I primarily wanted a dash cam to document circumstances surrounding a car wreck if necessary. I used The Wirecutter’s guide to familiarize myself with the technology then chose the Spy Tec A118-C. (The guide changes periodically so may no longer include the A118.)
The A118-C cost around $80. The “C” indicates its use of an internal capacitor rather than a battery like most dash cams; the capacitor is supposed to perform and last better in hot climates. I purchased a 32GB SD card for around $10 for the camera to store video on.
I chose the A118-C because of its discreet design. Most others look like a GPS or phone temporarily attached to the windshield on a big cantilevered arm, and they partially obstruct the driver’s view of the road. They have larger screens than the A118, but the screen is rarely used after initial setup. I was able to mount the A118 out of my view completely.
Like most dash cams, it records on a loop (the A118 uses 5-minute blocks), filling up the SD card before overwriting the oldest footage. At any time, I can press the center button to indicate the current block should be permanently saved rather than overwritten. It will also automatically save any block in which an acceleration above some threshold (coarsely adjustable) occurs, measured with its internal accelerometer.
To get the power cable out of the way and free up the 12V console port, I bought a hardwire kit ($9) that terminates in a red 12V power wire and a ground ring terminal rather than the cigarette-lighter plug. I ran the cable behind the headliner down the passenger-side A-pillar to the kickpanel fuse box. I used an “add-a-fuse” kit ($5) to provide fused power to the dash cam’s adapter, and I grounded the other wire to an existing ground point used by the stereo amplifier. I used a similar method to power my integrated GPS navigation system from the driver-side kickpanel fusebox.
The dash cam is designed to turn on when power is supplied. The way I wired it, it only powers on when the ignition is turned to ON. During the summer, I’ve noticed it will occasionally stay off and the power adapter emits a high-pitched noise. I assume the heat causes this. During the ensuing trip, the dash cam will stay off even as it cools down. The only way to turn it on is removing and reapplying power. I had no way of doing this other than cycling the ignition, which was inconvenient.
During the manual-transmission conversion, I took the PWR/SNOW switch assembly from auto-trans shifter area and repurposed it as a dash-cam power switch. I wired it in series with the the fuse box and power adapter. This way I could independently control the power application and reset it when the car had cooled down some. I mounted this switch to the left of the steering wheel for easy access.
In the several years I’ve had the dash cam, I’ve thankfully avoided wrecking, but I’ve captured other sites of interest like the occasional dirt devil, comet, etc. I also used it extensively when house-hunting; I recorded the surrounding area to easily show my partner later if we weren’t together at the time.