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I’m embarrassed it took me 40,000 miles to figure this one out.
So how often do any of these happen to you?
- BANG! What was that back there?
- Is there something wrong with the trailer?
- That was a rough bump. Are my bikes on the rack still OK?
- How close is that jerk behind me anyway?
If you’re like most people, it happens about once every single trip you take in your ProMaster, whether it’s an RV or not. (Maybe it’s just me this stuff happens to, but I doubt it.) At times like these, it would be incredibly convenient to have a rear view camera on the van. But alas, the ProMaster doesn’t have one.
Oh no. Wait! IT DOES have one!
But for some reason, that camera only turns on when you’re IN REVERSE. There’s a very good reason for this – it’s because whoever designed the UConnect Camera interface is an idiot.
So what this means is, if you hear a loud noise coming from behind your van, you have to pull over, stop, and get out of the vehicle to check things out. That’s so much more efficient than flipping a switch and glancing at the rear view camera… NOT. Thanks, Fiat.
For over two years, this has bothered me. I took the van to a car stereo place to see if they could get the backup camera working on a switch… No dice.
I even ordered a Garmin Backup Camera that would wirelessly interface with our navigation unit, just so I could have a camera I could control. But pride got the better of me and I canceled the order. There HAD to be a way to make it work with the camera THAT WAS ALREADY THERE!
I’m happy to report, I’ve got it figured out and working. And now, you can too. It’s not even that hard. But before you start tearing apart your van, take note: Ours is a 2015 model year ProMaster. They (Fiat) have made some changes to the programming for the camera display since ours was made.
If your ProMaster is not a 2015, I’d suggest you try this out in a temporary way before tearing things up too badly. Perhaps have someone in the van open the rear door while you’re driving and see what happens. That will totally make sense when you’ve finished reading, but just make sure you’re safe, and nobody falls out of your van while it’s moving…
The key to figuring it out came when I realized that the backup camera turns on if you have the rear doors open. This makes perfect sense when you remember that the designer is an idiot. Fiat’s reasoning goes like this: If you hear a loud noise, or just want to have a quick look out back, well then clearly you should be forced to pull over, come to a complete stop, exit the vehicle, and check it out. But if you’re flying down the highway WITH YOUR BACK DOORS HANGING OPEN, well that’s no big deal! No need to stop for that! The geniuses at Fiat will turn on the rear view camera so you can watch your stuff fall out the back of the van without even slowing down.
Eventually, I realized I could use this stupid behavior to my advantage. Let’s get into how I did it.
The first and hardest thing was figuring out what the signal was, and on which wire, that tells the UConnect module that the back doors are open. After lots of internet research, looking at wiring diagrams, and plain old experimenting, I had it confirmed. The wire you want to find is a white wire with a blue stripe. And you’ll find it in the wiring bundle that enters the vehicle from the passenger side rear door.
When this wire is grounded out, that’s the signal that the rear doors are open, and the camera turns on.
In that picture you can see that I’ve already cut the wire and started a splice. You’ll need to access the wire by removing the plastic piece attached to the van body so that you’ll have some slack in that wiring bundle. Then, you’ll need to reach inside by the tail light connections, bloody your knuckles, and unclip this piece from the multi-pin connector it’s attached to. Once you’ve done that, unwrap the wiring bundle, locate the white wire with the blue stripe, and cut it.
What you’re going to do is to attach another wire in parallel with the door switch. So in that picture, going upstream it’s just the white and blue wire. On the door side I spliced in some 16 gauge wire. You could use a smaller gauge – I just didn’t have enough on hand. Connecting things this way means that either the door being open OR the switch we’re about to install will signal that the rear doors are open. This is necessary to make sure you can still lock the doors. It will also preserve the original watch-your-cargo-spill-onto-the-highway function.
I just used a butt splice for that, but you could use whatever connector you like. Once you’ve got that done, re-wrap the bundle. It will be going in and out of the door, so you want to make sure it’s tidy. The only cloth tape I had on hand was white, so that’s what I did mine with.
That wire you just spliced in will have to make it all the way up to the front of the van where you’ll be driving. If you have an empty cargo van, that should be pretty easy. But I have a built-out RV. The easiest way for me to get a wire up front was by going underneath the van, so that’s what I did.
In order to get out of the space between the door and van, I ran the wire inside a piece of ¼ inch drip sprinkler tubing. It was smaller than the smallest split loom wire cover I had. There’s a small gap behind the doorway wiring guide that was initially removed, so run the wire back there, and down through the empty space behind and below the tail light.
The gap behind that plastic connector is pretty tight, but it doesn’t move back and forth, so I’m hoping my sprinkler tubing holds up. If I ever can’t get the camera to turn off, this will be where I look first. From this location, it’s a straight shot down to get under the van.
From there, I ditched the sprinkler tubing, and went to regular split conduit. Run the wire towards the front of the van by any means necessary. Since I was working on a built-out RV, there were plenty of other wire runs I could attach on to.
Be meticulous about it, keep your wire covered, and keep it zip-tied up and out of the way. When you get to the front of the van, you’re probably going to want to bring the wire up through the battery box. It’s the easiest place to do it, and it’s convenient to get from there up into the dash. You just have to get way up under the van to do it.
I’ve had a bunch of stuff installed in the van. Air suspension and leveling jacks, among other things. All of these things want to get directly to the battery, so there were plenty of holes in the bottom of the battery box to run a wire through.
The bottom of the box is plastic, so drilling the hole is no big deal if you don’t already have one. Also, note that just outside the battery box, I switched from 16 gauge wire to 18 gauge, 2 conductor wire. You’ll need that second conductor in a bit. Just remember which of them you spliced the wire from the rear door to. This is what it looks like from underneath the van on the bottom of the battery box.
So now you’ve got a wire from the rear door circuit all the way up into the battery box. You’ve also got an extra wire in the cable. What you need to do is split the casing and fish out that second wire. NOT the one connected to the rear door. When you’ve got that other wire out, cut it, and attach a ring connector to the side of the wire that you’re about to run up into the dash.
Attach that ring connector the negative terminal of the battery. This is how you are going to ground out the circuit. With that done, you need to get the pair of wires into the dash and attach a switch. You’ll need to remove some trim panels to do this. Like this one in the driver’s side step well. It’s attached with three screws you can see in the step area, and four screws you can’t see because they’re under some plastic tab covers.
You’ll also need to remove a trim piece at the front bottom of the door opening. Just a few screws holding that one on. With those out of the way, it’s easy to run your wire out of the battery box, along the floor, and up into the dash area along the wheel well. Just thread your wire through the clips that are already there holding other wires. You can see my grey wire in this picture.
If you have some other location in mind for the switch, then do what you need to from this point on. I wanted to put my switch in this little cubby that sits to the left of the steering wheel.
The easiest way to do that was to drop the lower part of the dash. It’s held on with just four screws. Once you’ve removed those, the whole part underneath the steering wheel rotates down and you can remove it. I had also removed the fuse panel cover, but that may not have been necessary. With it out of the way, things look like this.
I actually needed a Torx T-20 screwdriver to remove the final screw holding that cubby on. I don’t know if that screw was factory or not, so just be prepared. With the cubby removed, I could cut the hole for my switch.
The switch I used was just a SPST (Single Pole Single Throw) switch with a couple of quick connects. Any switch will do – all you want to do is complete the circuit. I needed to make an opening ½ inch by 1 inch in the cubby to mount the switch. The plastic is fairly soft, and it will cut with a utility knife, but you need to start somewhere. I started by drilling a half inch hole.
Here’s a pro tip for you. If you ever need to drill a hole into some chintzy plastic like this… ALWAYS USE A SPADE BIT. You’re way less likely to have the drill grab and thrash the workpiece around in your hands. Trust me on this – I have ruined waaaayyy too many pieces of plastic from trying to use just any old bit.
I got the hole drilled, and then finished out my rectangle with a utility knife. If you’re going to use a utility knife, please don’t slice your fingers off! You’ll have to apply a fair amount of pressure, and if your knife slips, it’s not my fault. You’ve been warned. Anyway, when it was all said and done, I got the switch installed and it looked like this
From there, it was just cutting the wire to length and attaching quick connects to the two conductors. Attach those quick connects to the back of the switch. When the switch is closed, it completes the circuit: the wire from the back door is grounded out to your battery, and the lights go on. Test it before you put everything back together.
And with that – you’re done! It works well. The only real drawback to this solution is that while the rear view camera is on via your switch, you’ll get an “open door” light on the dash, and a “Rear Door Open” message in the info center in your instrument cluster. You’ll also get a single chime when you turn it on, and if you slow to a stop. But it’s nothing like leaving a seat belt undone. Because remember, driving around with your rear doors hanging open is no big deal in Fiat’s UConnect land.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, you can find me contentedly checking on my bikes while driving.