By on July 28, 2009

Rear view cameras are becoming commonplace on SUVs, CUVs and luxury cars but only as part of very expensive option packages. If you prefer spending your money on things like groceries and house payments, or have an older vehicle, you’re pretty much out of luck. But not entirely. Peak (yes, the antifreeze people) offer the Peak Wireless Back-up Camera System. To see if it passes muster, I installed one on my 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe.

The Peak system comes with your choice of 2.4″, 3.5″and 7″ monitors. I tested the 3.5″ system, which retails for around $100, depending on where you buy it. Inevitably, the package proclaims it “Installs on vehicles in just minutes!” True—if you don’t care how it’s installed. Being borderline OCD, it took me a bit longer.

The first step: install the monitor. It attaches to the windshield via a suction-cup bracket. Run a power cord to the cigarette lighter or power outlet and voila! I put it right next to the Tahoe’s A-pillar, where it would be out of the way but still easy to see. I ran the power cord behind moldings and under the dash to the power outlet. if you’re so inclined, you can hardwire the power cord.

The camera mounts on the rear using the top bolts on the rear license plate (provided your state hasn’t declared a jihad against license plate frames and other items that might impede the revenue flow from their red light cameras and photo radar). One wire runs from the camera; a recess in the camera housing lets you  wrap the wire behind the license plate. And then the problems begin. How do you get that wire inside the car?

The instructions suggest drilling a half-inch hole behind the license plate—if there isn’t a hole already. Personally, I’d balk at this suggestion, especially if I had to drill a hole in the body. Fortunately, my Chevy’s bumper came pre-holed.

The Peak Wireless Back-up Camera system wire attaches to the transmitter, which must be mounted inside the vehicle . . . somewhere. You also have to splice another wire into the backup light circuit. The kit comes with saddle type wire splices, or, if you’re lucky, you can hook the wires directly into the plug on the back of the taillight like I did.

Next “issue”: getting that wire to the transmitter. I managed to snake it through the wiring harness’s hole (with the help of a coat hanger wire) and pull it out under the car. Then I ran both wires inside at the bottom corner of the left cargo door and under the interior molding. From there I routed the wires behind the interior trim panels to plug into the transmitter, which I attached to the D-pillar next to the rear window. One glaring omission from the kit: any material with which to mount the transmitter. I used some double-stick Velcro® lingering in my toolbox.

The camera and transmitter power-up with the backup lights. The monitor activates when it receives a signal. The image is clear, if not high-res. But what do you expect for $100—HDTV?

When I was ready to test the system, no one wanted to loan me their toddler for the reverse-your-SUV-out-of-your-suburban-ranch-style-home test. So I took a trash can that’s about 22″ tall and a stuffed animal that’s about the same size as a crawling baby. I positioned them one, five, 10, 15 and 20 feet from the rear bumper. The camera picked them up at one foot, where obviously they couldn’t be seen in the rearview mirror. I was surprised to discover that my test items didn’t appear in the rearview mirror until they were 15 feet back—and that was just the very top of the trash can. I didn’t see the stuffed animal in the mirror until they were 20 feet away. The camera picked them up all the way.

There are a few caveats. The wire to the backup lights is only six feet long (and the wire to the camera is shorter). The Peak Wireless Back-up Camera System’s transmitter doesn’t look weatherproof. (If you want to install this on a pickup truck you’ll have to splice the wires to get them to the transmitter inside the cab.) The system works on 2.4 GHz; there may be some interference from Bluetooth and other wireless accessories. You’ll also find the monitor picks up stray signals from wireless security cameras at convenience stores and self-storage warehouses. No, really.

These are relatively minor problems, though. If you have small children or pets, or live in an area where kids and pets roam free and drive a large vehicle or one with limited visibility (you, not the kids and pets), the Peak Wireless Back-up Camera System is worth the investment. Obviously.

[Peak supplied the camera system used for this review.]

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16 Comments on “Product Review: Peak Wireless Back-Up Camera System...”


  • avatar
    seabrjim

    This doesnt appear quite ready for market. Are we sure GM doesnt own Peak?

    • 0 avatar
      cme4brain

      This is a very decent product for the price. The installation is easy, but the instructions could be clearer. There is no mention that the camera has an upside down but the monitor cannot flip vertically, only left to right.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    I installed on our minivan the very similar Roadmster VR3 wireless backup camera, $90 at Costco a couple years back. The wireless transceiver is built into the camera unit/pigtail wiring so there is no separate transmitter. Installation was quick and it’s been nice to have the camera, as I hit a pole before purchasing it. The fisheye lens lets you get up very close to other cars when backing up in tight parking lots, i.e. Costco.

    Cons: The screen is small and low-resolution, that’s what you get for the price. The camera lacks low-light sensitivity and is not very useful after dark. (Newer cameras I’ve seen have LEDs which turn on upon shifting in to reverse.) The older our camera has gotten, the slower the image appears as the camera “warms up”, and can take several seconds. Finally, the camera has a plastic cover which is easily scratched or broken.

  • avatar
    Sigsworth

    Doesn’t seem particularly wireless. Given the problems with interference, etc., why not just produce a wired version? Still, looks like it could be useful for a number of applications, some of them legal…

  • avatar
    John R

    You’ll also find the monitor picks up stray signals from wireless security cameras at convenience stores and self-storage warehouses.

    !!!!!!

    Frank also writes for Lifehacker.com for cat burglars…

  • avatar

    The photos linked to the test distances are fairly large, so you’ll have to scroll down to see all of them. I apologize for the quality of some. My camera didn’t want to cooperate fully with the closeups of the monitor (but I’ve never claimed to be a photograher!).

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    It seems to work pretty well, judging by the pics and descrpition. Anyone with some know-how could probably get it to work the way they want it to by extending wires, adding double stick tape, and of course hardwiring the screen into a switched power source. I wonder if the transmitter could hide behind a trim panel and still transmit a nice signal to the screen. As for the security cameras showing up on screen, that probably wouldn’t be enough of a problem to render the system useless, and for about $100, it appears to be a pretty good deal. I may have to seek one out for my mom’s ride. Thanks, Frank.

  • avatar

    superbadd75 :
    source. I wonder if the transmitter could hide behind a trim panel and still transmit a nice signal to the screen.

    I didn’t try that, but I’m pretty sure it could. The instructions call for mounting the transmitter inside the trunk so putting it behind a trim panel shouldn’t cause an problems. However, you can test it during the installation and find a better location if there are any problems.

    As for the security cameras showing up on screen, that probably wouldn’t be enough of a problem to render the system useless,

    It isn’t. It’s just a bit disconcerting for the monitor to come on when it’s not supposed to. Kind of entertaining, too.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Nice review, Frank.

    I have a friend who is considering a new Camaro, but she is worried about rear visibility – this device just might be the ticket (but the “drilling holes” thing may be the deal breaker)

  • avatar
    mocktard

    I’d be very interested in a wired version!

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Frank, does the 7″ version also come with a suction cup mount? I would think that would block a good portion of your forward view. Any trouble seeing to the forward-left of your Tahoe with the test unit?

  • avatar

    Jeff Puthuff
    Frank, does the 7″ version also come with a suction cup mount? I would think that would block a good portion of your forward view. Any trouble seeing to the forward-left of your Tahoe with the test unit?

    I haven’t seen the 7″ version so can’t say how it’s mounted. There’s no problem with the one I tested blocking the view where I have it positioned. However, I’m fairly tall and see right over it; someone shorter might have problems. If it creates a problem, you can mount the screen anywhere you want.

    I’m thinking about digging out some old hardware I used to mount a satellite receiver in another car and mounting it to the dashboard somewhere, probably below the AC controls where it’s still visible but out of the way. I also thought about strapping it to the back of the sun visor. Since this isn’t something you move from car to car like a GPS, a more permanent mounting solution would work if you have dashboard space.

    Ed mentioned in today’s podcast that he didn’t like backing up using a camera, and I don’t know that I’d try backing up just using this one. However, it does let you check the blind spot directly behind you that’s not covered by your mirrors before you start backing, giving you an extra measure of safety and security. It would also help immensely in backing up to hitch up a trailer.

  • avatar
    s.cummings

    I bought the 7 inch and put it in a 2004 freestar
    You put the monitor on the visor. The monitor has straps to strap it right on and I ran the power wire down the window molding to the fuse box and found a fuse that comes on with the key.
    Ran the wire for the camera inside the tailgate door to top molding down to the drivers side taillight which also had enough room in there for the transmitter. Work great and I watched 2 store employees makeing out the other day male/female.
    Oh and I work at the place that makes the front and rear facia for the new camaro and it does come with as an option rear parking assist which is four sensors that let you know if you are going to hit something. I have not tested that out though. And look for the colour sinerge it is a reptile green wow make a gorgous car. Oh ya it is right now a 8 month wait for one of them.(the car not the camera)

    I use the camera when backing up to trailer and also take a quick peak everytime I put the van in reverse just to see if my son has left his bike behind the van or not. Same thing when backing out of a parking spot at mall saved myself grief a few times already.

  • avatar
    daro31

    I bought the Costco version with no transmitter as someone else did, loved it on my Grand Caravan. Unfortunately some stupid kid thought it was a GPS unit and smashed the side window to take it. So I miss it, and am out $270.00 for a window. I guess you need to store all of this stuff all of the time when you leave your car. My only satisfaction is that some stupid kid is trying to figure out how to get home with the GPS he ripped off. :-)

  • avatar
    Tony2020

    This has a 3 month warranty. Mine worked fine until the 4th month, and it died. I called and e-mailed Peak to see if they could help me figure out what to do…maybe I could buy another transmitter or something. No response from them. I enlisted the mail order company where I bought it, and they didn’t get through. I noticed the mail order company no longer carries this brand. So, I had spent money and time wiring all this up. Modified the cheap camera base to fit in my truck…had to drill into the console in the truck. Now, I’ve got this junk just sitting there with no recourse. Beware. A responsible company this is not.

  • avatar
    pmw

    I bought this camera set up a few years ago – but I use it in my horse trailer. I trailer my horse by myself and I like to keep an eye on him. It works like a charm and all my horse friends think I’m a genius for thinking of it.
    PROBLEM: I have lost the cigarette lighter power cord… sold my F350 and I have a feeling my cord was a bonus item for the buyer. Anybody have any idea where I could get a replacement power cord?

    pmw


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