When shopping for a new dash cam, cold-weather performance is often overlooked.
Some people reading might be lucky enough that they don’t have to worry about this. (Although, if you do live in a warmer climate, you may have different problems to contend with!)
We’ll be looking at some of the problems that dash cams experience in low temperatures, some of the potential solutions, and some of the best dash cams that you might want to consider.
Cold Weather Problems
Out Of Focus Lens
Without the ability to auto-focus, your camera footage would be blurry and uneven. To auto-focus, your dash camera needs to do two things:
- Identify how far away an object is
- Adjust the lens to focus on it
The first problem with cold weather is condensation. This can occur on the windshield or on the camera lens itself. Depending on your camera’s IP rating, it can even occur on the rear of the lens, inside of the camera.
The next problem is that solid materials expand and contract at extreme temperatures. This can affect the small, intricate machinery that your dash cam uses to auto-focus. If components warp, then their sensitivity can become compromised.
Camera Won’t Start
In extremely low temperatures, users have reported that their dash cams won’t start, for anywhere between 2 and 20 minutes. This is normally in -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29°c) or less.
Fortunately, this issue is usually temporary. The dash cam boots up and works as normal once it’s had time to warm up.
Like any camera, a dash camera is made up of lots of tiny parts; such as image sensors, lenses, and circuitry. As such, they come with minimum and maximum operating temperatures. If you live somewhere that’s frequently below the temperature range stated on your dash cam, don’t worry, there are some things you can do to help.
Warming The Cabin Interior First
By warming your vehicle’s interior before driving, you minimize the risk of your dash cam malfunctioning, or not starting at all.
This process can be as simple as turning the engine on before you start clearing your windshield of any ice or snow. By the time you’re done your camera will be warm enough to function correctly.
There is usually a little freedom around the operating temperatures specified by manufacturers. But the more time your camera spends within the correct temperature range, the better.
Of course, warming your car first isn’t always an option. However, there are other solutions available.
Super-Capacitors Instead Of A Batteries
A lot of dash cam issues are caused by the battery. A super-capacitor works like a regular battery, only it won’t malfunction at extreme temperatures.
Lithium-ion batteries are better in colder weather than traditional chemical batteries. However, at 0° Fahrenheit (-18°c) or less, their overall capacity is reduced and their internal resistance gets much higher. This means they have less electricity to give, and it’s more difficult for the battery to give it.
By using a super-capacitor, you don’t need to worry about low temperatures until around -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29°c).
(N.B. super-capacitors also generate very little heat, making them useful for high temperatures and hot weather too. Learn more about this here.)
Removing Your Dash Cam Overnight
This solution is probably the most effective. However, it also presents the biggest drawback.
The best place to keep your camera is somewhere temperate, that’s within the operating range specified. If the only place that meets this criterion is your house, then you won’t be able to use your dash cam’s parking mode.
Without parking mode, you won’t be able to keep your vehicle secure when you leave it unattended, which is one of the biggest benefits of owning a dash cam.
However, the benefit of this is that you won’t be drawing any power from your vehicle’s battery. At low temperatures, vehicle batteries are also negatively affected. The constant draw of power from your dash cam’s parking mode could leave your car battery completely drained.
Buy A Good SD Card
An SD card, like a dash cam, will have an optimal temperature range. Generally, the better the SD card, the larger its operational range will be.
Dash cams sometimes include an SD card as part of their package, but it isn’t always the best quality card. Trusted third parties are able to provide better performance and more resistance to extreme heat or extreme cold.
Best Dash Cams for Cold Weather
VIOFO A129 Pro Duo 4K Dual Dash Cam
- High-Quality 4k Footage
- Dual Front and Rear Cameras
- Only Rated for Lows of -14°F (-25°C)
With a wide-angle 4k front camera and a full HD rear camera, the VIOFO A129 won’t be beaten on video quality. Both front and rear cameras use a Sony Starvis image sensor with excellent low light handling.
It has a reliable parking mode that can be activated by either the G sensor or a motion detector. You can use the Wi Fi and accompanying app to review and download footage, as well as change camera settings.
The A129 uses a super-capacitor that makes it suitable for low and high temperatures. Neither hot weather nor colder weather should affect this camera too much, as it’s rated for use between -14°F to 149°F (-25°C to 65°C).
This dash cam has the highest lower temperature limit on this list. Whilst it favors extreme heat over extreme cold, users have reported perfect function as low as -16°F (-26.5°C).
AUKEY Dash Cam 1080P FHD
- Extra Wide Angle Lens (170°)
- Extreme Temp Rating of -22F (-30°c)
- Large Display
- Quality is Only 1080p
This is a single camera front camera (no rear camera) that provides 1080p full HD video quality.
Despite having no rear camera and unremarkable video specs, the Aukey dash cam boasts extreme temperature handling: -22°F to 167°F (-30°C to 75°C).
It also offers a much wider-angle lens at 170°. The average lens angle is around 140°, but the Aukey has expanded on this, at no cost to the video quality.
Along with these stand-out features, it also has a G-sensor, motion detection, parking mode and it attaches via a suction cup for easy removal.
Rexing V1 – 4K Ultra HD
- Great Quality 4k Footage
- Extreme Temp Rating (-20°F)
- Extra Wide Angle Lens (170°)
- Front Camera Only
The Rexing V1 is another 4k dash camera that uses the Sony Starvis image sensor. It has excellent low light handling and will work in extremely high temperatures; from -20°F to 176°F (-29C° to 80°C).
This impressive range is wider than the Aukey, but not as low. However, it combines similar cold and hot weather capabilities with some exceptionally good video quality.
This package does not include front and rear cameras, just the front camera only. The rear module is available as an add-on purchase. With the rear camera add-on, it sits within the same cost bracket as other premium 4k dash cams.
Verdict – The Best Dash Cam
The Rexing V1 is a clear winner. It manages to combine the best qualities of both the other two cameras.
In an exceptionally cold climate, it might be worth investing in the Aukey but it depends if you need the extra 2°F of range that it offers.
If you live somewhere cold, but not excessively cold, the VIOFO is also a fantastic all-around dash camera.
There are steps you can take to ensure your dash cam works in colder weather. If you haven’t bought a dash camera yet, then we hope this article has given you an idea of what you might need to consider.
Technology will always be subject to the whims of nature, and unfortunately, dash cams are no exception. Check out the rest of our site for more reviews and more great information on dash cams.