Nothing is more frustrating than spending time setting up your trail cam, only to have no pictures to show for it. There can be multiple reasons why your trail camera won’t turn on or has stopped working.
If your trail camera won’t turn on, the battery or SD card might be the problem. Check your battery’s charge and installation. And put in a fresh memory card. Troubleshoot by checking the Off-Setup-On button and looking for water damage. You might consider a hard resetting your trail camera.
Try some troubleshooting before you call the manufacturer or purchase an entirely new camera.
Continue reading below to learn how to troubleshoot your trail camera the next time you’re out in the woods.
Why Won’t My Trail Camera Turn On?
Here are the most common reasons that a trail camera won’t turn on. Plus, with each problem, you’ll find something to try to get it to turn on.
1. Battery Troubles: Dead, Install, Faulty
There are a number of battery issues that can cause your trail camera to not wake up.
- Dead: As simple as it sounds, the batteries might be out of juice. Here’s more about how long trail camera batteries last.
- Incorrectly Installed: They could also have been placed in the camera incorrectly, and the cam won’t turn on because of it.
- Faulty Battery: A new battery could be faulty, resulting in a camera that won’t start. Before setting up your trail cams, you can use a battery tester to ensure they’ll stay on for as long as possible. We also recommend carrying plenty of extra batteries if one won’t work.
While it’s the most straightforward reason your trail camera won’t turn on, battery troubles are also the most common! Battery corrosion is also a possible cause, more on this below.
2. Wrong SD Card
If you use an SD card that is not compatible with your trail cam, the device may not turn on. If you’re using a trail camera from 2019 or earlier, it may require a specific SD card to work.
Trail cams manufactured after 2019 are more standardized for SD card compatibility. I use 32GB memory cards for all three of our trail cameras.
If the SanDisk SD card doesn’t work with your trail cam, check the manufacturer’s website to see which SD card the company recommends.
It’s also good to ensure your SD card is formatted/installed correctly. I prefer to format the card in the camera, which won’t work if the camera won’t turn on.
You can also format the card with your computer.
3. Corrosion on Game Camera Batteries
Check to see if there is corrosion in your trail cam batteries. Alkaline batteries can develop leaks. These leaks lead to corruption within the device, making the batteries unusable. It also leaves behind a white/green residue that can harm your electronics.
There are methods to clean corrosion from batteries. Battery corrosion is based on the pH scale, which means you can neutralize it using a commonly-found acid like white vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda. Use a cotton swab doused in your acid of choice to clean the battery area of your trail cam, then let it dry before adding new batteries.
If corrosion is a common issue in your trail cam, try using lithium batteries instead of alkaline. These will last longer and prevent future damage to your trail camera. Or at least buy some good-quality alkaline batteries.
4. On, Off, Setup
Some trail cams don’t have your typical on/off button. If your trail cam isn’t turning on, the switch could be “off” instead of “on.” As silly as that sounds, it’s easy to flick the switch the wrong way before leaving your cam outside! Double-check what your camera is set on before leaving for the day.
When the camera is in Setup Mode, you can verify the area that the camera will monitor, but it will not record.
You can also change the settings to get the best picture, but the camera will not start taking photos or recording until switched to “on.”
I’m sure you checked this before reading this guide. But why not take another look, just to be sure?
5. Water Damage
Trail cameras are typically waterproof, but water can still get into places it shouldn’t be within your cam. Trail cameras should not be submerged in water, resulting in internal issues with the electronics.
If you suspect water damage is the culprit, try placing your camera in a container of rice for a few days. This method has saved many electronics from internal water damage!
For more tips, check this post about how to dry a GoPro, another waterproof camera.
You can buy or make a cover for your trail cam if you live in a rainy/damp area or are worried about water damage. To avoid water damage, keep your trail cam away from rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water it could fall in. Always be sure to secure your trail camera to prevent fall damage.
6. LCD Screen Issues
Perhaps your camera is turning on, but your screen isn’t working. A malfunctioning LCD screen can appear that your trail camera won’t turn on. Some trail cameras have an on/off switch for the LCD.
The first step is to check this switch to ensure it is on. If you’re still not seeing anything, it could be a stuck display button. This problem happens with trail cams that are well-used.
If you dropped your trail camera, internal parts of the camera might have come loose. Loose parts could mean an LCD screen that doesn’t work.
You’ll want to contact the manufacturer or a camera technician in this situation. Depending on the warranty, the manufacturer may replace the camera or have you send it to a technician for repair.
7. Trail Camera Placement Issues
If your trail camera does turn on but is not taking pictures, it could be because of placement issues. Trail cameras that utilize wireless phone connections out of range will not work if out of range.
Double-check the distance you can travel from the trail cam while maintaining a stable connection. There can also be connectivity issues for a trail camera placed in an area with too much forest coverage. Thick foliage can interrupt the connection between the trail camera and your phone.
The issue could be that its placement is too far from the trail, and the sensors are not activating. The angle of the camera is essential as well. If you place the camera high to avoid theft, remember to angle it accurately to ensure capturing any wildlife.
8. Settings Issues
Adjusting the settings on your camera allows for the best pictures overall. If your trail camera isn’t taking pictures, check the settings to ensure nothing has changed to affect your photos.
Typically, trail cameras are set at the fastest shutter speed while having a bright enough picture. Most popular trail cams will automatically set the shutter speed, but you can play around with the settings for your needs.
Settings on a trail camera can be selective, and the best settings depend on how you’re using your camera. There are plenty of guides on determining those settings to help you get the best photos and video.
9. Hard Reset Your Trail Camera
If nothing else has worked to turn on your trail camera, a hard reset is your next best bet. Most manufacturers offer instructions on manually resetting your trail cam, but the process is similar.
If possible, make sure to transfer any footage on your camera to your SD card. Remember to take out your SD card first to avoid corruption.
Some trail cameras have a reset button on the back that does the job, but some models require more finessing. If a hard reset doesn’t solve the issue, it is most likely time to contact the manufacturer and get a specialist’s help.
3 Ways to Reset Your Trail Camera
- Remove the batteries. Wait 60 seconds and re-insert.
- Press and hold the power button for 30 seconds.
- Press the reset button, if your trail camera has one.
If after trying all these steps, you still can’t get it to turn on and function correctly, it might be time to get a new one. Here are our picks for the best trail cameras for wildlife photography.
Many common issues can cause a trail camera to malfunction. Thankfully, that means there are many solutions to fix those problems. In the end, if your trail camera won’t turn on, check out the manufacturer’s warranty and see if you can have it fixed or replaced.
What worked for you? Have a tip to share? I would love to hear how you got your game camera working again.
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outdoor gear and guides.
He loves the outdoors and has hiked the Andes, kayaked the Galapagos, and biked and camped around Nova Scotia, Canada.
He is a travel blogger at Storyteller Travel and blogs about photography at Storyteller Tech. He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.