Help me see behind me better!
July 8, 2024 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I think I need a rear view camera in my car, and I think I know what I want, but I need more guidance and hopefully some specifics.

We have a 2017 Mini Cooper S. The way I describe it is that, if things can be said to have bells and whistles, our car has bells; it's got some tech, but not a ton. 2017 was the last year that cars were not required to have backup cameras, and as we've lived with the car over the years (we bought it in 2021), it has become clear that a backup camera would be REALLY handy. For one, all the pillars in this car are very wide, particularly the rear ones, which makes looking over the shoulder to back up out of a parking spot very tricky.

I've been thinking about installing a backup camera for a while now. A few weeks ago, I was in a Lyft where the driver had installed a rear view mirror that was entirely a video display - it wasn't substantially larger than a standard rear view mirror (it was bigger, but not gigantic), but instead of being a regular mirror with a small video display cutout in it, the entire surface was a monitor that displayed the rear view.

When driving, it just displayed a view like a "typical" rear view mirror, but when reversing, it had the features of a backup camera, with the lines and indicators and all that stuff that a backup camera usually has.

So now I'm basically looking for one of those. Has anyone installed such a thing in their car? Any brands I should be looking for in particular? How easy is the camera/wiring installation of it - is it something I can do myself with basic household tools, or should I have it professionally done? What sort of "gotchas" should I look out for if I install it myself?
posted by pdb to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can do it yourself, especially if you're not absolutely desperate for the install to be 100% invisible. My husband did ours with the assistance of some youtube videos and a little more faffing around than a passenger car might require (we drive a cargo van). The cables do visibly cross the dash a bit, but also we went with the option that plugs into the 12v outlet rather than hard-wiring it to the battery.

My only complaint/thing to watch out for is brightness - ours is just about useless from noonish to fiveish, but it was also extremely cheap and is now so outdated (two whole years) I can't even see its listing anymore. If I was to replace it today (actually...might replace it today), I'd probably get this one. Name brands are not so much a thing in this flavor of tech - you've got dozens of factories pumping out product to the same blueprints on a few basic software systems. I dig around in Amazon reviews to see how installation and use has gone.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:59 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


You should look into it a bit more for your particular model.
For Honda, they just left the camera itself off, with the software installed and accessible via RCA cables (plug and play) for many years before it was mandated, as a way to differentiate between option packages.

So it might be as simple as buying camera for your car (variable pricing) and having a guy install it ($100 at BestBuy or whatever).
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:07 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Forgot to add: with all that, IMO the cameras off Amazon are extremely variable in quality, and the return policy generally doesn't include paying for install/removal if it doesn't work. So you may have to deal with many different companies, vs going to your local Car Audio/Video place and paying like $500 (also BestBuy, for example) to get an aftermarket camera and screen installed.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:12 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


It's likely a lot more money than you are thinking of, but what about updating the entire head unit with something like this? I recently did such an update on my car for other reasons and it was all plug-and-play, retaining all the factory functions like steering wheel controls and adding lots of newer tech like CarPlay. I used the original factory reversing camera, but the kit I bought came with a camera as well. This may require running a cable to the back of the car but, as mentioned by The_Vegetables, it's possible the cable is already there.

One of the reasons I did this was because the factory GPS was very out-of-date and not great to begin with. The cost of updating the maps through the dealer was more or less the same as buying a new head unit. I now have Google Maps built-in and a host of other features that weren't possible with the original head unit.
posted by dg at 5:04 PM on July 8


Response by poster: @Lyn Never: Nope, not really needing it to be 100% invisible, so it's good to know it's doable.

@The_Vegetables: a friend who knows a lot about this era of Mini/BMW has confirmed there's no existing infrastructure in this car for a camera. He's also made himself available to help with the install so I don't have to spend $500 at Best Buy, which is handy!

@dg: yeah, that's actually pretty cool, but way more tech/expense than I'm looking for. We drive this car maaaaaaaaaaaaybe 2000 miles/year, in a heavy usage month we drive it on average once a week, so I'm not really looking to spend money on significant upgrades for anything but my ability to see behind me when I'm backing out of a parking spot.
posted by pdb at 5:32 PM on July 8


a friend who knows a lot about this era of Mini/BMW has confirmed there's no existing infrastructure in this car for a camera

You should check again - Minicooper backup camera systems per this site it was an option from 2012 on, depending on your options package, and these are all plug and play in the the existing display (assuming yours has one). I can't speak for your actual model, and these are all in GBP (not US $$) but does show they exist.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:58 AM on July 10


BTW, the backup camera is enabled when you click into reverse, but Mini also seems to offer a front camera as an option - not sure how that one is engaged by the user (maybe programmatic in certain situations) but it seems to be included in these packages.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:06 AM on July 10


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