Car Electronics – Part I

electronic gadgets

With an imminent purchase of a new cargo van, it’s time to start thinking about how I start the conversion. Actual changes to the van, have to begin with electrical and/or electronic devices. Wiring must be done while floors, walls and ceiling are still accessible.

Some of these devices could have been acquired as an factory-installed option, but this way I save some money and get a more complete system.

Following up on 7 Gadgets to Super-Charge Your Cargo Van, I look at the required specifications and availability of these electronic gadgets, which will make life and driving a bit easier. Some are for fun, yet others are needed, such as Back Up Assist, which will be mandated for new cars within the next few years. You can spend thousands on all of these devices, but with a little effort I should stay within my limited budget.

    This is my wish list:

    dash cam

  • GPS Tracker.
  • Dash Cam.
  • Reverse Sensing System.
  • Backup Camera.
  • Cameras.
  • GPS.
  • Display Screen.

GPS Tracker

A small tracking device that logs the location of the van. In combination with a phone, you could even locate your van, when stolen.

Dash Cam or Car DVR

Automatically records while the van is in motion. It starts and stops when you start your car and looping will continuously record video and in combination with a built-in GPS tracker, it records the journey and speed.

    The main reasons to have a dashboard camera are:
  • Prove your case in the unfortunate event of an accident.
  • Report bad drivers / road rage.
  • Protection for your parked vehicle.
  • Protection from insurance fraud.
  • Record your route and driving speed.
  • Night video quality.
    A good low-light camera allows for nighttime recording.
  • Preferably without display.
  • Small and unobtrusive.
  • High video resolution.
    1080P (1920 x 1080).
  • Wide angle lens.
    At least 130 degree wide angle.
  • Loop recording.
  • Auto on/off.
  • Date and time stamp.
  • GPS Tracker.
    Allows you to record your exact position and speed, and to blend it into the video feed along with the date and time stamp.
  • Dual/Multi-Channel.
    While regular dash cams only record the view through the windshield, dual-channel cams also look back into the passenger area of the van.
  • G-Sensor / Parking mode.
    If someone damages your car in your absence, the dash cam will come to life and start recording.

The video and power cable can be pulled through behind the ceiling and be connected directly to your car’s fuse box or internal wiring.

Incorporating all these features will lead to prices over $100.00, which I want to avoid. Main problem is finding a small unit without a LCD screen, to preclude multiple screens around the van.

Reverse Sensing System

When the vehicle backs up and comes close to an object, these sensors will make a beeping sound or use a visual display to indicate the distance to the object.

Parking sensors are found in two categories:

Ultrasonic System.

sonic car sensors


  • The cheapest.
  • Sensors detect objects even when the car is stationary.

  • Can miss smaller or narrow objects and inclines can deflect the sound waves.
  • They also only detect objects directly behind or in front of the car.
  • May not work if the sensors are dirty or out of alignment.
  • Fitting usually requires drilling the bumper.
  • Ultrasonic parking sensors not be suitable for use with a tow bar.
Electromagnetic System.

magnetic car sensorsComprises of an adhesive antenna tape, an electronic unit, acoustic speaker and simple wiring kit.


  • Suitable for use with tow bars, cycle racks, etc.
  • Mounted inside the bumper, so there’s no need for drilling.

  • More expensive.
  • Only detect objects once the car has started moving.

The standard configuration is at the rear bumper, but you have a choice to install front bumper sensors as an option.


I’ll explore additional car electronics, that will assist the driver, yet be integrated in the van and largely hidden from view. To complete the list, I look at needed specifications for a Backup Camera, side & front cameras, GPS and a display screen that unifies the system.

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