Reversing Camera and ‘EskaCam’

Ferrying an Alaskan Malamute called Eska around in the back of a Dodge Nitro is great.

Apart from two little problems…

The first problem is that as soon as you stop the car, Eska usually stands up to see why we’ve stopped. She’s not a little dog and when she’s standing up she is literally the width of the car which means she blocks the entire rear window. Not great when you’re trying to reverse. So a reversing camera was needed.

The second problem is that when on a motorway Eska tends to lie down in the back. She has some toys in the back, and a Stagbar too, but every now and then you hear a noise and you’re not quite sure if she’s chewing the Stagbar or chewing the back of the car to pieces. You can’t always stop (especially on a motorway!) to go and have a look so this is where the idea of EskaCam came in.

I was a bit reluctant to fit a reversing camera screen in the car as when parked up in an undesirable location, a thieving chav wouldn’t know the difference between a reversing camera screen and a satnav so would probably smash my window trying to steal what he thought was a satnav device, leaving him with a worthless screen and me with a huge bill for the damage.

Enter the “rear view mirror screen”.

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As the name I’ve given it suggests, it’s a rear view mirror with a TFT screen built in. Genius!

Other parts needed were two cameras (one for reversing, one for EskaCam), two wireless transmitters (one for each camera), one wireless receiver (as I can only view one camera at a time naturally) and a switch to switch between Off/Reversing/EskaCam. The mirror screen has two AV inputs so I could have wired one camera to each input but I wanted just one (multifunction) switch to control everything.

Here’s all the kit.

2014-02-11 19.14.40I wasn’t over keen with the original ‘big’ camera that I bought for reversing so I replaced that with an identical smaller one (the same as the one in the middle of the picture).

With all the parts in my possession it was then time to work out how to wire it all up. I wanted a single three-position switch to operate as “ReversingCam – Off – EskaCam”. The off position was essential as I wanted to use it as a normal mirror and flick between the two cameras when required.

The single multifunction switch needed to perform a few actions at the same time, hence the correct type of switch was required (double pole, double throw (DPDT) mini toggle).

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It needed to turn on the power to the screen and the power to the wireless receiver plus it also needed to turn on the power to the relative camera and relative wireless transmitter – as I can only have one transmitter on at a time (as they’re both on the same frequency).

I test-wired everything first, before fitting it to the car, to make sure I could wire it as desired.

2014-02-15 16.40.53But after a while I had to call in the experts to make sure it was all wired correctly.

Enter one supervisor:

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Once Eska had approved all the wiring it was time to take it all apart again and fit the whole kit to the car.

Most of the front dash trim had to be removed in order to route the hidden wires.

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I fitted the switch in to the centre console, below the button for the airhorns. I never like drilling the OEM dash but sometimes these things can’t be avoided.

2014-02-16 13.16.51With the switch in place I could then run the power wires up the A-pillar to the mirror screen. Naturally being quite careful near the airbags!

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Power cables were then run from the switch to each of the cameras at the back of the car. Not an easy task, the Nitro has the most convoluted interior trim clip arrangement I’ve ever seen. Only power cables were needed, no AV cable as the cameras are hooked up to wireless transmitters.

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With all the wiring in place the end result is exactly as planned.

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The three position switch is “off” when in the middle position, meaning the mirror functions just like a normal mirror.

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Flick the switch to the left and the screen powers up, as does the wireless receiver, one of the two cameras and one of the two wireless transmitters – “EskaCam” is engaged, enabling the camera in the boot area.

2014-02-17 15.31.30Flick the switch to the middle position again and the screen, wireless receiver, camera and wireless transmitter are all powered off again.

Flicking the switch to the right powers up the screen again, the wireless receiver and the reversing camera and relative wireless transmitter and on screen in an instant is the view from the reversing camera.

2014-02-17 15.32.00I’ll now be able to see what’s directly behind me when Eska is blocking the entire rear window, plus I’ll be able to see exactly what mischief she’s getting up to while out of sight 🙂

UPDATE: Not the greatest of photos, but you’ll get the idea:

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