix by garmin?

    • hrwcblog says:

      We would sure think so, quite honestly I am amazed they did not contact all dealers. They are still selling them on a lot of websites – 12 vendors still had them listed on Amazon as of February 11th which is a crime in my opinion. If you know a product is defective then you just don’t sell it.
      Once again proof that the majority of these dealers don’t care and they are just in it to make a buck.

    • hrwcblog says:

      You would think so but this has not been the case

  2. rabbit says:

    I send back my fenix end of january by rma to garmin. They send me an email, that they haven`t units so far. Today I got an email, that the rma is (tomorrow) on the way back to me. I hope they will send me the new model.

    • rabbit says:

      Do you have information how to distinguish the modified model from the old model?

      • hrwcblog says:

        No, they look identical, so unfortunately not. Any model purchased prior to early March 2013 is suspect for leakage issues and any model being sold at the present (today is 02/19/2013) is 100% suspect. Just buy one from an honest vendor like us after March 1, 2013 and you should be fine. We returned all of our stock when the story broke.


      • rabbit says:

        I got my replaced unit today from garmin ( in germany). The serial number is > 50.000- every one else in the german garmin forum, who gets a replaced unit, have had a serial number > 50.000. You are right, there is no difference to be seen. I hope, this one will solve the vapor problem.

        Thanks for your reply.
        Sorry for my english.

      • hrwcblog says:

        The units that fix the water leakage problems are not yet available until after MArch 7th – heads up on that one because you will not have a fixed unit if you just purchased one.

    • hrwcblog says:

      Yeah, they will, it just won’t be until after March 1st if it is an RMA.

  3. rabbit says:

    I contactet the german technical service of garmin and they wrote me an email, that my one is a one from the new charge without leak problems. You mean, they lied to me?

    • hrwcblog says:

      It’s always possible that they received some advance copies and that we, mean HRWC, had our shipment delayed. Just run down to your local pool and swim for a bit – that’ll be the acid test.

  4. The Walster says:

    I have had mine replaced by my local retailer today, apparently he had it arrive today and the serial number indeed starts with a 2AQ05**** so maybe it will be ok, just been for a run and its cold outside, will have a shower with it on in a bit and will take it swimming on saturday so cross fingers.

    • hrwcblog says:

      Take it for a swim – that’s the acid test, but if the serial is above 50,000 then its possible they got some more advanced units out already.

  5. Georg says:

    I received my replacement on Friday last week (s/n 47,767). Went on a skitour on Sunday. When I started the fenix was underneath my jacket’s sleeve. When I first looked at it approx. 1 hour later it was fogged up again…

    I contacted Garmin support for Austria today and they told me that my replacement was from the new batch which supposedly shouldn’t have the fogging issue anymore – haha, my ass! They were clueless, too….

    They proposed another replacement but I don’t see the point as they obviously haven’t resolved the problem. Hence I will send it back to the shop where I bought it and will get the Suunto Ambit instead. Never had any problems alike, not even with a Swatch.

    • hrwcblog says:

      If you had followed our comments you would have seen that the shipment of the model with no condensation issues was re-scheduled twice and it is now set for delivery March 8th. Thus, I highly suspect that you bought an old model. I’ve had several people write us and claim they had new models but if that was so then I was wondering why, as a Garmin dealer, I don’t have mine yet.

      Buying models from the same batch over and over again won’t fix the problem. I own an Ambit myself and its a good call. The fenix functions great also, so we’ll see this coming week how the new models do going for a swim.


  6. Jayps68 says:

    Hi, Ive just got off the phone to GarminAus. My fenix fogged and had so much h20 in it that the ABC& T functions failed…failed. Garmin have told me that the NEW batch of fenix will not be in Aus until late March. They’ve had it since early Feb. I hope they’ve fixed it the problem, it is a great product.

    • hrwcblog says:

      Dear Jay,

      Garmin is a really good company, they stick by their products and their customers in my experience as a dealer of 5 years. I was just surprised that the new fenix was in because normally we see them here in the USA first, not always, but usually.

      You are right, it really is a great product and we just received the first new ones here in our offices today and I can report, after drowning them in a pool, that they do indeed work – so I am very happy.


      • Georg says:

        Hi Rusty,

        After a lengthy phone conversation with a rep of Garmin I have learned that:

        (1) there is no official statement or a recall because less than 2% of customers complained about condensation
        (2) the devices of the new series are already being delivered
        (3) the casing and the groove for the sealing gasket have been altered slightly
        (4) the most probable cause for condensation lies in the assembly in a humid environment

        Therefore drowning the fenix in a bucket won’t proof anything – it’s not a matter of waterproofness, in fact the condensation probably would not appear if the fenix would not be waterproof. You might want to try and put it in the freezer.

        I suspect that far more devices than 2% are affected. But as many customers do not use the fenix for what it has been intended for, i.e. outdoor sports in harsh conditions, but instead probably just wear it in the office to signalize how sportive they are, they will never experience any of the above mentioned issues.

      • hrwcblog says:

        Yes, we got some of the new ones yesterday, March 6th and they do not have the moisture problem, at least in initial tests. We had Navy seals drown multiple fenix watches from earlier batches, all on swims, so drowning does indeed prove something because they all died.

        Other than the moisture issue our experience with the fenix has been a good one and John Yarington is using his for back country skiing every single day and loves it, although he does have an old one and it occasionally gets condensation under the crystal.

        I suspect Garmin would not have developed an improved model if it had not acknowledged they had an issue, even if that acknowledgment was only at an internal level.

        WE sent all of our old stock back over 7 weeks ago and had to forgo nearly 2 months of sales to get these newer models.

        I don’t buy at all the assembly in a humid environment because none of the watches had condensation to begin with, that condensation only appeared after use.

        We’ll see how the new one goes and keep you posted.


  7. rabbit says:

    Yesterday, a friend of mine called my by phone: he had an old fenix model and he never had problems with fogging. He made an experiment: he put it in a glas of water (500 ml) without using the buttons and after 5 minutes he took it out. Then he went out for a walk at – 7 degrees (like many times before) : fogging. Yesterday he sent it back to garmin. Maybe a stupid coincidence, but I think not.

  8. rabbit says:

    Garmin sent me a new unit s/n > 50.000, as I told before.

    I used it in a snow drift and -7°C: no fog

    The next day, I used it in sunshine at 2600 meter altitude and also -7°C: in the middle of the display reappeared fog. It was not so bad as the fenix before and dissappeared after 5 minutes. This happend 3 times in half an hour and not resumed. The display was still readable.
    I will watch it…

  9. Pingback: GPS timekeeping on ambit not working - Page 2

    • hrwcblog says:

      Yes, the problem with moisture was not really fixed however, that being said, the models we have tested that still develop moisture issues do not appear to have any functional problems.

      • cdmackay says:

        Isn’t it likely that if there is still a moisture problem, that there are going to be long-term issues with the device? e.g. internal corrosion?

        Have Garmin made any statement about the fact that the problem really isn’t fully corrected, after all the earlier statements?

        thank much…

      • hrwcblog says:

        You know, it is hard to tell. WE’ve had them running for 9 months. About the only time I ever get the moisture beads, and it is only temporary, is when I get the device sealed under the sleeve of a ski jacket going uphill. I can swim with it and do all the other stuff and the water droplets never appear. Generally, it has been brief, but I hear what you are saying.


      • cdmackay says:

        thanks Rusty, appreciate your frankness…

        What worries me is that problems will start to appear after the warranty period has expired. and of course a dead watch gives no external clue as to the cause.

        This might come back to haunt Garmin in a year or two, if watches start dying out of warranty, and people open them and find corrosion inside, when Garmin have admitted to a moisture problem…

        ah well. thanks again – were I not in the UK, I’d be buying from you…

      • hrwcblog says:

        I agree wholeheartedly, the thought has crossed my mind. If acknowledgement of the problem does not occur at the manufacturer level there is not much for us little guys to do but tell the truth and hope all goes well.

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