See our Ultimate Dashcam Guide for the latest reviews, tips, and new installation advice.
THIS 2015 ARTICLE IS HISTORICAL AND OUT OF DATE!
A dashcam is a fairly easy installation, as it only requires power and mounting on the windshield. For the Tesla owners, BlackVue dashcams seem to be the most popular, with an advanced design that includes wide-angle 1080P HD recording, WiFi, GPS, shock detection, voice, and LED indicators, and removable micro-SD card memory. They also have free apps for Windows, iOS, and Android. They offer both a front camera DR600GW-HD and a version with front and rear cameras such as the DR650S-2CH.
Also, consider the highly rated Thinkware F770 with the rear camera. It’s a little larger than the BlackVue but provides more controls while in the car and the rear camera is 1080p vs 720p on the BlackVue. The SpyTec A119 is another worthy consideration with 1440p and a much lower price. More details on each are available in our Ultimate Dashcam Guide.
Dash Cam installation should take about 1-2 hours depending on the power connection method and how handy you are.
We’ll show the installation of the BlackVue DR500 front dashcam (below), now superseded with the similar-looking DR600/650.
First, locate where you want it installed on the windshield. For the Model S, a good placement is behind the mirror out of view of the driver (pre-auto-pilot cars). For newer cars, you may want to place it on the passenger side of the mirror. In the Model X, just below the mirror box is a good location. Be sure the lens has an unobstructed view (i.e. not going through the black dots of the windshield). The adhesive mounting provided with the dashcam is quite strong and after several years of cold and hot sun, has not weakened.
We think it is best to have the dashcam powered on 24/7, as it can record someone hitting the car while parked or other events of interest when you’re not in the car. The power drain is minimal, about 3W (250 mA). If you only use battery power, this will drain about 1 mile of range every 4 days. BlackVue makes an accessory Power Magic Pro prevent the dashcam from running down the battery. It is not needed in the Tesla, but some packages include it.
There are at least five popular ways to connect the dashcam to power:
1) Just plug into the 12V power receptacle under the center armrests. While quick and easy, you still have the cord, and when the car powers off, the camera goes dark. You might use this method as a test to be sure the dashcam is working before you hard-wire in the dashcam.
2) Most Model S cars have an unused power connection conveniently available behind the microphone panel, although it has been reported that pre-AP cars without the Tech Package do not have this connector. Model X does NOT have always-on power available in the mirror, so look at the next few methods after this.
The Model S grate resides between the front reading lights above the rear-view mirror. To remove the panel pull down from the edge facing the back of the car. Two snaps hold it in place. If you have this black connector, it is unconnected and has three wires. You’ll tap into the black (ground) and the red with blue stripe wire (+12VDC). Some owners have reported not seeing the connector, but we believe it is available on all cars. We’ve confirmed it on different 2013 and 2015 vehicles. It is usually taped on the microphone panel with yellow or blue tape. The two attached gray connectors are for the microphones and do not have power. The unused black connector has power on all the time, even when the car is powered off. You can feed the power line through the headliner into this area. See note below about the BlackVue power connection.
3) Connect the power to the fuse box in the Frunk. You’ll route the wire under the headliner and down the passenger side pillar and around the door and into the frunk area, where it connects to the fuse box. This is almost the identical routing we used for the parking assist display, in which the wire travels the same route. See the section Installing the display and routing the wire to the front of the car for all the details and pictures. Once the wire is in the frunk, you’ll route it over to the fuse box. See note below about the BlackVue power connection.
4) As an alternative to 3, you could route the wire through the firewall. This is a lot of work, but if you’re interested, see Part 2: Running Wires Through the Firewall in our Sub-woofer amplifier installation. This requires a lot of dexterity and time. The rubber grommet we go through may also be filled with the pano roof drain line, so pano roof equipped cars will be even harder. Norman Hirsch installed his dashcam and has additional instructions for making a hole through the firewall as his car has the pano roof. See the details here.
5) Connect power to the OBDII port (under the dash, driver side). This is fused to 5 amps, and power is always on. You can buy a connector with power leads like NOCO Genius GC012 OBDII Connector for about $16. Even easier is using this ODBII to socket cable for about $20 including shipping to the USA from Germany. See the note below about the BlackVue power connection.
NOTE: If you’re using the BlackVue dashcam, the 12V power connector has voltage reduction circuitry on older models, so you can’t just clip it off and wire the dashcam directly to 12V. You need to keep the large cigarette connector. We used a receptacle with wire leads to solve this such as Female Car Cigarette Lighter Socket, If you got the Power Magic Pro option, it includes a socket (but we don’t recommend installing the Power Magic, it may turn off your dashcam when parked). You may want to buy the BlackVue hardwire kit, which eliminates the bulky 12v power connector.
For methods 3 and 4, using the wires from the Female Car Cigarette Lighter Socket, connect the ground (usually black) wire to the large bolt on the cross member. I did this with a ring lug.
I took a gray 2 amp fuse and soldered the 12v wire from the socket to one side of the fuse. See the image of where to stick the fuse for continuous power, Fuse Box 2, slot F54. In my case, the socket I used had two black wires, but most sockets come with a red wire for 12V. Be sure to use the 12V powered wire that goes to the center of the socket.
For older cars, slot F54 is unused on earlier cars and has no actual connection on the windshield side of this slot, so the extra width of the wire is not a problem. The soldered side of the fuse must go towards the windshield. I filed a slot in the side of the cover near this fuse so the wire would not be pinched when the cover is closed. As an alternative to soldering a wire to the fuse, you could use a product like Add-A-Circuit Fuse Holder. If you have the Subzero weather package F54 is used for the Wiper De-icer. It is still a good position to use, but you’ll have to use the Add-A-Circuit fuse holder.
When you connect power to the dashcam, it takes a few seconds to initialize and an audio announcement will indicate when it is powered up and running. The BlackVue has many settings that you can change using one of the free applications. For example, it has a security indicator in the front. I prefer to keep this off, to avoid unwanted attention.
The Tesla dashcam video thread has a group of videos that may be of interest or add yours to the list!