RoadTrek Backup Camera Pt. 1

Since pretty much the day we bought it, we’ve felt that our RoadTrek 210 Popular RV would benefit greatly from a backup camera. Well, the driver would benefit more I guess, but you know what I mean.

After we bought the pickup truck, I had done some research and found out that it was fairly easy to retrofit an OEM-type of backup camera to it. The truck was already pre-wired up to the mirror, so eBay turned up an OEM backup mirror with built-in monitor, and the necessary adaptor to plug in any camera. The local stereo shop sourced an OEM-style camera that hides in the tailgate handle trim. They installed the whole thing, and it’s worked great since.

The RoadTrek, while also a GM, doesn’t have the same wiring in place. Plus, by the time things were all done, I think we spent like $500 for the backup camera in the truck. I came across a thread over on TractorByNet though, where a poster was showing off the backup camera he put together for his tractor using inexpensive components from Amazon for about $50.

I poked around a bit, reading reviews on the various components. I sat on the items for a while, but finally decided to go ahead and give it a shot. Here’s the parts I’ve ordered (so far):

The Monitor:

“7” TFT LCD Color 2 Video Input Car RearView Headrest Monitor DVD VCR Monitor With Remote and Stand & Support Rotating The Screen” ($29)

monitor_box1
The Camera:

HDE E336 Waterproof Rear Vehicle Backup Camera With 170 degree Viewing Angle ($15)

cam_pack1

So, for about $45 I have a monitor and camera. They showed up today, so of course I had to take them out to check things out.

I dug thru my box of orphan power adaptor and pulled one out that professed to do 12vDC. Though only offering 400ma of current (it was the charger from a long dead electric razor) I figured with the LED TV and tiny camera that it would do fine. Stripped some wires bare, and twisted the power leads together (don’t judge me, ok).

kludge

I used the included RCA M<>M video cable to connect the camera to the video input of the monitor (it has two, more on that later), pressed the power button, and success! We have a picture. Doesn’t look too bad actually, at least not in the confines of my office.

monitor1

The blue lines on the screen are produced by the camera. There’s no way that I can see to turn them off, but they’re not that bad, and might even be useful. The truck’s camera has them, but I don’t really even notice them most of the time now.

The camera itself is tiny.

cam_front1

The case is metal, as is the swivel mount attached to it. Thin metal, but metal nonetheless. It’s supposedly waterproof. Looking at the back of the camera, I’m not highly confident. The cable gland looks sort of loose. I plan to hit it with a little silicone before it gets mounted out in the elements.

cam_rear1

The monitor comes with a couple of mounting options. If you have a suitable location, it comes with a bezel that can be used to mount it flush into something, like a headrest.

mon_recessmount

The other included mount is designed to attach to a surface, like the dash or headliner (I suppose).

mon_mount1

The monitor itself had a slot on the back to accept the surface mount, and a threaded piece at the bottom. It does not appear to be a standard 1/4-20 camera mount, sadly.

mon_back_mount

Both the camera and the monitor come with a wiring harness. For the Monitor, this is a multi-pin DIN style connector (Sort of like an SVHS connector — or for those who remember, an ADB “Apple Desktop Bus” connector). The removable half of this harness has wires for 12v + and – (Red and Black), two RCA style video connectors (for Inputs 1 and 2) and a blue wire that’s used to switch to Input 2 when 12v is applied.

mon_harness1

This blue wire lets you have the monitor set to Input 1 normally, and then switch to Input 2 when the vehicle is put in reverse, for example. I imagine this would be useful if you’re using the monitor for video from another source, like entertainment, or perhaps a blind-spot camera. I’ve actually been considering if I should run the wires to allow for a second backup camera – one that’s aimed to take the place of the nearly useless rear-view mirror – and have the switched second camera aimed for backup duties. I don’t know yet what the field of view is going to be like once it’s aimed so I can see the bumper. Having a second one that can keep an eye on the trailer and further back might be nice, and at $15 for a second camera, cheap.

One nice feature of this monitor is that it has a built in function to rotate and mirror the input image. This lets you make the image “right” regardless if the incoming image – some cameras reverse the image internally, some don’t for instance. this also lets you mount the screen itself inverted, if that works for you. It also keeps things “right” if you’re using a front-mounted camera for example. Below are examples of the same image, in each of the 4 possible display options.

monitor1 mon_rot1 mon_rot2 mon_rot3

I haven’t started digging into the actual install yet. That’s going to involve mounting the monitor and camera, and getting the necessary wires run. Look for Part 2 in the coming weeks.