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Your Guide to Troubleshooting Your Metal Detector

Your Guide to Troubleshooting Your Metal Detector

Is your metal detector on the fritz? Even the most seasoned detectorists working with high-quality equipment occasionally get false signals or deal with interference from other devices. There is a wide variety of factors that can interfere with your detector’s performance.

Luckily, there’s also a wide variety of solutions that will get you and your metal detector back on track! The team at Northwest Detector Sales has pulled from years of hands-on experience to compile this handy troubleshooting guide for your metal detector. No matter what goes wrong with your detector, there’s bound to be a solution here for you.

Mineralized Soil Causing Havoc

Occasionally, when you go out with your metal detector, it will signal that it’s picked up a target. But when you go to dig for it, there’s nothing there. There’s a decent chance that you’re detecting on highly mineralized ground.

Some areas have soil with a high concentration of hematite and magnetite, both of which are ferrous oxides. The iron in that soil is probably what your detector is picking up and identifying as a target.


Try turning down the sensitivity settings on your detector so that it doesn’t get distracted by iron-rich soil. If your metal detector has a ground balancing option, play with the settings until it stops identifying mineralized dirt as a target. Ground balancing will increase the depth of target detection, enabling your detector to identify items buried deeper in the dirt, not the dirt itself.

Trash Lodged Under Coil Cover

If you’ve been using your metal detector for a while, there’s a high probability it’s gotten dirty. While some wear and tear is normal, take care to ensure dirt and muck aren’t coming home with you on a regular basis.

It’s generally a good idea to keep a cover or skid pan on your search coil to protect it from unnecessary damage, as search coils can be expensive. Occasionally, garbage—including metal trash—can get stuck between the skid pan and the search coil, interfering with its ability to detect genuine targets.


After each day’s detecting is done, inspect your detector to make sure no dirt, debris, or garbage has gotten lodged between the coil and skid pan. Wipe down the skid pan regularly to keep dirt from building up.

Your Detector Detects Everything, Including Trash

If you’re new to the detecting hobby or if you’ve just picked up a brand-new Garrett metal detector, you may find yourself detecting a lot of garbage early on. Many detectors come with factory presets that encourage them to detect everything of a metallic nature.

Detecting nothing but garbage all day can be disappointing, but luckily, you can fiddle with your detector’s settings to increase its discrimination pattern.


Play with the search mode settings on your detector, keeping the owner’s manual next to you as a guide. If you’ve mistakenly pressed the “All Metal” setting, that could be why you’re picking up a lot of low-quality targets. Press that button again to turn off the setting.

Low-Battery Beeping

If you’re just starting out with your first metal detector, you may hear constant beeping sounds and wonder, “Is something wrong?”

With metal detectors, constant, low-level beeping is a good thing! It means your detector is working hard to search for metal objects in the ground. However, at the end of your day, the detector may start beeping and making more noise than usual.

An excessive beeping pattern that’s not familiar to you is often a sign of low battery power. Metal detectors are notorious for running through batteries quickly.


Do you plan to use your metal detector on a regular basis or for several hours at a time? Invest in a set of rechargeable detector batteries and keep a few fully charged batteries with you as you detect. That way, when your battery power dips too low, you can just replace it with a fresh one and keep going.

Electromagnetic Interference

Metal detectors are highly sensitive to interference from electromagnetic fields, as the search coil creates a field of its own. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can be caused by electronic devices like cell phones and radios, as well as power lines. If there are other metal detectorists in the area, your detector may experience EMI from their detectors as well!

EMI can cause a whole host of problems with your metal detector, including excessive beeping and false signals.


Turn off any electronic devices you have with you while you’re out detecting. Avoid getting too close to power lines, and keep a distance between yourself and other people in the area. After all, they probably have their own cell phones and other electronic devices with them.

In addition, look at the settings on your detector. If you have a frequency shift or noise canceling function, using it can help you block out any background interference from other electromagnetic fields.

Crackling and Short-Circuiting

As you sweep the ground with your metal detector, do you hear popping or crackling noises in your headphones? There could be a short circuit occurring in the machinery of your detector.

Turn off your detector for a moment and inspect the components, especially the search coil. Many search coils are protected by a plastic outer casing, with the inner loop of the coil set in resin. If the search coil is cracked or damaged in any way, moisture can seep into the cracks and cause electrical problems.


If possible, carry a spare search coil with you on your detecting adventures so that you can replace a damaged coil if necessary. To prevent future damage, pay close attention to your technique—a slow, sweeping motion across the ground should do the job. Moving the detector too quickly can cause you to swing it into a tree trunk or other obstruction that can crack the coil.

The success of your metal detecting expeditions depends largely on your ability to adjust your detector’s settings according to your location. Even the best metal detectors occasionally misidentify iron-rich soil or discarded bottle caps as metallic treasures.

Familiarize yourself with the unique settings on your metal detector, and keep spare batteries and equipment with you when you go out hunting for treasures. Bookmark this guide to troubleshooting your metal detector and refer back to it as necessary when you run into problems while detecting!

Your Guide to Troubleshooting Your Metal Detector

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