Today’s state-of-the-art mirrors and video monitoring systems enhance visibility and help motorhome drivers to feel more secure behind the wheel.
By Lazelle Jones
Changing lanes, backing up, and performing other maneuvers in a motorhome can be challenging. Potential blind spots along both sides of the coach can make it difficult to detect obstacles, even with mirrors. And if a car, truck, or trailer is being towed, it’s impossible to fully know what’s going on behind the coach without the proper monitoring equipment. However, today’s state-of-the-art video monitoring systems and mirror systems make these kinds of evolutions more safe and manageable. Many are installed as original equipment, but a number are also available in the aftermarket.
What follows is a listing and description of several such systems and the contacts for each manufacturer. And for drivers who want to learn more about the basic driving skills associated with changing lanes, backing up, parking, etc. in a motorhome, several contacts for safe-driving courses are also provided.
Side mirror systems can consist of single, double (split), or even triple (split) mirrors that provide the driver with visual information for different blind-spot areas alongside a coach. Flat mirrors are used for distance viewing, and convex (outwardly curved surface) mirrors are designed to provide wider visibility for maneuvers such as changing lanes. Combinations of both flat and convex mirrors typically make up a complete mirror system, and aftermarket “fish-eye” (extremely convex) add-ons can be placed at the bottom outside corner of the existing flat mirrors to help eliminate blind spots.
Because mirrors (especially convex mirrors) distort distance, a cautionary inscription is often found on the mirror that states something to the effect that “the image displayed cannot be relied upon to judge the distance between the coach and other objects.”
Mirrors can be power-adjustable and also can be heated for cold-weather driving. Some mirrors integrate lighted chevrons on their faces that illuminate when the turn signals are activated, giving one more indication to others that the motorhome is about to make a maneuver.
Ramco Engineering Inc.; (800) 321-4819; www.ramco-eng.com
Ramco offers remote-controlled and heated mirror assemblies for type A, B, and C motorhomes and custom coach conversions. The company also offers retrofit packages for older motorhomes and buses going back 30 years. Ramco recently introduced Signal Mirror mirrors, which are designed to fit most motorhomes. When the coach’s turn signal is activated, Signal Mirrors provide an additional alert to other drivers of an upcoming coach maneuver by way of a chevron that flashes through the glass in the corresponding mirror.
Type A 6000/6002 Series mirror assemblies: The 6000 Series is a side-mount mirror assembly, while the 6002 Series is a front-mount assembly. They are designed for Blue Bird, Eagle, MCI, Prevost, GMC, and other older as well as newer buses. Mirror head dimensions measure 9-3/4 inches by 13 inches. Arm lengths range from 6 inches to 20 inches. Options include remote control, full flat face or full convex glass, heat/defrost, top add-on convex mirror, 12- or 24-volt power, and turn signals. Logos are offered for Blue Bird and Eagle coaches.
Type B and C motorhome mirrors: Designed to fit 2003 (or newer) Ford chassis (for motorhomes that are 96 inches to 102 inches wide), these mirrors can be manual or remote controlled, heated, full face flat glass, and can include an optional turn signal light.
Seventeen-and-one-half-inch mirror head: This mirror (part of Ramco’s new type A series) measures 17.5 inches high by 9.5 inches wide and is available in chrome, flat black, black textured, white, and silver. Three glass variations are offered: flat glass with a bottom convex mirror, flat glass with a top convex mirror, and a three-piece combination (convex mirror on the top, flat glass in the middle, and convex mirror on the bottom). A sleek, aerodynamic head design that complements the new front caps of motorhomes reportedly will be offered in the future. All glass is integrated into one single mirror assembly. Muth LED lights are available. Arm lengths range from 6 inches to 20 inches overall.
Velvac; (800) 783-8871; www.velvac.com
Velvac designs and builds mirror systems for type A and type C motorhomes. Its products consist of multiple-option mirror heads that can be used interchangeably with the four different mirror systems it offers. Available features include replaceable mirror heads and glass and a choice of finishes and styles.
For type A motorhomes, Velvac offers three different mirror systems: the Revolution Fold-A-Way side mount, Model 2030 Bus Mirror front mount, and Model 2025 low-mount mirror system. Original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and retail customers may elect to use a side-mount mirror on the driver’s side and a bus mount on the passenger’s side.
Model 2030 is a front-mount mirror system that features a 98-square-inch flat mirror surface on the center glass. It’s available with remote-control adjustability, heated glass, and the patented Signal Mirror option. It comes in a variety of finishes (chrome, black semigloss, or high-gloss bright-white baked powdercoat urethane). Also offered is the Top Hat, an add-on convex mirror that fits on top of the 2030. With the Top Hat in place, the 2030 features convex glass on the top and bottom for optimal viewing.
The Revolution mounts flat on the side panel of a type A motorhome. This mirror, also 98 square inches, comes with an adjustable convex bottom mirror that is available with the Signal Mirror option. It, too, accepts the convex Top Hat mirror. The Revolution is a foldaway that’s designed to reduce mirror or door damage in the event of impact with an object. The Revolution features cast-aluminum mountings and is available in chrome, black, and white. Options include heated lenses.
The Model 2025 low-mount mirror system is similar to the Revolution but is stationary and doesn’t fold back. As with all Velvac type A mirrors, the Signal Mirror option also is available.
For type C motorhomes, the Model 2020 mirror system is offered. It’s designed for use with existing mounting holes provided by GM and Ford (specific trucks and vans). The 2020 also offers the additional functionality of folding forward or backward against the vehicle for storage, cleaning, or to reduce stress from impact, such as brushing the mirror against an object. Its standard head features 57 square inches of flat glass with a wedge-shaped corner-mount convex mirror. The 2020 Deluxe Head provides 62 square inches of flat glass and 30 square inches of full-width convex glass.
Video Monitoring Systems
These systems typically include a CRT or LCD monitor and a black-and-white or color camera. Monitors can be mounted on or in the dash, on the rearview mirror, or in a visor. Cameras typically are mounted on the rear of the vehicle. However, recent advancements find small cameras now being located forward on the sides of the coach to help eliminate blind spots and to augment the information provided by mirror systems. Some video monitoring systems also can be used for security, permitting those inside to do a visual check around the outside of the coach. Most video monitoring systems are OEM-installed, but excellent aftermarket systems also are available.
Audiovox Specialized Applications (ASA); (800) 688-3135; www.asaelectronics.com
Standard color and black and white cameras provide proven reliability and superior performance. The compact design allows the camera to blend inconspicuously into the exterior of a vehicle, or fit flawlessly where interior space may be compromised. A rugged, waterproof housing protects the camera and is available in black or white die-cast metal. Features include a built-in microphone, LED assist for low-light performance, and an image orientation selector switch. A waterproof cable connector, a non-corrosive mounting bracket, and a stainless-steel hardware pack provide durability to withstand the outside elements. PAL format is available.
The side body cameras are designed to eliminate blind spots along the sides of a coach. They can be universally mounted to any flat surface. Housings are white or chrome. A gray housing that can be painted to match the vehicle exterior is also available. These cameras are designed to work with all of the company’s multi-camera monitors. Dimensions are 2 inches wide by 2 inches high by 4-1/4 inches deep.
Tilt cameras feature aluminum die-cast bodies and a two-position, wide-angle lens that moves 45 degrees up or down, permitting the driver to choose a vertical close-up or a wider panoramic view. Controls permit the camera to be operated from a button on the monitor. The reverse trigger mode automatically turns on the rear camera when the coach is backing up. Camera features include a waterproof microphone, a normal/mirror-image switch, an adjustable mounting angle, a wide-angle lens, and infrared illumination for low-light enhancement. Dimensions are 4-1/4 inches wide by 3 inches high by 3-1/4 inches deep.
The 7-inch Flat Panel Monitor comes standard with a split screen for viewing up to four cameras at one time. A scan mode lets the user scroll through all attached cameras in the full or split-screen mode. It comes standard with tilt camera controls, a feature that permits moving the rear camera angle 45 degrees up or down with the press of a button (optional tilt camera required). This monitor can also be connected to an external navigation system. Dimensions are 7-3/4 inches wide by 5-1/4 inches high by 1-3/16 inches deep
Standard 5-inch or 7-inch black-and-white CRT observation monitors are 12-volt-DC high-resolution monitors that feature a compact design and easy-to-use controls. Both are available with two or three camera inputs and incorporate a built-in audio speaker, day/night brightness modes, a standby (reverse gear) trigger, backlit controls, and built-in circuit protection for automotive and commercial use. Dimensions of the VOM58 are 6 inches wide by 5-5/8 inches high by 7-5/8 inches deep. Dimension of the VOM78 are 7-7/8 inches wide by 6 inches high by 8-11/16 inches deep.
The black-and-white Tilt Observation Monitor comes with a tilt feature, giving the driver optimum viewing angles. Its compact design allows it to fit in most vehicles, while two or three camera inputs increase usefulness and versatility. Features include easy-to-use controls, a built-in audio speaker, a two-position tilt-control button to operate the tilt camera, a standby (reverse gear) trigger, auto tilt-down when the reverse trigger is activated, and a backlit control function legend. It is designed for use with the ASA observation tilt camera. Dimensions are 7-7/8 inches wide by 6 inches high by 8-11/16 inches deep.
The Rearview Mirror with 4-inch LCD Monitor system is offered as a solution for vans, SUVs, and type C motorhomes. The system consists of a 4-inch TFT LCD monitor that is built into a rearview mirror. Using a universal mount, it attaches to the vehicle’s existing rearview mirror. The system includes built-in audio speakers, two A/V inputs with an A/B selector switch, a standby reverse trigger (auto-on), hands-free cell phone input, and a built-in microphone. Dimensions are 1-13/32 inches wide by 3-3/4 inches high by 1-3/16 inches deep.
The 5.6-inch LCD Screen with Visor Panel features a built-in standby/manual switch and brightness control. It can be used with either color or black-and-white cameras. Models are available for both Ford and Chevy chassis (monitor can be used in some other custom visor applications — contact ASA for availability).
For those who think there may not be a place for a monitor, ASA offers the Center Pod. Space is saved with this easy-to-mount one-piece unit. The pod comes in gray, but it can be painted to match any interior. Dimensions are 6-7/8 inches wide by 8 inches high by 11-7/8 inches deep.
Intec Video Systems Inc.; (800) 468-3254; www.intecvideo.com
Intec Video Systems Inc. has been improving safety for RVs since 1978. The Intec rear-vision camera systems were among the first used in the RV industry. Intec’s CarVision systems for recreation vehicles provide high performance, reliable visibility, and a variety of mounting options for any application, from flush-mounted camera enclosures to flat-panel color LCD monitors, electronic image tilt options for viewing a towed vehicle and hitch, and on-screen distance grids.
Intec’s latest innovation for RVs is the CVC280 camera (black and white) and CVC480 (color) series cameras, which are designed for simple integration with Velvac and Ramco side mirrors, the best side camera position. Rear- and side-view cameras add to safety and confidence while on the road, with added security at night.
KG Rear Vision; (800) 543-9312; www.computrondisplay.com
The SY1550GSS 5.5-inch heavy-duty complete Green Screen system consists of a 5.5-inch heavy-duty “Green Screen” monitor (model M1550G), a heavy-duty waterproof black-and-white camera (model C5500SS), and a 65-foot heavy-duty main cable. The monitor and camera are designed for use on vehicles operating in extreme conditions. The Green Screen picture tube provides greatly improved readability of the image on the monitor’s screen on a sunny day. The camera is designed with “Super CMOS” sensor technology, which is said to provide image clarity and a wide-viewing angle image under any driving conditions. The main cable with its miniaturized waterproof connector system is designed for ease of installation.
Features include an automatic/manual “on” push button, normal/mirror-image operation, a built-in two-camera switcher, a watertight camera, a high-resolution image, a wide field of view, and a SureSeal interconnect cable.
The SY6401SS 6.4-inch color LCD system is a complete system that consists of a 6.4-inch premium color flat-panel LCD monitor (model M6401), a compact waterproof color camera (model C7715SS), and a 65-foot heavy-duty main cable. The LCD monitor has dual input capability, which allows the second input to accommodate a second camera if desired. The C7715SS is designed with a night vision infrared color-imaging sensor, which provides a sharp image under poor lighting conditions. The main cable, with its miniaturized waterproof connector system, is designed for ease of installation.
Mito; (574) 295-2441; www.mitocorp.com
The Perimeter View Camera was designed to give RVers the flexibility of two cameras: a color camera for daytime driving and a black-and-white camera for nighttime driving when the resolution of a black-and-white monitor may be most desirable.
The camera can be triggered to switch automatically to black-and-white when the vehicle’s headlights or marker lights are turned on. The lux rating of the black-and-white is 0.2, which gives it great ability to see at night with the aid of the vehicle’s taillights and/or brake lights. A momentary switch can be installed to toggle between black-and-white and color cameras at will. This allows the driver to switch back to color mode when black-and-white is not desirable. The camera’s image also can be switched to mirror image for forward-view applications simply by applying 12 volts to the trigger wire.
The patented design of the Perimeter View EXC-100 Camera is a direct replacement for some existing cameras (contact Mito for more information). The same cable can be utilized if the customer decides to upgrade to the new Perimeter View Model. The retrofit takes only minutes.
SilverLeaf Electronics; (541) 967-8111; www.simply-smarter.com
SilverLeaf Electronics has an unusual take on video. Its digital video technology allows the camera image to be displayed as part of the dash instruments, with almost unlimited flexibility. Both the VMS 400 CL engine monitor and the VMS 616 digital dash feature the ability to combine the video image with various engine and transmission gauges. During travel, the video typically is confined to a small portal on the screen, just large enough for checking the towed vehicle and making lane changes, while the rest of the screen is given to various digital gauges and indicators. When the coach is put into reverse, the video covers the entire screen for a vivid, detailed image. Each product also integrates a video switch for handling side cameras, with two or four inputs, depending on the model.
Total Vision Products LLC; (520) 623-0790; www.totalvisionproducts.com
The Pan and Tilt Color Back-Up Camera System is Total Vision’s flagship product. The system features a color backup camera that is capable of panning 180 degrees to the left and right, 115 degrees up and down, and anywhere in between. It utilizes a non-wide-angle lens that provides a clearer picture than so-called fisheye lenses and minimizes the distortion of distances and depth perception. All stopping points and presets are easily adjustable from a dash-mounted keypad.
Via the keypad, the driver has fingertip control of where the camera is pointed. A single keypad can control several pan-and-tilt systems with the use of the company’s new eight-camera multiplexer. This is important for coach enthusiasts who may want to use more than one pan-and-tilt camera, with others situated on the back of the motorhome or inside a trailer.
The system comes with an adjustable preset for looking down on the hitch and an adjustable preset for what Total Vision calls the “rearview mirror” position. It also features adjustable pan-and-tilt speeds, programmable stopping points, an antifog system, and LED indicators that tell the driver the relative position of the camera at all times. According to Total Vision, forthcoming products for motorhomes will include a complete line of very low-profile external cameras for any imaginable application, including MirrorCams, NoseCams, and QuarterCams. Also coming is a new multiplexer that provides quick and easy access to any combination of multiple cameras, pan-and-tilt or stationary, with manual or remote controls. Selective audio is also a future feature, where the driver can “keep an ear” on precious cargo, such as horses or show dogs. This audio monitoring is activated regardless of what camera view is displayed on the monitor.
Tristar Distributing; (800) 621-2278; www.tristardistributing.com
The KST-5.6RVC is a new system that, at press time, was being readied for introduction. Everything comes in one package: a 5.6-inch color LCD monitor, a 65-foot cable, a color camera with bracket, and the harnesses. The key features include a 5.6-inch color active matrix TFT-LCD monitor; a rearview monitor; 960 by 234 pixels; a viewing angle (L/R/U/D) of 60/60/45/50; a space-saving dash-mount design; easy on-screen setup; A/V in; NTSC/PAL format compatibility; and 10 to 32 volts DC free voltage operation.
The KST-RVCW color camera is a high-performance CCD camera for use in vehicle rearview applications. The KST-RVCW delivers sharp and wide-angle views for driving and backup safety. Key features include a 1/3-inch interline transfer CCD sensor; electronic iris control; 380 lines of resolution; a compact design; wide angle for greater coverage; a high contrast level; a 100 percent waterproof guarantee; housing tested and approved for IEC 529 standards; IP rating 67; G-Force rating 10; and aluminum diecast housing.
Wintron Technologies; (800) 865-5351; www.wintrontech.com/rearview
The RearViewVISION 5-inch black-and-white RearViewVISION system is the company’s entry-level system. The camera features a CCD image sensor, infrared (IR) low-light operation, and a wide-angle lens (120 degrees diagonal capability). It comes with automatic picture adjustment and a microphone. The monitor features a sun visor and a day/night dimmer. It can manage two cameras. Included are a speaker, automatic and manual turn on, and adjustable brightness and contrast controls.
The 5.6-inch Color TFT rearview system (with audio) comes with a 140-degree field of view, a built-in microphone, and a color monitor. Its deluxe monitor sun shade doubles as a protective cover. The system has two or three camera capabilities (optional).
The 7-inch Color TFT Widescreen rearview system (with audio and remote) also comes with a 140-degree field of view and a built-in microphone. The 7-inch LCD monitor has a deluxe sun shade that doubles as a protective cover, and the system features three-camera capability.
Motorhome Safe Driving Instruction
Aon Recreation Insurance (formerly RV Alliance America)
RV Safe Driving Course seminars
Dick Reed’s RV Driving School
RV Drive Safe
RV Safety Education Foundation