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Replacing the Backup Camera on my Volt

Note:  This article was originally written as a post to the gm-volt.com forum.  It is both a description of what I did, and a tutorial to show others how to do the same thing.  Although I re-wrote portions of the article, there are still some of the sections where I am clearly instructing others how to do the task.

When I was looking for a Chevy Volt to buy, I was looking for one with a factory backup camera.  The only way you could get one when new, was to buy the Enhanced Safety Package 1, they were not available ala-carte.  Adding one to an existing Volt so it shows on the center display is somewhat difficult, as besides all the wiring needed, you also need to take the car to your dealer and have them re-program one of the computers to recognize the camera, a $100 expense.  I knew going in that the reports on the camera were not good, but already being set up to work eliminated a lot of hassle.  My initial evaluation of the camera system after buying the car confirmed that it left much to be desired.  So I decided to proceed.

When I started this project, I researched what others have done and found an aftermarket camera that several people recommended. it was a "Rydeen CM2-T150B-PR HD MINy HD Ultra Low Illumination Car Vehicle Backup Camera" available from Amazon at $ 69. I bought one. Of course about a week later I saw it on Amazon for $45!  Oh Well.  Several years ago I added a backup camera to my 2011 Jeep Liberty and was happy with that camera, so in my initial testing on the bench, I compared that camera with my Rydeen. They were very close in both resolution and low light sensitivity, but I judged the Rydeen to be slightly better. The Jeep camera was one from Ebay for about $16 and was titled "UNIVERSAL Waterproof Rear View Reverse Camera BackUp HD Color CCD NTSC TV system".

If I had been able to compare the cameras before buying, I would have just gone with the Ebay one. I'm sure I would never have been able to tell the difference once installed, but since I had the very slightly better one, I went with that - and I already spent the money.

Once I had selected the new camera I decided I should try some quickie tests on the car to see if it was really worth pulling the rear bumper to install it. I really feared this task! I have a 7 inch GPS I use in my motorhome. One of the features of this unit is that it will support a rear vision camera. This makes it ideal to use as a totally portable video monitor. I set this GPS on my dash instead of the smaller one I usually have there and used duct tape to temporarily mount my new Rydeen camera just next to the factory camera. I ran the wires through the tailgate and up to the GPS. This way I was able to simultaneously compare images from both cameras. It wasn't a totally definitive test as I didn't know how well the two monitors were matched, but wanted to see the differences. Boy were there differences!

Here is a shot of both monitors showing both cameras at the same time. The new camera is shown on the
GPS on the dash, and of course the original  camera shows on the Volt center monitor.

As you can see, the new camera shows infinitely more detail than the stock one. After running this test under several conditions, I decided to complete the mods.

First I would like to thank Just Vlad for his Youtube video of a similar change. That gave me the confidence to remove the back bumper to access the camera. His video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIGVhZmf-Z4.

As it turned out, removing the right side of the bumper and pulling it out enough to access the camera and wiring only took about 20 minutes, including the "nasty clip" at the very top corner of the bumper. Once the bumper was opened, the rest of the job was easy.

Here is what my poor baby looks like with the bumper partially removed.

I found an unexpected problem with the Rydeen camera. It had a very long cable, enough to install in almost any vehicle with no splices. They had stickers warning that the camera was a 3.3 volt camera and to not cut the cable. There were a couple of potted cable connections in the cable and one was sure to be a voltage regulator.  I powered it up, and sure enough one got warm. I cut the cable just beyond that, but was still left with about 8 feet of cable, when I needed maybe one. I didn't want to try cutting a piece out of the remaining cable as it contained both the video and the power lines, and would have been a mess to splice. My solution was to double the excess up and enclose it in a piece of split loom, which I eventually zip tied to an existing loom in the car.

Here is the cable after I cut off as much as I could, and the final cable after placing
 the excess in a loom.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. I decided that rather than trying to tap into the chassis harness for the camera, I would just cut off the connector from the old camera and splice it to my new camera cable. This was fairly straight forward and shrink sleeving made a nice job of it. I also decided to remove the original camera from the bracket and substitute my new camera. The old camera was fastened with 3 very tiny Phillips head screws, and I was lucky to find that I had one screwdriver bit set that went to a 000 Phillips size. I actually used the 00 size. Nothing else I had fit. I had to machine the bracket opening to make it larger for appendages on the rear of the new camera. I attached the new camera with adhesive and was ready to install it all.

Here is the new camera mounted in the original bracket.

I mounted the camera, zip tied the excess wire in the loom to an existing loom of wires and started to replace the bumper. Here is where I made a really stupid mistake!! In pressing the bumper back into position to secure the many clips, I accidentally pressed on the camera and pushed it out of the bracket, due to the non-fully cured adhesive! Of course the "nasty" clip at the corner had just clicked in. It really only cost me about 10 minutes to remove the bumper again, but a couple hours to clean the camera and bracket then re-attach them. This time I let them cure for an hour or so while I did something else. It then all went back together without any more hitches.

Here is the installed camera (in the center between the two license light housings) Sorry for the glare (the 4
white bars that reinforce the bracket). The excess wires are zip tied to an original run of wiring.

The original camera on the left lacks resolution and tonality.  On the right the new camera shows much
 more detail.  Both cameras wash out the direct sunlight while focusing on the nearby scenery.  The new
camera also has guide lines to assist when backing up.

At night time the results are similar.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. I am totally happy with my update.


One problem I have discovered with my backup camera replacement is that it has the "black screen syndrome".

The image of the scene behind you is maintained for about 5 seconds after you shift out of reverse to give you a smoother action when parallel parking.  After I installed this camera, I noticed that for those several seconds, my screen went black instead of still showing the rear image.  
It turns out that the factory camera (at least on my 2013 Volt) Has two power inputs: one labeled "IGN" on the schematic, that is on whenever the car is on, and a power line which is directly connected to the backup light circuit. The factory camera contains a built in timer which keeps the camera turned on for about 20 seconds after the backup lights turn off. The center console monitor keeps the backup view for about 5 seconds after you shift from reverse to a forward gear. If you have an aftermarket camera without the timer, it turns off with the backup lights and the screen will be black for those 5 seconds.

I have been looking for a suitable delay timer ever since I installed the replacement aftermarket backup camera in my 2013 Volt.  I found a number of relatively large board timers with push buttons and displays that might work, but were certainly not suitable for a wired in automotive application. After a fairly extensive Internet search, I finally found an affordable and rugged delay timer to eliminate the black screen that occurs for several seconds when you shift out of reverse. This is a well known problem which usually occurs after either adding a backup camera to a car that did not have one, or replacing the less than stellar factory one with an aftermarket unit.

The timer I found is very small and very capable, but has a huge name. It is called "Small Miniature time on off cycling delay relay 0.1 sec to 9999 hours. 5V 12V 18V DC 5A. Power On Off delay, Cycling. Industrial control and hobby" That's the official name on Amazon. The manufacturer just calls it a "Multi-functional Timer". It sells for just under $20 including shipping, it doesn't qualify for Prime.

There are 20 different timer modes available, selected by a somewhat complex programming process, however with the excellent on line manual and detailed videos for programming each timer mode, it only takes a few minutes to understand what needs doing, and usually under a minute to actually do it. Once you program the unit, It remembers what to do until you program a different mode. What we need for the backup camera delay is program mode 12. This will result in the camera being powered on instantly upon it seeing the backup light power. As long as the light is on, the camera is on. When the light goes off, the camera will remain on for whatever additional time we programmed. I am using around 10 seconds. Obviously, if your screen stays black for longer than 5 seconds, increase this time. The biggest downside to using this timer is that for most of us it means pulling one side of the rear bumper to gain access to the camera and its connector. If you previously routed a separate wire from the BCM (Body Control Module) to the camera, you can install the timer anywhere along this wire where you have access to Ignition power and ground.

This is the timer. As you can see by the size of the pen, it is quite small.

I just finished installing this timer in my 2013 Volt. I removed the rear bumper again and removed the camera and cabling. On the bench I rewired the harness between the connector and the camera, installing the timer into the circuit. I guess practice makes you faster. I removed the bumper and had access to the camera in about 10 minutes. In another couple I had the camera and harness out.

On the left is the timer wired into my camera harness. I tied it in right at the connections to the cut harness
near the  connector. On the right is the harness after using a short length of loom to tidy things up.

Here is the camera and harness installed in the car. You can see the timer hanging  out the end of the
 larger diameter loom.

After re-installing the camera harness, I tried shifting to reverse then to drive. The camera image was on until the display changed - NO MORE BLACK SCREEN!

In case you are interesting in installing one of these timers to your aftermarket backup camera, I am including the programming and the connections needed.


First make sure to read the online manual at bit.ly/timer17 and watch at least the video for programming mode 12. Note that on the video he uses a different trigger mode to activate by grounding the trigger wire. Since our backup lights go to +12 volts, we need mode 2, not mode 4 as he demonstrates.

Set the timer up on the bench. Make the Red wire available to connect to +12 volts, but don't connect it yet (a switch for this is handy. If you are using a power supply, its switch will do fine.)

Connect the Black wire to Ground (the minus side of the 12 v)

Connect the Yellow wire to a 12 volt load that draws less than 5 amps, like a small light bulb with the other terminal grounded.

Leave the Blue wire disconnected for now, but insulate the end with a piece of tape just in case.

The White and Green wires will be floating, but connected to ground as called for to program the timer. You can do this by just touching the wires to ground, or actually wire in push buttons. As you will be just doing this once hopefully, just touching the wires should be fine.

Step 1
Connect both White and Green wires to ground, then connect the Red wire to +12 volts. About a second later, unground the White and Green wires. The indicator light should light for 3 seconds to show the timer is in programming mode.

Step 2
Ground the White wire for the period of time you want to delay the turning off of the camera. I suggest at least 10 seconds. The timer measures how long you ground the wire and sets that as the time. There is a more complicated procedure to set the timer for a precise time from 0.1 seconds to thousands of hours, but we don't need to do that.

Step 3
Momentarily ground both White and Green Wires. This sets the unit to program the timer mode and the trigger mode.  The light will turn on for 3 seconds.
We want timer mode 12, so ground the White wire 12 times. The light should flash briefly each time.
We want trigger mode 2, so ground the Green wire 2 times and the light will flash a shorter flash each time.

Step 4
Turn off the power to the Red wire. Programming is complete.

Test the programmed timer by turning on the power to the Red wire. Nothing should appear to happen. Now connect the Blue wire to +12 volts. The light should light for as long as the Blue wire is connected and stay lighted for about 10 seconds longer. If it does this, you are ready to install it.


The timer is about the size of a nickel and has 6 colored wires. After programming, connect the wires as shown. Note that the white and green wires are not used and should be insulated. They are used only for programming.

On the left is the minimal needed schematic. It will work just fine. If you are a "belt and suspenders"
type like I am, you may want to add the two diodes shown in the right schematic. The only function
 of them is to ensure that the camera will still come on with the backup lights no matter what
happens with the timer. While I have the utmost trust that the  timer will keep working, it's a lot of
 work  to access the camera if it doesn't.

That's all there is to it. Your camera now acts just like the factory camera and stays on long enough to eliminate the black screen.

Just for the record, I have no connection with Amazon or 3rdbrakeflasher.com, the maker and actual seller of this timer. I'm just a happy customer who finally found a timer that works exactly the way we need, for it to solve a problem.


R. S. Mason  1/6/2017