Choosing and Installing an Aftermarket Reversing Camera System
If you have a car with a long body, poor rear visibility, or just struggle with getting in to tight parking spaces, a reversing camera can make a great add on that can save your vehicle from expensive damage. Many newer high end cars come with a factory fitted reversing camera system. The camera shows the driver an image from the rear of the car showing obstructions that may not be visible in the mirrors, and making gauging the distance to them easier. Aftermarket reversing camera kits are now available for vehicles that did not come with a reversing camera fitted as standard. This guide will help you to understand some of the options available, and how they can be fitted to your car, van or truck.
Reversing cameras come in all shapes and sizes, designed to be embedded into the bodywork, or attached at some suitable mounting point. Which type and size of rear view camera to choose depends on your vehicle and personal preferences, but ideally they should be as unobtrusive as possible, and provide a clear view behind you. There are even some kits that include both a reversing camera and parking sensors to make parking even easier.
Fitting the Reversing Camera
The best location for your camera is on the central point of the vehicle. It can be fitten low down (giving a better field of view) or high up looking downwards (restricting the field of view, but making distance easier to judge). The middle of the rear bumper is ideal, but on some vehicles (especially vans) above the rear doors can also be suitable. You may be lucky and find that there is an aftermarket camera designed specifically for your vehicle – these usually replace a number plate light fitting or rear light cluster, and give a great ‘factory fitted’ look.
Universal cameras are designed to be either to be mounted on a suitable fixing point, or embedded in plastic or metal bodywork. The embedded cameras give a better finished look, and are less prone to damage, but do entail cutting a rather large hole in the bodywork! The exterior mounted cameras are attached with screws or high strength adhesive pads, which in theory makes them removable.
As well as on the back of a vehicle, a reversing camera could be attached to a trailer or caravan to give better rear visibility – our wireless reversing cameras kits are ideal. For caravan or trailer users, a camera on the towing vehicle also makes hitching up much easier. Some cameras come with built in lights, normally LEDs as they are bright and don’t use much power. These are great if you park a lot in dark areas, or your built in reversing lights are poor.
Getting Power the Rear View Camera
Your reversing cameras will need a 12v power supply. The power will connect either to a separate control box wired to the camera, or a cable that feeds directly to the camera itself. In either case the best place to power these is from wiring connecting the reversing light. That way, when you engage reverse, the reversing light bulb comes on AND the camera gets power at the same time – easy!
If the camera is a vehicle specific one replaced a rear light unit, you may need to reconnect it to the power supply for that rear light as well, so the light is turned on appropriately. For example, if it replaced a number plate light it needs to have power when the dipped or main lights are on.
Reversing Camera Image Display
If you already have a built in Sat-Nav or in car entertainment screen, you may have a spare input that you can connect the camera to. Even if you don’t, it may be possible to use an additional wiring harness to allow multiple inputs – see our selection of Multimedia Video Interfaces.
If you do not have an existing display screen, most reversing camera kits are available with an add-on LCD display screen that can be attached to your dashboard. The display screen will generally require it’s own power which can be taken from any 12v power supply – the cables supplying 12v power to the radio are often in a good position for this.
Connecting the Reversing Camera to the Display Screen
To get the image from the rear view camera to the display screen, you can use either a wired or wireless camera system.
The wired systems are simple to understand – a cable is run from the camera to the display. The cables are best run inside the vehicle to protect them from the elements, and can usually be hidden under carpets or other fittings to hide them. All our complete kits come with a generous amount of cable. Wireless cameras will have a transmitter attached to the camera (usually a separate box), and a receiver for the display screen. If using a wireless system you will need to use a complete reversing camera kit to ensure compatibility.
Tips for Choosing a Reversing Camera/ Rear View Camera System
If your existing screen only accepts PAL or NTSC signals, ensure the camera outputs in a suitable format. Our rear view cameras output in either format for compatibility.
Wide angle cameras give a wider viewing angle, and are generally more useful. 120 degrees or more gives a decent view, but smaller angles are still useful if mounted centrally.
Depending on your needs, is can be useful if the camera has additional LED lighting, night vision mode or both to assist in parking at night. All our cameras are designed to operate well even in low light levels.
A mirrored imaging mode (where the image is displayed as a mirror image) is generally easier for reversing as it shows the same as you would see in a mirror.
Use a camera specifically designed for vehicles rather than a general purpose mini camera, as they will be waterproof and shock resistant.
Check http://www.hids4u.co.uk/reversing-camera-kits/ or http://www.autobulbsdirect.co.uk/parking-sensors-and-reversing-cameras/ for a range of reversing camera kits for your vehicle.
Jonathan Elder is a web site writer for a group of companies including:
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