Why you need a dash cam
Is it me or are drivers getting worse? Not only that but more aggressive. Gone are the days when someone would make a mistake and acknowledge the fact. Today people are much more likely to blame you. Recently I followed a driver going at about 10mph down the road, clearly more interested in his phone than what was going on around him, he eventually stopped on the left hand side on the road but in such a place that I had to wait for two oncoming cars before I could drive past him. He then pulled out in front of me forcing me to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him. Then he shouted and waved his arms as if this was somehow my fault!
Then there are the uninsured drivers and the criminal gangs forcing accidents, you’re waiting to pull out of a side street, they come along the main road and slow down flashing their headlights allowing you to pull out then when you do they accelerate into you claiming you pulled out in front of them and they couldn’t stop. Oh and then there are the uninsured drivers and the ones who drive off after an accident leaving you with the bill! I was stationary in a queue of traffic when an oncoming vehicles wing mirror hit mine smashing it to pieces and he just drove off into the distance!
It’s only a matter of time before it happens to you, for the price of a tank of petrol it seems stupid not to get one. It could save you a hell of a lot of money in the future!
I’ve spent many hours looking at reviews and buying and returning many dash cams that were clearly not up to the job. A quick trawl though the models and reviews on Amazon will reveal that lots have as many one star reviews as they do five star, clearly there are a lot of dodgy and not up to the job dash cams available, unreliability and poor recording quality are common complaints. If you want to save time and simply buy that dash cam that I think is the best budget model you can click here to be taken straight to it. If you want to read about why I decided on that particular model you can click here.
I’ve had the chance to compare a few devices and I’ve included a comparison table here to make it easier for you to look for the features you want.
Batteries or capacitors?
One thing all of the dash cams that I’ve looked at have in common is they don’t work for very long on their own batteries, it seems a common complaint that people have as they seem to expect them to work for several hours like sat navs and think the batteries are faulty when they only work for a few minutes when disconnected from the car but that is how they are designed. Some companies are not even fitting them with batteries at all and simple have a capacitor that hold enough of a charge to let the device save its data and power down. Why? Well you can make a dash cam a lot smaller if you don’t have to have a battery in it, also the life of the device is much longer, as you probably know with your mobile that after a year or so your battery is not what it was when you first had it. Another reason is that some batteries have been known to fail or overheat in the hot conditions of a car, sometimes with catastrophic actions, I must mention that this is quite rare but never the less if you have no battery there in the first place it’s not something you even have to consider.
What do you want it to do?
It seems a simple answer, to record any accident that you may unfortunately be involved in for the purpose of protecting you if false claims are made as to what actually happened when it’s not our fault. There are however other features to be aware of.
Some of the more expensive cameras have GPS and with the right software installed they will show you the footage that the camera captures along with a map showing movements of the car so you can see where you were alongside the video. The GPS can also be used to acquire speed data which is also shown.
Auto start Recording
Sounds pretty basic but having it automatically start when you turn on the ignition is one less thing to have to think about. You don’t want to miss recording something because you forget to turn the camera on!
The way almost all cameras work is to record video in chunks. You can usually set in the menu how big these chunks will be, anything from one minute to fifteen is normal; when the card gets full the oldest file gets overwritten. This means in practice that you don’t have to worry about things like remaining recording time but some of the cheaper models miss a few seconds when ending one segment and starting another. This is a very important requirement as you really don’t want to miss anything while you’re on the road because you can guarantee that’s the bit you will need. There can’t be anything more frustrating than having a dash cam miss an important event due to not having seamless recording.
Obviously you will want to have decent recording quality. If you can’t make out number plates it simple not worth using. You really need something that is going to record at 30 frames per second and in HD 1080. Some of the newer ones can record at 1296 which is even better; it does give you the ability to be able to zoom into the video in more detail. Another thing to bear in mind with the cheaper models is although the specifications may add up looking ok the recording quality can be very suspect. One of the things that can’t be measured in figures is the ability to react to light changes that can occur when you driving under trees in bright sunlight. This is something that can throw a cheaper cam and produce dodgy results. The one I use is very good at eradicating some of these problems and can be seen here.
Where to fit it?
This pretty much depends on the device you get, there are a few places available. Some have two channels for two cameras, one points forward on the front window and the other sticks to the back window to record rear action. At the moment I’m happy just with a single front mounted device.
You can mount the camera on the dash board using a small stick on pad for the suction cup to grip to like this one here. I use one of these to stick my sat nav onto and it’s been really good, its where I want it and is a solid as a rock, you could use these to fix your cam either in the middle of the dash board or over the passenger side, you’ll have to do a bit or trial and error with recording to see what’s best. Remember though that you could be committing an offence if it obscures your vision while driving!
The most popular place to fit a miniature dash cam like the one I use is to mount it behind the rear view mirror, that way it gets the best view of the road and it’s not blocking your view. You won’t be able to fit it there though if your model is too large. That’s another reason for my choice.
How to fit a dash cam
The simplest way is to use it like a sat nav and just use the suction cup to stick it to the windscreen, plug it in and switch it on, but then you’ll have the wire to contend with. As my device is mounted behind the rear view mirror I didn’t want the wire dangling down the window so I routed it up into the gap between the windscreen and the cars ceiling. Just pushing the wire in to the gap is enough to hold it and then down the side and under the dash board. Then instead on occupying the one power socket that I have I decided to route it to the car fuse panel.
You can get a fuse splitter like this here, it simple plugs in where you remove a fuse and you plug it in and then you replace your original fuse and there’s another socket for you to plug another fuse in to protect and power your dash cam. You then connect a socket to the trailing red lead and put the whole assemble under the fuse compartment or if it can’t fit in there you can fit these self-adhesive cable holders to fit it under the dash board. You can use your cars documentation to show you what the fuses are. I connected mine to the fuse that powers the car CD player. This is useful as it only becomes powered when you turn on the ignition.
Do you leave it when you leave the car?
A difficult one, more a question of do you leave it permanently set up and connected. I’m more leaning to yes to be honest. If you leave it in the car and on the windows there’s always the chance that someone’s going to see it and break in to your car, on the other hand there’s always the chance that if they notice it they may think it’s a police car set up to trap car thieves and leave it alone. You can now get stickers for your windscreen pointing out to anyone who reads it that you car is fitted with CCTV for accident and security purposes, you can get them here.
I’m pretty sure of one thing though and that’s if you do unplug it and take it out of the car, the one occasion you can’t be bothered to connect it all up because you’re only going round the corner will be the one occasion you will need it and really wish you had connected it up. A bit like your computer, you will only really bother about backing up your hard drive once it’s crashed and you’ve lost everything, then it’s too late! The model that I use and recommend is one off the smallest and unobtrusive that I’ve come across and it’s not all that noticeable where it’s positioned.
You can always leave your camera recording while you’re not in the car. There are devices available that plug between your dash cam and your power adapter that will charge up while you’re driving and then that charge will continue to power your camera so as to not use your car battery. After all the last thing you want is for it to drain your battery so you can’t start your car!