VE SS: Reverse Camera
A few years back, after we bought the VE SS, we replaced the stereo with an Android Auto one, and part of the bundle I bought (a fascia and wiring kit to make it all work) came with a reversing camera. I chucked that in the closet, because honestly after driving everywhere in things like the Suburban and the Sprinter, if I can’t back a modern Sedan I should probably hand my license in, and Sabriena’s never been a slouch either despite driving a lot less than I do (I tend to hog it).
Fast forward a few years, and we still have the trailer but nothing to tow it with. I’d contemplated selling it (it too managed to appreciate in price, seems everything has with the pandemic), and either relying on Dad or renting a vehicle, and maybe one day buying a ute instead, but we never got around to that. Lately there’s been several occasions where we’d wanted a trailer, but Dad was busy and I didn’t want it bad enough to pay rental on a vehicle to tow it with, so I called Terry and asked him to quote on putting a hitch on. He came back with a price that - while more expensive than it was when I wasked him a couple years back, notice a theme here? - seemed reasonable to me. I watched a YouTube video on installing a trailer hitch on a VE Commodore and it didn’t look like much fun, I would absolutely rather pay someone else to do it.
But this leaves us in a quandry - the one issue we do have with backing the Commodore is putting it to bed. The garage is rather small: you would comfortably fit two hatchbacks in it if there was nothing else in the garage, but we have other things in there and our car is substantially larger than a hatchback. It fits, but it has to go in just so to let the driver out, leave room behind the rear of the car to walk to the door, and close the garage door. Given that behind where the car stops is another roller door and the central unit for our ducted vacuum cleaner, neither of which would be cheap if it had a collision with a moving vehicle, we’ve been relying on the backup sensors to “flatline” and tell us where to stop.
Therein lines the problem - depending on the kit Terry buys, there’s a non-zero chance the backup sensors may stop working permanently. Sometimes they only stop working when the trailer plug is inserted, but some kits just block the sensors off and they never work. Coupling this with I don’t want to beat up my rear bumper backing up to the trailer hitch and I got the thought to grab the camera out of the closet and install it.
So that’s what I started doing yesterday. But after sliding the stereo out to take a look, I don’t think the camera they sent is the correct one for the kit. The cable that runs front-to-back contains the composite video signal, along with a positive and negative voltage feed and nothing else. This is a bit of an issue, because normally with backup cameras you configure them in one of two arrangements: either the camera is powered from the reverse lights, and the screen is configured to switch to it when a signal is detected; or the camera is powered full-time and a signal is used to instruct the head unit to switch when the car is placed in reverse.
Either is fine for my purposes, our head unit can do both, but after spending about two hours hunting online and inspecting around the shifter, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere I can reasonably take a reverse signal off at the front of the car. Apparently on the Series II (not sure about my Series I) the signal for this comes over the “GM LAN” pin, but I’ve no way to decode this and it’s probably cheaper to buy a different camera than to buy any sort of adaptor for it.
I had considered stripping the cable slightly, powering the camera off the reverse lights and sending the reverse signal back down the power wire instead, but I decided not to cut up a cable that’s sealed at both ends if I can avoid it.
So nothing to it, I decided to power the camera off the auxilliary power output of the stereo (so it’d be on when the stereo is), and run an additional wire back to send the reverse signal to the front of the car. This took some time, particularly getting the camera wire through the cable snake that goes from the boot to the boot lid, but I wanted it protected from the weather and I wanted the camera under the boot lid lip, where the number plate lights are.
This is where things sit this morning - it works if I connect the camera, but I have to go buy some rubber grommets and some nuts/bolts to mount the camera, and I want to buy a small fuse holder for the reverse light wire so I don’t torch my reverse lights if my own wiring shorts out somehow, then it’ll all be hooked up. I’ve tested it thoroughly otherwise, and I will be able to configure the warning zones on it too which is pretty neat. Sabriena helped measure the accuracy of it, and when something disappears out the bottom view of the camera it’s approximately half an inch before the rearmost extension of the bumper, which I think is perfect… you could put the car about an inch away from a perfectly vertical wall easily using the camera.
While I think about it, I should document it here: I had some grief getting the steering wheel controls back after I slid the head unit out. At first, I plugged the connector into the wrong socket, but then when I went to reactivate them the setting was greyed out. After looking it up, I once again remembered that these Pioneer head units will deactivate that setting if any source is on at all, so you need the stereo on, but set to “Source Off” before the menu will come up!