As anyone who has ever towed a caravan will know, reversing can be rather tricky. While it’s difficult enough to get your head around reversing a car while using the rear-view mirrors and back window, guiding a caravan onto a pitch in reverse is a whole different ball game. There is, obviously enough, no rear window for you to look out, making the task of judging space rather challenging. With reversing damage ranking amongst the most common causes of caravan insurance claims (and they don’t tend to be small claims either), investing in a reversing camera may be a sensible idea. Of course, there are certain factors you will need to consider, including staying on the right side of the law. This article provides a quick guide to what you need to know about caravan reversing cameras, to help you make a decision on whether they are right for you.
What to consider when choosing a reversing camera
As you will find with most other caravan accessories, reversing cameras come with a wide range of features, functions and prices. You may be tempted to automatically go for the all-singing, all-dancing top of the range model but, before splashing out unnecessary amounts of cash, think about what you really want from the camera. If you’re not going to use half of the features, paying extra for them doesn’t make sense.
Some of the features you may be looking for include:
- Wired or wireless system – wireless systems are far easier to fit yourself, but there can be issues with signal dropping. Wired systems tend to be more expensive, and require costly professional installation. However, they do provide a more reliable service.
- Screen size – Generally the screens on caravan reversing camera systems measure between 3 and 7 inches. Do you prefer a bigger screen? If so, what size can you fit on your towing car’s dashboard?
- One or two cameras – Some reversing camera systems include two cameras so one can be set up on the towing car to assist with hitching. Others include just the camera for the back of the caravan. The choice is likely to come down to your personal preference and budget.
- Night vision – If you’re likely to be pitching your caravan, or reversing into your storage facility, in the dark, it may be wise to invest in a reversing camera with a night vision option. There’s not much point in spending money on a device designed to protect your caravan if it won’t be any use in the conditions you normally reverse in, after all.
Whichever features you decide you cannot do without, remember to do your research before making your purchase. Taking a little time to read online reviews can prove invaluable and could help you to avoid making an expensive mistake. Try searching on caravan-related forums and discussion groups as well as general consumer review websites for tried-and-tested real-life experiences.
Easier reversing sounds great, but what are the downsides?
Every excellent piece of modern technology has some potential downfalls to counteract its amazing advantages. While installing a caravan reversing camera can make your life a lot easier when pitching or storing your caravan, there is a school of thought that says they can make drivers over-confident and sloppy with manoeuvring techniques.
Most of these negatives can be avoided with the application of a little common sense but, in the interests of a balanced argument, here are some of the more commonly raised concerns:
- The most important factor in avoiding accidents, bumps and scrapes is the driver paying attention. No amount of bells and whistles on a driving-related gadget will prevent incidents if the driver isn’t paying attention. Remember, the reversing camera is designed to aid your own skills, not replace them (but we know you know that already!).
- Some cynics believe that reversing cameras, and similar technology, can induce a false sense of security. Drivers may tend to forget to check their blind spots if they know a computer-aided device is waiting to do it for them. However, responsible technology users will always use their own senses first, and the camera as a bonus.
- In the event of an accident, there may be a tendency to blame the error on the camera. Always remember that no technology is 100% reliable and there have been a few cases of drivers hitting lampposts and poles that the camera or parking sensors did not pick up.
- Technology is only as good as the person operating it. Before using your reversing camera, or any other driving assistance, for the first time, make sure you have fully read the instructions, tested the unit and are confident in how it works.
Top tips for buying and using a caravan reversing camera
- If you spot a great deal online, always check the seller out carefully before buying, particularly when using auction sites such as eBay. If something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
- The sensor fitted by the manufacturer will considerably affect the quality of a reversing camera. CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide Semiconductor) sensors are normally found on budget cameras, as they are the cheapest. These sensors tend to be significantly compromised by direct sunlight (giving a red glow to images) and also perform poorly at night. However, CMOS sensors can be perfectly adequate if all you need is a basic, affordable camera for straightforward reversing. Charge-coupled device (CCD) sensors provide a much better image, but come in at around twice the price of CMOS. If you are investing in a large, multi-purpose reversing camera system, CCD is advised.
- If you are unsure about installing your reversing camera system, enlisting the help of a qualified electrician is the best way to go about it. While basic systems are fairly simple to install, a seemingly minor error can have disastrous consequences. For example, mixing up positive and negative connections will see your brand new system go out with a bang.
- Make sure that the camera system you buy has the same connectors as your caravan. If not, you can normally buy adaptors, but it could be a nasty surprise if you only find out as you’re due to travel.
- Don’t be fooled by exaggerated viewing angle claims. 50-70 degrees is the optimal viewing angle for a reversing camera. Some systems may claim to provide much wider angles, but bear in mind that anything over 120 degrees is likely to be very distorted.
- While most caravan reversing camera systems are waterproof, they should be removed before power-washing the vehicle. You should also avoid getting any wax or cleaning product on the lens.
- Should your camera start to show signs of damage from the salt used on roads during winter, flying stones and debris or other causes, always have it repaired as soon as possible. Repairs on minor damage are normally straightforward, but you may end up having to replace the system if you let it worsen.
Reversing cameras and the law
It goes without saying that normal driving laws apply when using a reversing camera system, but the following points may be useful to know.
- It is legal to use your reversing camera while on the move, should you wish to keep an eye on vehicles behind you. However, this is unlikely to offer any real advantage, as most of the dangers are likely to come from beside your towing car and caravan. Generally, it is best avoided due to the temptation to watch the monitor rather than the road.
- Fitting a caravan reversing camera does not negate the legal requirement to have towing mirrors. Full details on this requirement can be found in our earlier article here, but as a quick guide: [/pink_bullet_list]
- You must fit additional towing mirrors if the caravan or trailer is wider than the towing vehicle
- By law, you must have a clear field of vision 4 metres out to the side and 20 metres behind the driver
- Failure to comply with the law can result in 3 penalty points on your license and/or a fine of up to £1,000 for each mirror infringement
Call us on 01480 402460 for a chat about your caravan insurance, or visit our web pages for full details of the policies we offer. We think that you’ll be delighted by our level of cover and our prices.