By Bill Hendrix, F761s
Our 2001 motorhome, like many coaches produced around that time, came equipped with a small rearview monitor and a black-and-white camera. That setup worked okay, but now inexpensive systems, both wired and wireless, are available with larger color monitors. So, it was time to upgrade.
Online, you can find a variety of rearview systems in the $60 to $80 range. I ordered a wireless system priced at $60. The monitor is a 7-inch LCD color screen with a resolution of 800 by 480 pixels. It has a built-in antenna. The system shipped from California (many come from China) and arrived in four days.
I bench-tested the unit before installing it. First, I placed the monitor on the motorhome dash and connected it with a cigarette lighter adapter. Then I powered up the camera on the workbench using a spare battery. I got good reception from 50 feet away. Satisfied that the system worked, I then focused on how best to install it.
The wireless feature is a huge advantage, so I wanted to try the wireless video first. I knew that if it proved problematic, I could use the existing video cable to hardwire the system. I mounted the camera at the same location as the old camera, near a 12-volt power source. That power source can come from one of the rear clearance lights; when the system is needed the lights turn on.
I had several options for situating the monitor. The set came with a dashboard mounting bracket. I could mount the monitor over the old display; this is a good choice, especially if removal of the old monitor would leave a hole in the dash. Mounting it there using two-way tape or hook-and-loop fasteners would be easy.
In my case, the old black-and-white monitor had to remain active, since it also displays holding tank, outside temperature, and compass information. The dash mount cluttered up the dash, so I decided on an overhead mount on the bottom of the TV cabinet. This location made sense, because it’s where one would normally look for a rearview mirror.
Next, I concealed the wireless transmitter’s antenna by placing it horizontally in the rear overhead cabinet. The reception was a bit fuzzy. Next, I adjusted the antenna so that the transmitter was vertical and it provided a much better picture.
Unfortunately, my display is not the quality I expected. It must be viewed fairly straight-on; side-view imagery is fair to poor, so the monitor should be positioned for the driver.
The old camera was left in place and trained on the tow bar; the new color camera was positioned above the old camera and was aimed at the towed vehicle.
Wireless and hardwired systems with monitors up to 10 inches and with higher resolution are available. Hardwired systems always provide the best and most reliable picture. Prices don’t vary much, so look at all the options before making your selection.