Dashboard Camera Install

Dashboard Camera Install

Got my Blackvue DR400G-HD camera installed today at TM Dania. I would have done it myself (did it on my Range Rover) but the trim is actually much tighter on the S than the RR and so thought I'd better get some help from someone who knows how to remove the trim pieces properly. Glad I did (though it cost me an hour labor)

They ran the cable through the headliner, down the A pillar, under the carpet in the passenger footwell, along the side of the center console area, then up and out next to the lighter socket. For simplicity we decided to stick with the lighter socket and not do a permanent install to the fuse box - it was too much work to route the cable through the firewall.

Works great!! The only downside is the lighter socket is not powered when the car turns off. Might look to tap into a non-switched 12V source - if I can find one.

For those that don't know the Blackvue, it is a full HD, 30fps, 120 deg FOV camera with GPS and three-axis accelerometer recording. It auto wraps recordings on a microSD card (last in, first out), but will automatically lock down (make read only) recordings if it senses high G (settable), on the assumption you've had an accident.

I've got the Original 400G; there's now a Mark II version and a 500 version with wi-fi streaming to mobile devices. The 400G forum can be found here. Originally from Korea it can be a bit cryptic to do firmware upgrades, but it is a great package for the price ($250)

Brian H | 10 February 2013

Have you ever had an instance where it was notably useful? Accidents or other?

Tâm | 10 February 2013

Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

I think surveillance camera is useful in case you want to document traffic lights, accidents or even pranksters such as a judge who were taped scratching the neighbor car's paint...

For a constant 12V source, how about tracing to the emergency/hazard light switch?

nickjhowe | 10 February 2013

Thanks @Tam - good suggestion.

@Brian - I had an accident that led me to get the camera in the first place. Was leaving an airport and the guy three lanes to the right of me decided to cut over four lanes to return to the airport - only the exit he was trying to get to was backed up. He stopped dead in front of me at a 45 deg angle. Impossible for me to avoid him. I was held to be at fault (a) because no one else was an eye witness; (b) it was obvious that I hit him from behind/on the side; (c) the driver lied and said he was travelling slowly and I just drove into him. A camera would have told the whole story...

jzahrt | 10 February 2013

Thanks nickjhowe. I recently purchased a Blackvue 500, and I should be picking up my Tesla in about a week. I am curious about the steps you took to have yours installed. Did you just call up Tesla service and schedule an appointment to have it done? Did they know what you were talking about? Were they reluctant/willing? Thanks for any info. I have been debating the best way to install mine, and I think you hit the mark.

nickjhowe | 10 February 2013

@jzahrt - yes. Called them up. They charged me an hour for it, though it took closer to an hour and a half. Part of that was just trying to figure out the best route to run the cable, part was Byrone's (the service tech) attention to detail.

They were more than happy to help, though it was the first dash camera they'd seen/done. They'd previously fitted radar detectors, but that was to the front grill.

It is easy to run the cable along the headliner where it meets the windscreen without needing to remove the headliner. A small tool will give enough clearance to push the cable up and hide it.

The A pillar cover will need to be removed, then the plastic cover to the end of the dash, then both plastic panels along the door edge. From there we ran the cable under the carpet in the footwell to the center console area. Remove the plastic trim along the console edge from the footwell to the seat - it is a single piece. Voila - you can route the cable so the cigarette lighter connection is right were the cable terminates.

We used adhesive plastic wire clips to keep the cable routed neatly - especially along the center console area.

As I said above we decided just to plug into the lighter socket rather than wire it directly in. Byrone said removing the arm rest to get access to the cable behind the lighter is a pain. Likewise routing it through the firewall is a major operation, I think.

I'm going to pop the trim in the foot well and see if I can get to the hazard light wire from the passenger side. We ran the cable on the passenger side; if you are going to tap into the hazard lights it would probably be best to run it on the driver's side I think.

All the trim removes easily enough - everything is held on with automotive push-clips, with the exception of the A pillar. You'll see a small plastic cover part way up. Pop that off and there's a screw inside. Undo that and the A pillar cover pops off. There is a cubic foam dampener/spacer that can fall out. Make note of where it is.

The two small panels by the door are easy. The larger panel that runs along the bottom edge of the chassis below the door can be a pain. There is a blue clip that you'll see. Rather than try to reattach the trip with the clip in place, byrone pulled it out of the bulkhead and clipped it to the trim piece. It is easier to push it into the bulkhead when attached to the trim than to try to attach the to the clip.

The large trim piece alongside the center console is a very tight fit where it meets the carpet. Needs a bit of brute force to get it out and back in. That is part of the reason I asked TM to do it. I figured if they broke anything they'd replace it. :-)

Good luck!!

nickjhowe | 12 February 2013

Thought I'd post a quick screen shot of the Dashboard cam app that runs on Windows and OSX. Click the image for a full size view. Top right you'll see the 3 axis accelerometer readings.

Below that is the real time speed and GPS recordings. Below that the list of files that the camera recorded. It records a continuous stream of 1 min videos so that they are both manageable and can be individually locked by the camera in the event of an accident.

The list of files can be replaced by a moving map view showing the car location. N, E and P allow filtering of the individual 1 min files to include/exclude normal videos, videos that include an 'event' (acceleration exceeding a threshold), and parked videos.

The camera can be automatically or manually put into 'parking' mode where it will motion detect and only record when something is moving in its field of view.

Below the video are the normal replay controls, and at the bottom is a calendar showing months, days, hours, minutes and seconds to select or filter the playback. Grey means nothing was recorded, green is a normal recording, red would show a time period that includes an event, and blue is parked.

The camera records MP4 files that can be viewed with OSX QuickLook, QuickTime or other video apps.

Uploaded with

nickjhowe | 12 February 2013

One of the things I forgot to mention that stands out about the camera is that it does full 1080p, 30fps recording and has amazing low light capability compared with most other dash cameras.

prash.saka | 13 February 2013

Nick, does using this decrease the Model S's range in any significant way? It will be great if there is a recorder that has rechargeable or replaceable batteries.

~ Prash. | 13 February 2013

I can't answer the range exactly, but it's unlikely to have a significant effect. I've looked all over the Blackvue site for the power/amperage requirements, but I was unable to find anything. It does plug into the cigarette lighter, which is limited to 15A. There is no way it takes 15 amps.

Let's say it takes 2 amps x 12 V = 24W (I expect it is less than this, but just a wild guess right now). To put it in perspective, the two rear license plate bulbs take a combined 20W. The 85KW battery pack fully charged would take 4250 hours (177 days) to discharge if this was the only load.

nickjhowe | 13 February 2013

From what I remember the camera takes 4W. So use for one hour would reduce the car's range by about 25ft.

prash.saka | 13 February 2013

Thanks Frank and Nick. 25ft ... Lol!

nickjhowe | 13 February 2013

Ooops - made a mistake in my calc. 65ft not 25ft. Sorry. You might have got stranded at the end of your drive instead of making it back to the garage. Hope this didn't mess anyone up. :-P

Aleksandyr | 13 February 2013

if we can get the backup camera to record, would have the entire car covered almost. I could have really used that feature. Lady backed out of a parking spot and hit me on Saturday, now she is claiming I hit her! Lesson learned, not to trust anyone and use your phone camera to interview person right afterward, to get their confession.

Alex K | 13 February 2013

@nickjhowe | FEBRUARY 9, 2013: They ran the cable through the headliner, down the A pillar...

I am wondering why they didn't tap into the power that would be available near the grill by the mirror? I would think there is constant power there (or at least when the car is on). The map lights can be turned on any time and the chromatic mirror should also have power. I had one of my map lights replaced, and although they removed the grill (which just pops out), they eventually removed the top of the headliner. It took about 20 minutes.

Brian H | 13 February 2013

The power in the mirror was reversed. ;)

nickjhowe | 13 February 2013

@Alex - good question - I think that was more my direction than anything else. I'll pop the cover and take a look. Might be something to look at.

There is a small box that you can get from Blackvue that monitors the voltage and cuts the power to the camera if it drops below a certain threshold. Stops the camera flattening the 12V battery.

I've no idea whether this is necessary in the Model S. Is it possible to flatted the 12V if there's still charge in the main battery? Will the DC-DC system keep the 12V going for months, even if there's a very small current drain?

Logical_Thinker | 13 February 2013

nice to see. this is my first post here (so hi y'all). I'm familiar with the Blackvue, and it is one of the better event recorders out there.

I want to install one facing in each of all four directions.

DouglasR | 14 February 2013

Is the lens mounted into the back of the stock rear view mirror? I can't quite figure it out from the picture.

nickjhowe | 14 February 2013

@DouglasR - it is completely separate from the mirror. Sorry for the confusion.

Here's a picture of the unit itself.
Uploaded with

It rotates so can face forwards or backwards and sticks to the windshield. | 14 February 2013

Picture 3 from Nick first post makes it clear it's attached to the windshield, just below the black box mounted to the windshield (for rain detection).

I don't think you'd want it attached to the rear-view mirror, as the aim would change as you adjust the mirror.

nickjhowe | 14 February 2013

I try to position it so that the majority of the camera is hidden behind the mirror when viewed from the driving position, but also it is roughly central to be aesthetically pleasing when viewed by others (to the extent that a dash cam attached to a windshield can be aesthetically pleasing. :-S)

drp | 14 February 2013

@nick et al

Please enlighten me as to why I should buy one of these. Is it mostly for accidents, getting cut off etc? I want one but I don't know why?

Brian H | 14 February 2013

For the forensics guys after your fatal accident. Makes their job so much easier! Be considerate.


Mark2131@CA-US | 14 February 2013

Why do you need these?????

Spend six minutes watching this and you'll install one tomorrow.

Mark2131@CA-US | 15 February 2013

Oh, and if there's ever a meteorite striking Earth, you'll be able to record it!

prash.saka | 15 February 2013

@Mark2131 ... I guess I am getting one. Thanks for the video; the invisible ghost cars with just their tires visible were enough to creep me out :)

NOPetrol | 15 February 2013

Is there anyway to install this Cam without ripping up the car and putting it back together?

nickjhowe | 15 February 2013

@NOPetrol - yes, just dangle the wire straight down and don't conceal it. Or use a GoPro and keep recharging the batteries (but you lose out on a bunch of features)

Alex K's suggestion might be the best - there is probably a 12V feed to the rain sensor/mirror that you can tap into behind the square grill on the headliner. Am going to pull it and check. Unfortunately I threw my back out this morning and am nearly immobile, so might be a couple of days before I'm limber enough to do anything.

Alex K | 25 February 2013

@nickjhowe | FEBRUARY 15, 2013: there is probably a 12V feed to the rain sensor/mirror that you can tap into behind the square grill on the headliner.

Did you ever check out the power behind the grill area? I just got a BlackVue WiFi DR500GW-HD from ($279), but I'm a bit shy to try to pry off the grill and look inside. I really hate to just mount it and leave the cable visible while plugging into the 12V accessory socket. If I don't just mount the camera and plug it in, I know it'll wind up in my box of bought-and-not-installed-items.

drp | 25 February 2013


Please let us know what you do. I will call Tesla to see if they will install it but do you have any idea what power it takes away? It wood be nice to have it on all day in the parking lot but off in the garage.

nickjhowe | 25 February 2013

Here's what's behind the grill. All very neat with the sheathes around the cables. There are the wires for the lights, but I didn't disassemble it any further to see where those wires subsequently run.

There are some wires tucked up into the head liner (not visible in this shot), as far back towards the windshield as you can go.

The more interesting thing is the terminator that isn't connected to anything (right picture)...intriguing! I didn't put a meter on any of the pins to see if there's current there. Might try when I have more time.

Alex K | 8 March 2013

I purchased a BlackVue DR500GW-HD Wi-Fi Dashcam from ($279 free shipping) and installed it on my Model S.

I used the center unused connector that is behind the headliner grill to get power (thanks Nick). The other connectors are for the microphones and I didn't want to mess with those. The unused connector has "12V" ( actually about 13.5V measured) continuous power and another signal wire. I used a Pin Header to determine the power pins and polarity and as you'd expect, black is ground. Red/blue is power. The power pins are the outside pins:

I made a connector/adapter cable with an inline fuse holder (5mmx20mm) bought at Radio Shack. I used a 2A fuse as found in the Blackvue cigarette adapter. The pin header that the wires are soldered to has standard 0.1" spacing. This makes it convenient to just plug in the adapter cable without having to damage the existing wiring.

The adapter cable fits nicely in the grill location and I reused the tape holding the connector. I ran the cable out the corner of the grill, because it looked too difficult to run it through the headliner, although there is enough cable length for that. The headliner also looked like it had some adhesive holding other wiring in place and I didn't want to disturb it:

I mounted the camera so that it's centered under the mirror. I also moved it down slightly so that the adhesive does not stick to the silk screened area in case I want to remove it in the future. Because the camera sensor is off-center, the camera is not centered in the windshield. This is what the installed camera looks like:

Because power is available all the time, I leave the camera plugged in when stopped. The camera automatically goes into parking mode. I usually unplug the camera when parked at home to reduce vampire load.

Being WiFi enabled is really nice with this camera. I can view the recorded or live video on my iPhone and it made adjusting the camera angle very easy. One problem I had was that the camera needs to have the timezone set. This is easy with the phone app (or can be done on a desktop machine). But after the timezone is set, the time display is still off. I found a suggestion on an online forum to reinitialize the SD card after setting the timezone. This sets the time zone properly. Given that the dashcam has GPS and keeps proper time, I would think they could adjust the time properly.

nickjhowe | 8 March 2013

Nice job @Alex! Might try that myself. The fact that the cigarette lighter is a switched outlet is a pain.

I'll try and find out from my contacts what the unused connector is for.

Alex K | 8 March 2013

@nickjhowe | MARCH 8, 2013: I'll try and find out from my contacts what the unused connector is for.

That would be nice. The other connectors are for the microphones and are shielded. The unused connector is not shielded, so I doubt it's for something like a camera or other analog signal. I didn't have time to put a scope on it, but my guess would be that it's a LIN bus signal, that could be used for anything. Maybe they were thinking at some point to have the Pano roof controls in there?

LK | 8 March 2013

This turned into a great post... Good Job NIck & Alex! | 8 March 2013

For the BlackView 500, the current is about 310ma with WiFi on. You can just leave it on all the time unless you're going away for a month.

blaz | 8 March 2013

Thanks for the excellent information guys! I was looking into dashcams for my upcoming Model S and it's great to see that you guys figured out how to install them. I wouldn't need Parking Mode so I would be cool with plugging it to the lighter outlet even if it's powered only while the car is on.

I was reading a lot of comparisons and I'm still undecided between the BlackVue DR500GW-HD and the FineVu CR-500HD. I was favoring the FineVu because it's smaller, but it looks like the BlackVue is pretty well hidden behind the mirror so that could totally work too.

My main concern however is regarding the legality of dash cams. Has anyone here researched that at all (and specifically for California, in case state laws differ here)? These cameras have microphones so they could record conversations with other drivers, and apparently some states make it illegal to record someone without their consent. There may be other implications when recording law enforcement, etc.

nickjhowe | 8 March 2013

There is a config option to disable the mic.

haansberger | 9 March 2013

I received my DR400 today but had to create my own power connection ( 2nd hand buy ). I wired the + pole to the center (inside) of the power pin, the - to the outside of the pin. Connecting the camera, I either get a red LED on the outer button if no SD is inserted or I get all colors in sequence when a card is inserted. This makes me wonder wether the power is inverted. Can you confirm that for the camera, the center pin gets + and the outer wall gets - ?
Anybody ever seen this sequencing lights issue? Maybe a non conformal SD? I ordered a new one, so lets see what happens with that one.

nickjhowe | 9 March 2013

@haansberger all colors in sequence usually means it is formatting the card and installing the software. Leave it a few minutes. The colors should eventually stop. Once it is finished, take the card out and check it on your PC. You should see the application has been installed on the card, and you can fire it up and change the configuration settings for the camera - they get written back to the card.

haansberger | 9 March 2013

Indeed - after a while everything settled and it works like a champ now. The only thing that won't work are the voice alarms. They are selected in the settings menu, but I hear nothing. No big deal - the footage is what is important :-)

djm17178 | 27 March 2013

Does anyone know if this method could be used to power a radar detector? | 27 March 2013

I don't see why not. The alternatives are not easy. The only issue is radar detectors don't work through the metallic windshield! There are long threads elsewhere on radar detector issues.

Tomas | 27 March 2013

Hate to be a dick, but why in earth would you want this? Paranoia?
I really don't understand. I see something about documenting an accident? Really?
It really seems odd to me that you live your live like this. Do you worry about every potential risk in life? If so, how do u get out of bed?
Folks, it's a car. It's a material object. It insurable.
What a sad way to live. My view: If you can't afford to lose it, you can't afford to own it.
Somebody, please explain what this is all about.
I'm creeped out by this.

Brian H | 27 March 2013

Establishing fault, or lack thereof, after an accident. Beats "He said, she said".

Alex K | 28 March 2013

@Tomas | MARCH 27, 2013: Hate to be a dick, but why in earth would you want this?

My primary purpose for a Dashcam is to record my trips. Not only do these cameras record the scenery in front of the car, they also record GPS position, speed, time and audio. Some of the non-camera features are also useful for recording mileage and location, which helps in using the car for business purposes. You can also map out your trip after the fact. This is useful for an EV so you can correlate your energy usage with the previously driven terrain. When the car is parked, the Dashcam goes into parking mode and records events such as someone hitting your car, people staring at your car, people dancing on your car, etc.

nickjhowe | 28 March 2013

@Tomas - a guy pulled a stupid manoeuvre cutting across three lanes of traffic then stopping dead. There was no way I could avoid hitting him. When the cops came he lied to them and said I ran into him when he was driving normally. None of the other drivers stopped, so no witnesses.

Since then I've had a dashboard cam.

fluxemag | 28 March 2013

I have considered this in the past because I think it's pretty cool, but you are also creating evidence that could be used against you. Each individual needs to weigh the benefit vs risk.

Captain_Zap | 28 March 2013

I find the concept of a dash camera rather creepy it feels like an intrusion.

dpearson | 28 March 2013


Great install and I'd really like to replicate this on my MSP. However, you lost me a little with your description of creating the cable. Working with pin headers like this is not something I've done before.

Any chance you can provide a little more detail on just the cable creation part. Essentially, from the polarity establishment point to the point where you plug the pin header in to the unused connector.

Great work!