Popularity of automotive Dash Cams (aka Drive Recorders) has grown tremendously since 2017. Car owners are increasingly choosing high-end 1080p or 4K dashcams with 24-hour monitoring over a traditional car security system. But can dashcams better protect your car? What are the downsides? Is your factory immobilizer alone good enough?
Drive Recorders were originally created to record your drive through your front windshield, writing video to an SD card which can be later viewed on a computer or smartphone. Recorded video is often used to prove liability or negligence after road incidents but is also increasingly posted to social media and YouTube.
Within the last few years, drive camera manufacturers added security monitoring features called "Parking Mode" that work even when your vehicle is parked and the engine is off. These advanced dashboard cameras or "dash cams" typically use a shock sensor (motion detection, G-sensor, accelerometer, etc.) to wake-up the camera to record a few seconds or minutes of video toward the front and back of the car (on systems with dual cameras). More recent, high-end dashcams offer a "buffered" parking mode that captures video of what happened 10 to 30 seconds prior to an accident. Some dashcams feature "night vision" that can record video in very low light. Others can record 360° videos using a single camera, albeit with limited resolution. These features make car owners more confident their vehicle is protected after they leave it.
Car owners increasingly consider dash cams to be the most "modern tech" solution in cases of road rage, insurance fraud accidents, and even car security. Unfortunately, even the best 4K dashcams with features like "buffered parking mode" do not provide adequate car protection when used alone. Many dash cam buyers are unaware of the following caveats:
Lack of 4G wireless for video live streaming. (If available, monthly fees required.)
High battery drain even while parked.
Overheating and auto shut-off triggered by sunlight and summer heat.
Possible out of memory (SD card) issues without user intervention.
Legal issues (your bad driving is recorded, audio recording legality)
Camera surveillance only with no car protection features.
Easily defeated by professional car thieves.
Live Streaming. Video monitoring is valuable, but most recorders don't have a cellular connection that "live streams" the video to you in real-time. Dash Cams with a 4G LTE cellular connection are still rare even now in 2020, more expensive, require unending monthly fees, and run the risk being remotely hacked like baby monitors. Instead, most dash cams record video to internal memory or an SD card you must check on returning to your car. Motion-activated camera monitoring while parked is great for recording the person who damages your car during your absence, but a dash cam won't deter a car thief determined to break-in and steal your car. And without live streaming or cellular connectivity, you will not be notified of a theft attempt.
Battery Drain. Another significant problem with "24-hour surveillance" dash cams is that they drain considerable current from your car's battery. Camera products without voltage sensing may prevent you from starting the engine if you don't drive the car regularly once every couple days. The good news is that most modern dash cams have a car battery voltage sensor that automatically shuts off the dash cam when the voltage drops too low. The bad news is this feature poses a problem when it's auto shut-off threshold is lower than 12.0V. Any voltage is less than 12.0v in most cases means your battery is dead and won't start your engine.
A few Dash Cam manufacturers try to take the burden off your car battery completely by selling add-on external lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery packs which can endure high heat and charge quickly too (if charged with 7~14A of current). Your dash cam will only be powered through this add-on battery pack, ensuring your car battery never dies. However, these batteries tend to be large, expensive (>US$300), require special installation, and will only keep your dashcam running between for about 1 day. Some allow battery chaining for longer use, but each battery you add will only power your dash cam for an additional day, and the cost quickly adds up. Thinking about a week-long cruise or time away from home? If the only car security system you have is your parking mode dash cam, even with multiple battery packs, your car will be left completely unprotected after a few short days. Also remember these rechargeable batteries don't last forever and replacing them in a few years will be costly.
Overheating. Most dash cams specify an Operating Temperature of up to 140°F (60°C), while a select few specify operation up to 167°F (75°C). That's much hotter than you would experience in your home or even when walking outside in a desert, but temperatures of dark objects inside a car can exceed even 167°F (75°C). The ambient air temperature inside a car in the summer sun can hit 155°F (68°C) after 1 hour of exposure when the outside temperature is 110°F (43°C), and the temperature of dark-colored sunlit objects in that same car can hit 180°F (82°C) or higher. Such heat can and does cause many 1080p, 4K and 360° dash cams to stop working. Even worse, dashcams with internal lithium ion batteries can crack open under such conditions due to battery expansion or even explode and catch fire. That's why many manufacturers now advertise a "super capacitor" instead of an internal battery for safety, but even super capacitors can only keep the dashcam running a few short seconds, usually to finish saving a video during a car accident.
Dashcams offering a "buffered parking mode" must run continuously and more heat is generated as a result. That internally generated heat makes the cameras more likely to shut-off in a very hot car, especially when exposed to sunlight. In fact, dashcams can generate so much heat they will partially defrost your windshield. Some dashcam owners have resorted to adding metal heatsinks, fans, and even titanium heat blocking film to their front windshield in hopes of preventing sunlight from shutting down their dashcam while in parking mode.
Out of Memory. Security videos that dash cams record when the car is parked are often not automatically over-written like drive recordings are. These security videos are important and shouldn't be automatically overwritten, but the result is the user is forced to manually delete them. Many drive recorder owners are unaware of this, so flash memory available to drive recording is gradually filled by security videos. Some users only discover the problem when they actually need a particular drive recording. Imagine checking your dash cam's memory only to find either a partial recording of your drive or no recording at all due to the flash memory having been filled. Arguably, that is usage problem, but it nevertheless illustrates that the "security" and "safety" features of drive recorders require user interaction, whereas a traditional car security system protects your car without the need for regular maintenance or reliance on your memory.
Legal Issues. You may be surprised to learn that many dashcams can create legal complications for their owners. The most obvious reason is GPS dashcams capture your speed and could possibly work against you in court. But your driving mistakes are not the only negative. Laws exist that govern stealth audio recordings (aka, eavesdropping, wiretapping). While you may have no intention to secretly catch the passengers in your car saying something they ought not, the fact remains that some states in the USA like California, as well as some countries, have strict laws that prohibit recording audio of other people without their consent. Many drive cams have a mic that records audio inside the car along with the video. Your family and friends probably wouldn't care, but what if you leave your car with a mechanic and your dashcam records their conversation? We could assume it is unlikely you would be prosecuted for eavesdropping inside your own car, but the law isn't always clear until taken to court.
No Protection. The single biggest problem with dashcam "security" products is they only monitor with a camera and offer no real protection for your car whatsoever. For example, drive recorders don't sense door or trunk or hood opening but instead just record those entries being opened! They also do not immobilize the starter to prevent theft. Even though your car may come with a factory immobilizer, many cars since the 1990's have come with factory immobilizers, yet cars even to this day still get stolen. Thieves know how to crack factory immobilizers. In Japan, such devices are called "immobilizer cutters" which disable the factory immobilizer so thieves can drive away with your car. KIRAMEK engineers met that challenge by developing an immobilizer cutter Killer.
Easily Defeated. Dashcams can record video of a thief who enters your vehicle, but that thief will most certainly brake off your easy-to-spot dashcam and either steal it or destroy it to eliminate evidence of their theft. In fact, the mere presence of a dash cam can actually attract thieves! Many police departments in the United States issue Vehicle Security Report Cards, marking them PASS or FAIL based on a vehicle's susceptibility to theft. Some drivers have reported finding a police report card on their windshield marked "Fail" with the reason given that their dash cam was a valuable electronic item that would make thieves try to break in. Suffice it to say, the more you spend on a dash cam, the more painful its loss will be. Even in the best case of a "kind" thief who leaves your dash cam in place during their theft, they will very likely remove its SD card(s) to eliminate evidence of their crime.
REAL CAR SECURITY
Traditional car security systems like VISION typically activate a short but very audible response along with flashing lights to frighten away casual thieves who quickly move on to a less protected vehicle. (Here's a video of a thief who walked back to the car after he confirmed it had no security system.) Some car owners confuse "car security" with "noisy car alarms" of old, but there is much more to modern car security systems than just a noise-making siren or horn-honker. Noise pollution is actually a non-issue these days because dedicated car security systems like VISION use modern sensor technology that eliminate most false triggers, even with a jackhammer pounding nearby. You can easily disable just the shock sensor in special situations like using an automated parking system, and your car will remain protected. VISION systems also limit the duration and number of repeat siren blasts and allow the user to disable the siren. You can even Arm and Disarm your car security system without any audible chirping confirmations at all.
Unlike a traditional car security system, Dash Cams cannot protect your car against Relay Attack Car Theft which has become a problem recently. Relay Attacks even defeat many name brand keyless-controlled aftermarket car security systems too which is why KIRAMEK engineered a convenient patent-pending method to prevent Relay Attacks. Dashcams also do not offer personal safety features like speed-controlled door locking, which is a standard feature on the VISION 1480 and SCIBORG SL-series products.
Our new (June 2020) 1480-DR and 1460H-series are dashcam compatible security systems that protect both your car and your dashcam! Choose model 1480B-DR to get a backup battery siren that will remain active even if a thief disconnects your car battery. Add a starter kill immobilizer relay to prevent engine starting, ensuring a thief will not drive away in your car. Choose our 1460H-series if your car is not CAN-BUS compatible. VISION security systems draw very little current from your car's battery, which means it can be left parked for 3 weeks without worry the car battery will die. Most importantly, a properly installed and adequately "layered" security system like the VISION 1480-DR or 1460H-series will not be quickly or easily defeated.
Dedicated car security systems are designed to prevent theft and vandalism from happening in the first place. Dashcams merely record what happens around your vehicle with its hands tied. Dashcams can't prevent a thief from stealing the dashcam itself and can even make your car a target! All said, dashcams can be useful but they serve you best only when layered alongside a true car security system.
Even if you already have a dash cam or are pondering one, please email us for a no-obligation cost quote and advice on what KIRAMEK security solution is best for your car. We have been protecting 12v and 24v vehicles since 1994 and know how to help.