A wide array of new technologies are improving safety on our roadways. Modern cars increasingly use sophisticated sensors and computers to predict a collision, warn the driver and, in the case he or she fails to respond, act to prevent an accident. Of course, safety technology does not have to be complex to be effective. Improvements like mirrors and seat belts have arguably done as much to keep passengers safe as more sophisticated systems like stability control or airbags.
Technology becomes more affordable as it becomes more widespread, too, so those with more modest budgets can afford to protect themselves and their loved ones. That’s certainly been true with the backup camera. The feature is not only more widely available and economical than ever as a new-car option. For those with older vehicles, installing an aftermarket backup camera is quick, easy and can cost less than $200.
We recently installed a Peak Wireless Backup Camera on a Toyota Tacoma pickup. The whole job took less than an hour and required little more than instructions, a screwdriver, a flashlight and a pair of pliers. You can easily add a backup camera to your vehicle, too. Before you do, read our notes to prepare.
Difficulty: depends on the vehicle
The Peak unit we tried is labeled “wireless” because there’s no wired connection between the camera – which attaches at the vehicle’s license plate – and the monitor, which fixes to the windshield or dash using a suction cup mount. Instead, the signal from the camera to the monitor is transmitted wirelessly. But both these components draw power from the vehicle’s electrical system using wires. The difficulty of making those connections depends on the make and model of your vehicle.
The Tacoma made installation easy because the license plate is on the bumper, and the taillight wiring is easy accessible from below. The camera ties into the vehicle’s reverse lights. That allows it to switch on automatically when the driver puts the car in reverse. If wiring for the reverse lights is not near to the license plate or is not easily accessible, making that connection will be more difficult and time consuming.
Wiring the monitor, though, is very easy. It simply plugs into any standard 12-volt power source, just like a phone charger or GPS unit. For a cleaner look, it too can be wired directly.
Tips for success
If your installation involves climbing under the vehicle like ours did on the Tacoma, wear safety glasses. Sand and dirt rained down every time we touched something down there. The safety didn’t keep us from literally eating dust, but at least it kept it out of our eyes.
If you have a wiring diagram or information about which colored wires feed various circuits, you can splice into the reverse lights wiring anywhere along its run. To be sure we had the right wires, we simply tapped into the circuit just short of the taillight assembly. We traced the wiring from the reverse light and used the electrical hardware provided.
Oddly, the wiring for the camera is smaller gauge than the vehicle’s taillight wiring, and it didn’t work well with the hardware. When we first tested the unit, we received no signal from the camera to the monitor and guessed the camera was not getting power. We pulled the camera wiring from the connectors, stripped back more insulation and folded the copper wire over to give the connector more wire to bite into. Problem solved.
The 4.3-inch screen is compact enough to fit in the corner of the Tacoma’s windshield without interfering with visibility, but large enough to display a relatively clear image. We had no difficulty seeing any obstructions on the monitor, which switches on quickly upon shifting the vehicle into reverse.
The monitor can also display guidelines, but we prefer to switch them off. For the Tacoma, the guidelines did not add any useful information or helpful reference points while backing up.
The suction cup mount is not particularly sturdy, but it does the job with the lightweight monitor. Because of its cozy interior, the Tacoma does not offer too many alternative mounting locations. In a bigger vehicle, you may find a better spot and use hook-and-loop or double-sided tape to mount the monitor.
The camera includes infrared imaging for nighttime visibility, a must for any backup camera.
Installing the Peak Wireless Backup Camera was even simpler than we thought it would be. Give it a try if you are reasonably confident you can handle the job. Adding a backup camera will improve the safety of your vehicle and, at the same time, make everyday driving safer and more convenient.
Check out all the vision and safety parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on a car camera system for your vehicle, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.