Car Electronics – Part II

electronic gadgets

In the previous article I talked about GPS trackers, car DVR and reverse sensing systems; I’ll finish the line-up with backup cameras, side cameras, GPS and display screens.

Backup Camera

These tiny camera’s are simple and cheap to install yourself. Certainly with cargo vans, parking or hooking up a trailer will be a whole lot easier and safer.

Location – Some models mount on the license-plate frame, but some states prohibit these frames. A better location is at the roof looking down; this enhances the view on the screen.

Wiring – Legal issues are also abound when wiring it to a constant power source. The camera will show the road behind you even if you’re not in reverse, but that is prohibited in some states. The correct way is to connect it to the wiring of the reverse light.

  • Displays a 10 x 20 ft area directly behind the vehicle.
  • Flipped image ability.
  • There are two basic types of rear-view cameras: wireless (needs protection against interference) and wired (higher quality picture and more reliable).
  • Field of View – at least a 90-degree field of view. Most fields of view will range between 100 to 135 degrees. A 2.1 mm lens has 135 degrees of viewing angle. 2.8/130 degrees.
  • Night vision:
    day night cameras– CCD sensors perform well in low light situations.
    – CMOS sensors require infrared LEDs to enhance the picture quality at night.
  • Water Resistance:
    – Waterproof – at least IPx7 – withstand immersion in one meter of water for 30 min.
    – Water Resistant – at least IPx6 – withstand powerful jets of water from all directions.
  • Freeze-proof.
  • RCA or 4-pin connectors (the latter offer better protection – 4 pins are ground, power (12V), video signal and audio signal (optional).
  • Microphones are prone to water and other weather damage – not desirable.
  • Make sure the camera you look at is designed as a backup camera system.

  • If you plan living in your van or enjoy long vacations in your vehicle, you may think about installing a four-camera system; it would prevent you from leaving the vehicle at night, when you’re parked in a lonely spot and you wake up by unfamiliar noises.
  • Install a separate rear camera to watch backwards.

A backup camera is another factory option that I avoided to safe some money. These systems should be easy to install. I’ll come back to that when I do the actual work!


A GPS feature should be standard in every vehicle nowadays, yet I may not purchase a separate unit. Lately, I got used to my tablet and its navigation app. This is probably what I’ll be using in the future.

Everybody will approach this GPS subject differently. I don’t use a phone for GPS info, which limits or excludes live updates, such as traffic information. For that, I gain a larger screen, better sound and portability.

Display Screen

All the previous items must be connected to a central display, in an attempt to avoid multiple screens. Common sizes are 2.5″, 3″, 5.6″, 7” and 9″.


    car display screen

  • At least 4 video inputs (cameras, incl. Dash Cam).
  • At least 5 inch if used as an entertainment screen.
  • Resolution at least 400px horizontal resolution.
  • Audio input for the backup sensors.
  • Maybe GPS input (maybe use tablet for that).
  • Display must have capability to be installed into dash or used as a overhead/pull-down screen.
  • Touch screen.
  • rearview mirror screenSome may add rear view mirror with built-in display for the backup camera.

For me, DVD/CD and digital radio use, are not important; that may be different for you, the reader. And so far it has been quite difficult to find all these individual components, especially the display which has to be professionally installed in the central console or attached to the overhead ceiling. I have the time until the purchase/delivery of the vehicle to take care of that.

Finally, one unresolved issue is that some states prohibit video use while driving, making use of the planned side-view cameras while driving, a big question mark.

State Laws for Electronics Use in the Car

Video Screen Restriction
Law: No motor vehicle operated on the highways of this state shall be equipped with television-type receiving equipment so located that the viewer or screen is visible from the driver’s seat.
Statute: Fla. Stat. §316.0075 (2005) – Fla. Stat. § 316.303 (2008) Penalties: No penalty specified.

Buying the best of the best and having them installed by a professional, can run into the thousands of dollars. My intention is to shop around, pick the best I can afford and most importantly, do the installation work myself. Total estimated price, less than $200.00.

In anticipation of the new van, I will take the first step in finding and buying these gadgets. As soon as the new cargo van is delivered, these electronics will be the first items installed and mark the beginning of the cargo van conversion process.

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