Taylor and I recently bought a 2015 Mercedes 170” Cargo Sprinter Van, with plans to convert it into a home on wheels. Our goal is to take this van all over North America eventually reaching Alaska. To help inspire others, we are documenting our journey and each step of our van build, creating video tutorials on youtube along the way.
This is the 2nd episode of our van build series, which covers how to install a backup (rearview) camera to your sprinter van and likely applies to other vans as well.
Tools Needed to Install a Backup Camera
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Before we get into each step of the backup camera install, below are the tools used during the installation on our Sprinter van. We got our camera from Mid City Engineering which comes with an amazing OBD application installer for the stock display radio unit, which made it super simple to install.
- Mid City Engineering Camera Kit: https://www.midcityengineering.com/pr…
- Zip Ties: https://amzn.to/31KRF7A
- 3M Electrical Tape: https://amzn.to/2HhBxTv
- Solder Gun: https://amzn.to/2Zbi6Sk
- Trim Removal Kit: https://amzn.to/2N8A1VG
Step by Step Tutorial: Backup Camera Installation
Below is a step by step guide on how to install a backup camera to your Mercedes Sprinter Van. We think this tutorial is helpful for other van builds as well, like a Ford Transit or Dodge Promaster, depending on what type of camera you buy. The one we bought from Mid City Engineering is specifically designed for Sprinter vans, but they have cameras for other vehicles as well.
If you prefer to learn from a video instead of reading, then check out the video below!
Now on with the steps to get this installed…
Step 1: Remove any interior along the walls of your cargo van
To start, you will need to strip down your vehicle’s interior if you want the wires completely covered. Luckily our van was a cargo van without any prior insulation so we ran our wires directly in line with the brake lights.
Step 2: Remove the trim around the radio display
Next, you will need to remove the trim around the radio display. You will need a Torx bit in addition to the trim removal tool to remove all of the pieces.
Step 3: Attach the video wire to the back of the radio
Once you have the radio detached from the center console, attach the video wire (the wire with the aqua/green input connector) to the green input connector of the back of the radio.
Step 4: Run radio wire from the dash to back of the van
Run the wire from the center console underneath the steering wheel, then up over the door and toward the back of the van. I ran the wire along the wires for the brake lights, turn signals, and reverse lights. I also secured it with zip ties.
Step 5: Detach the stock brake light from the van
After you run the wire, remove your original stock brake light. You will need a Torx screwdriver or drill bit to remove it. Once you have it unscrewed you may need to pry it off with a trim removal tool and then disconnect the brake light wire.
Use your trim removal kit to remove the actual light from the red plastic covering and install it to your new camera backlight. You will reuse this light for this install.
Also, don’t forget to clean off the gasket on the outside of the van and then apply your 3M weather gasket to the back of your new camera brake light.
Step 6: Connect the brake light wire and the display wire to the new camera brake light
Oops! Almost forgot to mention, remove the light from your old brake light since we use it for the new camera brake light. Once you have it removed, attach it to the new brake light with the backup camera, you should hear a clicking noise, then you know it’s secure.
Ok, once you cleaned off the old gasket, grab the brake light wire and connect it to your new camera brake light. Also, make sure to tuck the camera power wire into the frame of your van so you can connect the display wire as well.
Step 7: Screw the camera brake light to the frame
Once you have the wires attached and secure, apply the camera to the back of the van, removing the paper over the gasket’s adhesive and screw the camera brake light to the van with your Torx screws.
Step 8: Solder the Power Cable to Cigarette Lighter Power Line
Once you have the wires attached to the camera you need to install the power cable. I called Mid City Engineering and they recommended soldering the power wire to the cigarette lighter. They recommended having a source of power when the vehicle is turned on and a connection that has constant power (rather than a brake light or something).
To get the water cup holder and cigarette lighter compartment out so you can see the wires, you need to use your trim removal tools.
It was a really tight space to solder which made it a pain in the butt, but it’s not impossible. You could also use wire nuts or something similar, but soldering is the recommended approach.
Step 9: Install the software through the OBD Installer
Once you have power running to the camera, it’s time to install the software to the stock display through the OBD connector. Mid City Engineering makes this super easy for you providing an OBD connector that installs the software automatically.
Simply plug in the adaptor to the OBD connector and turn the power on (don’t turn the engine over, just turn the electronics on) for 60 seconds.
You can turn the van back off and on and put the vehicle in reverse. Once in reverse, you should see your backup camera display on the center console.
Step 10: Install the trim back on the dash
Once the software is installed and the camera displays on the center console, you’re all set. The last step is the cleanup, reinstalling the trim around the radio and securing everything back in place!
Summary – How to Install a Backup Camera on Your Van
Overall this project is relatively easy especially if you are just starting your van build, or have a cargo van that’s not full to the brim with insulation. It took me about 4 hours from start to finish and that includes the time spent worrying about capturing the content on camera. I had the help of my father so two people definitely helped speed this along.
Check out our other Van Build blog post:
Thinking of buying a van?
Before we decided to buy our own van we rented one to test the waters! This helped us realize it’s something we really want to do since buying a van and converting it is a lot of money and a lot of effort! We rented a van in Portugal and absolutely fell in love with van life!
A heads up: This blog post is a review of the van we rented, not really a van life video.
If you have any questions about how to install a back up camera to your van, drop a comment below! If you’re interested, please follow our van build series where we will document every step of the build process as well as our youtube channel!
As always, thank you for reading/watching our content!