Why buy a monitor?

Many backup cameras come as a system with camera lens, wiring and monitor.  However, some are stand alone and leave you to buy a monitor separately, or use an existing monitor in your car if you have one.

Most modern cars have a sat nav system and monitor installed.  If your vehicle has one of these, you should be able to plug your camera straight into it, provided the two are compatible.  Usually, if you buy an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) camera to suit your brand of car, the chances are that it will fit with a monitor already in your dash if you have one.

If you don’t already have a monitor installed in your dash, then you’re in the market to buy one.  A great time to do that is when you buy your backup camera.  Make sure the two are compatible though!

Types of monitor available

LCD explained

Most monitors you can buy today are Liquid Crystal Display.  TFT-LCD screens give the best image especially when used with a good quality CCD camera.  They are digital and are easier to repair should things go wrong.  Try to avoid the older CRT monitors as the image is usually inferior.

Back light

The cheaper monitors tend to use a CCLP back light.  These require high voltages via a power inverter circuit.  They can fail during damp conditions, such as throughout the winter months.

The more expensive monitors use an LED backlight. On average these should give up to twice the life of a panel using a CCLP back light.

Number of inputs

Specialist rear view monitors will almost all have two inputs to allow the use of two cameras. More recent developments give up to 4 cameras in a split screen arrangement. RCA switches can be used to increase the number of inputs. Most monitors allow you to invert or reflect the image.

Is a monitor right for my vehicle?

Most modern monitors will work with both PAL or NTSC cameras.  However, check that your monitor and camera are compatible.

There are different sizes of screen available.  The best advice is to buy the largest size you can fit on or in your dash as the image will be easier to see.

You don’t have to alter your factory dash and install a monitor along with your existing radio.  There are alternatives.

Replacement rear-view mirrors

This example is made by Pyle.  Click the picture to see it on Amazon.

Pros:

  • Replacement rear-view mirrors will integrate with your car’s interior and give you a monitor where you already look when you’re backing up.
  • can be harder to install, but they look like they have always been there.
  • Screens vary in size from 2.5” to 10”.  The larger size can accommodate a split screen view.  Check the size fits between your sun visors before purchasing.
  • When the screen is turned off, the glass acts like a regular mirror.
  • Some replacement mirrors can have Bluetooth or memory card slots.
  • Replacement mirrors are less obvious and so less likely to be stolen.

Cons:

  • The mirrors can reflect light from sun roofs and windows which makes viewing the image on the screen difficult.  In some vehicles, there is a lot of light from things like high side windows or sun roofs.
  • When being used just as a mirror, the view is darker than on a regular rear view mirror making it harder to use on dull days.

Dash mounted monitors

Click the picture to see this example on Amazon.

Pros:

  • Dash mounted monitors can be wired or wireless and can even be portable.
  • They come in a variety of sizes, but the 7″ is the most popular and usually costs no more than the smaller sizes.
  • These monitors are versatile.  They can be mounted on the dash, from the ceiling, or glued to the windscreen in place of a mirror.

Cons:

  • There may be a problem on sunny days with light reflecting off the monitor.
  • To deter thieves, choose one that can be removed out of sight when you leave the vehicle.
  • Most are easy to unplug, but some can be tricky to mount again.

Flip down monitors

This example is made by HitCar.  Click the picture to see it on Amazon.

Flip down monitors are usually ceiling mounted.  Some contain DVD players as well.  The screen sizes vary and the smallest ones can often be mounted in the central part of your dash too.

Sun visor monitors

Sun visor monitors are available as two types.  The first type replaces the existing visor and often houses a DVD player as well as a screen.  It is advisable to buy these in pairs so that the vehicle’s interior looks balanced.  They can be tricky to fit as the mounting clips may vary to what is already on the car.

The second type is much thinner, does not have a DVD or a speaker, and clips on the existing sun visor. You need to ensure your sun visor is flat and there is room for the screen when the visor is up.

This example is made by Tadibrothers.  Click the picture to see it on Amazon. 

Pros:

  • The image is shown in what is usually a shady area of the car, preventing viewing difficulties caused by direct sunlight onto the monitor.
  • They are out of view when the visor is up and so are less attractive to thieves

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to fit.
  • Measure carefully the size and the depth to ensure a good fit inside your vehicle.

Wiring monitors in

The hardest part is to get the wires behind the dashboard and the interior trim.

Monitors usually only need a positive connection to a supply controlled by the accessory switch, and a negative that goes to the vehicle body.  Some also have a connection to the reversing light that turns it on when reverse is selected. However, many modern monitors no longer have the reverse light wire as the input of a video signal from the backup camera will start it.

Monitors should never be connected direct to the vehicle’s battery.

 

If any terms are unfamiliar, see our Backup Camera Terms Explained page.