Tesla Model S BlackVue HD Dashcam Installation
If you love driving your Tesla Model S and find yourself making excuses to run errands or volunteering yourself as chauffeur to friends and family, chances are there’s good reason for you to invest in a Tesla dashcam.
I opted for the premium BlackVue Front + Rear Full HD Camera and decided to document the steps I took to install the dashcam in hopes that it will help (and inspire) others looking to go through the same experience.
Alternatively, you can have it installed from a professional shop which may charge up to $1,200 in labor costs but I personally found it easy enough for any handy DIY type to install it on their own given the time and patience. On the “take my car apart and put it back together scale” I’d put myself pretty close to the low end of the spectrum so if I can do it you probably can too.
Here’s how I did it.
Before You Begin
Be sure to set aside approximately 4 hours of time where you can focus and not be interrupted. You won’t be able to stop mid-way and run errands. Also ensure that there’s ample lighting whether it’s being performed outdoors (for you Californians) or within a well-lit garage space.
A list of tools that I found useful for the install:
- We’re using a BlackVue DR650GW-2CH HD camera with built-in WiFi and a 64GB card (2 days worth of recording) for this installation although cheaper combinations can be found with a 16GB card.
- Assuming you want to take advantage of the BlackVue G-sensor and motion detector feature by having 24/7 surveillance (it’s amazing!), you’ll want to wire it to an always-on 12V power supply. I outlined steps I took to build a fully removable plug-n-play 12V adapter that I used for the BlackVue. NOTE: You can skip this if you just want to plug straight into the cigarette lighter in the Model S.
- Thin plastic pry tools such as this kit on Amazon for just over $3.
- A long and thin cable snake that you’ll use for feeding the BlackVue cable through tight and difficult to reach spots. A snake with the light on the end will go a long way. I found a 36″ snake on Amazon for $13 which served me well. You can also go the completely free route by using a bent wire coat hangar.
- Zip ties to neatly secure excess wire.
- Electrical tape (optional) for taping down excess wire to prevent slack rattle.
- A flashlight can be helpful at times.
Total supply cost: $25. I should mention all of the supplies can be used for other future projects too.
Planning Out the Install
Make sure you’ve read through this installation guide and have a mental map of what needs to be done before beginning. It might even be helpful to pull this page up directly from your Model S browser and have it handy during the install.
Editor’s note: You’ll be able to find this guide under the Model S > DIY How-to section off our main menu. http://www.teslarati.com/category/diy/
The BlackVue HD + WiFi front camera will mount directly under your rear-view mirror. Two cables will attach to the camera – 1) a power supply cord 2) a cable that connects the front camera with the rear camera. If you chose to go with the 12V plug-n-play solution that I wrote about, then the path to route cables is towards the driver’s side of the vehicle. If you decide to use the 12V cigarette lighter outlet then you can run the power cable in any direction that you see fit.
For those who will be installing this on right hand drive models, all you’ll need to do is reverse my instructions where appropriate.
The next thing you’ll need to figure out is whether you want to spend the time and hide the cables completely or just make them difficult to see. The simpler and easier approach will be to route the cables along the top of the windshield as outlined in our DIY Tesla single channel dashcam post. But since we’re dealing with dual cameras with the BlackVue DR650GW, you’ll need to apply either approach to two cables as opposed to one.
This installation guide will be outlining the steps I took to completely hide the wires from view.
My plan was to go under the plastic behind the rear view mirror and directly into the headliner, and then take a turn towards the driver’s side visor before popping back out of the headliner. I will then run the cable down the plastic trim adjoining the weather stripping to the left of the dash and connect to the OBD-II plug above the dead pedal using my removable 12V power adapter plug. The other cable for the rear camera would be routed along the headliner leading all the way to the trunk.
Step 1 – Gain Access
The first step is to gain access to all of the areas that you’ll be working on. If you have the pano roof option then open it all the way which will give you ample headroom to work in. All of the areas that you’ll need to gain access to involve removal of plastic panels held on by plastic clips. If the thought of accidentally breaking one frightens you (although we’ll outline all of the areas to look out for), then I’d recommend going to a professional installer.
Doorstep / footwell plastic trim: This trim is held on by plastic clips that snaps directly into the floor of the vehicle. Grip the plastic trim firmly and pull directly up from the location where the plastic clips are. They will pop right off with a loud noise so don’t be alarmed. The clips are pretty sturdy and I can’t imagine anyone being able to break these. This is a large plastic trim that covers all the cables at the front left of the footwell.
Headliner / Microphone grill (directly above the touchscreen): Grip the edge closest to you (not the windshield side) and pull down. The grill will pop out and swing down. These are strong metal clips which I opened and closed several times without any concern of it ever breaking.
Rear-view mirror base cover: There is a black plastic cover that hides the mounting hardware for the rear-view mirror. This one was a bit more difficult to remove because of the tight fit but also the delicate nature of the thin plastic clips. I managed to break one of the clips although it didn’t affect reassembly. Hopefully these detailed photos will give you an idea of how the plastic cover is attached to the mirror so you can remove it carefully without breaking the same clip I did.
Pull from the edge that touches the windshield very gently and slowly. The plastic pry tools help here as you’ll need a way to wedge between the thin and sharp plastic trim and the glass.
With the plastic base cover removed you can see that it’s held together by plastic tabs that “sandwich” the two halves together. The two plastic halves wrap around the base mounting fixture of the rear-view mirror.
Step 2 – Run cables to BlackVue Front HD Dashcam
The cable between the front and rear dashcams has two small identical connectors on either end so you’ll be able to feed that cable in any direction without concern of routing it from the wrong end. The power cable for the front dashcam has a large male 12V plug on one end which you won’t be able to feed through the headliner. This means you’ll have to start routing the cable starting from the bottom of the footwell (where our 12V power source is) and route the cable upwards through the weather stripping adjoining the door and up into the headliner.
You can easily tuck the cable under the rubber weather stripping but may need to use the flexible wire snake from above and pull it through a few tight spots. Routing the cable cleanly up to the upper edge of the driver’s side is not difficult at all. Once you get to that point, add the second cable (for the rear dashcam) as both cables need to connect to the front camera to be mounted near the rear-view mirror.
Now this is where things get tricky and frankly where I spent nearly 50% of my time. It’s definitely the most difficult part of the entire install since you’ll need to run both cables (one at a time) from the left driver’s side headliner all the way to the headliner grill.
Pushing the cable though the various curves, bends and headliner foam will take some patience, a lot of lighting and did I mention patience? I was unable to push the wire snake through the headliner so I opted to use a bent coat hangar to find my way through a small opening between the headliner (looking in from outside of the vehicle and above the top portion of the driver’s side window) to the front of the pano roof.
I used electrical tape to secure the right angle power plug (the end that attaches to the front dashcam) to the coat hangar and pushed it through the opening I found in the headliner. This is the “push approach”.
Another approach, the “pull approach”, can be done where you feed something similar to a weed eater string from the pano roof track through the tight turns within the headliner, and just enough so it can be grabbed from the other side. Once it pokes out, zip tie (or tape) the 12v right angle plug to the weed eater string and pull it through the headliner.
Breathe a sigh of relief once you get the cable pushed or pulled through to the center headliner microphone grill. The hardest part is done.
By now you should have both the right angle 12V power cable and the rear view camera cable converging towards the rear view mirror. Push them straight through under the little bit of headliner between the grill and the windshield. The cable snake helped here. Tesla also designed a small gap which allows cables to run through without being pinched against the windshield.
Step 3 – Mount BlackVue Front HD Dashcam
With the cables in place you can now mount the front dashcam to the windshield. I cleaned the windshield with some rubbing alcohol to ensure a super clean surface before attaching the 3M adhesive backing of the front cam to the windshield. I mounted it right below the dark portion of base covering while making sure the camera and the rear view mirror mount did not touch.
NOTE: The adhesive backing is extremely sticky so you’ll only have one shot to get this lined up correctly.
Mounting it in this location will ensure that the front dashcam is not visible from either the driver’s or passenger’s seat.
Attach the cables to the camera and ensure to remove any slack from the cable. I zip tied the two cables together to keep it as tidy as possible. I then re-attached the rear-view mirror base cover and flipped up the headliner microphone grill.
The end result should look as if the BlackVue dashcam was built into the Tesla Model S. It’s sleek and stylish appearance blends perfectly into the mirror cover.
Step 4 – Route cable to rear dashcam
Route the cable alongside the headliner while tucking it between the rubber weather stripping and headliner as you work your way to the rear.
When you get to the pillar between the front and rear seats, as well as the point between the rear and the hatch, you’ll use your pry tool and tuck the cables between the seams before routing it back up into the headliner. You’ll eventually come out of the headliner at the left rear corner of the car.
Here a new challenge awaits. Since the rear hatch is hinged you’ll have to figure out a way to jump the gap between the inside of the vehicle and the inside of the hatch. There’s a bundle of cables fed through a thick rubber grommet but it’s all sealed up. I poked at it for a while in hopes I can somehow feed the BlackVue rear camera cable through it but found no way to do so.
Because the wire is black and relatively unnoticeable, I decided to just jump the gap with the cable. The cable is hardly noticeable with the hatch open and completely invisible when closed. It is the only place throughout the entire install where you’ll catch a small glimpse of the wire if you know to look for it. I’m very picky about clean installs yet this hasn’t bothered me a bit.
Please leave your comments below if you happen to know of a different approach!
The next step is to route the cable along to the middle of the window. The horizontal plastic strip along the upper portion of the hatch pulls straight out and easily. No concerns about breaking and clips since these are extremely durable. The BlackVue comes with 3M backed wire clips which I used to keep the wires secured to the aluminum frame of the hatch. I used electrical tape to further secure the cable to the hatch in order to prevent any sort of rattling should the wire tap against the plastic trim due to road vibration.
Step 5 – Attach rear view camera
Clean the glass of the rear hatch and attach the rear view camera close to the edge of the plastic trim without touching it. Make sure you have the camera facing in the correct direction and not upside down. The power cable should come in from the left as you’re looking at the camera from the rear.
Once the cable is connected to the BlackVue rear camera, you’ll find that you have a lot of cable slack. Neatly bundle it up and secure it via zip ties to either another set of cables or tuck it away somewhere. I tucked mine into the driver’s side headliner but anywhere would suffice.
Step 6 – Power up and configure
I’d recommend turning off the camera’s voice response and indicator light to give it the ultimate stealthy look. This is especially useful if you plan on having 24/7 surveillance of your Tesla Model S as it won’t alert others that there’s a camera in action. You may also want to shut off the audio recording at this time. It may be illegal to record someone’s voice without their consent so please check with your local laws before enabling this feature.
Using the BlackVue mobile app, which connects to the camera via WiFi, you can see a live view of what the camera is capturing while rotating both cameras until the line of sight is perfect.
Following this process you’ve outfitted your Model S with one of the best cameras out there – a state-of-the-art BlackVue dashcam capable of recording in full HD, with built-in WiFi, a 64GB SD Card (approx. 2 days worth of recording before it loops), GPS tracking and G-force and motion detection. And best of all, it blends in seamlessly with the Tesla Model S making it virtually invisible from view.
We’ll be covering the features of the BlackVue DR650GW-2CH in an upcoming story with some more sample videos so check back soon. Until then, I wish you a happy install!