Rear View Camera On Travel Trailer and 5th Wheel

Install a Rear View Camera on your Travel Trailers and 5th Wheels

When towing your travel trailer or 5th wheel, the hardest thing to do is see behind you.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s behind you such as other vehicles, pedestrians, trees, etc?  This camera system comes in handy for day-to-day towing / driving, backing up into your campsite, or even just seeing where other vehicles are on the road with you.  They give you better visibility than a conventional rear view mirror even when you’re not towing.  With the optional camera add-on to your tow vehicle as well, you can now hook up to your travel trailer or 5th wheel without guidance from another person to direct you.  I personally know this has saved my marriage on numerous occasions.

When picking your equipment to purchase, look at what best fits your budget and features you would like to enjoy.  Some features include night vision, monitor zooming, widescreen, color camera / display, and foot marker lines.

Some of the high-end radios / DVD / GPS combo head units come with camera outputs.  If you use this feature, there is no need to purchase a monitor because the camera will interface directly with this setup.  I would also suggest that if you plan on purchasing this type of system, you may want to have a dealer install this product in your tow vehicle if you are not familiar with car stereo installations.  You can come back to this article if you choose to install the camera portion yourself later.  You would just skip the monitor install portion and connect the video cables to your installed monitor.

There are two other kinds of monitors on the market today.  One is a stand-alone monitor that can mount to your dashboard by Velcro, two sided tape, or screws.  The other style monitor hangs from the existing rear view mirror in your tow vehicle.  This monitor is good if you plan on having a camera mounted both to the tow vehicle and the trailer you are towing.

There are many systems on the market that can leak water and make picture quality unbearable.  I have found that the license plate mounted monitors have a tendency to capture moisture and come out on the image making the video quality poor.  I suggest using a name brand product such as Pyle, Audiovox, or Sanyo just to name a few.  These systems generally come with the monitor, cutting tool for the camera mount, and one camera.  They do sell cameras that are already installed in sealed boxes and it may be wise to use one of these if you don’t want to build your own as laid out in the article.  These tend to be more expensive though and will work great with this system.

This system that I am about to show you and explain how to install will give you the advantage of having eyes in the back of your head at all times.  Most diesel pushers and Class C motor homes come with these handy gadgets, so why should 5th wheelers and travel trailer owners have to sacrifice this convince?

I do not recommend the wireless cameras due to the clarity and signal loss you will encounter from the rear of your tow vehicle to the cab where the monitor is installed.

Follow this simple step-by-step process and you too can enjoy all the benefits of having eyes in the back of your head.

All of these items can be purchased from your local Radio Shack or equivalent store.

Tools Needed:

  • Wire Cutters / Butt connector crimpers
  • Philip Head Screw driver
  • 50 FT of 18 Gauge Power Wire
  • 2 – 2 Position 12 Volt Switches (only one needed if not installing second camera)
  • Butt Connectors (Blue in color)
  • Butt connector rings (Blue in Color)
  • Self taping Screws
  • Bolts and Wing Nuts (Optional) See step 3 under preparing the camera(s)
  • Washers
  • Electrical Tape
  • Wire Ties
  • Electric or Cordless drill
  • Drill cut out tool (Size varies depending on camera.  Some of them come with the tool when you purchase the camera)
  • 1 composite Video Splitter (not needed if only installing 1 camera)
  • 2 composite Video to Video extenders (Female to Female) (Only 1 needed if installing 1 camera)
  • 1 50 FT composite video cable (Yellow plug)
  • 2 Project Enclosure Box(s) (6x4x2″) (only one needed if not installing second camera)
  • 4 small “L” bracket(s) (only two needed if not installing second camera)
  • Clear Calking

Camera Components Needed:

  • 2 Rear View Camera(s) with night vision – (1 if not installing one on your tow vehicle.)
  • 1 In vehicle camera monito

The first thing to remember before installing this system is that it is not difficult.  There are a lot of parts involved, but they all plug together and no real modification is needed to your trailer or tow vehicle.

In these instructions we are going to assume that you are installing 2 cameras.

Preparing the camera(s):

Step 1:

Take the 2 project boxes and cut a hole with your drill through center of the box.  Cut both the front cover and the back of the project box.  It helps for perfect alignment to keep the cover on the box while your drilling through both sides.

Step 2:

Insert the camera into cover of the project box through the hole you just drilled.  Tighten the camera holding screw that was supplied with the camera so the camera is secured in the box.  Feed the camera wires through the back of the box and add some caulking to the edges of the cover for the project box.  This will help keep moisture and water out.  Put the cover on the box and tighten the screws down.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the second camera.

Step 3:

Using the “L” Brackets, mount them with 1 screw on each side of the project boxes.  This will provide an up and down swivel motion used for when you need to aim your camera.  You can substitute screws with wing nuts and bolts for this part so you can easily tighten or loosen the brackets from the side of the boxes for ease of adjustment.

Trailer Wiring:

Step 1:

From the back of the trailer run the single 18 gauge power wire to the battery on your trailer.  You may want to run the 50’ component cable at the same time, but this wire will need to run to the front of the trailer.  When running the wires, find a good spot to hide the wires.  This would include running the wire under the trailer and using the wire ties to hold the wire you are running to the trailer frame, other wires, or propane pipes.  Stay away from the trailer brake wires so you do not interfere with their use by accidently disconnecting or cutting them.

Step 2:

Once you have the power wire run, crimp on a ring but connector to the wire on the end near the battery, but do not connect to the battery yet.

Step 3:

Run the ground wire from the camera to the frame of the trailer.  Try not to extend this ground if you can due to a better ground is a shorter ground.  Crimp on a ring butt connector to the ground wire.  Use self-tapping screws and a washer to connect the ground to the frame.  You may want to drill a small pilot hole in the frame so that you can get more leverage on the screw.

Step 4:

Use one of the 2 position toggle switches and cut the power wire you ran where you would like to install the switch.  The switch cannot be exposed to weather, so you can install this in either the battery box or somewhere in the trailer.  Just remember that both ends of the wire will be connected to the posts on the switch.  It doesn’t matter what wire connects to what post, just as long as each of the two wires are on separate posts.  The switch will be used to turn the camera off when your trailer is parked.  You can leave it on all the time, but it does draw minimum power from the battery if left in the “on” position.

Mounting and connecting the camera:

Step 1:

Now that all the wires are run you can connect the camera.  Mount the camera at your desired location on the trailer with self-tapping screws.  Use the calking and calk the screw holes that you made in the trailer.

Step 2:

Connect the composite video cable to the camera by plugging the male end of the cable to the female end of the camera video lead.

Step 3:

Connect the power wire to the camera using the (blue) butt connectors and then connect the ring butt connector to the battery on the trailer by using the screw from the battery terminal that holds the terminal down to the battery.

Step 4:

Go back to all of your butt connectors and use electrical tape to wrap the connectors.  This helps to keep moisture and dirt out of the connectors.

Tow Vehicle Monitor wiring:

Step 1:

 

Find the position in your tow vehicle where you would like to mount the monitor.  Mount the monitor using the provided hardware.  This would include Velcro, screws, or two-sided tape.

 

Step 2:

 

Run the wires from the monitor to power and ground of the tow vehicle.  You will need to take the power wire and connect it to a switched power in the tow vehicle.  I suggest using the radio remote turn on feature or radio switched power “on” wire.  Cut the wire you choose and using the (Blue) butt connector, crimp the two wires together.

 

Step 3:

 

Locate a good ground for the monitor and mount that either by crimping it to the radio ground or to a ground directly on the vehicle chassis.  If you choose to mount on the chassis, crimp on the end a ring butt connector.   Using a small drill bit, start a pilot hole and then using the self-tapping screw, mount the ground wire.

Step 4:

Run the composite video cable from the monitor to the rear of the tow vehicle.  This will connect to where you plan on mounting the camera.  Run the cable out of the vehicle via the firewall grommet and down the engine compartment.  Then run the wire under the vehicle using wire ties to tack the wire in place.  Again, avoid the break lines and this time, the fuel lines.

Step 5:

Connect the composite wire splitter to the composite video cable that you just ran to the rear of the vehicle.  Connect one of the composite video extenders to the splitter.

Mounting the Camera on tow vehicle:

Step 1:

Find a place where you would like to mount the camera on the tow vehicle.  I recommend mounting it on the license plate frame or on the bumper in a place where it will be out of the way from either your tailgate / rear door from opening and from bumping when either backing up or someone was to bump you.

Running the power wire for the camera:

Step 1:

From inside the tow vehicle, route an 18-gauge power wire from the power you choose on the radio to the rear of the vehicle where the camera is installed.

Step 2:

Using the 2-position switch, connect the switch in between the power lead for the camera and the power cable that you are splicing into.  This will be used to turn the power off to the tow vehicle camera and will allow the video to pass to the monitor from the trailer.

Step 3:

Ground the camera on the tow vehicle to the chassis.  Crimp the ground wire with a ring butt connector and mounting using the self-tapping screws.  You may want to drill a pilot hole to make it easier to mount the ground.

Connecting the camera(s) to the monitor:

Step 1:

Connect the composite video cable to the camera by plugging the male end of the cable to the female end of the composite video splitter.

Step 2:

Go back to all of your butt connectors and use electrical tape to wrap the connectors.  This helps to keep moisture and dirt out of the connectors.

Using your new camera system:

You are now ready to connect your trailer and get video from the new camera that you just installed.  Using the camera in the tow vehicle, back up using the camera and connect your trailer as you normally would.  In your tow vehicle, flip the toggle switch that turns off the camera on the vehicle.  You should now have a blank screen.  Get out of the vehicle and connect your composite video cable to the extension cable you installed on your tow vehicle.  Turn on the switch on the trailer that powers on the camera.  When you get back in the vehicle, you should now see what is behind the trailer on the monitor.  For trailer disconnection, just reverse the procedure.