Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
3/13/23 2:04 p.m.

I have a 2001 GMC 2500HD crew cab long bed (GMT 800), and tow a 14' enclosed trailer, 18' open trailer, and recently added a 24' enclosed trailer. The 24' is long enough and wide enough that I switched the truck to towing mirrors, which has helped rear visibility some, but I'm thinking cameras might be the ticket. I did some quick internet searching and was overwhelmed with options, so I'm hoping that some of you can give me some thoughts based on real experience. Here are some questions:

  1. It looks like I could get a multi camera setup with a split screen. Maybe one camera on each side of the trailer near the front, one on the back of the trailer,  and one on the tongue, with a screen split four ways? Anyone done this? Did you mount your screen permanently or just use it when you tow?
  2. Wired or wireless? I'm thinking wired will be be more reliable and maybe higher quality.
  3. 5", 7", 10" screen? 5" is probably too small for a split creen, is 10" too big or just right?
  4. It looks like I can get a tailgate camera integrated into the tailgate latch. Anyone done this?
  5. Scope Creep:  It looks like I could replace the head unit with one with a video display. Some of these have camera inputs. Has anyone done this? It would be nice to have Bluetooth and phone integration.
  6. What else should I know about?

I'd really appreciate advice from people who have actually installed a system on their tow rig. The internet is full of people making statements like "this one looks good but I haven't tried it," while this forum always seems to have someone with real experience.

Thanks in advance. 

yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/13/23 2:07 p.m.

In reply to Carl Heideman :

Off-topic: How well does your 2001 tow the 24' enclosed? Gas or diesel? Srw or drw?

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
3/13/23 2:20 p.m.

It's a 6.0 liter gas 2WD with single rear wheels. The 6.0 is the smallest engine that was available in 2001 on the 2500HD, and that's what I wanted back then because I rarely towed more than 5000lbs. It's rated for 10K lbs.

It tows the two smaller trailers like they aren't even there. It notices the big trailer, but it's comfortable around 70-75 MPH when I have a car and tools in it (8-9K including trailer). I use a weight distributing hitch for highway trips and a regular hitch for around town.  On long hills, it slows down a bit. 

The truck gets 13MPG unloaded and 9ish with the smaller trailers loaded or empty (must be air more than weight that makes a difference). With the 24' trailer, I get 6 MPG on regular fuel and 8-9 on premium.  That reminds me, I should try premium with the smaller trailers. 

Related to the margin topic,  I'd feel better at highways speeds if I had a little more margin, and will probably get more capacity in my next truck. This truck has been so good that it may be awhile before a next truck, though.

pkingham (Forum Supporter)
pkingham (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
3/13/23 2:34 p.m.

Probably too long ago to be really relevant to today's technology, but in about 2008, I added an RV-targeted backup camera to the back of the trailer with about a 5" display sitting on the dash.  The goal was to use it as an always-on rear-view mirror without having to use add-on towing mirrors.  It was wireless for communication though I had to run a 12v wire to the camera and figure out power for the monitor.  The 24' trailer plus the Expedition length was just too much distance (and possibly obstruction) for the wireless communication.  The view was very useful, but the picture was often really fuzzy and would drop out at times.  After a few months, the camera started getting condensation in the lens and ultimately died, and the experience was poor enough that I never bothered to replace the camera.

I also remember the camera being much less useful in the dark.  The glare of headlights from a car right behind would overwhelm the camera and make for a bright screen on the dash.  Or the lack of light at all with nobody around produced a really coarse image using the built-in IR lighting.

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/13/23 4:18 p.m.

I found a cheap Chinese camera-and-monitor setup on Amazon and put it on the 30' travel trailer we had. I specifically wanted something hardwired because of the distance. So I ended up having to run the wires underneath the whole length of the trailer to a connector, then from the back of the Expedition into the passenger compartment, so not a small job. It worked well enough. It was 100% reliable, no issues there, but the picture quality left a LOT to be desired. Very grainy and compressed looking. I can't complain, I think the whole setup was less than $100, and it was significantly better than nothing.

wae
wae PowerDork
3/13/23 4:54 p.m.

I know that they make camera setups for travel trailers that might get you what you need.  A friend had them installed on his 5er and they were wireless units that were integrated with the running lights.  In fact I'm fairly certain that the camera was built in to a light housing.  Or maybe the light was built in to the camera housing!  At any rate, there was a monitor that sat on the dash and plugged in to the 12v outlet there.  As soon as the lights were turned on, he had a view of the rear camera on the monitor.  It's been a minute but I think that they're also wired such that when he put the left turn signal on, the view changed to the left camera and vice-versa for the right signal.  This giant fifth wheel was the first thing he ever towed in his life and he picked it up from the dealer and immediate took it from the dealer's lot on a 5 hour road trip.  And then backed it in to place at an RV park.  The camera system was good enough that he didn't hit anything.  I'm fairly certain it was a Furrian system.  Pricey, but pretty good.

Not on a trailer, but on my dad's box truck about 10 years ago I wired up some generic cameras I got from Amazon to the sides and another to the roof and just put three monitors up in the sunvisor area on the roof of the cab.  It was wired to the ignition so the system was always on.  Kind of janky but it was cheap and it worked, so kind of the other end of that.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/13/23 5:39 p.m.

Not a trailer, but I tried using a rear camera as a mirror on a kit car about a decade ago. Glare problems for sure, not a great option if you wanted a lot of detail. But image quality is a lot better on newer tech.

A coworker uses one of the camera-based rear view mirrors on his Vanagon because he's got too many toys stacked on the rear window. It's got quite good image quality, I don't know how it deals with headlights. The nice thing about a trailer camera is that it's extra info, so if it does suffer in certain situations you're no worse off.

Not a specific recommendation, sorry. I can say based on my towing experience with a 28' and the factory Dodge mirrors in tow mode that I am actually pretty happy with visibility overall. The only blind spot is directly behind the trailer, which is probably the area that is of least concern to me overall. My mirrors have a convex section that does an excellent job of removing typical blind spots.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/13/23 7:01 p.m.

I have a four-camera system on my 24' TPD from these guys: https://www.rearviewsafety.com

Originally I was using it with the GMT800 LBZ truck, which lacked a native backup camera.  The kit comes with 2 wide view camera and 2 narrower view ones, with the intent that the narrow ones go on either side of the trailer (mounted high at the front, looking backwards), one wide one above the trailer door looking down, and the other wide one on the back of the truck.  I had them fully wired in, with an adapter harness go between the truck and the trailer that carried three cameras' worth of signals.  They are NTSC analog cameras.  I had it wired up so that the 4-in-1 picture went to the analog input of the Android Auto head unit that I had in the truck.

This worked OK, but the picture quality wasn't great at the best of times and was pretty bad when the voltage on the system was low.  Since I had a diesel truck, it would run the glow plugs for 3-5 minutes after a cold start, and that just HAMMERS the system voltage, so right when I wanted to use them they were not working well.  Still, I made it work and it was invaluable in being able to get my trailer into my side yard without taking out the gas meter on one side or the fence on the other.

A couple years ago I bought a new truck (2021 F-250) and decided to convert it to wireless.  RVS sells radios that plug into the cameras, so I mounted those in the trailer, powered them off the trailer battery (no more glow plug low voltage problems), and bought a new wireless head unit for it.  This works really well 95% of the time, the picture quality is vastly better than I ever got analog (I attribute that to having much shorter cable runs).  It does occasionally get slow to update at one particular location, which I suspect is interference from some other system.  The Ford is newer and has its own backup camera, so I'm just running it with 3 cameras at the moment.

It wasn't cheap -- IIRC the base kit was $600 (this was like 6 years ago) with another $100 for the trailer adapter wiring harness.  The conversion bits to go wireless were another $400 or so, but that completely replaced the head unit.  A friend of mine bought a similar-looking system from a no-name company selling on Amazon for about a quarter of the price I paid, but has no end of problems with it, he's needed several replacement cameras within the first year.

I do not use mine as a replacement for mirrors in normal driving, to me it's a supplementary system to make maneuvering in tight quarters easier especially backing up.  I keep the head unit in the giant center bin of my truck most of the time, and only take it out when the trailer is actually connected.  I use a cigarette lighter for power, so I didn't have to cut into any of the wiring in the truck itself.

So the high points are:

- there are lots of cheap systems, they're probably junk

- look for a newer system with digital cameras instead of analog

- wireless may actually be better than wired.

Note that my TPD trailer is a steel frame with gel coated plywood sides, if you have an aluminum trailer you may get faraday cage issues for wireless.

 

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
3/14/23 1:55 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Not a specific recommendation, sorry. I can say based on my towing experience with a 28' and the factory Dodge mirrors in tow mode that I am actually pretty happy with visibility overall. The only blind spot is directly behind the trailer, which is probably the area that is of least concern to me overall. My mirrors have a convex section that does an excellent job of removing typical blind spots.

My big trailer is 8.5' wide and the blind spot directly behind the trailer is worse than I'd like no matter how far I extend the towing mirrors.  I often travel in a caravan and if someone is following me, I'm wondering if they're still behind me, so that's one of my motivations for a camera. I'm using copies of the factory towing mirrors that look like this, with the bottom parts convex:

I see vehicles on the sides/blind spots very well with these. As I think about it, codrus' point about maneuvering vs driving is probably a big motivation for me. Except for directly behind the trailer, I'm ok when driving. But backing into a tight space means having an assistant or jumping out and looking more than I'd like. I think cameras could help there.

Thanks everyone for all the replies so far. 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/14/23 2:45 p.m.
Carl Heideman said:

I see vehicles on the sides/blind spots very well with these. As I think about it, codrus' point about maneuvering vs driving is probably a big motivation for me. Except for directly behind the trailer, I'm ok when driving.

So the thing about someone directly behind your trailer is that while you can't see him, you really don't NEED to see him.  Anything that can hide in that blind spot has a significantly shorter stopping distance than you do, so he's not going to wind up rear-ending you in a panic stop unless he's tailgating.  And if he's doing that... well, there's not much you can do about it, and a car  rear-ending a steel-framed trailer is likely to make a big mess of his car without you really feeling much at all.

There is definitely a different mindset while towing big enclosed trailers, rather than being proactive about keeping track of everyone and staying out of their way you kind of have to fall back to being slow and predictable and letting the drivers of the cars move around you.

MiniDave
MiniDave Reader
3/14/23 3:09 p.m.

There is definitely a different mindset while towing big enclosed trailers, rather than being proactive about keeping track of everyone and staying out of their way you kind of have to fall back to being slow and predictable and letting the drivers of the cars move around you.

This.

The first time I drove a rented 31' motorhome I adopted this strategy - kept my speed constant, stayed in the right lane and let everyone else motor around me. I also do this when towing the 24' enclosed trailer - so far with no issues.

I can see advantages to having the cameras for close-in maneuvering tho

 

Rodan
Rodan SuperDork
3/14/23 7:23 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

There is definitely a different mindset while towing big enclosed trailers, rather than being proactive about keeping track of everyone and staying out of their way you kind of have to fall back to being slow and predictable and letting the drivers of the cars move around you.

+2 on this.  It's important to have this mindset for both safety and sanity.

Where it can become a little tricky is when you get into metro areas and need to take the middle lane to avoid the constant on/off traffic and you get dive bombed from both sides.

We have been pulling a 24ft enclosed behind a truck/camper rig for about 7 years.  I use a 3 camera system, one on each side of our trailer at the top front (like rearview mirrors) and one on the rear.  I've had 7" and 9" displays in the truck.

The wide angle lenses of the cameras make cars appear pretty small until they are close, and the rear camera is basically a preview of what's coming into the side cameras.  It will give you enough warning to see the car that's coming from behind that you can't see in the mirror when you want to change lanes.  7" is too small for a 3/4 way split screen to be very useful... it's like trying to watch a video on your phone while held at arm's length.

The camera system is really handy when backing the trailer since you can see the side that's blind in the mirrors.

What it looks like in motion:

 

The system I'm using is branded eRapta (amazon), but it's been a while, so I'm sure the products have changed over the years.  I looked pretty hard at the RVS systems Codrus posted above, but at the time, their reviews weren't significantly better than the same basic systems on Amazon at less than half the price.  Since 2016, I've had to replace one camera, and I've now got a second one on the fritz.  The cameras are pretty cheap and easy to replace.  Mine is a wired system.

 

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
3/15/23 10:23 a.m.
Rodan said:
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

There is definitely a different mindset while towing big enclosed trailers, rather than being proactive about keeping track of everyone and staying out of their way you kind of have to fall back to being slow and predictable and letting the drivers of the cars move around you.

+2 on this.  It's important to have this mindset for both safety and sanity.

Where it can become a little tricky is when you get into metro areas and need to take the middle lane to avoid the constant on/off traffic and you get dive bombed from both sides.

So I'll give a +3 to what codrus said--that's my mindset. Honestly, I think it's almost calming to ride with that level of consistency instead of weaving through traffic to get there 5-10 minutes sooner.

Rodan's comment about metro areas is a big part of the camera question. We go from Michigan to Road America and Blackhawk Farms, and that means Chicago (RA+BF) and Milwaukee (RA) and that dive bombing happens a lot. More situational awareness won't hurt.

Rodan, thanks so much for this level of detail about your setup. I'll look into the current version and report back.

 

 

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
nzowHjMK27kvaQp7JYwjXY9N2BhcnNL0DtH4E5V2cnzi7cySCBs0tUxDeJK6rtbw