Dash Scam



If you’re thinking of getting a dashcam fitted to your car, DON’T get the one I got! Unless you enjoy spending ever increasing amounts of money on software and SD cards and have hours of spare time to faff about with it, this dashcam is not for you.

I thought I wanted one for Christmas, I was wrong. A few weeks ago I had one fitted to my car. Actually I had two fitted because the last accident I was involved in was a bloke who went into the back of me. Front and back cameras cost more. The price went up from just under a hundred pounds to around two hundred. Then I decided I wanted HD video so I could read the number plates of anyone who hit me, that cost even more. Then there was the cost of some power controller thing that makes sure your battery doesn’t go flat while it records in “parking” mode. By the time I’d bought all of the hardware and had the thing fitted, I had a bill for just under £400. That was just the beginning of my nightmare.

The camera uses a tiny SD card like the one that goes in your smartphone. Getting it out of the camera is beyond fiddly, especially if you’re in the driver’s seat and you’re right handed. The dashcam is attached high up inside the windscreen on the left so you’ve got nothing to lean on. First you have to unplug the power lead, then the other lead that runs to the rear camera. Once you’ve done that, you can pop off a cap and finally with your little finger push the end of the tiny SD card to make it pop out by about two millimetres, just enough for you to grip the edge of the card with your fingernail. The next thing you do is drop it and lose it somewhere in the car.

Thankfully because the card is out of the camera and the power is disconnected you don’t get to digitally capture audio of you swearing at yourself. The interior of my car is black and so is the microSD card. After moving the passenger seat backwards and forwards, and worrying that it had gone down one of the vents, I eventually found the microSD card in one of the cup holders.

I put the tiny SD card in the adapter that turns it into a full size SD card, (it’s still not much bigger than a postage stamp) and slotted it into the back of my iMac. Not long after that, I discovered that iMovie cannot read the AVI files the dashcam records in. I downloaded the viewer software from the dashcam manufacturer’s site and even though I can’t edit or save any of the files with it, I can at least see and hear what it’s captured.     

I drive to Liverpool and back every Sunday to present a show on BBC Radio Merseyside. It’s about a 400 mile round trip, which means I’m on the road for eight hours on Sundays. I discovered that the 16GB microSD card that comes with the dashcam, only has enough storage for about half an hour’s worth of HD recording on the road. After that it goes back and records over the stuff it recorded at the beginning, so all you get is the last half an hour of your last journey. It did produce at least an hour’s worth of high quality footage of the brick wall the car faces while parked at my block of flats overnight though.

That’s a shame because I get to Liverpool city centre before 7am. I was hoping to film some of the early morning sights, like the Shaun Of The Dead, zombie apocalypse that greets me on Hanover Street as drunks try to hail me thinking I’m an Uber and barefoot girls holding their shoes wearing tiny dresses, zig zag on tiptoes dodging pavement pizzas.    

65GB microSD cards cost £25 from Wilko. I need two, so when I take one out of the camera, I can put a fresh one in, so another £50 spent there.

After driving around for a few days with a new 65GB microSD card in, I decided to take it out and see what was on it. I dropped it again and after moving both seats this time and shining the torch on my phone down all of the vents, I found it on the ledge in front of the speedo.

I put the microSD card in it’s adaptor and slotted it into the iMac. This time the computer couldn’t even read the card. It turns out that it hasn’t been “formatted”. I know when I put it in the camera a bossy female voice told me to wait while it was formatting but she must have been lying. I found out I could format it through the viewer software I’d downloaded but that meant erasing everything. Well that didn’t matter, I couldn’t read what was on there anyway!

After formatting (and erasing) the computer now recognised the 65GB microSD card. I went into the preferences section to set up how I wanted the camera to work. There’s an option on there to stop it recording sound from inside the car and a few other tweaks I wanted to do but a message came up saying that there was no “firmware” on the card. I don’t know what that is but I managed to downloaded firmware for my model of dashcam. Now I can’t work out how to get the firmware onto the SD card. I tried drag and drop but that doesn’t do it.

So now I’ve gone back to the original 16GB microSD card that came with the camera. I don’t know if it’s recording or not and I’m scared to take it out in case I lose it. I’ve noticed the light doesn’t come on anymore when I’m parked, maybe that’s because I erased and re-formatted it.

To be honest, I’ve had enough of it and really wish I hadn’t spent close to £450 on it so far. I could buy two 65GB microSD cards from the manufacturer’s site (the instruction book makes it very clear they don’t recommend any other kind). The official ones presumably come complete with the correct firmware but they cost £89 each and I’ll still need to buy some editing software that reads AVI files on a Mac, if I want to keep any of the footage, that would be another £44.   

The irony is, the main reason I got a dashcam was in case I had an accident like when that bloke went into the back of me.

Now I feel like I’ve been rear-ended by the dashcam!

Craic on!

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