Reversing Camera Retrofit

The E38 7 series, the E39 5 series, E46 3 series and the E53 X5 all have a similar sat nav/TV system available as optional extras.

What isn’t so well known is that the video module is already prepared for the installation of a reversing camera.

We’ve done a couple now on E38 seven series and it’s worth detailing the procedure for installing an OEM style reversing camera using the OEM cabling, modules and screen.

For this to work in your car, you need to have at least the the factory sat nav and TV options. Ideally you’ll be using the 16:9 wide-screen monitor too.

For the E38 – particularly if it is fitted with PDC – the most appropriate camera is one which looks like a parking sensor. We have used this one more than once and it’s cheap, but entirely functional. It also supports NTSC if you’re using the standard BMW screen in the UK.

The only other item you’ll need to buy – and it’s not strictly necessary, just a lot simpler – is the AV “breakout” cable (also handy if you’re fitting a TV tuner or DVD player into your system. 

We’ve had success with this one, but there are a few on the market.  It fits between the white socket on  your TV/video module and the connector and gives various AV inputs and outputs – including a video input to the dedicated reversing camera channel. Alternatively, you can use the pinout diagram below to connect the camera output to pins 13 and 14 of the white plug.   

You’ll need to access the TV/video module in the left hand boot area.  This photo is just to help identify it, but it’s the big box with the blue and white plugs and the two aerial type connectors. 

If you’re using the breakout cable, just plug it in. There will be a wee bit of white wire that you don’t know what to do with. Keep hold of it just now.  

Fitting the whole setup is no more than a couple of hours work.  

Take the centre rear bumper trim off and measure the centre point. The camera above comes with a correctly sized holesaw, so you just drill out the bumper trim and partially fit the camera. Don’t push it fully home in the hole you’ve cut just yet, you’ll need to adjust its rotation later. 

The camera fitted does look not unlike a PDC sensor and not out of place at all.

You then need to get the wiring into the boot area and it’s up to you how you do it. There are a couple of holes there already and the PDC sensors use holes, but I drill a small hole in the wiring channel and fish it through with a bit of welding rod. Fit a grommet to avoid chafing.  

Now to deal with the wiring. 

The camera needs power and earth and the video output from the camera connects to the breakout cable. This is where the wee white wire comes into play too.  When pin 17 of the blue connector on the video module  is connected to ground, the signal from the reversing camera channel is displayed on the monitor. So you need to connect that pin to ground when the camera is switched on. 

First get the power for the camera. Easiest place to find that is at the reversing lights. Splice in there and take two feeds from there. Run one to the camera positive.

Now using a standard automotive four pin latching relay, connect the other positive you spliced from the reversing lights to pin 86 of the relay. Connect pins 85 and 87 along with the negative or ground connection from the camera to earth.

The wee white wire is connected to pin 30 of the relay and the terminal end of that wire goes into pin 17 of the blue plug at the TV module.

Pins 85 and 86 operate the relay when reverse is selected and makes the connection between pins 30 and 87, thus connecting pin 17 of the blue plug to earth.

Ignore “Power source” in the diagram below because you’re using it to connect a terminal to earth, not power.

Putting the car into reverse powers the camera via the splice from the reversing lights and the earth you connected; and the relay is latched by the other splice.   Latching the relay connects pin 17 of the blue plug to earth and displays the camera output in the screen.

There are earth combs and relay holders in the area of the fusebox beside the battery.

Connect the video output from the camera to the appropriate connection on the breakout cable and your camera should work when you put the car into reverse.

Test it, and rotate the camera to get the picture the right way up, then push it fully home and bolt it all back together and your 20 year old executive saloon will have another function still sold as an optional extra on new executive saloons.

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