Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting INTO Tight Spots - Wireless Backup Camera Install

Note Fresnel Lens On The Lower Right Corner
    Backing Up. We all have to do it. It's a P.I.T.A. (if you don't know that abbreviation ... think about it a second ..... it starts with "Pain In The...") Most newer RVs are equipped with a backup camera of some sort. When I bought mine it wasn't. It DID have a rear window with a fresnel lens. What the heck is a fresnel lens, you ask. Simple, it's a piece of plastic that has concentric ring grooves cut or molded into it so it acts as a lens. In the case of the one glued to the rear window of my RV it lets me see a much wider angle of the stuff behind me. (Warning: Objects in this lens are WAY closer than they appear!) The window and lens combination are great when you a driving along, not so great when you are trying to back up into a tight spot.

7" Backup Camera Kit
 I'd used backup cameras before and liked the guidelines on the screen that showed how close you are to obstacles.  Back then, they came with old style TV or C.R.T. monitors in mostly black & white. Nowadays you can get cool LCD color displays that use very little power and are much easier to find a place to mount! I looked around a bit and found that you could purchase wired versions and wireless versions. While you would likely get less interference and static on the screen with a wired version, you have to run a cable from the camera, all the way in the back to the monitor, all the way in the front. This is not fun. I do not recommend it as a recreational activity and I actually LIKE wiring up gizmos! I decided to go for the wireless version. Since my RV is only 23' 8" long I was pretty sure the signal strength would be OK. After some copious internet research I came upon a 7" Color LCD display wireless backup camera system on sale. It was pretty neat and had an additional video input should I ever decide to add another camera. I have no idea WHERE I would add one, but it's nice to have the option!

Display/Receiver Installed
Once it arrived, the only issue I had was the cable for power. The LCD Display/Receiver was designed to be installed on a mounting bracket on top of the dash, and the power cable gets plugged into the cigarette lighter. I was going to hard-wire it into my electrical system anyway, so I cut off the cigarette lighter plug. The problem? It came out of the SIDE of the unit, and since I was going to install it on the dash itself, I needed the power to come in from the BACK. Seemed easy at the time. I opened up the display unit, found the power wiring and then realized there wasn't room inside to simply pull them out the back! I ended up going to smaller wire (it uses VERY little power so the smaller gauge (AWG) didn't matter) and soldering it directly to the circuit board inside. if you aren't comfortable doing this kind of thing....DON'T. It WILL void your warranty and you could end up with an expensive paperweight. Once that was done I used some of the heavy duty hard plastic "Velcro" to affix it to the dash itself. I was covering up the hole for the already removed ashtray so I had room to hide the wiring. The hard plastic Velcro is strong stuff! The LCD Display doesn't move at all!

Mounted On The Roof To Body Seam
Next up, the camera itself. The backup system I bought came with a camera that is designed to fit on the license plate mounting bracket on most vehicles. It would probably be OK on my RV, but I really wanted more of a downward view of the rear of the RV. This way I could see how close I was to an object when backing up. It would also have to be angled in such a way as to provide a side-to-side picture as well. My RV has a seam that goes all the way around the one piece fiberglass roof and connects to the fiberglass body. It has a vinylr strip that covers all the screws. I could easily mount the unit to this assembly.

Clearance Light With Camera 12V Power Lead
The camera still requires 12V power even though it transmits it's signal without wires to the display. I chose to tap into the parking/clearance lights for this juice. I COULD have ran a wire inside the rear cap to the trailer hitch 12V positive, but that was a MUCH harder job. The light is very close to the camera's position and the wiring would be very short and it would put the transmitter.antenna unit inside a rear cabinet, right on the shelf. I drilled a hole through the base of the light fixture (Avoiding contacts and wiring) through the rear cap and straight into the top of the cabinet the shelf is in. The main issue with doing it this way is the parking lights have to be on when you use the camera! Not a big deal, really. I tapped the inside of the clearance light and soldered the wire ends to the terminals inside. I put a dollop of silicone over each connection to ensure less corrosion and a bit of water resistance, then replaced the lens. This silicone will also cover the hole into the cabinet. On the inside, I had to place the transmitter/antenna box (about the size of half a deck of cards), like everything else in my RV the inside of the cabinet is carpeted I simple put some non-fuzzy sided Velcro on the back of the unit and stuck it on. I coiled up the extra cable and used a plastic tie to secure it out of the way.

Camera Installed
The camera arrived from the factory in black plastic, it was painted to match the RV using multiple coats of automotive spray paint. Once I had the placement and angle correct, using a good silicone based adhesive caulk I adhered the entire unit to the seam and used tape and little bits of wood (shims) to hold it in the correct place as it dried. Not the prettiest install, but very secure. One final test of the system and a bit of adjusting of the transmitter antenna and the install was done!

This system works quite well and will assist you day or night with the sometimes tedious task of backing up into a confined space.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. How did you get to the shelf, through the wall?

    1. XR29,
      The wire from the camera to the transmitter inside is quite thin. I just drilled a hole through the base of the light which is directly outside of the rear cabinet. It's mounted at the junction between the ceiling and the rear wall.

      Rich "The Wanderman"


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