Install a Dash Cam

How many times have you said to yourself while driving "look at that idiot driver" or maybe used language just a little stronger.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could take that experience home to share with others?  Or, what if someone slams into you and the 'who's at fault' turns into an argument or worse, a court fight.  Wouldn't it be nice to have video evidence on your side?  A dash cam can help you with all that and more.  They're not terribly expensive either!

I purchased a Thinkware X330 sold by Sams Club with a GPS receiver that plugs into the camera for under $100.  There are less expensive cameras and you can pay a lot...a whole lot more if you want to include dual channel (front and rear cameras) along with built in Wi-Fi (so you don't have to remove the memory chip to play video on your computer) and other bells and whistles.  Sound interesting?

What You'll Need

1. A Dashcam.  There are hundreds of choices  cams  so to start you might want to check out the DashCam Talk Forum.  There's a lot of expertise lurking there and any question you might have has probably already been answered. 

As mentioned above, I purchased a Thinkware X330 (shown top of page) because it fit my budget (under $100) and for two other very good reasons.  First, it doesn't use a battery to keep the camera rolling in emergencies.  I live in the desert where summer temperatures aren't kind to batteries.  Thinkware uses a capacitor for emergency juice.  Secondly, and again because of the heat issue, suction mounts simply don't work here.  Thinkware uses a high quality (3M) double sided tape to mount its cameras to the windshield so you never get in your car to discover the camera dangling by a power cord.Hardwire

2. A Hardwire Power Cord. I believe all dash cams come with a power cord that will plug into an accessory outlet but having a cord dangle across the dash gets old quickly.  Different manufacturers use different hardwire cords.  Most use a simple mini USB connector while others use an older style pin plug.  All will connect directly to the fuse box under the dash and all should be fused.Add a Circuit

3. Low Profile Add-a-Circuit. The add-a-circuit plugs into the fuse box replacing an existing fuse but without disabling whatever that circuit it's powering.  You'll be adding a 10 amp low profile mini fuse.  There's a right way and a wrong way to install these.  Check the bottom of the page for the right way.

The Installation:

1. Figure out where you want to mount the camera. Most fit nicely behind the rear view mirror.  Those that offer a screen are generally mounted a little lower than the mirror or, in my case, a little off to the left side.  Be sure the camera isn't blocking the sensor in front of the mirror.  With the camera powered up, do a lot of trial fitting to be sure the lens can be angled properly to include part of the hood but also plenty of sky so traffic lights are recorded.  If you're going through a green and get T-boned by someone running a red that footage will be very helpful.installed

2. Mount The Camera. If you've chosen a camera with a suction type mount you can trial and error all you want but if you're using double sided tape, you really only get one shot at this.  Clean the windshield thoroughly where the mount will go then carefully stick the mount exactly where you want it.  You can still get it off with a little heat and dental floss if you're not happy with the location later.  Recheck the aiming after the mount is installed and if it's good, remove the power cord.

3. Get Power.  Unless you plan to use the (usually included) accessory power cord, you need to run wire from the camera to the fuse box.  It's simple to do, not so easy to explain.  Basically plug the cord into the camera then run the wire up to the roof liner.  Tuck it in moving to the left then tuck the wire under the weather trim all the way down to the kickplate.  Bring the cord over to the fuse box just to be sure you have plenty.  At this point you can cut to length (always leave some slack).  Crimp a connector to the black wire and connect that to a post you'll see coming from the firewall very near the fusebox.  That stud already has a nut on it so loosen it, slip your connector under and retighten.  Most power cords have two more wires.  One is always hot and is used in parking mode to detect and record movement and thumps against the car.  The other is powered on when the car is started and begins continuous recording.  Attach those wires to separate low profile mini Add-a-Fuses.  Remove the fuses from the circuits you'll use and put those fuses into the Add-a-Fuse then plug the assembly into the fuse socket.  When you're finished the camera should fire up when the car is started and should go into parking mode when the engine is turned off.  If it doesn't, you might have simply reversed the connections.  For constant power I used the dome light fuse and for engine on  power I used one of the accessory fuse sockets.

4. Go For A Drive. Is the camera in a spot where you can reach buttons on it?  If there's a screen can you at least see part of it?  Most importantly, when you return home and put the memory chip in your computer is the picture framed correctly?  If so......

5. You're Done! Beer

About that Add-a-Fuse! As mentioned near the top of the page there's a right and a wrong way to install these.  Installed improperly, power will flow through the original fuse before it reaches your added fuse which adds to the load on the original.  Installed correctly, both fuses are completely independent of each other.  The simplest way to test this:  If your added accessory will operate without the original fuse installed in the Add-a-Fuse you're good.  If your new camera/accessory won't work, flip the Add-a-Fuse and check again.  If it works now, put the original fuse back in the Add-a-Fuse and you're golden.  In the case of a camera, there's so little amperage involved you're good to go either way but keep this trick in mind for the next time you're installing something with a higher draw.