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Old 05-10-2016, 07:25 PM   #1
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Inexpensive 5th wheel hitch camera

I've never towed a 5th wheel before - so I was a bit dismayed to discover, the first time I hitched up, that I couldn't see the hitch plate from the drivers seat. Usually, when I pick the unit up from the storage yard, I'm by myself. I guess the normal procedure is to back up a bit, get out and look, back up a bit, get out and look, rinse repeat. That's what I did with my TT.

But I was looking for a better solution.
I thought about several ideas.

There are commercial, wireless backup cameras that you can install in the truck bed - but that was more money than I wanted to spend.

I thought that someone should make a Fresnel lens sheet that, instead of magnifying would simply bend the image down. If I mounted it (temporarily by static or water) in the back window I could see the hitch. Couldn't find anyone who made such a thing (somebody should!)

So I did a deep google for "bluetooth camera" and "WiFi camera". WOW - turns out quite a few chinese companies make "spy cameras." Frankly, these things are scary. Tiny little things that can see through a pin hole, work off battery and transmit the video over WiFi. I hate to think how these could be misused - but - take a look at what I did with one.

I found this: Ebay
for $14.00.

It comes in a box with several different clips and mounting options. I used one that was made to screw to a wall but I turned it around backwards.
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In this next photo, I've temporarily removed the headrest from the center seat on the F150. There is a small "slot" for a better word, where the release strap comes up. Turns out the bracket from the camera slides down in this slot just perfectly:
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I was prepared to use a velcro patch to stick it to the back window or the back of the headrest but this worked out perfectly - on your truck you may have to work out something different.

I should point out that I keep the camera in the glove box and only stick it in the back window when I'm hitching alone. It recharges with a standard USB cable - but I've used it for weeks now and haven't had to recharge it.

There is an app you download for either iPhone or Android. You connect the phone to the camera by WiFi (point to point - no router required) and start the app. The image appears on your phone.
I can see my hitch and watch the pin approach perfectly.

This is a CHEAP Chinese camera but it does work and the image quality is good enough. The documentation is hilarious - obviously translated from the Chinese by someone with the equivalent of an high school "english 101" education. Many people on eBay reviews complain that the camera doesn't work - but for $14 how can you loose. Also I think they never figure out how to use it. Here's the trick:
1) Turn on the camera and wait a minute or two.
2) Open phone's settings/WiFi, find the camera in the list and connect.
3) The WiFi password is '12345678' - that is in the documentation but it's REALLY obscure - and several things printed on stickers on the camera will make you think something else is the password. Once you've done this once - the phone will remember.
4) Once it's connected, wait a minute THEN start the camera app.
5) Out of a dozen times I've used it so far, only once was the video freezing up. I suspect it was a WiFi frequency conflict. I shut off the camera and started the steps again - it worked great.

It's an incredibly cheap and easy solution to a hitch camera.
I've not tried it to do a TT hitch. The documentation says the WiFi will work to 20 meters. In my back window it's about 6 ft line of sight to my phone on the dash. If it's mounted on your back bumper it might not work as well but for $14 what have you got to loose!
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Old 05-10-2016, 07:50 PM   #2
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That's pretty cool. I was having the same problem you were. I removed the center head-rest from the rear and still couldn't see the plate. My solution was one of the bumper hitch aids from Harbor F. I plant one directly in front of the jaws and line up the pin with the "antenna" while looking in the rear-view. When the box starts to push the aid over I know I'm less than 6" and am centered in the jaws.
It even makes me look like I know what I'm doing.
Then I back the rig up......

Looked on the HF site for what I was talking about but don't see them. Magnet base - telescoping mast "radio antenna" and topped with a yellow foam ball. 2 in a package and meant as a hitch aid for bumper pull trailers.
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Old 05-10-2016, 08:14 PM   #3
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I use a dowel rod with a magnet glued to the bottom. I place the magnet/dowel on the front of plate and it keeps me in alignment to hook up by myself.
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Old 05-11-2016, 08:33 AM   #4
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Hadn't thought about using a magnetic hitch aid, that's a pretty cool idea too - but won't show if you're at the right height as you approach.

I have the Ground Control leveling system that has a feature where it's supposed to go back to the same height as when you unhitched. But I don't trust it all the time yet.
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Old 05-13-2016, 09:28 PM   #5
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I used the cheap backup camera for the first time a few days ago. I was hitching up by myself at the storage lot.

It really worked well - you just have to get over the reverse image thing - since you're facing forward watching a video thats looking back, you want to turn the wheel the wrong way :-). It would be nice if the viewing app could reverse the image along the horizontal axis.

In the spirit of full disclosure however - I must say that it took me 3 tries to get the Camera to stay connected with my smart phone. Not sure why - may have been interference with the WiFi signal from nearby sources. But on the 3rd try it stayed connected long enough for me to back right up on the pin and hitch without getting out of the cab or looking in the mirror once.

I think for the price, it's a keeper.

OH - and when I thought again about the magnetic hitching aid idea - I have a 2016 F150 . . . . Aluminum bed.
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Old 05-14-2016, 06:52 AM   #6
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Here you go Ray
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...n+fresnel+lens
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Old 05-14-2016, 11:37 AM   #7
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Seann,

I KNEW something like that must exist - but I searched both Amazon, Ebay and Google for fresnel lens and never saw those.

I bow to your internet search skills.

This isn't exactly what I was imagining - but it might work, I've ordered one to see (even though my camera is working fine.)

Have you used this one?
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Old 05-15-2016, 01:51 PM   #8
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For the issue of being at the right height, I bought a cheapo magnetic level for less than 2 bucks at a junk store. When I disconnect, i pull the truck away and before I level the camper I stick the magnetic level to the side of the pinbox and make sure it shows level. Then I proceed to level the camper. Then when I want to hook the truck back up all I have to do is bring the camper back to whatever height brings the bubble to the center of the level and I should be at the right height. As long as nobody touched the level.
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Old 05-15-2016, 04:34 PM   #9
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This is good stuff to know. I take possession of our first fifth wheel on Thursday and it didn't occur to me that I may not be able to see the hitch and pin coming together. I will probably try the ingenious dowel and magnet first!
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Old 05-19-2016, 11:28 AM   #10
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Hmmmm....I very seldom have a spotter when hitching up the 5er and have never had a problem with alignment.
I back the truck part way under the pin, get out and lower the pin to the proper hitch plate height, get back in and back her under until the pin locks.
Always have had crew cab pick ups so the hitch is a good distance back from the driver seat. Guess I'm old fashioned but I just turn around in my seat, lift my butt out of the seat and I can see perfectly. Works perfect every time.....done this for 11 years and didn't know I needed a camera or antenna.
But that's just me.....
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