Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.
Understanding and Choosing A Dash Cam
How Dash Cams Work
This is the basic function of all dash cams: it records continuously when driving, but not when parked. Most dash cams start recording when they receive power and stop when power turns off (power = auxiliary socket).
Dash cams equipped with parking mode allow to record when parked (requires power at all time). To save on power and memory, recording is triggered by a vibration or movement sensor (depending on the model) and stops after a certain time.
In driving mode, most dash cams are powered from an auxiliary socket (cigarette lighter). // In parking mode, most dash cams are hardwired to the vehicle power system (positive, negative and ignition).
Because recording continuously takes huge amount of memory, old videos are automatically deleted to make space for new videos. Most dash cams use sensors to detect an event and will "lock" the event's video (before/during/after), preventing unwanted deletion.
Dash cams without screen are smaller and less distracting. Videos can be watched via another device (such as a Smartphone). // Dash cams with screen allow to watch "live" videos and playbacks. Some of them have "driver awareness features" such as forward collision warning and lane departure warning.
Dual Dash Cams
Dual dash cams feature a front and rear camera as well. The rear cam is commonly hardwired (cables) to the front camera. The rear camera can either face back into the car’s interior (taxi/uber cams), or it can look through the rear window and record the road behind your car.
Field Of View (FOV)
Common field of view found among dash cams is 120 to 140 degrees. While a larger field of view means wide image is captured, this comes at the cost of distortion and decreased resolution, particularly around the edges. Therefore, a wider angular field of view isn't necessarily better.
Better resolution means more details are captured, allowing for example to zoom-in on licence plates. 1080p resolution is considered standard these days, but some dash cams records up to 4k. Remember that higher resolution means larger video files, more power and less night video quality; so it isn't necessarily better.
Dash Cams that caught our attention
Apeman Dash Cams
Apeman's are the most popular dash cams on Amazon. While the reviews are generally good, digging deeper reveals the typical issues common with low-end products: they "almost" work like the more expensive ones, have occasional bugs, have incomplete or badly translated manual, have questionable customer support. That being said if you're looking to get a decent low-cost dash cam, this is the one to get!
Garmin Dash Cams
Garmin is well known as a GPS devices manufacturer, but they also ventured into the dash cam market. They offer higher-end dash cams, from the advanced 66W to the simple Mini. All Garmin dash cams feature the Auto Sync: Auto Sync wirelessly connects up to four Garmin Dash Cams at the front, back and sides of your vehicle to provide virtually complete 360° coverage.
We tried different lower-end products (Joying radio, electrical connectors, etc.) and each time we ended up regretting our decision. We’d rather pay a bit more and get a product that works as it should, is reliable and durable. So Garmin it is. What we personally expect from a dash cam is to record videos; that’s all. We don’t want a large distracting screen packed with “driving-assist” features that we won’t use. So the Garmin Dash Cam Mini (amzn.to/2QJzg7n) is the perfect match for us! We don’t want the dash cam to be powered from a 12V socket (our dash is already clustered with smartphone’s USB cables already!), so we’ll be installing the Parking Mode Cable (amzn.to/2FiLXRf) for a clean look.
We’ve been using the Garmin dash cam mini since January 2020 and it lives up to the expectations we have from a quality product: both the cam and the app works flawlessly. Only complain is that it takes a while for the app to connect to the camera (for live feed or to review footage), but we honestly don’t use that often so no big deal…
Garmin Dash Cam Mini Sample Footage
Garmin Dash Cam Mini Installation to our Ford Transit
2- Hard-Wiring the Garmin Dash Cam Mini to the Ford Transit
There are 3 connections required to hard-wire the Garmin dash cams: positive (constant power from battery), negative (a.k.a. ground) and accessories (a.k.a. ignition). We recently upgraded our radio and we are well aware that we'll easily find these three connections there. So our plan is to route the dash cam cable around the headliner, to the A-pillar, under the steering column then to the radio:
Here is the color code if, like us, you installed an aftermarket radio unit (faroutride.com/radio-upgrade). See items in bold:
|ITEM||AVH-W4500NEX COLOR||METRA HARNESS COLOR|
|BATTERY CONSTANT POWER||YELLOW||YELLOW|
|SWITCHED POWER (ACC)||RED||PINK|
|PARKING BRAKE||LIGHT GREEN||N/A*|
|FRONT-LEFT SPEAKER (-)||WHITE/BLACK||WHITE/BLACK|
|FRONT-LEFT SPEAKER (+)||WHITE||WHITE|
|FRONT-RIGHT SPEAKER (-)||GREY/BLACK||GREY/BLACK|
|FRONT-RIGHT SPEAKER (+)||GREY||GREY|
|REAR-LEFT SPEAKER (-)||GREEN/BLACK||GREEN/BLACK|
|REAR-LEFT SPEAKER (+)||GREEN||GREEN|
|REAR-RIGHT SPEAKER (-)||VIOLET/BLACK||VIOLET/BLACK|
|RIGHT-RIGHT SPEAKER (+)||VIOLET||VIOLET|
3- Initial setup
3.1- Make sure the dash cam is powered (turn your keys to "run" position) and insert the SD card.
3.2- Format the SD card by pressing the microphone button for 8 seconds.
3.3- Download and install the Garmin Drive App to your smartphone. Make sure your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are ON. The App is very intuitive, so we won't go through all of it; you'll figure it fast enough!
4- Using the dash cam
4.1- To use the dash, just forget about it! It turns on automatically when driving your car. Remember that old footage will be automatically deleted, unless the dash cam detects an "event" or unless you manually choose to save a video.
4.2- If the Garmin dash cam is hard-wired using the parking mode cable, it saves videos when an event is detected (using the motion or impact sensors). Saved videos from parking mode don't get automatically deleted; they will stay on the SD card until you manually delete them.
That's it, drive safe!
Nice To Meet You.
Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!