How to install a dash cam | TechRadar

If you’ve been searching for the best dash cams for your vehicle, you may have noticed that there are plenty to choose from. From forward-facing cameras to front and rear cameras, there are options for every type of driver. but whichever you choose, there’s one important step to negotiate before you’re up and running: installation.

Fortunately, this is usually a fairly straightforward process, but we’ve put together this handy guide to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. our tips can even help you decide which type of dash cam is best for you or provide tips on how to install it before you arrive.

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dash cam designers have done most of the hard work and that means installation can usually be done in no time. Unless you’re going the wired route, setting up a dash cam doesn’t require any real technical skills. most models also come with a basic installation manual, at the very least.

However, there are a few steps that can make installing a dash cam even easier. Below we have outlined the main steps required to bring your car camera online. While there may be some variations in theme depending on which model you’ve purchased, the general process is basically the same.

1. what you will need

Most dash cams are designed to fit universally, so it’s usually possible to run your preferred model in any type of vehicle.

your dash cam probably came with a microsd card, but you may want to purchase a larger capacity one for more recording freedom. check out our guide to the best microsd cards for some ideas, and don’t forget to insert it correctly into the built-in port before you begin installation.

You may also need to install more than one dash cam. Some models, like the Nexar Pro, come with an additional interior camera for added security. consider this option if you believe that internal security is essential. other front and rear packages have a rear-mounted camera as part of the package.

You’ll need to spend a bit of time installing, but the tools needed should be minimal. grab a screwdriver and some tape to hold things in place. A light also comes in handy if you’re working inside the car or digging under the dash. a second set of hands is also always a bonus.

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2. choose a location

This is an easy step in the process, but it requires some forethought. If you’re installing a front dash camera, you’ll want an unobstructed view of the road ahead from a central vantage point.

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just below the rear view mirror is a standard option. on the contrary, in the lower part, near where the windshield meets the dashboard, there is another reliable point of view.

The most important thing to note is that the dash cam must not obstruct your view in any way, to remain legal. this is also the case if you have a rear facing dash cam that will fit.

You’ll also want to make sure your dash cam is positioned to capture a consistent central view of the road. Check that you can see far enough without your view being inadvertently cut off by the pillars, hood, or indeed the rearview mirror. it’s worth doing a test at this point, to make sure the dash cam is in an optimal position.

3. mounting types

Getting the dash cam in place usually requires a mount, which is probably one of two different types. there is the suction mount variety (like the one below), which is the most practical option as it allows the mount to be moved easily. this is especially useful if you need to use the dash cam in more than one vehicle or if you are not happy with the existing location and need to adjust it.

The other type of mount usually revolves around a mount with a self-adhesive adhesive pad. This semi-permanently adheres to your windshield, dashboard, or similar location. The downside to this mount design is that you need to get the dash cam position right the first time, or be prepared to pull it out and start over. some models come with replacement adhesive pads that allow you to do this, but it’s less appealing than the suction cup mounting route.

either way, the main goal is to position the dash cam so that it lines up with the horizon. every vehicle is different, so this requires careful thought and experimentation. you might get lucky and get it right the first time, but if you’re working with a sticky pad type mount, it’s best to practice a few times first. some masking tape, an erasable marker, and ideally a second set of eyes can help position the camera correctly before locking it into place.

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4. pluggable or wired?

dash cams are third-party accessories, which means you’ll have to deal with cables, and this is the most complex part of the installation.

The most basic way to power your dash cam is to plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter/aux port. most models come with a cable package to do this, although it’s worth making sure it comes with a longer one (at least four metres, ideally) if you plan to run it around the windshield and under the seats.

Deciding how to do this isn’t always easy, but the vast majority of dash cams come with mounting hardware that allows you to push the cable behind the trim, carpet, or headlining. common practice for longer cables is to run them behind your car’s headliner (just above the windshield), then behind the door weather stripping and down under the car seat, before plugging into the cigarette lighter/ auxiliary port (see above).

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If you have a power mirror, another good option is to plug it in there. The benefit here is that it’s a neater install and the camera won’t use power when the car is off, eliminating any concerns about battery drain. The downside is that you will most likely have to purchase an adapter, such as those available from dongar technologies (opens in a new tab), and will be limited by factors such as the voltage of your dash cam.

another alternative is to plug the dash cam into your car’s obd2 port (above). This is normally used for diagnostic inspections, but is another route to consider, using an obd2 to mini-usb connector.

The port may not always be easy to find, but most modern cars have it located somewhere under the dash.

The best way to install a dash cam is to connect it directly to your car’s wiring harness. some dash cams come with the necessary kit to do this, while others may require a third-party accessory. either way, this needs some TLC and professional installation might be more appealing.

in most cases, the end result will look neater, but given the electronic complexity of many cars, the wiring route might not be for everyone. it also means there’s less flexibility if you want to switch your dash cam between more than one vehicle, due to the more permanent nature of the accessory.

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5. command and execute controls

with everything plugged in and powered on, you’ll want to finish by checking that all cables are out of harm’s way. make sure that no wires become dirty with any obstruction or are pinched or rubbed by trim components. Over time, any pinch point could cause wear and tear on the cable, which can lead to a malfunction or the dash cam not working at all.

it’s worth checking this again once the setup has had time to settle in, especially if you have an older vehicle that is prone to a lot of vibration. This can often be the reason a dash cam stops working when less-than-good connections come loose or the cables even fall out completely.

Most dash cams come with a support app, which is often what you’ll use to review any video if the need arises. this will be the best way to ensure everything works as expected, also, if there is no preview screen on the dash cam. it’s worth driving around the block to make sure your unit is set up as expected and capturing images as intended.

6. using your dashcam

This should be the easiest part of the whole process. Most dash cams will start up automatically once you’ve turned on and started driving. However, it’s worth noting that your dash cam consumes battery power when the car is not on, which can happen with some models. you may need to physically turn it off or unplug the cable to ensure it doesn’t drain your battery.

Depending on the model, the resulting video clips are stored on the internal microSD media card or transferred to your phone. some models do both, with the added ability to store any footage in the cloud, which is useful for archiving video content over time. it also means you have a permanent backup, in case you need to recover any video evidence later.

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