Minn Kota Heading Sensor Troubleshooting Guide

UPDATED 15 JANUARY 2022

by Eric Bartlett

There’s nothing more annoying than having your trolling motor or heading sensor malfunction right at the moment when you’re getting bit on every cast, and trying to chase a school of fish that are in a feeding frenzy.

But unfortunately this does happen, and it’s important to be able to diagnose the problem rapidly and reliably, and to fix it right away if possible.

In this article we’ll walk you through the most common problems that can occur with the Minn Kota heading sensor, and how to handle them.

What are the most common Minn Kota heading sensor problems?

The most common Minn Kota heading sensor issues are typically:

  • Heading sensor won’t turn on
  • Heading sensor won’t pair with your trolling motor
  • Heading sensor won’t calibrate successfully
  • Heading sensor drains the battery

While each of these issues can be caused by different underlying causes, there are several common root causes that you can usually identify quite readily, and may often be able to fix yourself.

Let’s dive into the details, and look at each of these more closely.

See alsoWhat are the best spot lock trolling motors?

Issues indicated by the Minn Kota heading sensor light

The pairing button of the Minn Kota heading sensor comes with a red or blue LED light, and if you notice it blinking, this is completely normal. But what you need to know is that there are three different frequencies of blinking, which each signify something different.

Heading sensor blinking red

When you first connect the heading sensor to a power source, the LED light comes on for 3 seconds, and then turns off. Then, after you press the pairing button, its red LED light starts blinking rapidly (at two flashes per second). This rapid blinking indicates that the pairing process with your trolling motor has started. 

As soon as pairing with the trolling motor is successful, the blinking red light on the puck slows down, and switches to blinking once every 3 seconds. When you see this, it means that the sensor is properly paired with the i-Pilot controller in the head of your trolling motor, and you can start using it.

Heading sensor not blinking

If your heading sensor doesn’t blink at all, this is often caused by failure to pair with the trolling motor, or by the battery being drained. If the lack of blinking is due to failure to pair with the motor, simply repeat the pairing process until it works. However, if you press the pairing button and no light comes on, then the most likely reason is that the battery is dead. 

You need to power the heading sensor with a 12-volt battery, which obviously gets drained over time. In order to test if your battery is empty, hook it up to another device, and see if it is able to power that. Alternatively, you can also use a voltmeter to check the charge of your battery, or you can simply recharge the battery and see if the heading sensor starts blinking after that.

If you recharge your battery and the light on your puck still doesn’t come on, then the heading sensor itself is probably faulty, and needs to be replaced.

Heading sensor blinking blue

If your heading sensor is blinking with a blue LED light instead of a red one, this is completely normal. While the original puck models all had a red light, the newer ones come with a blue light. Otherwise everything else is the same, including the same flashing frequency during and after pairing.

Minn Kota heading sensor not pairing

One problem you can encounter with your heading sensor is that it fails to pair with the trolling motor. If this is the case, the heading sensor LED light will blink rapidly when you start the pairing process, but will then go out after about 20 seconds because pairing hasn’t occurred (even if you do everything correctly, by keeping the pairing button on the trolling motor pressed during this time).

When this happens, the most likely reason is a faulty heading sensor, in which case you need to replace it with a new one. If you want to make sure that this is indeed the case, you can test it by pairing it with a different trolling motor.

Minn Kota heading sensor not calibrating

If you notice that your trolling motor autopilot makes erratic course corrections when guided by the heading sensor, this is often caused by lack of calibration. When you start using a heading sensor, it’s essential to calibrate it after pairing with the trolling motor, which can only be done on the water, with the “Sensor Cal” function on your i-Pilot remote. 

If you know that the heading sensor has been successfully calibrated, but you’re still seeing erratic course corrections, then another problem that could be the root cause is magnetic interference with the compass in the puck of the heading sensor.

Magnetic interference is usually caused by ferrous metal (i.e. iron) close to the location of the puck, a battery, other electronic devices, or electrical wiring with an active charge running through it. Make sure that any and all of these are at least 24 inches away from the puck, as that will allow the compass to function properly.

Minn Kota heading sensor draining the battery

If your heading sensor is draining the battery faster than it should, this is usually due to the fact that it draws power from the battery even when not paired with a trolling motor (i.e. after you finish using it). 

While the puck only draws a small amount of power when not in use, this is enough to drain the battery in a relatively short time. But you can easily avoid this by including a battery switch that shuts off power when you don’t need to run it. Alternatively, you can just disconnect the battery from the puck when not in use.

Why do you need a Minn Kota heading sensor fuse?

The Minn Kota heading sensor product manual recommends including a 1 amp fuse between the power source and the puck. The reason for this is that the wiring in the puck is very fine, and needs to be protected from high amperage current, so it doesn’t get damaged. This is not an issue if your battery has a low amperage, but if it’s more than 10 amps, then the fuse is necessary.

Additional resources: