The demand for rear view camera systems is booming as grey nomads take to the road in ever larger rigs … and reversing safety becomes an increasing concern.
Many travellers also like to keep a keen eye on exactly what is happening on the road behind them as they cross-cross the nation’s highways and byways. The longer the caravan being towed or the motorhome being driven, the bigger the driving blind spots will be … and even the most extended wing mirror isn’t going to offer better rear vision that a rear-mounted camera. A quality system can add to driving confidence and peace of mind.
However, there are some features that grey nomads aiming to head out into the wild red yonder with one of these systems in place need to look out for. There are a variety of products in the marketplace and not all of them will do the job as might be hoped.
While they are commonly bought as packages (commonly at around the $600 mark), rear view camera systems consist of a camera, a monitor and the cabling that connects them together. Although wireless systems are on the market, most grey nomads report that the level of interference these pick up makes them far too unreliable. Cabling is the way to go.
Some travellers choose to have a camera on the back of both their caravan and on the back of their ‘tug’. This makes hitching up the van a lot easier, as well as giving good rear vision when towing.
While it is important to have a wide angle of vision (at least 90 degrees) it also makes sense to install a camera that has a long distance focus. Some short distance vision models might be great for reversing but they will not pick up that road train bearing down on top of you until the ground is shaking! Super wide angle lenses can also distort images and lead to dangerous driving miscalculations.
Another important feature to keep an eye on is the performance of your system at night. Most experts agree that a minimum of 10 LED lights should be fitted and that an absolute minimum of four metres of illumination be achieved.
For those who think, the installation of a rear view camera means the end of listening to your partner screaming out increasingly frazzled and confusing reversing ‘instructions’, think again! It is well worth choosing a system that also has an audio capability. This means that not only will you hear the screams of someone who may have wandered out behind your reversing rig, but that you will also be able to continue to enjoy ‘quality’ guidance from the reversing ‘expert’ who normally occupies the passenger seat.
It also makes sense to choose a system that is able to work on 12-24 voltage or even a 12-32 voltage. While most grey nomad vehicles produce 12V power, the power generated can fluctuate and this may damage a system that doesn’t have a voltage regulator or a filtering circuit.
You should look for a system that will automatically switch on when the vehicle is placed in reverse. More expensive models will also allow the user to see the road behind him or her at all times. Some also allow switching to vision from more than one camera. The camera itself can be mounted in a number of different ways including on the vehicle’s number plate.
The cabling is perhaps the cheapest component of a rear view camera set-up but it is one that some people cut corners on … with disappointing results. It definitely makes sense to use heavy-duty, high-quality, water-resistant cabling and connectors for all exterior installations.
The camera – or cameras – generally hook up to an LCD monitor that can be firmly mounted on the dashboard or by using a suction cup. If you are heading down the Gibb River Road, Oodnadatta Track or any other corrugated dirt road, a properly mounted option will be best.
Some monitors can be used in place of the rear view mirror and it then becomes doubly important that your system has a mirror image capability. In an ideal world you want to be able to switch between ‘normal’ and ‘mirror’ images.
Obviously the bigger the monitor screen the better you will be able to see what is happening behind you. Measuring diagonally across, most screens are 5″, 7″ or 9″.
Installation of these systems is fairly straightforward (for most people) but with such an important piece of safety gear, it probably makes sense to get the experts to do the job for you. It also pays to make sure you will be provided with a decent level of after-service and will be getting a replacement guarantee.
As rigs get bigger and higher and our roads and van parks get busier, quality rear vision camera systems can take the stress – and much of the danger – out of many driving situations … and they might just save a relationship or two along the way, as well!