The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Backup Camera - Pyle PLCM7500
There’s no question a rearview camera can add a measure of convenience to the business of backing up and increase your margin of safety. Studies have shown a rear camera makes it easier to see small children, pets, or obstacles behind your vehicle that might be otherwise invisible using just your mirrors or looking out the rear window. And that goes double for pickups and other tall vehicles, which can have a blind spot as long as 50 feet to the rear. Adding a rearview camera can also make it easier to see and hook up a trailer.
Many new cars have backup cameras, and it’ll be mandatory equipment by the 2018 model year. For those of us without, the aftermarket offers plenty of choices.
This series details some technological features you can add to your old ride to make it on par with new OEM offerings. We’ll take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, brand recognition with websites, and readily available customer support.
Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.
After covering phone mounts with the iOttie Easy One Touch 2, Bluetooth speakerphone kits by digging into the Motorola Sonic Rider, power inverters big-and-small with the Energizer EN180 and Schumacher X114, and heads-up displays with the Garmin HUD+, it’s time to go back to the future and check out backup cameras with the Pyle PLCM7500.
While aftermarket systems make it possible to retrofit any vehicle with a camera, some installations are easier than others. Options include wired or wireless, systems that use an existing dash center screen or a standalone screen, and some that display an image in a replacement rearview mirror.
Most use a camera that attaches to the rear license plate frame, although hitch mounted cameras and models that attach to a bumper or other surfaces are available. Many are advertised as being DIY projects for shade tree mechanics, but are not for the faint of heart. Installation is more complicated than simply plugging something into your car’s 12V outlet. Any system will involve splicing into the wiring for your car’s back up lights, and hard-wired systems require running wires from the rear of the car to the dashboard display. Some displays must be wired into the fuse panel for power, while others can be plugged into a 12V outlet. Because of the level of complexity, it may be best to enlist the services of a professional installer. At the very least, know what you’re getting into before choosing any system, and make your choices accordingly.
If you’re thinking of upgrading your existing audio system to add features like navigation, Bluetooth, or even a USB port, now might be a dandy time to add a backup camera. Some aftermarket audio systems include a video input jack for this express purpose.
For this exercise, we looked at the Pyle PLCM7500, a well-reviewed product and one that’s fairly representative of what’s available of moderately priced systems. It includes a huge, 7-inch LCD display, a height adjustable mount, license-plate-frame-mounted waterproof camera, your choice of either permanent or suction-cup mounts, a remote control, and enough wiring to string the whole thing together. Priced at $65 including shipping, it was neither the cheapest nor the most expensive unit we found. Others we looked at ranged from around $25 to $300, with many similar to the Pyle priced at less than $100.
Installation of the PLCM7500 was not our favorite thing for several reasons. The supplied installation instructions were a little shy on details, and that’s being generous. With just a couple of vaguely worded paragraphs and no illustrations, much of the four-page user manual was devoted to warnings and disclaimers. It scored another demerit for lighter, flimsier wiring than we would have liked. A heavier gauge would have made splicing and connections easier. Some of the included hardware had a low rent look and feel.
Routing wire from the rear camera to the dashboard screen was more time consuming than it was rocket science, and doing a neat and tidy job involved running wires under carpets, doorsills, and the like. That part wasn’t the Pyle’s fault, and is just part of the drill with any wired system. The dashboard screen can either be hard-wired to the fuse panel, or powered by the vehicle’s 12V outlet using an included plug. We opted for the latter option.
We also opted for the less permanent screen mounting method, slapping the included suction cup mount right on the long-dead factory navigation screen of our 18-year old Acura. That made the honking 7-inch screen easy to see, without blocking the view through the windshield. The tradeoff for so large a view of what’s behind you is that it occupies a lot of real estate, and can interfere with seeing much of anything else. Consider how big a screen you really need before making a buying decision.
We managed to complete the installation without injury to ourselves or the Acura, and our less than professional installation worked fine — at least initially.
The system provided a vivid and large image, with guide lines like a factory system to aid with backing up. Another plus is a second video input jack, so you can watch movies or whatever from another source if you like.
The problem came when we went to make the installation a little more permanent, and were redoing some wiring. We accidentally touched bare power and ground monitor leads together, resulting in a little cloud of blue smoke from the wires and a blank screen. This was in spite of an inline fuse we would’ve thought would sacrifice itself in such a situation. Curiously, the fuse looked just fine, and bench testing at the local auto parts store confirmed this. The shop also described the fuse as an “oddball,” and said we’d have to order a replacement online if we wanted to try replacing it.
A Pyle tech support representative suggested we replace the fuse even though it tested ok, adding that we’d have to order one elsewhere. Failing that, he suggested we contact the eBay vendor we bought the PLCM7500 from, and say that Pyle tech support had authorized them sending us a replacement system. He also said we could send ours back to the vendor.
We’ll try that next, but the takeaway is this: Before buying any aftermarket camera system, think about what type will be best for your budget, needs, and abilities. Think about your comfort level with splicing wires, pulling up carpet, and — at least in the case of the Pyle — dealing with instructions that are sketchy at best. Last, whatever product you buy, read user reviews to gain insight from the experience of others. In addition to helping with your buying decision, you may find better installation tips and instructions than those supplied with the product. That was the case with this Pyle.
What would you do with a $500 eBay Gift Card? We’re giving away three of them. Here’s how to enter to win.
Join the conversation
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
- Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
- MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
- Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
- Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
For my Z I went with an AudioVox review mirror combined with camera in a special enclosure that snaps into one of the two license plate lights covers (the light still works as well). The mirror is a dead ringer for OEM one, however I did lose autodimming and HomeLink. Install was a piece of cake too: mirror is removed via turning a tiny allen screw, then plug camera into light housing over plate in bumper, tap into reverse light (for power and to trigger the cam), run a video cable under the carpet, up the A-pillar, across headliner to mirror. The results are totally stealth, the cam is tiny and the mirror is totally OEM looking - until you select reverse. Then the small (4") monitor shows a view out back. The only thing I don't like is the screen is small (duh... its INSIDE a rearview mirror) and its really not bright enough to see well during the day unless your windows are tinted pretty dark (20%). The double DIN radio swap out is a MUCH better alternative to this articles downright STUPID stick-on install. If the NAV system is broken or outdated already then a double DIN swap out along with an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatible radio is a no brainer. If your going to put a display in your dash it might as well provided tunes and navigation in addition to a view out back. That pretty much mimics how OEM rear view systems are anyway.
I put a Kenwood Apple CarPlay unit in my 2006 Jetta TDI. It also has a backup camera. Having this 2017 technology makes me less interested in replacing the car.