Dash Cam FAQ and Troubleshooting
Dash Cam F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)
We've installed thousands of dash cams over the past five years and have extensive knowledge and experience in this field. While we specialize in Korean parking mode dash cams like those from Blackvue and Thinkware, we also install a lot of Chinese dash cams from brands like VIOFO, Xiaomi, DDPai, Toguard, Auto-Vox, and more. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and issues we come across with dash cams:
Why do I need a larger memory card if the camera automatically loop records?
Loop recording refers to the way dash cams delete the oldest files on the memory card to make room for new clips. All dash cams these days will have this function which ensures that your card will not simply fill up and stop recording. That being said, with the high resolution recording you'll find on most dash cams on the market today, smaller cards will fill up rather quickly.
Your typical 2-channel (front and rear) system will record anywhere from 10-15 gigabytes of video files in an hour of driving. This means that a 16GB card will start overwriting very quickly and if you do get into an accident there is a risk of the file being deleted before you even get home.
Where we find a larger card is extremely important is the case of parking recording. When cars are parked on a street overnight or at a parking lot while the driver is at work, it may be recording for upwards of 10 hours at a time. While parking mode dash cams use motion detection to reduce memory consumption, this doesn't do much good when parked in an area with high activity. With hit and runs, it's often the case where the driver doesn't notice until a few days after the accident. With a larger card you have the ability to go further back in time to review clips.
Given the lower price of memory cards these days, we recommend getting the largest card supported by your dash cam to prevent overwriting of important files. It is important to note that memory cards do go bad and should be considered a wear and tear item. High quality dash cams will detect faulty memory cards and warn you if your card is causing an error that's preventing recording.
What is parking mode recording? Can't you hardwire any dash cam to run while parked?
When we talk about parking mode recording, we are referring to pre-buffered parking mode recording. This is typically only found on Korean dash cams like Thinkware or Blackvue where you actually get the 5-10 seconds before whatever triggered the recording. Recording on these dash cams is triggered by motion detection or impact detection. Motion detection works by detecting changes in light while impact detection is triggered by an internal shock sensor in the camera.
While you can supply constant power to any dash cam while a car is parked by way of a hardwirng kit or battery pack, many dash cams on the market that claim to have parking mode recording do not actually have this feature. Most of the Chinese dash cams do not have the software to do pre-buffered recording and will only start recording after the triggering event. While this can still help in the event of a hit and run, it's also possible that the dash cam only records after the impact which is typically not enough evidence for an insurance company to determine fault. Seeing a car come towards you and hit you is critical for making a claim.
What is the WiFi feature on my dash cam?
The WiFi feature is referring to the ability for a dash cam to communicate with an app you can install on your phone. It does not actually use cellular data or internet and is simply a local connection between your phone and the dash cam. This means that even in an area with no cell reception such as an underground parking lot, you can still use your WiFi app.
The main purpose of the WiFi feature is to allow you to download a video clip directly to your phone. This bypasses the need to take out the memory card and have access to a card reader or computer to check and share clips. It can be helpful in the event of an accident as you can pull the footage right away and show a police officer at the scene. From your phone, you can treat this file as any other video and email it, edit it, or upload it to a cloud server to share.
Another purpose of the WiFi feature is that it allows you to tweak the settings on your dash cam. Many dash cams have a smaller form factor that does not include an LCD screen or many physical buttons. From things like setting up the time clock to changing advanced video settings, you can simply do this from the convenience of your phone depending on the dash cam that you have.
What is the difference between a 1-channel and 2-channel dash cam? How about a multi-channel system? Is there any point?
The most basic dash cam is a 1-channel dash cam, typically mounted on the windshield and aimed to be facing forward in a vehicle. This is generally the most important viewing angle for insurance claims as it will show lane position, traffic lights, and other useful information. Nowadays, 2-channel systems are the most popular, in these setups you'd typically have one camera on the front windshield and one on the rear window to cover the front and back of the vehicle. Having a rear camera adds further context to the video and can be critical in some instances. For example, if a car rear ends you and pulls a u-turn to run away, the rear camera might catch their license plate or at least the make and model of their car. Another common example is with parking mode recording where your car is parked "front-in", if a car hits you while your front camera is facing a wall, having that extra camera angle will prove to be invaluable.
Many customers ask us about 360 degree setups. There are some cameras on the market that have one lens mounted on the front window promising 360 degree recording. This will not be great for a rear ender as the camera is too far away from the rear bumper but it might be helpful to record what's going on in the cabin. Unfortunately, these 360 degree lens typically result in terrible glare and poor video quality. Perhaps a more common 360 degree setup is a 4-channel dash cam system that involves a pair of 2-channel dash cams. For these systems, we'd install one camera on the front and rear windows as well as a fixed panel on the left and right sides of the car.
Generally speaking, as you go beyond a 2-channel setup, adding additional cameras equates to diminishing returns. 2-channel systems are usually only $100-150 more than their 1-channel equivalents so the price jump is not too bad. However getting a 4-channel setup would be twice as expensive as a 2-channel setup. Adding more cameras also has a negative impact to parking mode recording times as it will increase the rate of battery discharge. Adding the left and right viewing angles can help in some specific cases like door dings or police incidents but for the vast majority of accidents, it probably won't make a difference in determining fault.
Why do I need this GPS feature? My car already has navigation!
GPS in dash cams typically has nothing to do with actual navigation. It's generally used to display speed in the timestamp of the video which can be disabled. Another common use of the GPS antenna is to sync time, you simply program in your time zone and the dash cam takes care of setting the time once it locks on. For Thinkware dash cams, the GPS antenna also enables safety camera alerts which will tell you when you're approaching a red light camera or fixed speed camera (not to be confused with a radar detector/speed trap).
Dash Cam Troubleshooting
As we install a lot of dash cams, here are some of the common user and installation related issues we come across.
WiFi App not working properly
If your phone shows that you're connected to the dash cam's WiFi but you're not able to access anything in the WiFi app, you'll need to turn off cellular/mobile data on your phone. As the dash cam's WiFi does not have a real internet connection, many smartphones may try to switch off of that WiFi network so you might not get a stable connection. By turning off mobile data, you can avoid this interference and switching.
Will my dash cam void my warranty?
We simply cannot guarantee that a dealership's service department will not hassle you over an installed dash cam, we can tell you that we actually work with a number of dealerships and hardwire dash cams for them. The Magnuson-Moss act puts the burden of voiding warranty on the service department and limits them to what they can void. For example, if your car starts developing a strange wheel bearing sound, the dealership cannot blame this on your dash cam unless they can draw a direct cause and effect to the defective part. That being said, for something like a car's 12V battery performance, a hardwired dash cam does put stress on this component and it would be reasonable for a service department to deny a warranty claim on a battery if you have a hardwired dash cam.
Generally a dash cam will be hardwired to the fuse box and should not be wired to fuses that relate to the safety or basic functioning of the vehicle. if your dash cam is hardwired to your radio fuse for example, it would be out of line for a service department to say that this voided your warranty claim for a faulty sunroof as it would likely be running on a completely different circuit. When vehicles do not have fuse boxes we will typically only hardwire a dash cam to a 12V outlet/cigarette socket, this is equivalent to plugging in something into the socket but instead of plugging in directly to the socket, we're getting DC power from the positive and negative wires on the other side of the socket.
Dealerships may try to get out of warranty claims as they have an incentive to charge for the parts and labour related to fixing the issue. For that reason, it's important for dash cam users to do their due dilegence so that they cannot be taken advantage of by a dealership. Generally speaking, a dash cam install is completely reversible and if an issue persists even after a dash cam is fully uninstalled, it may be easier to isolate the cause of the issue.
Why isn't my parking mode dash cam recording 24/7? How long can my dash cam record for?
Parking mode dash cams receive power when the vehicle is turned off by way of a hardwire kit (through the car's battery) or a dedicated dash cam battery pack. In either case, the capacity of the battery has a limit to it. With hardwire kits, the dash cam will record until the battery drops to the set cut-off voltage. Unfortunately, there simply is no way to say how long the camera will record for due to infinite variances in the battery capacity, condition, and the discharge from other electronic systems in a vehicle such as the security system.
A battery pack like the B-124 has a 76.8 Wh capacity and on a full charge can typically provide 18-30 hours of parking mode recording. A dash cam's power consumption rating will determine how long it can record for. Entry level basic 1-channel dash cams will typically consume less power than more powerful 2-channel dash cams. So even with a known battery pack that only has a dash cam draining it, it's hard to say the exact amount of time a dash cam can record for.