License plate backup camera

Backup Camera System Installation Guide

Trigger wire based systems

The easiest way to understand how a standard backup camera system is installed is by understanding the components. Most back up cameras and systems have similar components. This particular guide is designated for backup camera systems with trigger wires. A backup camera system can be broken down into five basic components (See picture above).

The Monitor, (A1): Some monitors like the one shown above will only have a single cable coming out of the monitor but don’t be alarmed as this single lead cable usually connects to a power harness that possesses all of the video inputs and power connections

The Power Harness, (A2): The monitor will come with a power harness that will attach to the single cable coming out of the monitor. This particular monitor has several connections:

  • 2 – Yellow RCA video inputs
  • 1 – Left and right audio input (white and red RCA)
  • 1 – Red bare wire or positive power lead will which connects to 12 volts power
  • 1 – Black bare wire that is the ground connection
  • 1 – Trigger wire (usually green or blue)

When 12 volts is applied to this wire the monitor automatically turns on and selects the back up camera input. This connection is made to the positive side of the reverse light.

The Camera, (A3): The camera is very similar to the monitor in that it will have a yellow RCA video plug and a single cable with a DC power plug input for power.

The Power Harness, (A4): The camera should include a male DC power connector to bare power leads. This DC power connector will have a Red 12 volt power lead and black ground lead. In most cases the center inner female pin is 12 volts power and the outer shield is ground.

The RCA Cable, (A5): Last but not least is the single yellow RCA video cable that is included with camera. Its sole purpose is to take the video feed from the camera and display it in the monitor.

Note 1: This cable is usually 18-25 ft long and in some cases has bare red lead as part of the cable. This lead is a raw lead that can be used for a couple of purposes. Imagine this red wire is a single wire tapped the entire length of the RCA cable and can be used to send the reverse trigger signal to the front of the vehicle. The red lead can also be used in some installations to continuously power the camera if you want your system always on with the vehicle.

Note 2: It is important to remember during the installation process that yellow inputs are used exclusively for the video signal, whereas black and red inputs are used exclusively for power.

Note 3: Just because a monitor does not have a trigger wire does not mean it can only be turned on manually. Most monitors do not have a trigger wire because they posses what is known as a video sense feature and will turn on automatically as soon as they sense a video feed. We demonstrate that installation process in a separate section below

5 – Step Installation Process (Trigger wire based)

Step 1: Connect the power harness (A2) into the monitor’s designated power input.

Back up monitor cable connections
Monitor power cable connections

Step 2: Draw power to the monitor by connecting the red wire to 12 volt power and the black to ground. Power to the monitor is usually drawn at the fuse box. The trigger wire determines the operation of the monitor. The default installation is to connect this to the positive side of the reverse light. By doing so, the monitor will automatically turn on with the vehicle is placed in reverse. For manual operation you will leave this disconnected. This can also be connected to a source that turns on with the key and the monitor will remain on until the vehicle is shut down, perfect for commercial vehicles.

Back up monitor wire colors and meanings
Bare lead monitor power connections

Step 3: Connect the male power harness (A4) into the camera’s female power input.

Back up camera DC power connector
Back up camera DC power connector with bare wire leads

Step 4: Draw power to the camera by connecting the red wire to 12 volt power or the positive side of the reverse lights and the black to ground.

Back up camera bare power leads
Back up camera bare power leads

Step 5: Now that the monitor is drawing power at the fuse box and the camera is drawing power directly at the reverse tail light, all you need to do is connect the camera to the monitor using the standard yellow RCA cable (A5) ***If the yellow RCA cable has two red power wires on each end, please read Note 1 above.

Back up camera RCA connections
Back up camera and LCD monitor RCA connections

At this point you should have all the connections made and a working system is a key turn away. Makes sure to button up and tape all connections and you should be all set.

Video sense based systems

Back up monitor cable connections
Monitor power cable connections

Again the easiest way to understand how to install a video sense backup camera system is by understanding the components. A backup camera system can be broken down into five basic components (See picture above).

The Monitor (A1): The monitor will come with a pigtail that will have video inputs, these are RCA cables with yellow, white and red (sometimes two yellow) jackets. In this case the yellow and white are video inputs just like what you would find in a home television, and the red is the power input connector.

Monitor Power Harness (A2): The monitor will come with a power harness that will attach to the red (sometimes black) DC power connector input on the monitor. On the opposite end of the power harness will be two wires; the red wire will always be used for positive power and the black wire will go to ground.

The Camera, (A3): The camera usually is a little different from the monitor in that it includes a two part harness (A4). This is so that you can mount the camera in a weather proof fashion and do so without drilling an excessively large hole. A two part harness is comprised of the pigtail and the camera cable. The pigtail will have a yellow video output plug and a red (sometimes black) dc power connector for power.

Camera Power Harness (A4): The camera should include a male DC power connector to bare power leads. This DC power connector will have a Red 12 volt power lead and black ground lead. In most cases the center inner female pin is 12 volts power and the outer shield is ground.

The RCA Cable (A5): Last but not least is the single yellow RCA video cable that is included with camera. Its sole purpose is to take the video feed from the camera and display it in the monitor.

**It is important to remember during the installation process that yellow and white inputs are used exclusively for the video signal, whereas black and red inputs are used exclusively for power.

Note 1: This cable is usually 18-25 ft long and in some cases has bare red lead as part of the cable. This lead is a raw lead that can be used for a couple of purposes. Imagine this red wire is a single wire tapped the entire length of the RCA cable and can be used to send the reverse trigger signal to the front of the vehicle. The red lead can also be used in some installations to continuously power the camera if you want your system always on with the vehicle.

Note 2: It is important to remember during the installation process that yellow inputs are used exclusively for the video signal, whereas black and red inputs are used exclusively for power.

5 – Step Installation Process (Video signal sense based)

Step 1: Connect the DC power harness (A2) into the monitors designated power input.

Back up monitor video input and power connectors

Step 2: Connect power to the monitor by attaching the red wire to 12 volt power and the black to ground. Power to the monitor is usually drawn at the fuse box

Monitor DC power connector

Step 3: Connect the camera power and video pigtail (A4) into the cameras connector. The pigtail provides power to the camera and the video output to the monitor.

Back up camera power leads

Step 4: Connect power to the camera by attaching the red wire to 12 volt power and the black to ground. Power to the camera is usually drawn directly at the reverse tail light. With video sense systems, anytime there is power to the camera the montitor will be turn on automatically.

Back up camera dc power connector leads

Step 5: Now that the monitor is drawing power at the fuse box and the camera is drawing power directly at the reverse tail light all you need to do is connect both systems using the standard yellow RCA cable (A5).
***If the yellow RCA cable has two red power wires on each end, we advise that you disregard their use as they are not needed for this type of installation.

backup camera system installation

Now you should have a working unit that should turn on as soon as the vehicle is in reverse.

See our entire selection of back up cameras and systems

Make sure to checkout our full video on the installation process:

http://blog.qualitymobilevideo.com/how-to-back-up-camera-installation/

51 thoughts on “Backup Camera System Installation Guide”

  1. I bought an aftermarket stereo for my jetta and this site saved me!
    Thanks so very much for taking the time to do this

  2. Awesome I fitted the camera last week but got the power sorted today. I’ve bought a new stereo with camera feed along with my monitor and was wondering how the stereo would get the reversing signal. Seems the little red wire on the yellow Rca is perfect for the job

      1. I am not sure what cable you are talking about, I assume it is the power lead, you will need to connect power to the camera.

  3. If you pigtail a wire to the reverse light, will the monitor only come on when you are in reverse? Or, if you put the wire in an “add a fuse,” will the monitor always be on? Wasn’t sure if you are required to hook it up both ways, or if you can pick just one. Hope that makes sense! Thanks

    1. You are technically correct, however you always have the power button on the front that will allow you to turn the display on. We always recommend that you connect the camera to a power source that turn on with the key and run a separate trigger signal to the monitor; this way you can turn it on at anytime by pressing the power button on the display.

    1. You can substitute any wire color if you splice, make sure that you document what changes you made and make sure to connect those to the proper signals.

  4. How is the positive and ground wired into the car? Do I just cut a red and black wire anywhere and tie them all back together with a wire crimper? This guide explains all the steps to installing the camera except for the hard part that I needed a guide for :(

  5. Thank you for the instructions. I recently purchased a backup system that did not provide instructions. This cleared up the confusion.

  6. if you wire the monitor and camera to the revearse lights will it come on because i want both to come on when i put in reverse cause i realydont want it to come all the time plus im installing it in my gradma car

  7. I have a wireless monitor/camera system. the cable has 3 trigger wires. labeled left, right & rear triggers. How are used and what do I need to do with them. There are 2 cameras with this unit.

    1. You will only need to use the reverse trigger if you need the camera to turn on when the vehicle is placed in reverse.

  8. Hi guys,
    If you use the trigger cable to start the camera via the stereo, is the positive connection to the taillight unnecessary? I.e there’s only need for ground since the camera is feeded from the stereo?
    /Fred

    1. Most stereo receivers will have there own reverse connection. You will need to provide power to the camera by either running a power lead to the front or from the reverse light.

  9. Hi, is it ok to cut and rejoin the yellow camera cable. I want to put the camera on my caravan and connect it to the existing Car camera input

    1. Technically yes, but make sure that you do a high quality job so that you do not have interference or noise in your image after the connections.

  10. Have a front camera has y rca and a female power plug no male power adapter wire.
    So if I just hook the y rca video cable up will the camera turn on or do I need to slice the power cables to key switch hot with a power on button and chassie ground

  11. If I want to connect a front and rear camera to one monitor…. is there a way to have the monitor default to the front camera but switch to rear when I out it in reverse? And go back to front when not in reverse?

  12. I have my camera connected to the reverse light but my monitor will not change to video automatically. For example if I am listening to the music and put the car in reverse the monitor will not turn on I have to switch it to video mode. There is no trigger wire just 1 video rca, ground and power. Any way to fix this?

  13. I have a male and female RCA cable coming out of monitor. How can I have my camera and my DVD players hook up at the same time.

  14. Do you think permanently powering the camera has a noticeable impact on the camera’s lifespan (in comparison to only supplying power when in reverse)? Thank you for all the very helpful tutorials!!

  15. I recently purchased a new pickup truck and the camera does not show the guidelines although the owners manual and vehicle website say it should. The dealer says this is programmed into the vehicles infotainment system and if it wasn’t done at the factory that they couldn’t do it. I disagree. I think this would be as simple as finding a camera that shows guidelines (I found many of these on the internet) and then removing my current camera and replacing it. There is a jumper so the tailgate can be removed from the truck so I won’t be chasing wires. The only issue would be finding a camera that fits in the same hole that the current camera fits in. Is my logic correct? Is it really that simple?

    1. This almost always can be done at the dealership by them connecting the vehicle to a diagnostic computer and modifying an sub-selection in an option menu, we have a ton of experience with this on BMW vehicles.

  16. The aftermarket backup camera in my car takes a mini USB cable. I managed to break the cable to the monitor while cleaning the car one day. I followed the cable under the dash and it comes from some sort of adapter or converter with RCA and a power lead in, and of course the mini USB out.
    I’ve looked but don’t know where to source a replacement adapter cable. I don’t know the brand of the camera or monitor… nothing is labeled.
    ideas?

    1. Sounds like this was already modified, this camera is more than likely a 5 volt camera and that is the reason they used a USB for the power source. I would need more information to try to help you.

  17. Is the following possible? Switch the output from the OEM backup camera from the OEM radio/NAV/backup camera display head unit to an after-market rearview mirror monitor by unplugging the video feed from the head unit and plugging it into the after-market rearview mirror monitor and supplying 12v power to the mirror monitor? I want the camera to operate whenever the ignition is on (the OEM setup only shows something on the head unit when the vehicle is in reverse). (Or will something need to be done to supply power to the OEM camera when the vehicle is not in reverse?) Thanks.

    1. This is possible but you will need to track down the cables and cut them. Some vehicles use 5 volt cameras so you may need to step the voltage down.

    1. This is like having a wire tapped the entire length of the RCA cable it is to allow you to easily bring the reverse signal to the monitor

  18. If I use the red wire that is part of the RCA cable and send +12V to the camera via the keyed red wire that powers the head unit then tap the reverse +12v under the dash to send a signal to the reverse sensing wire on my head unit (of course grounding the camera at the back of the vehicle) would that be the correct way to make my camera come on when the vehicle is placed in reverse or when the button on the head unit to activate the camera is pressed?

    1. Wiring the camera this way would require you to press a button to activate the camera. You would still need to run a reverse wire to the monitor so that it will automatically turn on when placed in reverse. We do recommend powering the camera the way you have described because this will allow you to use that camera at anytime in addition to using it for reverse.

  19. Thanks for the install notes….I installed exactly as described but now I have horizontal lines on the screen that get worse with increased engine rpms… any way to eliminate the lines?…

    1. You have engine noise. This is caused either by the RCA cable being too close to large current cables, that is inducing noise or you have noise coming through the power or ground connections to the monitor or camera.

    2. You have engine noise. This is caused either by the RCA cable being too close to large current cables, that is inducing noise or you have noise coming through the power or ground connections to the monitor or camera.

  20. Good morning, I have installed an aftermarket rear view camera in my 2006 F150. It works great however when my headlights are on it does not work. Radio had violet/white wire which I hooked up to reverse light socket, this I believe is just guide lines. . I also hooded up my camera into reverse light socket red wire than grounded black wire from camera. Then plugged into yellow rca cable from radio to camera. Thanks love being able to have support.

    1. Julie, you have an installation related error. You will need to double check your connections using a voltmeter and test the reverse lead with the headlights on and off. This wire controls the auto input function on your radio. It is likely that you have tapped the ground side of this lead and that is what is causing your error.

  21. Hi, i purchased a backup camera and monitor (its a video sense based system)
    I connect the camera to my reverse light, red for power and black for ground. Then. I connect the monitor to a cigarette lighter plug. And i connect the long RCA cable from from camera to tye monitor..when i put my gear on reverse , the picture will show but it flickers all the time..i tried to change the RCA cable but still the same? Any ideas how to fix this? Thanks

    1. Adrian, this is likely caused by the light control module that the vehicle uses to control the rear lights. This control module outputs AC voltage and you camera is responding to that AC voltage by turning on and off. You will need to use a relay to get a perfect DC power source using the AC voltage to turn that relay on.

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