Ultimate 2017 Tesla Dashcam Guide

This guide helps you understand the need for a dashcam and how to get one that best fits your requirements. You can install it yourself with our guide or use a third-party installer.  Last Update: Nov-2017.

Five Reasons to get a Dashcam
  1. Security – you’d like to record anyone messing with your car, keying it or general vandalism
  2. Accident Recording – If you’re a good driver and get into an accident, it’s more likely the other party caused it. Having a video record of the event can help confirm what happened.
  3. Parking lot bumps – Another driver bumps or scratches your car while you are away, and fails to leave a note. Having a video may show the event, the perpetrator and their license plate.
  4. Third-party events – crashes or problems you’re not involved in, but would love to have recorded. This might be red-light runners or accidents between other cars in front or behind you.
  5. Video log of a trip – Record your travels to show your family, friends or put on YouTube.
Comparison Guide

There are dozens of dashcams available today, but we’ve narrowed the list to three popular dashcams that are good fits for the Tesla and were new in 2016 and 2017.  There are a lot of budget dashcams. We don’t recommend them, as they usually suffer from poor build quality and low visual quality.

ManufacturerBlackVueThinkwareViofo/SpyTec
Model
(Links to Amazon)
DR650S-2CH 16 GB
DR650S-2CH 128GB
DR750S-2CH 16GB
F770 with Rear, 32 GB
F800 Pro Bundle
A119 with GPS
Product BlackVue Dashcam Thinkware Dashcam Viofo Dashcam
Rear wired cameraYes, 720p (650S)
1080P (750S)
Yes, 1080pNo, use 2nd unit
Street Price$369 – $439$389/$499$99
Included SD Card16-128 GB32 GBNo
Resolution Front1080p 30 fps (650S)
1080P 60 fps (750S)
1080p 30 fps1440p 30 fps,
1080p 60 fps
Max bit rate Mbps
F=Front, R=Rear
F: 10, R: 5 (650S)
F: 12, R:10 (750S)
F: 9.5, R: 822
Wide Dynamic RangeNoYesYes
Video FormatMP4MP4MP4
Video PlaybackNoNoYes
WiFiYesYesNo
App Win/MacBlackVue ViewerF770 Viewer
F800 Pro Viewer
Dashcam Viewer
App Tablet/PhoneAndroid and iOSAndroid and iOSNo
Audio RecordYesYesYes
GPSYesYesYes
Backup PowerCapacitorCapacitorCapacitor
Lens129° (650S)
139° (750S)
140°160° f1.8
Lens AdjustVertical onlyVertical onlyVertical & Horiz.
LCD displayNoNo2” Color
Shock SensorYesYesYes
Motion DetectionYesYesYes
Max SD Card128 GB128 GB*128 GB*
Function buttons255
Size119 mm wide,
36 mm diameter
110 mm wide,
32 mm x 41 mm
70 mm wide,
50 mm x 45 mm
Volts/Current12-24v, 400 mA12-24v, 290 mA5v, 400 mA
Power , typical5.6 W4.1 W2.0 W
ManualUser Manual 650S
User Manual 750S
F770 User Manual
F800 Pro User Manual
User manual
ReleasedJun-2016 (650S)
Sep-2017 (750S)
Jul-2016/Sep-2017Jul-2016

* Manufacturer states 64 GB max, but owners have no problems with 128 GB

Each dashcam has several additional features, some unique to a specific brand. You’re unlikely to need or want to use those features in a Tesla, and we didn’t include them here.  All three dashcams can be removed from the attached mount, have loop recording modes, have parking modes that only records when the image changes and shock detection to prevent overwrite of that video segment. They all do a good job at recording video in harsh conditions such as direct sun and nighttime.

Other Options

These are dashcams that other Tesla owners have purchased are worth consideration:

Azdome GS63H – One of the first to offer 4K 24 fps recording (2160p), 150 degrees wide, f1.8 lens, GPS and a 2.4″ LCD screen. Suction mount allows easy attachment/removal, but it not discreet when attached. Cost is $70 without SD card. Released April-2017.Azdome_gs63h
BlackVue DR490-2H – The newest 2 channel model looks similar to the DR650 and upgrades the rear camera to 1080p recording.  Cost is $230 with 16 GB SD card. Do not confuse the very similar model name DR490L-2H which is physically quite different, but also offers front and back 1080p resolution.  No WiFi in either model. No internal GPS, but external GPS is an option. Announced in July 2017.DR490-2CH
Vantrue R2 – Dashcam has 1296p 30fps recording (2304x1296P), 170 degrees wide angle, f2.0 lens and a large 2.7″ LCD screen. Suction mount allows easy attachment/removal. Cost is about $125 without GPS and without SD card. Optional GPS mount available. Released  August-2016.vantrue_r2
BlackVue DR650S/750S Summary

BlackVue dashcams have been very popular with Tesla owners in the past and I own an older model. On the 650S the low-resolution rear camera is a disappointment and the newer 750S is preferred.

Positives

Includes rear camera
Smallest size of the choices
Single SD card to record both front and back cameras
Cloud option to access remotely over WiFi
WiFi to phones and tablets
Best looking dashcam

Negatives

Low resolution 720p rear camera (650S only)
No Wide Dynamic Range feature
App required to change settings other than WiFi on/off
Very slow to fix bugs (app shows an odd symbol for a backslash for over 3 years)
Optional BlackVue hardwire kit makes installation easier ($16, or cut included cord)
Pricy

Thinkware F770/F800 Summary

An excellent choice, although the most expensive.It offers a full 1080p rear camera and all the key features.  The F800 improves the low-light recording. Thinkware has three very similar products, the F770, the newer F800, and the F800 Pro. The F800 has better low-light recording. The F800 non-pro and pro have really minor differences that may not matter to most Tesla owners.

Positives

Includes high resolution rear camera
Single SD card to record both front and back cameras
Amazon package (above) includes optional hardwire kit
WiFi to phones and tablets

Negatives

Requires 3-wire power (always on and switched power) making installation more complex
When parked, always turns off in 48 hours with no disable option
App required to change most settings
Pricy

Viofo A119 Summary

This is the bargain of the bunch while offering different features and far higher video quality. In side-by-side tests, many places license plates are readable where in 1080p the plates are not readable.  The UI is lackluster, but at least it has one – others require the use of an app to change settings. I also own this unit.  For the price, it is a good value, but the quirks diminish the shine and could be too annoying for some to use.

Positives

Very High resolution, dramatically better than others
Wider camera angle captures more useful video
Can take Jpg snapshots while video recording with a button push
On screen display – can playback video in unit, confirm date/time, recording modes, etc.
Can be powered by USB
Low price

Negatives

In settings mode, button choices are confusing
No rear camera option (although two units could be used)
Optional 12v to 5v hardwire kit required for Tesla ($11)
SD card not included (Class 10 SD cards are cheap nowadays)
Third-party app required for viewing on PC/Mac, no WiFi

Resolution Comparison

Here’s two samples comparing a 1080p frame with a 1440p frame.  These were taken in the same location at the same time in my Tesla. The dashcams were about 5 inches apart.

Dashcam Resolution

Next, we look at the car on the far right at full resolution. Both are the same portion of the image, only cropped at 344×343 pixels. No image manipulation was done.  The portion from 1080p on the left makes it very hard to even tell what brand of car it is and it appears to be a black car. With the portion from the 1440p image on the right, you get enough detail to clearly make out the license plate, that the car is a grey Toyota Camry. If you know license plates, you can also tell it is a California plate.

Compare Resolution

The 1080p image came from a BlackVue DR500GW-HD, while the Viofo A119 was used for the 1440p image. Settings on each device for maximum quality were used, and the frames were extracted from video while the car was in motion. Latest firmware in each as of Jan-2017 was used. We didn’t cherry pick these images – we compared multiple frames in different situations and saw similar results. We really wish more vendors would boost the video quality as it makes a huge difference.

How Many Cameras?

The prime need is a front camera and covers much of what you’ll want to record. A rear camera is a bonus and give you far more coverage.  Many owners are opting for dual camera solution today.

A few owners go all the way and install 4 cameras, getting full 360-degree coverage.  For example, using two BlackVue 650S-2CH cameras, you would mount one primary at the front, and its rear camera on one side. Mount the 2nd BlackVue on the rear to get full 1080p rear coverage, and use its second camera on the other side.  The lower resolution side cameras would be mounted in the front door’s small triangle window area.

Why doesn’t Tesla offer a Dashcam Feature?

All tesla’s have a rear 720p color camera, but all other Autopilot cameras are lower-resolution monochrome. Dashcam and consumer cameras normally generate a pixel from four color filtered cells – 1 green, 1 red and 2 blue to improve blue sensitivity. For autopilot, cameras are built differently. Front cameras are usually made with a pixel made from 3-non-filtered cells for monochrome maximum dynamic range and 1 red for stop-lights and brake light detection.  Other cameras may be entirely monochrome. Still it might be possible to record video, but it is unknown if the cameras are connected in a way they could be recorded. In AP1 the front camera also uses a non-standard 36 fps rate. Tesla has been looking into providing some dashcam like abilities for vehicles with HW2 or later that have 8+ cameras. Still the best quality will come from the installation of your own dashcam cameras.

Front Dashcam Location

Ideally, you want it out of sight with the camera up high and centered on the windshield. For pre-AP cars, a good location is below the rearview mirror housing. On AP cars, you may want to place it on the right side of the housing up higher.  The right side may also be a better place so the dashcam gets the best signal for GPS. This location should have a ‘clear’ area that does not have the metallic IR shield and/or it helps to be near the glass edge. Another consideration is if buttons are in reach or if that is even important to you. Rarely will you need to press buttons while driving. During installation, be sure the lens is not obstructed by the black area of the windshield. Confirm the lens is in the area cleared by the wipers. Confirm the unit and power connector will not bump into the headliner or mirror housing. Leave room to make the unit removable too, which varies by dashcam selected.

Rear Dashcam Location

Position the dashcam at the top of the hatch glass, so the dashcam lens is centered in the hatch. Ideally, you want the view to not be obstructed by a defroster line. Depending on the design (i.e. the DR650 and F770/F800) you should consider attaching the dashcam to the black plastic hatch cover rather than the glass. We’re concerned that if you need to remove the mount, it will damage the defroster wires.

Always-On Power

You really want to keep your dashcam powered on all the time. The power use is minuscule in comparison with the battery capacity and you’ll be able to record events while parked and you’re away from your vehicle.

Keeping the power on is a problem on ICE cars, and various solutions designed for ICE cars works poorly on the Tesla.  For example, the BlackVue recommends using the PowerMagic add-on. Do not use it!  In the case of the Thinkware F770/F800, the 3 wire hardwire kit must be used to get around the power sensing limitation of its design.  For the A119, we’ve selected a hardware kit that works great in the Tesla. Be aware some other kits will power down when the 12v battery is low. Trust me, you do not want this to happen!  The Tesla 12v battery may appear “low” to a dashcam multiple times each day even while driving as the Tesla 12v battery is recharged automatically as needed from the main battery.

All dashcams come with a 12v power adapter. We recommend you try out your new dashcam before mounting using this connection. Get the hang of how the dashcam works and verify the video produced looks fine.  Since Tesla’s 12v power plug turns off when the car is off, it is a poor choice for day-to-day use.

Front Camera Installation

Microphone Panel Power

Most Model S cars include an always on power source in the headliner, behind the microphone panel.  To open this panel, pull down using your fingers, at the back edge. Two snaps will release and it will hinge down.

mike cover opening

There should be a 4-pin, 3-wire connector taped to the panel, or in Europe, cars with the pano roof option may be connected to the intrusion module (part of the EU security package).

headliner connection

Intrusion module connector after being untapped from Microphone module

During a small period in late 2013 to early 2014 some cars do not have this connector. If missing, you’ll need to route the wires to another point, such as the ODB II connector in the driver’s foot well.

Routing Power through the Headliner

We want to remove the small visor receiver to make running the wire through the headliner easier. First push the visor to the side. Using a small screwdriver, pop the plastic tab on the visor receiver. Be aware it is hard to snap open. Using a torx T15 bit, unscrew the screw and remove the receiver.

Visor screw

Visor receiver with T15 screw exposed

Use a plastic pry tool to temporarily open a small gap between the windshield and the headliner near where you want power wire to exit the headliner. Leave the pry tool in place to keep a 1/8” opening or so.  I picked a spot about 5” from the AP/rear view mirror housing.

From the microphone housing opening, feed Fish Tape over and down through the location of the pry tool. I connected a 3-foot string to the fish tape.

Fish tape in headliner

Blue pry tool in headliner, fish tap with string attached

Pull back the fish tape so the string is now hanging out both sides. Remove the string from the fish tape. At the microphone panel opening side, we tied the string to the power connector side of the dashcam power cable and pulled the string from the windshield side to get the cable through the headliner. Adjust the length and position of the cable to connect to the dashcam without a lot of slack. Remove the pry tool.

Power Connection

You DO NOT want to install or use PowerMagic (BlackVue). It will only cause problems. There are two microphones with 3 wires each. Do not connect to either of these, as there is no power on these connections. If you have the 4-pin intrusion module connector, you can connect these different ways:

  1. You can tap into the wires with 20-24 gauge red Posi-Taps.
  2. If the connector is not attached to a module:
    • You can use a Male header strip. Cut off 3-pins of the strip and solder the red wire to pin 1 and ground to pin 3 (pin 2 is unused). Use heat shrink tubing to prevent shorts and clearly mark pin 1. I used a silver marker, but better to use red shrink wrap on the +12v lead.  On my header, I pulled out the header center pin 2, which made it easy to tie wrap the header to the Tesla connector (to avoid coming apart under vibration).
      header connection
    • We located this 4-Pin Fan connector that will fit. Wires are pre-attached, so cut off the unneeded female end and solder your power leads to the pin 1 and 3 pigtails or use solderless connectors.
      fan-connector
    • You can buy the mating connector – TE part 3-968696-2 along with two crimp pins 1-928918-1 (sold in strip of 100).

Intrusion Module Connector Pinout

Pin 1: 12v, wire color: Red/Dark Blue (older cars and AP2 cars), Tan/Black (after Oct-2014, before AP2). We’ve also heard one unidentified car had a gray wire!

Pin 2: LIN bus (do not use this wire), wire color: Light Green/Red

Pin 3: Ground, wire color: Black

Pin 4: Unused

For the Thinkware F770/F800, you need to buy the 3-wire hardwire kit. The red and black power leads can be connected to power as shown above. The ACC yellow wire must be connected to a switched power source, so the parking mode works.  While we didn’t install this dashcam, others have found the Tesla rear view mirror uses switched power and you may want to tap into this connection.

The mirror switched power wire color has changed over time. For older cars, you need to Yellow/Dark Green wire. For cars built after Oct-2014, the wire color is just Yellow. We have not confirmed the color in AP2 cars, likely still Yellow.

The mirror cable may be accessible from the microphone opening on pre-AP cars. It’s a separate bundle of wires, wrapped in black. With AP1 or AP2, you may need to disassemble the camera housing and locate the rear-view mirror connector and tap into the correct wire using a Posi-Tap. We recommend you first confirm it is a switched 12v power wire with a voltmeter. Otherwise, you may need to pull out part of the headliner (quite difficult) to access the bundle of wires with the switched power.

For all dashcams, If you are unable to get always-on power in the headliner area, you can run the wires across the header and down driver’s or passenger’s A pillar.

IMPORTANT: Do not push the wire into the side of the pillar! It houses part of the side curtain airbag. Remove the pillar by first removing the small rectangular plastic tab that hides a screw.

A pillar

Side post screw exposed on passenger A pillar

Remove the T25 screw and snap out the pillar cover from the top. The bottom may be tightly secured and has the connection to the tweeter. You can work with it still attached at the bottom and save some aggravation.  You’ll see a track in the pillar that is designed to feed a wire without interfering with the airbag. Be sure to use this channel.

A pillar channel

The black side panel of the dash is held on with three snaps. Just pull towards the door to remove, and disconnect the FOB bar antenna. The lower under-dash panel is held with one screw and snaps downward. Be careful not to pull or damage the knee airbag behind the panel.

Feed the wire down to the ODB II port. You can use a ODB II port connector to get always-on power without having to tap into any Tesla wires. If you use a bare ODB connector, pin 16 is 12v, and pins 4 and 5 are ground.

Rear Camera Installation Basics

The rear camera installation is a bit tricky. Dual dashcams require a wire that is routed between the cameras. Single cameras, such as using the A119 or any other single dashcams for the rear only require power.

IMPORTANT: Do not route wires along the top-sides of the car. The wire is likely to interfere with the side curtain airbag deployment, and you don’t want to accidentally puncture the airbag while routing the wire.  We’ve seen many installations make this serious error!

Connecting between the front and rear dashcams

It is necessary to either route the wires across the center of the headliner (metal roofs) or route the wires down and along the bottom door sills.  Routing can return up either side pillar and across the front of the headliner. There is a wire routing channel in the pillar that must be used to avoid the side airbag. See the prior section on routing a wire through the side pillar.

Rear Power Only

If the rear dashcam is stand-alone, you only need power, and the installation becomes easier.  While the power could be routed to the ODB II port near the driver’s foot well, there is a closer spot if your car has the powered liftgate option. In this case, you connect to the always-on power lead on the Hatch Control Module.

To get to the module, it is located on the passenger side, behind the trunk’s side panel.  We are still preparing disassembly instructions and photos.

There are two connectors going to the Hatch Control module, a 20-pin and a 10-pin. You’ll tap into the 10-pin connector.

Pin 8: Red/Gray (thick wire), +12v
Pin 7: Black (thick wire), Ground

You can use two 16-18 gauge blue Posi-Taps to make these connections.

Setup

General Tips for All Dashcams

When you first apply power to any dashcam, it often takes 10-30 seconds to boot up and come on line. The delay is not important in normal operation, as it remains on all the time.

To remove the SD card, first remove dashcam power. Wait 5-10 seconds until you see it power down. There is a backup capacitor to allow time to stop recording and properly stop writing to the SD card. Once powered down, you can remove the SD card.

When removing the micro SD card, press in to release. Keep a finger close behind it as it is spring loaded and can pop out and easily get lost!

BlackVue – All Models

You must either install the BlackVue to your phone or tablet, or install an app to your PC (Windows or Mac).  You should also download and install the latest dashcam firmware. Full instructions for BlackVue’s apps or installer here. For a PC, you must also decide if you want to use BlackVue’s innovative cloud service or move the SC card between the dashcam and your PC.

Use the BlackVue on a phone or tablet and connect via WiFi to the dashcam. Download the Android app from GooglePlay or iOS app from the Apple App Store.

Thinkware F770/F800

You can get the latest Thinkware firmware at Downloads.  First choose your Dashcam at the top (F770 or F800), and then select the Firmware. To upgrade to the new firmware:

  1. Unzip the downloaded firmware zip file
  2. Format your Micro SD card in your computer to FAT32
  3. Copy the unzipped firmware folder onto the root of the SD card
  4. Insert the SD card into your camera and turn on the power
  5. Wait for the camera to announce “Upgrade is now complete, continuous recording will now start.” Thinkware recommends not turning off the dashcam power until it begins continuous recording as it can cause permanent damage to the dash cam.

On the same downloads page, you can get the PC Viewer for both Windows and a Mac.  After downloading, run the downloaded file to being the installation.  You use this app with the SC card temporally removed from the dashcam.

Alternatively, you can use the Thinkware Dash Cam Mobile Viewer on a phone or tablet and connect via WiFi to the dashcam. Download the Android app from GooglePlay or iOS app from the Apple App Store.

Either method allows you to change various settings in the dashcam to suit your needs, and view videos.

Viofo/SpyTec A119

Download the latest A119 firmware and unzip the file (2.0 as of this writing)

  1. Format the SD card by camera or on computer as FAT32 (note Windows cannot format FAT32 greater than 32 GB – use an alternative utility or format within the dashcam).
  2. Insert card in camera and connect it to your PC using USB cable.
  3. Copy only the LDBA119.bin on the root of the SD card.
  4. After LDBA119.bin is copied to the SD card disconnect the dashcam from your computer.
  5. Reconnect the dashcam to your computer and wait few seconds until you see Mass Storage on the LCD screen.
  6. Delete the LDBA119.bin file from the SD card using your PC and copy the FWBA119.bin file to the root of the SD card. Disconnect the dashcam from your computer.
  7. Reconnect the dashcam to your computer and wait until you see Mass Storage, the front LED blinks while the upgrade is in progress. After upgrade completes successfully, the FWBA119.bin file is automatically deleted by the dashcam.
  8. Now you can disconnect the camera from PC and connect it to the vehicle’s power connection or if you want to experiment with it, power it from any AC to USB adapter (i.e. not the PC).

To change settings, if the Rec button is red (i.e. recording) press it once to stop recording – it takes a second, but should switch to flashing. Then press Menu. Ignore the bottom line of the display- the choices do not relate to button positions!

Use the < Rec and Mic > buttons to scroll through the setting choices and the center Warning button to view or change a setting.

When viewing a setting, the < Rec and Mic > buttons shift through the choices for that setting. To save a setting press the center Warning button. To exit without saving press the Menu button.

Here’s our recommend quick starting point for the settings:

Resolution: 1560 x 1440P 30 fps (default)
Loop recording (each file duration): 3 minutes (default)
EV (Exposure Value): 0 (default) or if using CFL filter: +1
WDR (Wide Dynamic Range): On
Time-lapse: Off (default)
Motion Detection: On
GPS: On (only works when connected to GPS mount)
G-sensor: (shock recording): Middle Sensitivity (default)
Time Zone:  GMT-8 (for Pacific Standard Time)
others – leave at defaults

Enhancing your Dashcam

One simple enhancement is the installation of a circular polarizing filter (CPF) for your dashcam. This greatly reduces glare from windows and other cars. These are snap on filters, so are easy to add.  The filter will reduce the brightness slightly, so you may want to increase the exposure a few stops in the settings.

BlackVue – A third party offers a DR650 CPF available for the front dashcam for $50.

Thinkware – We were unable to find a CPF for their dashcams.

Viofo/SpyTecA119 CFL available for $15
cpl

Viofo Snap on CPL Filter

Micro SD Cards
sd cards

Most dashcams use a micro SD card to record the video. Since video is continuously recorded to the SD card, it’s important to get a high-quality card designed for continuous HD video recording. A card rated for Class 10 is a minimum speed threshold and UHS 1 is even better (and required for 4K video).  You may also want to get a card with high capacity, 64 to 128 GB to increase the storage time before video is overwritten.

Typical recording time at maximum quality, 30 fps

Micro SC Card Size1-channel 1080P1-channel 1440p2-channels 1080p
16 GB3 hours 20 minutes1 hours 49 minutes1 hour 25 minutes
32 GB6 hours 40 minutes3 hours 39 minutes2 hours 50 minutes
64 GB13 hours 20 minutes7 hours 18 minutes5 hours 40 minutes
128 GB26 hours 40 minutes14 hours 36 minutes11 hours 20 minutes

Fake Drives

Be aware there are a lot of fake and damaged SD cards sold on-line. If the price is too good to be true, it’s a fake drive. Scammers have figured out how to remark a cheap slow drive as a larger capacity and override internal values to make it look like a larger drive. For example, a 2 GB drive is sold as fake 64 GB drive. It will appear as 64 GB from your PC/Mac, even if you reformat it. After writing more than the real capacity, the data is either lost or overwrites earlier data, but no errors occur. When attempting to read the data, most of it will be corrupted.

To avoid a fake drive, buy only a name brand and buy from retail or a trusted online retailer like Amazon BestBuy or Newegg. Avoid opened packages and auction sites like eBay as most drives are fakes.  The scammer hopes you’ll not discover the drive is crap until the return period expires.

Limited Life

There are two types of flash memory – low cost TLC, that can be overwritten about 500 times before failure, and the more expensive, but more durable MLC, which are 3 or more times as durable and can be overwritten about 1500 to 3000 times.  MLC cards usually have better error correction and wear leveling to further increase the lifespan. The larger the drive, the longer it will last, as the data is not overwritten as frequently.

Our Recommendations (all are the longer life MLC types)

Micro SD CardStreet PriceCategoryReadWrite
Transcend High Endurance 16 GB$19Class 1012 MB/s20 MB/s
Transcend High Endurance 32 GB$37Class 1012 MB/s20 MB/s
Transcend High Endurance 64 GB$62Class 1012 MB/s20 MB/s
Transcend Ultimate 128 GB$190UHS-195 MB/s60 MB/s
SanDisk High Endurance 32 GB$17Class 1020 MB/s20 MB/s
SanDisk High Endurance 64 GB$45Class 1020 MB/s20 MB/s

Note that Lexar brand is being discontinued, so we’re not recommending them anymore. SanDisk other than High Endurance is not recommended for BlackVue due to reported boot problems.

32 thoughts on “Ultimate 2017 Tesla Dashcam Guide

  1. AstonZagato says:

    Does anyone have a recommended installer in the SE of England (Cambridge area). I could do the Topfit install myself but the quality of image looks pretty poor. More complex hardwiring is beyond me.

  2. bayareadriver says:

    I am considering a 4ch installation with cameras mounted on the front door triangle area. How do I run the wires to this area? Do I remove the interior door panels? Is there a grommet for me to run the wires from the front of the car to the interior of the door?

  3. DTank63 says:

    I have had a BlackVue for a few months, and it’s time to hard wire.

    However I only get 10v off the intrusion module connector. I found the connector taped to the back of the mic plate as expected but the wiring into the connector is different than described. I have 3 wires: Grey, Green/Red, Black. Green/Red is + and Black is ground. Grey seems to do nothing. Any suggestions?

    • Moderator says:

      Very odd – The Grey wire should have 12v (actually closer to 14v). The Green/Red is the LIN data bus and shouldn’t be used. If the Grey wire is dead, I wonder if the fuse for the alarm is missing or open. Roll down a window, close the car and lock it with the FOB. Then open the door by reaching in and pulling the inside handle. The Alarm should go off. If it doesn’t, there is something wrong with the alarm circuit (likely the fuse), which is the same power as connected to the grey wire in the connector. You can try and fix it yourself, but if you’re near Tesla service, they should fix it under warranty (i.e. the alarm doesn’t work). I’m fairly confident that once the alarm works, you’ll have power. Now if the alarm does work, and there is no power on the grey wire, it may be a disconnected or cut wire somewhere in the wiring harness (very hard to find). I’d at least try and tap into the grey wire before it goes into the connector (or probe it with a needle) as perhaps the connector crimp is bad. Let us know what you find out and good luck!

  4. JM69 says:

    Hi! I purchased 2 Spytec A119 and was trying to install them on my X90D. I was planning to use the OBD-II port for constant 12V power, but it seems there’s no power on the port in my car. I found on another forum that some TMX owners had the same issue, seems it comes from a 5V fuse located close to the driver’s right foot. I was searching for support around me in France before stretching to try to reach the fuse, and thant’s when someone indicated that the OBD-II port is disconnected when the car is closed… do you confirm that ? Is it worth trying to replace the fuse for the OBD port or should I go another way for constant 12V ? Thanks for your help !

    • JM69 says:

      Sorry, I should have started by thanking you for this excellent and very detailed post, which is going to be very helpful when I start installing the dashcams… :-)

    • Moderator says:

      In the past the ODB port has constant power on Teslas, so I suspect the fuse may be the issue. You may find another 12v source in the fuse panel, but you’ll need to confirm any choice is always on power. On the MS there have been open slots where you can insert a fuse and get power. Not elegant but a clean way to go. This older Dashcam article shows one way to do this (on the S): https://teslatap.com/modifications/dash-cam/ Sorry, but I don’t have a fuse map for the X, or I’d make a couple of suggestions as to what fuse to use.

      • JM69 says:

        Thanks for your answer, I’ll check the OBD fuse & keep you posted !

        • JM69 says:

          oh… before I go and put the fingers in the fuse box, how about this other way ?
          Unlike the other dashcams, the A119 runs on 5V power & 400mA current (I guess that’s with the display on, so maybe even less with the screen saver ?). 2 dashcams running during 24hrs would use just a bit less than 20,000 mAh.
          For 30$ I can easily buy a 30,000 mAh power bank that I could connect permanently to one of the USB ports in the central console. The power bank would be charging whenever I drive and providing ~36hrs of autonomy to the front & rear dashcams (seems more than enough as I wouldn’t be parking the car on the street for such a long time!!)
          2 advantages : 1) easy to install and hide under the phone dock, and 2) it would avoid drawing current from the 12V battery while the car is parked.
          I’d be happy to read your thoughts before proceeding… thanks !

          • Moderator says:

            That’s a clever solution. I don’t see any problems with it. Note that I have zero concerns about drawing power from the car’s 12v system while parked. If there was no other loads on the batteries, it would last more than 2 years on a full charge.

          • Willfly says:

            Hi,

            Your solution with a powerbank is seducing. I am still wondering what is the best path for the powercable from the camera to the phone dock area. What is your choice for that? Thanks
            William (Paris)

          • Moderator says:

            You’d go along the headliner, down one of the side pillars (see installation notes in the article above), then under the dash and/or under the carpet. If you have a console, you can pull off a side panel partly and thread a wire through the hole in the back of the console. See our Tshow project for more details on routnig a wire through the back of the console: https://teslatap.com/modifications/tshow-part-8-installation/. It’s a bit of a pain, but I’ve done it.

          • Willfly says:

            Thank you for your answer, I’m waiting for the hardware..

          • JM69 says:

            Ok, some updated news… The solution with the power bank works, but you have to take care about 2 things. First of all, your power bank needs to be able to deliver power to the dashcams AND be charged at the same time (not all of them can do that)…
            But more importantly : you have to be spending a lot of time behind the wheel ! The power bank does not recharge that fast while driving, and in my case the ratio driving vs. parked is insufficient to recharge it fully.
            I have finally tested the OBD port in my X90D, and I confirm that is is powered even when the car is locked or when you ask for a full power off from the main screen. My problem was coming from the OBD plug I purchased which was malfunctioning… I will get another one and still go with this solution.

  5. TeslaBargain says:

    Hi there,

    I’m just considering the new Thinkware F800 for our facelift Model S with AP1, European intrusion detection package and solid roof. I was hoping to find a professional installer in my country, but to no avail. I am really afraid to do it myself, but your article at least gave me a some hope. It would be great if you could go into even more details.

    Am I assuming right, that the mentioned mating connector – TE part 3-968696-2 is supposed to be put between the 4-pin plug and the intrusion detection module, for not having to use a Posi-Tap?

    Not sure about the third wire of the 3-wire hardware kit for the Thinkware. Is it hard to find that switched power connection in that area? I can not see myself trying to pull out that part of the headliner, and I’m not sure how the camera or mirror housing can be dismantled without damaging it.

    And then about getting in the wire from the front to the back for the rear camer. How is it possible to route the wire across the center of the headliner? It would be great if that part of the installation could be shown with more info and pictures.

    Greetings,
    Michael

    • Moderator says:

      Great that you’re thinking ahead! For Europe, the TE connector will not work as it is occupied by the intrusion detector. I’d recommend going with posi-taps. The third switched power line on the Thinkware is a slight pain (they really should redesign it like the BlackVue). On the older Model S, there is a wire in the mirror that can be tapped. On cars with Auto-pilot, the same wire is in the area, but very difficult to get too. I’d recommend running a wire to the passenger side fuse block (LHD cars, not sure on RHD). You pull out the sill to access these fuses. I’m sure one fuse would have switched power, but I’ve not tested it out.

      I’ve been on some other projects and need to get back to a writeup on the rear wiring with pictures. Probably not until September.

      • TeslaBargain says:

        I hope I did understand that correctly, that for a BlackVue dash cam without the PowerMagic you only need to tap two wires that are easily accessible from the intrusion module plug, so no third wire for switched power, right?

        I’ve already given up on the Thinkware F800 again and will now be waiting for the successor of the BlackVue DR650S-2CH, which is known to be the DR750S-2CH and should become available shortly.

        Out of curiosity, was it harder to do the rear wiring than the front installation?

        • Moderator says:

          Actually the Thinkware is the only dashcam I’m aware of that requires three wires. Most dashcams with two cameras power the rear from the front camera – so there is no additional power connection. You do have to run a wire from the front dashcam to the rear dashcam with the included cable. I’d say the rear is a bit more difficult as a proper installation needs to route the wire through the passenger side hatch flex tube.

          • TeslaBargain says:

            As a newbie to dash cams and their installation I may be confused, but isn’t the third wire for switched power used for parking detection?

            If the BlackVue and other dash cams with parking mode only require two wires (for permanent power), do they detect parking by motion sensor alone, and isn’t that less reliable?

            Parking mode is a very important feature for me, and I have been told that especially cheaper dash cams have a less than mediocre parking mode functionality. Hopefully that’s not connected to two versus three wires power supply.

            And one other thought:

            Isn’t it that Thinkware has the hardwiring electronics included in their dash cams, however BlackVue uses the external PowerMagic box. So with the Thinkware you can not bypass it, but you recommend not using the PowerMagic in a Tesla because it will cause problems. How comes and what problems does it cause?

          • Moderator says:

            Other than the Thinkware, dashcams use video motion detection to decide if video should be retained. If the video doesn’t change, there is never a need to keep it (other than perhaps the first minute). If you’re parked, in most (but not all) the video is stationary and if there is motion (perhaps a thief) you want it recorded. If you are driving, there is clear motion and you’ll get a full recording. I’ve never understood the Thinkware design or why they force extra wiring – it’s the one area I dislike most about the Thinkware, an otherwise good choice.

            PowerMagic is only designed to power off the dashcam when the 12v battery gets low. It has nothing to do with parking/driving states. PowerMagic makes sense in an ICE car, but is awful for an EV which can last for months with the trivial power use of a dashcam. The Tesla 12v battery may go through 2-5 discharge/charge cycles in a day. When the 12v battery gets low, the Tesla recharges it from the main battery. When low the PowerMagic could disconnect the dashcam, so that you have multiple periods of zero coverage.

  6. GJETSON says:

    Great information. I bought the TE part 3-968696-2 connector and pins for the front installation but haven’t picked the camera yet. I’ve put 20,000 trouble and care free miles in this amazing car, I think I’ve taken for granted the Farud Magnet these cars can be and hope I get the camera installed before it’s too late.

    I don’t see running wires all through the car and plan on just installing a second one in the back. I hope you’ll be finding the time to post the rear install info and pictures. Does it use the same 4 pin connector? I like the fact you don’t have to tap into wires to install a camera and by just using an existing plug they can’t claim any breach of the cars systems or warrantee.

    Tesla is finicky about everything only OEM and will jump at talking about voiding the warrantee. I don’t think it’s dire as they make it seem but they even freaked when I miunted unrecommended snow tires in the back.

    Thanks again, hope you post the rear install info soon.

    • Moderator says:

      Still working on the rear dashcam documentation. A few other projects stacked up ahead of it!

      Really not much concern about warranty issues. I’ve made many modifications to my Tesla and never had any issues. I did dent an aluminum trim part while taking photos. It was my fault and later I had Tesla replace the trim at my cost. If you brake something, clearly it would not be covered under warranty.

  7. KP says:

    Great guide. Thanks for posting this. I went with the A119. A couple notes on my install:

    I have one of the last APv1 cars (delivered August 2016) and the 12v wire on the intrusion module is grey (other wires are green and black).

    If you are going with the A119, I would recommend 12v to 5v USB cord below. It’s considerably shorter than the one from WheelWitness so you have a lot less slack to deal with (and $5 cheaper).

    12v to 5v Mini USB (Left Angle):
    http://amzn.to/2sMRHhz

  8. BigD0g says:

    Any luck with the rear trunk side panel disassbly? “To get to the module, it is located on the passenger side, behind the trunk’s side panel. We are still preparing disassembly instructions and photos”. I’ve settled on the a119, to me resolution is everything.

  9. Zipp555 says:

    How hard is it to hard wire the Viofo/spytech a119 to the speaker over the mirror. They offer a Dash Cam Hardwire + Fuse Kit – Mini USB

    • Moderator says:

      I don’t know how old your car is, but it’s simple to check if you have the intrusion module connector or not. Just open up the microphone panel (pull down from back) and check if the 4-pin connector is taped down or attached to a module in the center. If you have the connector, installation is a snap (follow our instructions). I don’t know what hardware kit you’re looking at. The key to be sure it doesn’t have the low power down feature required for ICE cars. There is a link in this article for a hardware kit to convert 12v to 5v with the correct USB connector needed for the A119. It’s the one I used and it has been working fine.

  10. BigD0g says:

    Apologies, I must have misread your statements above from the pictures, it appears the blackvue can’t see the license plate on the right side of the car but the 119 can. So, I assumed that the resolution just wasn’t enough on the blackvue to make it legible. Thanks again for the great article / comparison.

  11. BigD0g says:

    Does the thinkware, have the same issue with not being able to show license plates?

    • Moderator says:

      I’m not sure it’s fair to say 1080p cameras like the Thinkware F770 can’t read license plates. It just means they can’t read them if they too far away, while a higher resolution dashcam may be able to read it. A 720p dashcam would be even worse than a 1080p camera. For example, if you’re 5 feet directly behind a car all 1080p dashcams can capture video that should make plates readable. As the plate gets further away, it becomes too blurry to read. Sorry I don’t have an actual distance – I may try and test it out!

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