New dash cam

I’ve been obsessed about dash cameras ever since I was involved in an accident where I was not at fault, but the police officer blamed me because the other driver lied and she was a woman and I was just a dirty construction electrician. Fortunately for me, my insurance policy provided me with accident forgiveness, but that was my one and only get out of high insurance rates for free card. I knew if I had a dash cam, I would have been able to prove the officer’s prejudice.

My original dash camera was a great camera, but it had an Achilles’s heel: It had a lithium ion battery. A dash cam needs its own small power source so it can finish writing the video files and close them off properly before shutting down, because a modern dash cam is essentially a computer. The problem with batteries is they are affected by extreme heat and cold. My battery stopped working properly after about a year, likely due to the extreme temperature swings. I later found out that lithium ion batteries can explode if they get hot enough!

Another problem I’ve found with dash cams offered at local retail outlets is that they record video in some proprietary video format, so I had to install some questionable software on my computer just to view the video files. The obvious problem with that is twofold: One, you better hope the company that makes the crappy software you need keeps it up to date, and two, you can’t just plug the card into your phone to play the video.

After careful consideration, I came up with a top 10 list. I’ve determined that the perfect dash cam must:

  1. Be powered by a capacitor instead of a battery, as capacitors are unaffected by extreme temperatures.
  2. Produce non-proprietary video files that can be played on anything without the need for any special software.
  3. Be discrete and not obstruct my view (ie; behind the rear view mirror).
  4. Mount directly to the windshield with super sticky tape. No suction cup mounts, as these tend to create vibrations that distort the image, and can come undone at the worst possible moment.
  5. Accept MicroSD cards, because these fit in my phone.
  6. Offer a sufficiently wide angle of view.
  7. Work adequately at night.
  8. Provide enough detail to resolve license plate numbers on the cloudiest of days.
  9. Provide decent cable management options.
  10. Cost around $100.

I’ve found the perfect dash cam. As of this writing, this has had 294 Amazon reviews, and is nearly 5 stars. It’s the Auto-Vox A118-C B40C stealth dashboard camera:

This is the ultimate dash cam; I cannot imagine a more perfect design. It checks off every one of my needs, and then some. This thing disappears from my field of vision behind my rear view mirror, and the cable management is exceptional. I can’t believe the quality and attention to detail that went into this design for this price.

The horizontal angle of the lens can be adjusted with the knob at the side, and it clips onto a plate that’s taped to the windshield with super-sticky tape. From the outside, it’s very discreet, and hard to tell that it’s actually there unless you look for it very closely.

For nighttime performance, it does the job adequately. While I’m not able to resolve license plates (unless I’m really close), it’ll still be the eye witness I would need to absolve myself.

But yes, when someone does something extremely stupid, even on a cloudy day, their license plate number comes through loud and clear.

This is it. This is the ultimate dash cam. It even came in a very nice box that made me think I was un-boxing an iPhone! Very straightforward installation, even came with little stickies to help with cable routing. For this price, and even at higher prices, there really isn’t anything better.

Rear facing camera

Forward facing dash cams have become very popular these days, and for a very good reason: Traffic accident scams are on the rise, and without the benefit of an impartial eye witness, a victim of one of these scams can be held liable for the accident. Just type in “Dash cam scam” at Youtube to see some examples.

Rear facing dash cam
Rear facing dash cam

The only problem is, what if the scam accident happens from behind? This had happened to me in my previous car, where, while merging into the middle lane on the Don Valley Parkway in extremely slow moving traffic, the scammer decided to accelerate into me. When the officer arrived, he indicated that it appeared that I was at fault, as I was halfway into merging into the lane. The scammer left me a gap to merge into, and waited until I was halfway into the lane to make it appear as though I was at fault. If I had a rear facing dash cam, I would have been able to capture this scammer in action. Fortunately, I am a very good driver, so my insurance company gave me one free “At fault” accident, and my rates were not affected. The ridiculous “Dangerous driving” charge the cop levied against me was also dropped, so my driving record remained clean. However, this taught me a valuable lesson, and the idea of a rear facing dash cam had been burning in the back of my mind since.

There are some challenges when installing a rear facing dash cam. Running the wire in a hatchback is more complicated than is running the wire for a front facing dash cam. I wanted one that delivered decent quality and reliability, but didn’t incorporate an LCD screen. It had to be small in order to not obstruct my rearward visibility.

Fortunately, Nissan left access holes to make fishing the wire easy. Right above the dash cam mounting point is a plastic sticker covering a hole left over from manufacturing:

Dash cam mounting point
Dash cam mounting point

Using metal fish tape, I fished the wire up the driver’s side, and up through the rubber housing that protects the wires that run into the brake light and wiper motor in the hatch. I removed the driver’s side tail light to get access to the cavity, and fished the wire up through the point where the carpet and plastic meet.

There's a wire in there...
There’s a wire in there…

The real challenge was bringing the wire up through the rubber seal. I first fished in a piece of twine, then used that twine to pull the power wire through. This was the most difficult part of this job.

The power wire does fit in there, honest!
The power wire does fit in there, honest!

After that, I fished the wire through the cavity of the hatch to its final destination. I have a 3 way splitter beneath the driver’s seat, powering the front camera, back camera, and my cell phone which doubles as my GPS.

I hope you found this article helpful! If you did, please clear your cookies and follow this link to Amazon before shopping:Amazon.ca

New wheels

Today was the first real nice above zero day this year; a reprieve of a terrible winter with sub-zero temperatures in the double digits and a ruthless onslaught of snow. It was warm enough to hand-wash my Micra, and, I decided, warm enough to put the all-seasons back on. I had the snow tires mounted on the stock steelies, deciding to have the factory all-seasons mounted on 15-inch alloys.

IMGP5937I started my search at Midway Nissan, who had, on hand, one set of black and chrome alloys with “Fast” emblazoned in the middle. Too dark, I wanted bright silver to better match my car; and, more importantly, I’m not going to falsely advertise this car as fast. Quick maybe, at best, but certainly far from fast.

The man at the parts counter was honest; they wouldn’t be getting any other alloys in for another couple of months, and directed me to a place in my own back yard: Taunton Tires.

IMGP5941I wanted to stick with a 15 inch rim for two reasons: One, 15 inch tires are less expensive than 16 inch tires for this car. Two has to do with aesthetics: The gap between the edge of the rotor and the inside of the wheel well should not exceed the radius of the rotor that is showing beyond the hub of the wheel. Sorry, SR owners; it’s nothing personal, and purely subjective to my own personal tastes. I am thinking that a thicker sidewall on the tire would fill the arch a lot nicer.

IMGP5940The curves of the spokes, divided with lines, ties in to the contours of the body of this car, working much better, aesthetically speaking, with the overall flow of the design of this car than do the SR rims. The 5 spoke design ties somewhat resembles the hubcaps of my original Micra. Then there’s the brilliant silver colour: Understated, tasteful, and classy.

IMGP5938The people at Taunton Tire went the extra mile, spraying the callipers and drums with black paint to make everything look better. All for $519.80, with my factory rubber installed. Excellent value.

IMGP5936

 

Upgrade: Boot LED light

Almost as dismal as the stock interior dome light is the stock boot light. This takes a very small Festoon style light, around 28mm or so, which is very small and explains why it’s so pathetically dim.

Stock boot light
Stock boot light

I found a 30mm LED festoon light at Canadian Tire for $12.99, which really brightens things up and matches the colour temperature of my new interior light. It was a tight fit, but I found that I could bend the tabs back to accommodate it easily enough.

LED boot light
LED boot light

A nice, cheap upgrade that makes a big difference. You can buy yours by clicking here:

 

Upgrade: LED interior and license plate lighting

The days are getting shorter as the year goes on, which has made me increasingly aware of just how pathetic the single little yellowish interior light is in my Micra. Today, I decided to do something about it: I bought the Philips T10 twin pack LED light for $19.99. This is a direct plug-in replacement for the existing bulb.

Before:

Standard interior light
Standard interior light

After:

LED interior light
LED interior light

The difference is much more dramatic in the dark.

The license plate light takes the same bulb, so I put the extra bulb there.

Before:

Standard license plate light
Standard license plate light

After:

LED license plate light
LED license plate light

The same bulb is used for the parking and side marker lights; I will replace those as they burn out with these LED’s.

If you want to get a set for yourself (probably for less than I paid), click on the image below: