How to Hook Up Backup Camera to Radio in 7 Steps

If your vehicle lacks a backup camera, but has a radio with a video monitor. And if you would love to install a camera, or to just upgrade an existing one, then this guide is for you. There could be other conditions for installing the camera, but this guide assumes that your vehicle already has a monitor installed.

Before You Begin

In order to guarantee your success with this install, there are a few prerequisites that you must have to attend to, before moving on. They are as follows:

– Confirm Your Radio’s Video Input

This is the first step, because if your head-unit can’t handle video, then there is no need to continue. You can check your vehicle’s manual for clarification.

Although the video input would mostly be a yellow-colored female RCA plug, some car makers can also have unique plugs for their system’s video input. In such a case, you will have to get an adapter.

– The CAN Bus & Trigger Cables

The Controller Area Network, also referred to as CAN Bus, is a system used by car makers to make wiring easier in a vehicle. Trigger cables are single wires that run from a video monitor to the reverse light of a car. Whenever available, the monitor uses the trigger cable to know when to switch to the camera’s feed. Check to confirm if your vehicle controls your brake light, using a CAN Bus, because if it does, then you don’t need to install a trigger cable.

– Tools

You will need screwdrivers, pliers, pin and trim removal tools, depending on your type of vehicle. Having the right tools enables you, to carefully and cleanly remove parts of the vehicle, which are necessary for a successful installation.

The 7-Step Backup Camera Installation Process

Step 1: Take The Car Apart

The first step is the careful removal of your vehicle’s dashboard, or any other part that needs to be removed, before the installation can continue. You will also have to make way in your car’s rear, to find cables that power the reverse light, and to optimally install the camera itself. Your vehicle’s manual will come in handy here, because it can offer useful diagrams, which can help you to properly unmount the necessary parts of the car.

Step 2: Install The Camera

The second step is the installation of the backup camera. This can be easy or difficult, depending on the type of camera you have. License plate cameras for cars, and roof-top cameras for vans, are the easiest to install. Most cameras will come with an installation kit, so use it and install the camera properly.

Step 3: Connect Camera Cables

This is where it gets a little complicated for many people, so pay attention.

a). Connect the DC power cable to the red DC female plug of the camera. The DC power cable has 2 wires. One wire is usually red, and the other, black.

b). Connect the other 2 ends of this power cable to your vehicle’s reverse light. The red wire connects to the +12V reverse cable, while the black one connects to either the -12V, or the vehicle’s chassis (ground).

c). There will be a long cable with a yellow, RCA male plug on each end. Connect one of these plugs, to the yellow, RCA female plug from the camera.

d). This same long cable, should have a short wire branching out from each RCA plug. This is the trigger wire. If you want the monitor to automatically show the camera’s feed once you change into reverse gear, then connect this trigger wire to the same +12V cable of your reverse light. Please note that your monitor will have to support trigger cables, for this to work.

e). If your camera is a wireless system, then you will have to connect the cable with the red and yellow plugs to the camera. This is the transmitter part of a wireless system. The receiver part of wireless setups, usually have just one yellow plug, and a trigger wire.

Step 4: Run the Cable

You will now have to run the cable from your car’s rear, to the front. If your backup camera system, is the wireless type with a transmitter and receiver, then you can skip this step.

Step 5: Connect Radio Cables

a). Connect the other yellow, RCA male plug from the long cable, to your car radio’s video input. If necessary, then use an adapter. If you have a wireless system, then connect the single yellow plug from the receiver to your car radio.

b). If your monitor supports trigger wires, then connect the trigger wire to your monitor. Wireless systems usually have a trigger wire on this receiver end. If your vehicle uses a CAN Bus decoder to control its reverse lights, then there will be no need for a trigger cable.

c). In a situation where you are using a wireless backup camera system, you will additionally have to provide power for the receiver. You can either connect to the same power source as your car radio, or get power through the vehicle’s fuse box.

Step 6: Finish Up

It is now time to put everything back in its place. You have to reinstall the radio, close the reverse light compartment, and tighten every screw and bolt, back into its place. Certain newer radios may also need some software reprogramming or configurations-update, at this stage.

Step 7: Ignition & Test

To finish up, start your engine and shift into reverse gear. If all goes well, you should see your backup camera’s feed in the monitor.


The above seven steps will work with most systems and vehicles. There will always be exceptions of course, but if you follow these guidelines, you should be able to rectify any issues.

Michael Chen