As fleet owners and managers, we all hope that nothing negative ever happens on the road, but we know that driving fleet vehicles can be dangerous. As field service managers, we want to encourage our drivers to make safe choices. We also want to ensure they have everything they need in the event of an accident or other roadway incident.
Dash cams have become an integral tool in fleet management. These are the very reasons they are such a sound investment. Let’s examine why and answer the question: how do dash cams work?
Basics of Dash Cameras
Common Dash Cam Features
Auto-Start & Auto-Recording
If you have to manually turn on your dash cam to make it record, it will be of little use. Your dash cam should have auto-recording features that allow you to capture footage without intervention.
Continuous loop recording is a feature that allows the dash cam to keep recording when it runs out of space. It records over the oldest footage to ensure you capture everything.
A dash cam should have enough memory that you can always access footage when you need it. You never want your dash cam to run out of memory before you even see the footage you need.
Many dash cams are installed using adhesive. They can also be hardwired to your vehicle, which means the camera starts when your car starts.
Your dash cam should have a wide field of view to ensure you always capture footage around you.
The sounds of the road offer a lot of context to a situation. Your dash cam should record audio as well as video.
Powering Dash Cams
Hardwiring Into the Car
There are many different ways to power a dash cam. Options include via the 12v auxiliary power outlet, hardwired to the vehicle battery, or through an OBD-II Y-cable. The latter choice is often the best method for powering a dash cam.
Plugging into the Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette lighter power is not generally the best power method, as it leaves a cord dangling where you may not want it. However, in a pinch, it can do the trick.
Battery-powered Dash Cams
You can get dash cams that run on batteries that you install. The only risk with a battery is that your dash cam may run out of power when you don’t expect it.
Night Vision and Low-Light Capabilities
Some cameras can capture clear and detailed footage in low-light conditions or during nighttime. This feature enhances visibility and recording quality in environments with limited or no natural light sources.
This feature allows the dashcam to record and log a vehicle's geographical location, speed, and route. It helps obtain valuable data for fleet management, navigation, and security purposes.
Wi-Fi and Smartphone Integration
A quality camera can connect to your phone or other devices through wireless technology. This connection lets you easily view and manage the footage from your dashcam on your phone. You can even share it with others if needed. Sharing makes using the dashcam for safety and security more convenient and efficient.
Parking mode lets the camera watch your car even when parked and turned off. It automatically records unusual movements or events, like someone bumping into your car or trying to break in. These alerts tell you what happened when you weren't around. It also provides extra security and peace of mind for fleet owners.
DIY Installation Steps and Maintenance Tips
Installing a dash cam involves a few steps:
- Choose a Suitable Location: Find a good spot on your windshield where the dash cam has a clear view of the road but doesn't obstruct your vision while driving.
- Clean the Windshield: Wipe the chosen spot to ensure it's free of dirt and debris. Cleaning your windshield helps the dash cam stick securely.
- Attach the Mount: Use the adhesive on the mount to stick it onto the windshield in the chosen spot. Make sure it's firmly attached.
- Connect the Power: Plug one end of the power cable into the dash cam and the other into your car’s power outlet. Some dash cams have a built-in battery, while others need continuous power from the vehicle.
- Hide the Wires: Tuck any excess wiring along the edges of your car's interior to keep it neat and prevent it from getting in the way.
- Adjust the Angle: Make sure the dash cam is facing straight ahead and not tilted too high or low. A good angle ensures it captures the road properly.
- Test the Dash Cam: Turn on your car and check if the dash cam starts recording. Adjust settings like video quality, date, and time if needed.
- Secure the Cables: Use clips or adhesive clips to secure the cables along the edges, so they don't dangle or interfere with driving.
Remember to follow any specific instructions provided by the manufacturer of your dash cam, as installation methods can vary. If you're unsure, it's always a good idea to consult the user manual or seek assistance from a professional.
Tips for Proper Maintenance and Care
Here are three tips for proper maintenance of a dash cam:
- Keep the Lens Clean: Use a soft, lint-free cloth to gently wipe the camera lens regularly. Regular cleaning helps ensure clear and sharp recordings, especially in dusty or rainy conditions.
- Check the Mounting Regularly: Make sure the dash cam mount stays secure. If it starts to loosen, reattach it to avoid wobbling or shifting during driving.
- Clean the Memory Card: Now and then, format the memory card in your dash cam using the camera's settings. Cleaning the memory card keeps it in good condition and helps prevent recording errors.
By following these tips, you'll help maintain the effectiveness and reliability of your dash cam for the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Does a Dash Cam Record For?
A dash cam can record for different lengths of time depending on its settings and the size of its memory card. On average, a dash cam with a 32GB card can record about 4-6 hours of footage before it starts to overwrite the oldest files. If you want to record for extended periods, you might need a larger memory card or adjust the settings to record in shorter loops.
Are Dash Cams Legal?
Yes, dash cams are generally legal in most places, but there are some essential things to remember. They're meant to record what happens on the road, which can be useful for insurance claims or in case of accidents. However, it's important to respect privacy and not use them in a way that violates other people's rights.
Do Dash Cameras Record All the Time?
Dash cameras can record all the time, but many have a feature called loop recording. This means they record in short chunks, like 1 to 5 minutes, and then start recording over the oldest files once the memory card is full. So, while they can capture a lot of footage, they don't store everything indefinitely.
Do Dash Cameras Work When the Car Is Off?
Some dash cameras have a feature called parking mode that allows them to keep recording even when the car is turned off. They use motion sensors or impact detection to start recording if something happens near the vehicle. However, not all dash cameras have this feature, so it's important to check the specifications of your specific model.