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The back wall in our Winnebago EKKO is solid – there are no windows in it. So the standard-issue rear-view mirror on the windshield doesn’t get you much. But we really wanted a rear view mirror! Years of driving have conditioned us to look in exactly that place to see what’s behind us. After a year of looking, I finally decided on this solution. I go through the product evaluation and (two) complete install(s) in this video!
The camera you see me installing is the AUTO-VOX Solar4. It’s a fairly new product from AUTO-VOX, and they sent it to me so that I could review it. As a fair disclosure, I received the Solar4 free of charge. Although, I had been looking at products from AUTO-VOX anyway, so it was a happy coincidence when they contacted us.
One of the big selling points of the Solar4 is that it’s wireless (or nearly so). The picture transmission happens wirelessly, so you don’t have to string wires from the head unit back to the camera. That was a huge bonus for me, because running wires invisibly is time consuming. We have yet to experience a loss of reception that would affect the picture, so their transmission approach seems solid. (I believe it’s WiFi.) The camera and the monitor came pre-paired, so you don’t have to go through the pairing process unless you want to install a second camera.
You will need to provide power for the monitor, but they provide a cigarette-lighter plug adapter for that. The camera has its own battery, so it technically doesn’t even need power once it’s charged. But they provide you with a small solar panel that you can hook up to the camera to keep it charged up. AutoVox claims that in sunshine, the camera will work for up to 15 hours. (I didn’t drive around for 15 hours just to check that though…)
The picture quality in daytime was great. It’s 1080p, and though the frame rate is not 60 fps, it’s perfectly adequate for a rear view mirror. It’s incredibly sunny here, and the video shooting out the windshield doesn’t quite do the picture justice. I had no trouble seeing the display even while wearing sunglasses in bright daylight.
At night, the camera switches to IR mode. This is great for backing up, because it gives you a lot of detail even in pitch darkness. But for driving around at night… headlights behind us did blow out the picture, as you see in the video. I honestly wished there was a way I could shut off the IR vision mode at night for driving, and then toggle it on if I needed to back up. Let’s call that a feature suggestion for them.
There are other menu settings you can see in the video, but for me, the important one was the timeout. It has a “Never” setting, which means you can leave it on as a rear view camera and it won’t ever turn off. Perfect.
The 10 Minute Install
The manufacturer claims an easy, 10 minute install, and I feel like that’s a legitimate claim – if you’re willing to install it as they instruct. The dash mount is easy enough to use, and if you don’t mind plugging something in to your 12v lighter socket, the dash bits go right in. I didn’t stick it to our dash, but I have no reason to believe the provided tape wouldn’t work – as long as you take your time installing it.
You do have to pay attention when installing the camera mounting bracket. This is because you’ll be screwing it into your vehicle and you don’t want to create any leaks in the process. To keep out leaks, I created a custom gasket using some material I got from Organized Obie (that they don’t have on their website yet, so I can’t link to it directly).
The install kit does come with two versions of the mounting bracket. There’s the small bracket – which you would use if you were going to install it on a mostly vertical surface, and the “Z” bracket, which you’d want to use to install it on a horizontal surface, like a roof. I wound up using both of these brackets at different points in the video. They work the same, so just use the one that fits your install situation.
Once you’ve got the bracket installed, the camera snaps right in and secures with a set screw. If you’re installing the solar panel, that will just mount to your roof with the double sided tape that’s provided.
My Significantly More Involved Install
Once I had decided we were keeping it, I pursued an installation that makes the Solar4 seem almost like it was built into the coach. Naturally, this was more complicated than the 10 minute install, but I think the results are worth it.
I installed a cigarette lighter plug underneath the dash by the steering wheel. I tapped into an existing ignition-on circuit at the fuse box with a simple fuse tap. Once that was done, I just used the provided cable and routed it up and around the windshield.
The physical mounting of the camera to the windshield was a bit more difficult. There wasn’t anything commercially available to convert the AUTO-VOX mount to a Ford Transit Rear View Mirror mount, so I had to 3D print something myself. Developing the model took a bit of trial and error, but paid off in the end.
I imagine people may want that (I know I would have), so I’ve shared the model here. You’ll also need to get an oval head 8-32 machine screw and nut, approximately 1.5” long. (Though I used a 2 inch screw and cut it down, so I can’t say for certain.) Nyloc nut recommended as it will keep from backing out. Available at any hardware store.
If you don’t have access to a 3D Printer, I’ve also uploaded the model to Treatstock, where you can arrange to have it printed and shipped to you by a 3D printing company. The link to the product on Treatstock is here. (The model is currently being reviewed, give it a couple days and check back if you don’t see it yet.)
Finally, there was the issue of getting power to the rear camera to keep its battery charged. I can’t take complete credit for the solution, because it was our friend Steve who had the idea. You can see it in the video, but basically, I just drilled a hole right into the RV to run a USB cable through. Someone will ask me about the grommets I used to seal up the hole in the trim. You can find those on Amazon, here.
Once that hole was cut, everything hooked right up.
So, there you have it. This was a project on my “try to find a solution for this long-term” list, and I’m happy to have it knocked out. I’m also happy with the way the install turned out in the end, and the appearance is overall pretty good.
If you have any comments or questions, sound off in the comments below. Cheers!