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Car Care: Reversing cameras and parking sensors
By Jack Biddle • 11/10/2014
Have you noticed? A lot more vehicles are fitted with parking sensors and reverse cameras these days.
Many new vehicles have them fitted as standard kit, and they are becoming a popular aftermarket accessory on many used vehicles.
Some people may argue they make for poorer drivers and by having these sorts of devices fitted, the younger generation or the least-experienced drivers lose some of the basic driving skills such as judging parking distances and using both rear vision and side mirrors more when reversing.
There is some truth in those comments but the reality is we are living in a world where people have come to expect and rely on modern technology more and more and that includes occupant safety, entertainment and the latest in driver aids in their motor vehicles.
Vehicle design has also changed, often resulting in blind spots and obstructed views out the back for drivers when checking surroundings.
he installation of reverse cameras and/or sensors has definitely helped overcome this potential problem area for even the most experienced driver. But modern technology will never take away personal responsibility when it comes to the use of reverse cameras and parking sensors.
There have been far too many driveway accidents involving toddlers and young children; and while a camera or sensor may make a driver more aware of their surroundings, they are never a guarantee of having a clear pathway before reversing. Where there are children or pets present, or when drivers are parked in unfamiliar territory, the human eye and a walk around the vehicle plus a friendly reminder to any adults present with young children before reversing, is still the best discipline and habit to adopt.
So if you're looking for an aftermarket reverse camera and/or parking sensor kit, the first question you need to ask is, why. Is it to help you park, is it to help when reversing down a tight driveway or is it because there are young children in your family?
The perfect scenario is to have both camera and sensors fitted but in some cases it may not be necessary or affordable.
A camera is ideal to use as a final check to ensure the rear is still clear after entering your vehicle and before reversing, while the sensors may be adequate to assist when parking or better than a camera when backing down a tight driveway.
Consistently looking at a camera monitor can be a distraction when backing. Better to use properly adjusted side mirrors and the rear view mirror. If sensors are fitted they can provide the friendly warning beep when getting a little too close to solid objects.
From what I have seen, some aftermarket cameras are poorly mounted which can affect the picture quality in wet and sunny weather conditions, and can also attract unwanted road dust.
Night vision can also be poor and some cameras do not show grid lines to indicate just how close objects are behind the vehicle.
A reversing camera is an additional safety feature for vehicles with reduced visibility through the rear window.
Parking sensors also need to be spread evenly across the entire bumper, including the corners, to be totally effective. Installation is a job often best left to a professional as not every make/model is the same, so there are no clear simple one set of instructions that suit all vehicles.
Various options to mount the interior camera monitor include in-dash fitment if there is space available, or replacing the existing rear view mirror with one that has an integrated screen which operates when reverse gear is selected. The benefit of this particular design is that it's easy to install and provides a natural eyes-up look when reversing. Downside can be the small screen size.
Some of these monitors are even smart enough to include Bluetooth and navigation. From what I have seen and learned from talking to some experts in this field, overall quality of reverse camera kits can fluctuate considerably, so buying on price alone could see owners end up disappointed. Be prepared to shop around and ask if you can be given a demonstration with a vehicle that has already been fitted with a reverse camera kit and/or sensors before giving a commitment to proceed.
It's even worth asking a provider if they carry out installations or supply to any of the new or used car operators in your area which you could ask for a recommendation from. Or visit your local auto electrician and see if they have a preferred supplier of reverse camera kits and sensors.
Finally, if you happen to own a used import with an in-dash GPS unit installed that doesn't work in NZ, you may find the same companies can install a new head unit that will provide a reverse camera monitor, audio and a GPS with built-in NZ mapping software.
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