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Guide on How to Install a Car Camera Using the Cars Lighter Socket.

Installing a car camera couldn't be easier, especially if you decide to use the standard method of connecting it to the car cigarette lighter socket which will already be present on your cars dashboard.  For most people, this is more than enough - at least to get up and running, other methods include a hardwire, but this guide deals with the easiest "plug and play" method of installation.

For a normal installation, you will typically use the components supplied by the manufacturer of your car camera, IE the window mount, camera itself and the lighter socket connection jack to supply the power.

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Step 1 - Decide where to Place the Camera.

Whether you have a suction mounted camera, or a camera with an adhesive sticky pad which permanently sticks to the car windscreen, the choice of position is the same.  There are rules to be taken into consideration when deciding where to place the unit - these include the fact that you must not obstruct your field of vision through the front of the car with a dash cam, so locate the unit in the best place to avoid obstruction.  Normally this is behind the rear view mirror, but if this is not possible, just below is also a good place, so long as it does not obstruct the view.  Horizontally central on the windscreen means that the camera can record a symmetrical view of the carriageway rather than recording more of one side of the road than the other.  If this is not possible, it can always be placed on the passenger side, pointing slightly towards the centre of the car bonnet to capture more of the road ahead.

The position of the camera and its mount must be considered carefully by the owner before installation to ensure that the chosen location on the windscreen does not restrict or impede the drivers view of the road OR cause a visual distraction by virtue of being able to see the screen.

If you are unsure about the positioning or issues regarding meeting government requirements about the fitting in general of your mount and camera, or a mount and camera you are considering purchasing, please take legal advice which is specific to your vehicle and the mount and camera in question, as whilst general guidlines can be provided, certain vehicles may have specific design considerations which make it impossible to legally and safely install a mount and camera.

Ensuring that a fitted mount and camera does not result in an MOT failure is essential for safe driving and compliance with the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Transport.

Ministry of Transport guides addressing the issue of "obstruction to view" through the windscreen are available in detail for your reference at - once you are on that page, press the "Next Page" icon at the top for further details regarding obstructing the view and measurements of intrusion allowed in certain areas of the screen.

Some cameras come with a built in screen.  It is absolutely illegal to drive, or cause or permit a person to drive, with a screen visible to the driver either directly or by reflection.  Cameras with a screen have the option to close the screen or switch it off.  Further reading on the topic of being able to view a screen whilst driving and the fact that this is dangerous should be undertaken by visiting the following page for the latest information.

Fitting any device to a vehicle should also be considered carefully to ensure it is fitted safely and in compliance with legal requirements to ensure safe driving.  Detailed information can be found by reading the following document.

Step 2 - Stick it on!

Irrespective of the type of mount, the next step is to fasten the dash camera and bracket to the windscreen.  Attach the power lead to the camera and the camera to its bracket first, as fixing the bracket alone could result in having to re-position it if the actual camera and wiring will not mount due to (for example) the mirror being in the way, or the roof of the car.  This is a disaster if you are using a sticky mount - which generally can only be used at 100% efficiency once before the sticky is spoiled.  Additionally - placing it all together allows you to get your camera 100% level, because you can use the actual car camera to effectively align it to the top of the windscreen without it being tilted one way or another.  A tilted camera results in tilted video, which serves a purpose, but doesn't look very professional!

Step 3 - Run the Car Cameras Power Cable.

The position of the camera is more important in terms of getting the best functionality,  which is why the route the cable takes to arrive at the power supply is of secondary consideration.  At this stage, if the cable will not reach the lighter socket, then an extension cable can be purchased for around 5, on ebay for example.  Try to avoid running the wire across the windscreen as much as possible.  Find the best route to the edge of the glass, and fasten the cable there with some duct tape or a wiring clip.  In most setups, the wire can be wrapped once around the mirror shaft for stability, and then, with a little help from some tape, can be stuck in position along the top of the windscreen, running left, until it reaches the passenger side pillar.  Follow the pillar down, sticking the cable where required until it reaches the dash board.  At this point, guide the wire down to the passenger side footwell.  This part is very car dependant, but the objective is to have the cable appear as deep into the footwell (as far away from the seat as possible) as can be achieved.  This is because we need to have the cable underneath the car mat to conceal it, and also, more importantly, to avoid wear and tear on the cable (even though it is beneath the mat) it should be placed where it will not be trodden on - so as far forward as possible is best.  Once the wire is underneath the mat, and appearing out of the other side it will need chasing up to the lighter socket itself.  With a bit more tape to keep things tidy where required, the jack plug can now be inserted into the car lighter socket.

Guide to installing a car camera.
Sticky Pads
Car Camera Power Jack

Once the car camera is installed, there are a couple of things worth double checking to ensure perfect operation and performance.

1.  What can your camera "see"?

Make certain that the camera lens is pointing exactly where you want it to.  Most cameras can be rotated on their stands, and some come with a screen, so that you can watch as the dash cam is moved into postition.  If there is no screen, then it is well worth taking a few sample videos or photographs and testing them on the computer before finally settling on a position.  Make sure that (with the car on level ground) as small amount of sky is present on the video as possible, as too much sky can cause large light variations and degrade the videos.  A band of sky taking up 5-10% of the top of the video is ideal.

2.  Does your lighter socket power off when the ignition is off?

If not - beware! Your camera may continue running whilst you are away from the vehicle, and unless you specifically want this - you may flatten your car battery.  If the camera has power when the ignition is off - unplug it!

3. Does your camera have a screen?

If you have a screen - then if it is within your range of vision whilst driving, either directly or by reflection, then you must turn it off by law before setting off on the road.  Most cameras with a screen either allow this by folding the screen away completely, or with a menu setting which will switch off the display after a short length of time.  Do not drive with a screen in view.

4. Format your memory.

Before using any car camera for the first time, format its memory card using the actual camera as opposed to using a PC.  This will ready the card for optimal use with the camera.  It is also worth formatting the cards every 15 hours (of driving) or thereabouts - just to keep things tidy.

You are now ready to go!!!!

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