OBD or On-board diagnostics refers to the vehicle’s self-diagnostic capability. OBD-II is the result of a second set of standards that made digital information transfer more universal. If the vehicle was sold in the US from 1996 onward it has an OBD-II port. It is usually located under the dash on the driver’s side and is easily accessible.
While many people use the OBD port to find out why errors are popping up on their dashboard, little do people know that it can supply power. Thus, you can easily utilize this port and a power cord to power your dash cam.
Can I power my dash cam from OBD?
Yes. There are two benefits for using it to power your dash cam. The first is the ease of installation and all you have to do is connect the power cable directly to it. Also, the OBD II port is constantly powered making it ideal if you want to use the parking mode. If not, you will need to hardwire the dash cam to a constant power source or buy a battery pack.
Aside from the Vantrue, none of the dashcams come standard with the OBD cable and it will have to be purchased separately. We recommend the Ssontong OBD2 cable as it is fairly cheap and you can easily switch between constant power and parking mode. It also features a low voltage option that will cut power to the dash cam if it drops below a certain level.
When purchasing a third party OBD power cable, be sure to make sure that it is compatible with your dash cam’s power input. Most dash cams utilize a mini-USB port, but others may use a standard USB, USB-C or others. Yes, it is plug and play, but make sure the connectors will work.
Is it safe to use OBD to power my dash cam?
Yes, it is safe to power your dashcam from the OBD port. You should make sure your OBD cord or device has a low power shutoff so it does not completely drain the car battery. Most have this feature but you should check first before purchasing one.
How to install a dash cam using a OBD-II power cable?
First step is locate where the OBD-II port is in your vehicle. Typically, it is located to the left of the steering wheel, underneath the dashboard. You can refer to your car’s manual for an exact location.
It may or may not be covered, but once uncovered, plug your cable into the port ensuring the pins line up. The next step is optional, but I like hiding the wires within the dashboard so you’ll have to obtain a panel remover and feed the cable to where your dash cam is positioned.
The final step is to plug the other end of the OBD cable into your dash cam. Your dash cam should immediately power on. NOTE: Be sure to turn on parking mode which will automatically switch on when you leave your vehicle for an extended period of time.
Vantrue T2 1080P
- Comes with the OBD cable
- Good warranty (18 months)
- Decent video quality
- Is single channel
- Somewhat expensive and few features than similarly priced dash cams
The Vantrue T2 is a mid range, cylindrical shaped dash cam similar to a Blackvue. What makes this dash cam different is the fact it is an OBD power supplied dash cam. It is a dash cam that plugs into the OBD port. This is useful for the parking mode where you need to have a constant power source in order to use this feature making the Vantrue T2 a plug and play dash cam.
Because this camera comes with an OBD cable as a standard, you don’t have worry about sourcing a third party cable and hope it is compatible. The Vantrue cable also features a low voltage cutoff.
This model isn’t the newest, but the core features still hold up today. The 1080p video quality hold its own against the newer cameras today and if you don’t need 4K, then this is your camera. The Vantrue T2 has a great field of view with road coverage extending to 160 degrees. There are very few dash cams on the market that can rival that. On top of that, the F/1.8 aperture captures great night vision. For comparison, there’s maybe one or two dash cameras out there that have apertures lower than F/1.8 and they all will cost an additional premium of $100 or $200.
In sum, the Vantrue T2 has good video quality and it is easy to install. The OBD II connector is included and it has 24/7 parking surveillance. There’s a great 18 month warranty and Vantrue has been a leader in the dash cam market.
VIOFO A119 V3 2K Dash Cam
- Excellent video quality
- Reasonably priced
- Has a view screen
- Does not have WIFI
- Parking mode is average
The VIOFO A119 V3 is arguably the best budget dash cam for around $100. The 2k video is crisp, clear, and better than most in this category. Even though it is cheap, the build quality is good and part of the reason why VIOFO has become a popular brand. The day and night time video is clear with license plates being fairly legible. While it does not have WiFi, you can watch the videos on the screen. The VIOFO is GPS capable and comes standard.
What we like about the VIOFO is that it comes with buffered parking mode, which will retroactively save footage before an accident so you can see the full picture.
In terms of video quality, it is perhaps the best dashcam available in the $100 price range. Viofo also supports their cameras with regular firmware updates as well. While it may not have WIFI and the parking mode could be better, it is easy to see why VIOFO is the best dash cam for the money.
Unlike Vantrue, you will have to purchase a third party OBD cable, but we can ensure you that this brand will work for VIOFO, and can detect the car’s battery voltage. In addition, there’s a switch that will allow you to decide if you want your dash cam to be powered all night or you can opt to have it powered off.
Rexing V1P Pro Dual 1080p
- Decent front video quality
- Has WIFI
- Expensive compared to similar two channel dashcams
- Rear video quality is below average
The Rexing V1P Pro Dual is a front and rear dash cam with good quality. The design is similar to the VIOFO A119 although it is somewhat larger. The 1080p video on the front is good and fairly detailed. However, the rear video is about average and equal to lower priced dash cameras. Despite being a mid range camera, it has quite a few features such as a built in GPS, WiFi, and app support. Also, the field of view is decent as well.
However, there are some complaints about this dashcam. The video on the front cam is good but it is equal to lower priced dash cams and the rear video is about average. It is also fairly large and bigger than the VIOFO A119. With that said it is not bad but there are better dash cams for the money.
Is the OBD port always powered?
Yes, your OBD-II port is constantly on, whether your car is on or off. Because this was designed as a car diagnostics tool, this port needed to be “hot” even when the car was off. This is great because you can utilize this port similarly to how one would hardwire their vehicle.
Can I drive with the OBD-II port plugged in?
Yes, most cars will allow you to drive normally when the OBD-II port is plugged in.
Should I hardwire my dash cam?
This is the preferred method as it is a cleaner installation in our opinion. However, it is more work depending on the car. The benefit of using the OBD connection is the ease of install as all you have to do is plug it in. Also, older cars do not have an OBD port so hardwiring it may be the only option.
The other advantage a hardwire kit offers over an OBD connector is more control over your dash cam. It will automatically activate and turn off when you start your vehicle as opposed to having to remember to switch it on and off.