Have you ever scraped your front passenger wheel against the curb? Yes of course you have, because you’re a human being!
I decided to make sure this doesn’t happen to me by installing a tiny camera in the side mirror which would look down at the front passenger-side wheel.
This means that when I’m parking in a tight spot or I’m parking on a narrow street I can get super close to the curb without actually hitting it. Sounds good huh?
To install the camera into the side mirror, I had to remove it. Removing the side mirror in a Suzuki Swift is quite simple. First however, you’ll need to remove the door panel and I made instructions here.
At any moment you can easily pop off the external cover on the side mirror to have a look how much room there is in there. Quite a bit as you can see in the above picture. To remove the cover, work your way around the cover prying it off with a flat screwdriver.
This little beast is the camera I’ll use. It’s a waterproof reversing camera I bought off eBay for around $9 USD. Can’t beat that, so I bought two just in case one dies!
With the door cover and tweeter speaker removed you can unclip the side mirror cable plug and unscrew the three mirror bolts, by turning them anticlockwise.
Removing the side mirror was easy, but I also needed to remove the mirror glass itself. This was a little trickier.
You’ll find a series of clips which hold the glass onto its swivel base. To remove the side mirror glass, use a thin screwdriver to pop the bottom-left clip first by wedging it in there. It’s almost impossible to see what’s going on in there, so click on the following picture for a close-up.
I was scared I was going to break the glass at one point, but as long as you pop off one of the clips, the whole clip assembly will be weaker, and the rest will let go. Just pry the whole glass out, but keep the pressure as even as possible to avoid breaking the glass.
If you’re reading these instructions looking to replace a mirror yourself, just reverse the procedure from here.
As for installing the hidden camera, now the hard work begins!
I used a soldering iron to melt a nice big hole into the side mirror. Unfortunately, soldering irons aren’t very precise instruments when it comes to melting plastic. This meant the hole was a bit bigger and uglier than I wanted!
Still, from the outside it looks fine and the mirror’s movement isn’t impeded in any way which is important.
I ran the wires for the camera (power wires + signal wires) through a hole I cut into the mirror’s plastic frame and pulled the cables through.
Now that’s a tidy install, and there’s plenty of unused room in the mirror housing for the connectors.
Running the power and signal wires from the side mirror wasn’t easy. There were a lot of flexible joins, seals, and tubes to run them through. There was also the problem of having the camera not running all the time, because it seems to get quite warm after about 5 minutes of operation.
Being a cheap Chinese camera I didn’t want it to die after running for a couple of hours, so I found a way to ensure it’s only on when I need it.
The answer to my prayers was right there in front of me: I just connected the power to the side mirror defroster wires!
This means my stealth camera will only operate when I press the rear window defroster button. This is good because it’s close to hand, it has an orange light to remind me it’s running, it only operates when the engine is running, and it turns itself off automatically when you turn off the engine! Perfect!
To run the signal wire from the side mirror to the to the stereo I followed the existing wire paths, avoiding the window going up & down and running through the flexible rubber tubes & grommets to keep water out. This part took a little patience.
Many of you might remember that I installed a Raspberry Pi computer under the dash last year. However I never got around to using it, so I unplugged the computer and instead plugged in the side mirror camera.
I did some positioning and fine-tuning of the camera’s angle and then held it in place with some silicon sealant. A couple of hours later the sealant was dry and I put the mirror glass back in.
It was a fiddly task but the results are superb! Unless you’re below the mirror, you can’t tell there’s a camera hidden inside!
The stealth camera is flipped horizontally which means it’s a little disorientating for the uninitiated (you’re actually looking at the right front wheel) but it’s pretty obvious where the curb is when you’re using it but I’ll look at finding a way to flip the image horizontally.
In combination with the reversing camera (which comes on as soon as the car is put into reverse) it means I can now squeeze into some really tight spaces without touching the other cars and without getting out of the car to check distances.
Check out this video below to see it in action!