4WD MODIFICATIONS - DIY WORKSHOP
A view behind makes hitching so much easier and can prevent big-buck damage to your paint and panels. We look at two types of reverse camera displays.
In the 1960s and 70s, the futurists’ view of 1999 had us all driving flying cars and our houses being cleaned by robots. Twenty years on, it’s fair to say there aren’t too many flying cars and robots haven’t contributed as much to domestic bliss as the futurists envisaged.
That said, some technology has made our lives easier and safer.
One of those ripper little bits of technology is the reversing camera. These days, most 4WDs feature a reversing camera as standard equipment and it’s a great little device that makes hitching a caravan or camper trailer much easier and safer without that sometimes damaging ‘doonk’.
The good news is, a reversing camera can be retro-fitted to many vehicles using a simple kit worth only a few hundred bucks. Here’s how Glenn Torrens fitted one that gives the rear view in a rear vision mirror.
This reversing camera kit was bought for $400 and the kit consists of a tiny camera, its mounting bracket, a wiring harness and a replacement interior rear view mirror that includes an LCD display screen.
Not included in the kit is the special glue required to install the new mirror onto the inside of the windscreen. However, we soon discovered this wasn’t required for the test vehicle (a Toyota Hilux) and it may not be required for your vehicle, either. Read on!
The Toyota’s factory installed rear view mirror mount was a close match to the one required by (and supplied with) the new mirror. Cars without this style of factory mount will require the supplied base mount to be glued to the glass
So, for this Hilux, it was matter of screw-off, screw-on with no messing around. Three minutes; you beauty! Although it includes the LCD screen for camera display, the replacement mirror has a mechanical dipping feature, not an automatic/LCD one like some late-model cars
The cable for the mirror must be tucked up behind the headlining and A-pillar trim; most late-model 4WDs have a moulded headlining and easily-removed clip-in A-pillar trims so the cable can be easily pushed behind; older 4WDs with upholstered head-linings will require extra work
This is the upper left side of the dashboard with the A pillar trim removed. The mirror cable needs to be fed down toward the floor. With that done, the cable was tied to the factory wiring harness mounts (to prevent annoying noises or chafing of the wiring) and the A pillar trim reinstalled
The kit wiring is – for the most part – plug ‘n play, with the cable plugging into a harness that includes these coloured flying leads. Only three of these leads are required – one for 12V power to the mirror, another for switching via the vehicle reverse lights, and an earth.
The Hilux’s original wiring harness exits the cabin under the passenger front seat, so we followed it to the rear of the car with the camera cable. We
also decided to splice into the reversing light circuit here to save the effort required to route the wire to the rear of the vehicle
The cable to the rear of the car was shrouded with plastic sheathing – this and following the factory wiring harness route closely – minimises the risk of stone/rock/gravel damage. Regularly-spaced cable ties keep the camera cable firm against the vehicle wiring
The camera is easily installed using the provided bracket: It simply mounts to two upper number plate screws. There’s another bracket for use (for instance) under a station wagon’s lift-up handle or high behind the rear windscreen, but we wanted a view of the towball.
The camera cable is long enough to cope with a circuitous route through a large 4WD station wagon interior: we simply coiled up the excess length and cable-tied it to the chassis under the rear corner of the vehicle. “Cutting and shutting” of this special cable is not recommended!
Speaking of wagons, the camera cable thoughtfully includes these captive grommets for where the cable is routed from – for example – the cabin to the exterior, or through a bulkhead. I routed out of the cabin through a factory–provided grommet so we didn’t require them
We found the Hilux’s reversing light circuit colour codes by checking at a tail light, then double-checking within the cabin with a multi-meter. The 12V
power was sourced from the accessories plug circuit. The kit provides ‘clip lock’ wiring joiners that allow easy connection to the vehicle’s circuits.
The result is a clear view of the towball and/or the area immediately behind the vehicle.
A second optional camera (available for $110) and extra cable allows viewing from under the front of the vehicle (for tricky off-road driving) or from the rear of your caravan.
The second type of DIY reversing camera displays on a double-DIN dashboard screen.
For our Suzuki Grand Vitara I bought a reversing camera on-line for fifty bucks, after confirming it was compatible with our dashboard entertainment unit.
The small camera fitted just above the rear number plate and the cable ran inside the wagon and along the floor sill edges to the dashboard.
I picked up the power and triggering for the camera by splicing the power cable supplied with the camera to the reversing globe wire in the RHS tail light assembly.
The final connection was done with the entertainment unit lifted out of the dashboard. The image cable bundle was simply plugged into the correct socket and the camera image enabling wire soldered to the appropriate signal wire in the back of the entertainment unit.
The image came up on the screen when reverse was selected, but it was mirror image, not what you’d see if you were looking out the back window.
That’s when Hi-tech Keryn came into the game, finding the appropriate setting in the display unit’s software and correcting the image.