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Video: How to install a backup camera

Our expert shows you how to do the job right

Adding a backup camera to your vehicle makes it safer to back into parking spaces, back out of your driveway, or monitor a trailer while in reverse. Installation is straightforward, and you can do it yourself if you're even just a little handy. In this video, our expert walks through a typical backup camera installation, and provides many great tips to help your installation be a success.

Read video transcript

Hey, I'm J.R., I'm the training manager here at Crutchfield. Today were going to show you how to install a backup camera. We're in the install bay with a whole bunch of new advisors, and we're all installing stuff into their car so they can get some hands-on experience with all of our products, and in Barry's Xterra here.

Barry and Jessie are up front installing a Clarion stereo with a nice big screen on it, and we're going to install a backup camera on the back of Barry's Xterra. It's going to go right here where the license plate is. It's going to be mounted in this nice license plate frame. The cable from the camera will go through the hole, and it will come up in another hole right about there, and that's where the camera's wire will connect to the wire that we need to run to the front of the vehicle.

The other end of this cable has three connections on it. The red wire will simply connect to our accessory power wire, the same wire that powers the radio. The black wire will connect to chassis ground and the yellow RCA cable will connect to the backup camera input on the back of the radio, and we're going to run these wires underneath these panels here, down next to the backseat underneath the door sills, right up to the driver's kick panel up into the dash, and right out into the radio cavity.

We'll go take a look at how that's going. So as you can see, Barry and Jessie pretty much have this Clarion stereo installed in the dash, and as part of that installation they ran two wires, the parking brake wire and the reverse wire, through the dash and right down to this vehicle harness down here where we're going to connect those wires. Connecting the reverse wire allows the radio to know when Barry puts his Xterra in reverse, and then he can look at his radio and see the image coming from the camera and stop running over kids' bikes.

So let's go get started. We're going to start by dropping the spare tire back here so that when we drill our hole through the rear bumper we don't drill into the tire, and also that reveals the hole that we're going to run the cable up through and into the storage compartment back here.

So the first thing we're going to want to do is drill a hole in the bumper for the camera wire to go through, and so we're going to take the frame and put it in place, and mark a spot.should be about right, and we don't need to drill a huge hole.

This is the cable we're going to run through there and up into the passenger compartment here in the storage compartment, and they design the camera in a way so that you don't have that whole huge bundle of wires going all the way to the front of the car, and you only need to drill a hole big enough to get this connector through it, so that drill bit should be plenty big enough.

There we go, nice clean hole. Let's make sure it lines up, oh yeah, dead center, so we're going to run the camera wire through this hole. We are also going to run this wire that comes with the license plate frame. Now the license plate frame has some lights in it so that we can see our license plate, and this is in addition to the factory license plate bulbs, and there's no problem with that.

In fact, we're going to use the wires that power these bulbs. We're going to tap into those to power the bulbs in our license plate frame, so everything all of that can be wired up right here behind the bumper. These wires are pretty easily accessible underneath here, so I'm going to go ahead and run these wires through.

So here's a good example of do as we say, not as we do. You should use a rubber grommet to protect the wire from the sharp edges of the metal.

All right, so I've got the Clarion camera mounted to the Clarion license plate frame using the brackets provided, both with the frame and with the camera. Here we've got our wires routed through it, and through our hole in the bumper, so we're going to go ahead and mount this to the bumper.

All right, that's mounted good and tight, and our camera here is adjustable so we can get just the right angle, so Barry can use this either to see a wide field of view field, or if he wants to aim it right down here at his trailer hitch for when he's backing up his trailer, it's going to serve both purposes. It might even have a wide enough angle to see all of that all at once.

So next we're going to go under the bumper. Here we're going to connect power and ground to the license plate lights to get this license plate frame to light up. All right. So we've got 12-volt and ground, and we need to connect those.

I've used a multi-meter on these wires here to determine that this is our 12-volt, and this is our ground for this light, and I'm going to use these Posi-Taps to tap into these wires, so we don't have to cut them, and this is much easier. Just to use these Posis and go ahead and tap into the positive wire. That's 12-volt, and we'll do the same thing on the ground wire and let's see, we've got a little excess wire here. I'm going to wrap that up and secure it with a zip tie.

All right, so we've got the wire coming from the license plate frame here zip-tied to the flex loom, and we've got it connected to power and ground. All right, go ahead and secure that back into place. All right, so now we're going to check to see if we've made our connections correctly, and these lights come on. Hey Barry, can you turn your running lights on for me? Oh yeah, we're getting light out of the bulbs in the license plate frame bracket along with the original bulb, so we're good to go there.

Now we can start the process of running the camera wire up through the hole in the storage compartment. So I've got a bit of a mess up here, so let me clean up my tools and stuff because we're going to have to lift this panel and get in here and get that cable up.

All right, so now we need to get the camera cable from behind the bumper up through a hole in the body and into the passenger compartment here, and the way we're going to do that is we're going to remove all these panels. I've already done this a little bit so I can see what's going on here, so I'll show you this first panel just comes right out. Next, this panel does indeed just pry out like that and the next panel here as well, and this reveals a very nice big hole right here that we'll be able to run that wire right up through.

To do that, I'm gonna need a wire worm, thank you very much. Stick that down, connect our wire to it, and we're going to just fish it right on through, just like that. And of course, before we're done I'll get under there and make sure the cables are not interfering with the spare tire or anything else underneath there, and we can go ahead and start running our cable up towards the front of the vehicle.

The next place we're going to go is this panel right here. I've already unscrewed the three screws for us, so we should be able to just pop this out like that, and we'll be able to run this wire across up here to right next to the back seat. it's going to go down to the driver's side back door, where we're going to just run it under the door sills to the front of the vehicle.

All right, so I've got the other wire in the front coming back, so now I can mate the wire that comes from the camera to the wire that goes up to the back of the stereo. Those wires are nice and tight now, so let's tuck these underneath these two panels. We've got a lot of cable to run up to the dash, right along this door sill underneath the weatherstripping.

All right, so we've got the cable to the kick panel, and I'm going to go up above the pedals, and make sure we zip tie them up in place there, so we're not interfering with Barry's feet as he operates the controls of the vehicle. I also need to get this cable run up into the cavity of the radio, where as you can see, Barry and Jessie have left it kind of half installed for me so that I can get these cables run up into the dash there.

All right, we should be able to pull it right back up through this hole here. Beautiful. You're going to want to take all of this excess cable and wrap it up nice and neatly, maybe tie it up with a zip tie and tuck it somewhere behind the radio. You can probably find some nook or cranny inside the dash where we can stick the excess cable. It looks like we have a perfect place next to this air vent here, and I've got just enough cable left to route it over here and get it all connected to the back of the stereo.

So let's do power wire first. I'm just going to undo this positive, and so that's one of the awesome things about Posi connectors is that you can just unscrew them and add a wire in, and connect it with some new wires.

All right, there's the power wire for the camera. I'm going to twist it together with these power wires for the radio. This is the switched power wire, which means they are only powering the radio when the vehicle is on, or when the key is in the accessory position, because you wouldn't want your radio and your camera on all the time, otherwise you're going to kill your battery.

Next it's time to do the ground wire, which is the black wire, and in some vehicles the black wire is a wire in the harness so you would connect it the same way I just did the red wire. In this particular vehicle, the radio is grounded straight to a piece of metal in the vehicle right here, in fact, and so that makes it easy enough to just loosen that screw and add that terminal right to it, so it's a pretty simple grounding process.

Now the radio and the camera get their power from here, their grounds from here the next thing to do is connect the video feed from the camera to the rear-view camera input on the back of the stereo. Sometimes it's an RCA connection right on the back of the chassis, and other times like with this Clarion there's a plug that you plug into the back of the radio, and it's got all sorts of connectors. These are audio and video inputs and outputs.

The feed from the camera goes into the backup camera input hanging off of this harness here. We'll just plug those together, and then this connects into a connection right here. There we go.

So the last thing we'll need to do is get a couple wires from this radio connected to the vehicle. As I mentioned earlier, there's a video head unit, we have a backup camera, so there's a couple additional wires in addition to your power and ground and speakers and such, and that would be our parking brake wire and our reverse wire.

In different vehicles those are located in different places. They might be right next to the handbrake, or down by the foot brake, or any number of places in between, in the dash somewhere. In this car they're down here in the driver-side kick panel. And so we have routed the two wires from the back of the radio through the dash down here. We're going to get down and we're going to just simply use those Posi-Taps to tap into those wires.

I think that pretty much covers the specifics of installing the backup camera. I'm going to go ahead and get Barry and Jessie to finish installing the stereo. Before putting these panels back together, and putting the back in, of course we'll test everything to make sure it all works, and we'll take a look and see how great this backup camera looks.

So I thought it might be nice if we took a look at what it would take to install a backup camera in a completely different type of type of car. Barry's is an SUV with a license plate under the bumper, so pretty straightforward there, but what about on a four-door sedan like this where the license plate would go on the trunk lid?

You would take the license plate off and you would probably drill a hole. You might find a channel, or you might find an access point into the trunk from maybe where the license plate lights are, or something like that. You might find a place to run the wire through. If not, drill a hole right here, that'll get your wire into the underside of the trunk.

There might be some access points you can pull your cable through. If there's a liner like this, you're going to just going to route it underneath the liner right over here to the to the hinge, and then you can come in the trunk, and then basically the same from there. You just need to get your wires from the trunk all the way up to behind the radio, and the rest of the installation is the same thing we did in Barry's car.

So that's how to install a backup camera. I hope this demystifies the process a little bit for you. It's not as difficult as you might think. It does involve running some wires, maybe drilling a hole or two, but it's not rocket science. It's just some wires from the back of the vehicle to the front, and once you get it in you're going to love your backup camera because you can, like Barry, stop running over kids' bikes.

If you have any questions or need some help picking out or getting a backup camera, just call Crutchfield.

  • vince from Oxnard , ca

    Posted on 5/4/2021

    what's the red wire coming out of the a/v jack for? its not mentioned in the instructions for the boss elpc40b

  • Eric from Lakeland

    Posted on 2/6/2021

    Question about the ELPC40B Boss Audio back up camera. I've installed dozens of car radios (and am an aircraft avionics tech) but have never seen an audio cable with a red power wire sticking out of the connectors at each end. WHAT ARE THOSE RED WIRES FOR? Your wiring diagram says it is a power/video cable. OK, pretty obvious that it is a video cable, but is the red wire supposed to be routed to the instrument panel and connected to 12V? Your wiring diagram (or the Boss Audio diagram) doesn't show those red wires sticking out of the yellow audio connectors. If so, why doesn't the power/video cable have a red wire that runs the entire length of the cable? Does that red wire supply power to the camera? Then does the red and black wire provide a signal to turn on the camera? Your video wasn't that helpful, he spends lots of time telling you to tuck in the wires and route them here or there, but the critical portion of an installation is if the wires are correctly connected. He just connects wires without showing which wire is which, at least for the video camera power wires. Or maybe the red wires are connected to the audio cable shield and that is how power is routed to the camera? It would be nice if he showed exactly which wires are being connected to what, not that this is very complicated compared to the avionics systems I install, but those two red wires are a complete mystery to me.

  • Wayne from Houston

    Posted on 12/7/2020

    I have the Alpine INE-W970HD with a HCE-C114 reverse camera. Everything is wired according to the manuals, but when I switch to reverse, I get no video. I see the guides, but a black screen otherwise. I saw a video of a tech mentioning running an additional ground to the RCA cable. I've never heard of grounding an RCA cable. Is this a feasible option with this unit?

  • Archie from Shreveport

    Posted on 11/8/2020

    I am using a crux cdr 02 back up camera what does the red 2" wire next to the yellow RCA cable connect. to ?

  • Philippe Muths from Westminster

    Posted on 6/11/2020

    Hello, Just purchased a Boss BV850 ACP that came with a back-up camera. Upon installing the said camera I discovered that it was about 5 feet short of my destination in the dash and connection to the radio. I called tech support and they told me that I needed to get a coupler and an extension wire to make this work. i am very disappointed that my advisor did not mention that the wire was going to be too short for my application. They knew this was going into a pickup and did not offer a solution. Basically SOL. Not very happy with tech support.

  • Philippe Muths from Westminster

    Posted on 6/10/2020

    Hello, Just purchased a Boss BV850 ACP that came with a back-up camera. Upon installing the said camera I discovered that it was about 5 feet short of my destination in the dash and connection to the radio. I called tech support and they told me that I needed to get a coupler and an extension wire to make this work. i am very disappointed that my advisor did not mention that the wire was going to be too short for my application. They knew this was going into a pickup and did not offer a solution. Basically SOL. Not very happy with tech support.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 6/12/2020

    Phillipe, the original cable and included extension totals over 18', which we think should work for a truck your size, but I get your frustration. That's a lot of hard work to then come up short. We've shared your comment with Tech Support and they are reaching out to offer consultation on potentially re-routing the cable.
  • Simon Janson from Garden Grove

    Posted on 5/13/2020

    I just bought the Boss BN965BLC car radio with backup camera. The video looks simple enough to follow instruction. However, the yellow extension cord with the red small wire is too short to reach the highlander backdoor mounted camera. What I want to know is where are the green backup wire and the other wire from the back of the radio mentioned hooked up to since the extension wire from the back to the radio only has the yellow plug in and the red wire. Simon

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 5/14/2020

    Simon, since you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • Alan from Maricopa

    Posted on 1/26/2020

    I purchased a backup camera for my 2005 GMC Yukon XL 2500 SLT. I was expecting the standard Crutchfield procedures......but just a generic Xterra video. HELP???

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 1/27/2020

    Alan, your purchase includes free Tech Support. Give us a call so that we can help. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • CHRIS from Dallas

    Posted on 12/5/2019

    I have the same question as "daN baueR from South Egremont" but in the comments here it looks like the answer provided to his question covers another question instead. I for a truck like my f150, where do you recommend I run the cable from the license plate to the cab? I'd like to make sure that's something I can do myself before I buy the camera. Thanks.

  • Davonejerro ( DJ) JacksonBey from Murfreeboro

    Posted on 10/25/2019

    My back up camera doesn't turn on in reverse. But if I put my truck in reverse and hit the camera button it will come on. I don't want to have to keep pressing a button to back up. So my question is. Do the brake wire and back view control wire need to be connected to work without having to press a button?

  • Gerald Suson from WALTERS, Ok

    Posted on 8/21/2019

    The cable that runs from the mirror to the rear camera is to short. Will a backbone cable work to lengthen it?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 8/21/2019

    Gerald, that'll depend on your system and if that cable is proprietary. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call tech support page for free help troubleshooting your system.
  • Tony from Proctor

    Posted on 7/27/2019

    Please explain the reverse wire. Is this the wire that powers the reverse lights? Can it also power the camera so you only have to run the video cable to the head unit. Will most head units switch to the backup camera input once they detect a signal? If the camera always has power when keyed on, do you then have to select the video input somehow from a menu on the head unit everytime you put it in reverse?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 8/21/2019

    Tony, yes - the power wire for your reverse lights will power the camera as well when you're in reverse. Your vehicle only powers those lights (and the camera) when you're in reverse, so you won't need to manually select the video feed.
  • Charles Roberts from LAKE CHARLES

    Posted on 7/7/2019

    How do you install this camera in the back of a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with a spare tire cover?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 7/9/2019

    Charles, a vehicle-specific backup camera will likely be the best option for you. I've passed your question along to our Advisors. Someone will contact you soon to help find the right match for you.
  • Tim i from Reading

    Posted on 7/4/2019

    Ive tried this on my 13 chevy cruze. I just have the bar camera. But i ran the wire from the camera to my head unit, connect the wires to the ground and the pwer to both the yellow 12v + or the accessory wire. Still no power though. Any help? Did i miss something?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 7/9/2019

    Tim, give us a call. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • mani from beaverton

    Posted on 12/23/2018

    It was great idea to power camera with license plate light. I tried to that on my car and camera did not turned on. Unfortunately after connecting I notice that license plate light is not working. If license plate light bulb is blown is camera connected to it will work?

  • D_Martin from New York

    Posted on 11/18/2018

    To make the installation easier (snake the camera wires from the rear to the head unit), is it possible to cut the the connector at the end.. snake the wire to the front and then re-attach the piece that I cut off (connector) by soldering it ? Would this work ?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 11/20/2018

    D, that really depends on the cable involved. In some cases, you may be dealing with a cable that bundles signals. The safe bet is to find a way to work the cable/wire through your vehicle without cutting it. A wire worm, some electrical tape, and a smidge of lubricant will usually get you through any tough spots.
  • daN baueR from South Egremont

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    That covers suvs and sedans. I've got an old S10. I suppose that's redundant. Where do recommend running the cable to get to the cab from the license plate holder? Would that be under the truck or under the bed liner? Thanks.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/14/2017

    Ken, this Axxera head unit came installed in the motor home when you purchased it? If we carry it, you can find a PDF of the manual available for viewing under the Details tab of the product page. If not, you'll probably want to check back with the Thor dealership for more details.

  • Ken Longtin from Hayden

    Posted on 8/11/2017

    We just purchased a new Thor motor home with the Axxera touch dash unit came with zero books on the dash unit operation ... The salesman told us the backup camera would stay on for rear viewing while driving ..... Can you help with instruction, quick start manual?? Thank you

  • Chris from Coweta

    Posted on 7/28/2017

    That video was super helpful! I loved the end where he showed how to do the install on a car with a trunk-mounted license plate. Exactly what I needed to see. Thanks a bunch!