Rear-view cameras buying guide
Tips to help you choose a backup camera
We're not the only ones who think equipping your car with a rear-view video system is a great idea. Beginning in 2018, the US Department of Transportation will require them in all new vehicles. Why the big push for rear-view video systems now? It comes down to one word: safety.
With a rear-view video system in your car, you'll gain a well-lit, low, wide-angle view of what’s behind you – a view that a rear-view mirror just can't deliver. If you have pets or small children, you know how crucial clearing up those blind spots can be. Whether you're safety-conscious, want to keep an eye on something you're towing, or just have a bad habit of crunching bumpers, installing a rear-view video system in your car is a no-brainer. The big question becomes: what's the right system for you?
Step 1: Assess your dash
A rear-view camera won't do you much good without a screen to plug it into, and what you'll need in a rear-view system will depend on what's already in your dash. If you have an aftermarket touchscreen receiver with a rear-view video input, you're in great shape to shop for rear-view cameras. If not, you'll need to figure out which of the following three categories you fall into.
1) Happy with your factory touchscreen receiver?
Brands like Crux offer vehicle-specific rear-view cameras with harnesses that match select factory-installed entertainment systems. These backup cameras are often specifically designed to blend in with the exterior of your vehicle.
Crux's RVCCH-75RC rear-view camera is compatible with the factory radios in select Dodge and Ram vehicles.
2) In the market for a new touchscreen receiver?
There's no better time to install a rear-view camera than when you're already installing a new receiver in your dash. We carry a wide variety of DVD and GPS receivers that are equipped with touchscreen monitors and rear-view video inputs. When you shift your vehicle into reverse, you'll see an expansive view on your new stereo's display.
Certain cameras have advanced functions like multiple angles when paired with compatible receivers.
Alpine's X009-GM In-Dash Restyle System gives you advanced rear-view features when paired with certain Alpine cameras.
3) No room in your dash for a touchscreen?
No problem. If your dash doesn't accommodate a radio with a video screen or if you don't like the idea of altering your factory dash, you still have options:
Replacement rear-view mirrors seamlessly integrate with your car's interior while giving you a monitor where you're already accustomed to looking.
Rear-view camera mirrors are a little more challenging to install, but they create a seamless and frankly, pretty cool backup system.
Dash-mounted monitors can vary from wired screens to portable navigation devices like those from Garmin that work with a wireless rear-view camera.
Step 2: Choose a rear-view camera
You can count on rear-view cameras to be tiny and weatherproof across the board, but there are some variables to consider:
Most rear-view cameras either use CCD or CMOS sensors. The sensors convert light to signal in two different ways: CCD is essentially analog, and CMOS is digital. Generally speaking, a CMOS sensor draws less power and is better in low light than a CCD sensor, but a CCD sensor is slightly better adapted to handle fluctuating lighting scenarios than a CMOS sensor. Depending on the types of environments where you typically drive, the difference may be incidental. In the good ol' tradition of iPhone® vs. Android™, the argument as to which sensor is "better" is ever-evolving and has devotees on either side. In most cases, it won't likely be a deciding factor in which camera you choose.
Many backup cameras provide onscreen guidelines to help you when backing out of precarious positions or when squeezing into a tight spot. They help you gauge distance from objects in your path. If you want to opt out of parking lines, pay close attention to the details of the camera. Some may not allow it. Some give you the opportunity to remove them during installation, so that you can use the selectable parking lines feature built into certain touchscreen receivers.
This is just what it sounds like. The view in your monitor is reversed to mimic that of a rear-view mirror. With some cameras, this is a selectable feature.
Generally, rear-view cameras provide a healthy horizontal viewing angle, with some as expansive as 190-degrees. Naturally, the wider you go, the more you'll see behind you at a glance.
On some cameras, you may see a minimum Lux rating. This tells you the least amount of light required for an acceptable picture. For your reference, a night with a full moon is rated at around 0.1 Lux while a sunny day rates at around 10,000 Lux. We've seen cameras that can deliver a clear picture in an environment rated as low as a 0.1 Lux. Many cameras enhance their low light capability with an additional LED or infrared light that powers on when your vehicle is in reverse.
This is the defining feature for most rear-view cameras. It can be done is several ways, so take at look at the rear of your vehicle before you select a camera. Here are the mounting styles to consider:
License plate mounting
Some cameras fit into a matching license plate frame while others take the more universal approach with a strap mount. This strap-mounted rear-view cam fastens over your license plate using the existing screws.
If you have an inset area on the rear of your car, chances are you can use an angled lip-mount camera which is a little more subtle than the license plate mount.
This style takes the most universal approach, providing an adjustable bracket that lets you mount your camera wherever you see fit.
Some brands offer brackets that replace or fit into factory parts for a near-perfect match to your vehicle. These are specialized products. Most mounting options will be license plate or lip mounts.
Step 3: Installation – adding the rear-view camera to your vehicle
While we recommend purchasing an InstallCard for professional installation, it's certainly possible to install your new backup camera yourself. As a DIYer, you should anticipate a 3-part installation:
- Installing the camera in the rear of the car and wiring it for power.
- Running a video connection from the camera to your dash.
- Connecting that video cable to the input on the rear of a compatible monitor (which will also require installation) or your stereo (which entails removing the stereo from your dash and then reinstalling it).
A wireless backup camera system will cut down on your installation time, but you'll still have to wire the camera and monitor for power. In many cases, tapping into the feed to your tail lights will suffice for the camera, but some may require a direct connection to your car's fuse panel.
Life in reverse
Like an air bag to a seat belt, a rear-view camera system isn't a replacement for your vehicle's mirrors, it's a complement, a powerful tool for driving safely and parallel parking like a pro. And even if you consider yourself a pro, everybody has their bad days, and a rear-view system cuts down on the risk of a fender-bender (or worse). If you have any questions about picking the right system, just give us a call.