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Side Mirror Replacement / Camera + Monitor Modifications

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So I've wanted to attempt this modification for years on another car before I got the Connect. It has never made a lick of sense to me to continue to sell new cars with these relatively large and non-aerodynamic mirrors when cheap digital cameras and monitors are readily available and have been for a long, long time. This write-up will document my attempt to rectify this somewhat annoying deficiency. Question: do these modifications violate current NHTSA vehicle regulations requiring at least one side mirror and subsequent rear distance visibility? Yes. Will that stop me? No. Moving on.


My goals for this modification:

1. Improve driving safety by eliminating blind spots

2. Improve vehicle aerodynamics and reduce accompanying wind noise

3. Improve exterior aesthetics

4. Gain visibility for security purposes in cargo/living area with 3rd monitor and secondary camera activation with VGA selector switch as well as a separate power switch.


Shoutout to jrm223 for selling his extra pair of manual side mirrors so I could make this attempt.

Let's begin:



Disassembly took a bit of finagling as you can see by the assortment of tools, with one down though I can walk us through the next.


Step 1: Carefully remove foam. Try and use both hands or supplement with plastic wedge to reduce bending the foam when lifting it around plastic clips and mounting holes.



Cast aluminum core exposed with foam removed. Small torx screws can be removed at a later step as removing them now will not aid disassembly process yet.



Step 2: Pop out the mirror directly away from assembly/mirror holder. Note: can use wedges to aid process (not shown). Next, unscrew torx screw in middle of mirror holder assembly shown.


Step 3: Three tabs around mirror holder ring assembly hold it in place. Take flat-bladed screw driver and press down 2 of the tabs to remove mirror ring assembly (will fall away after 2 are depressed).



Step 4: Unscrew 3 torx screws and remove small center assembly,



Step 5: Remove rear cover by working wedge or flat bladed screw driver around perimeter and pulling the rear cover away from the assembly. Note: aesthetic damage to these parts doesn't matter.



Step 6: Push on tab pictured and simultaneously pull cover assembly to the right (oriented as pictured).



Forward cover assembly removed.



Now the tricky part. The hole with 4 indentations affixes the structurally rigid plastic rotable assembly to the cast aluminum mirror core trapping a steel spring buried between them. It's possible that a special tool that interfaces with 4 indents which may allow you to push down, rotate, and unlock the retaining indent ring. In any case, I didn't have anything on hand that would work so I went the destructive route..



Step 7: Destruction. I used a hand saw to saw all the full length of the retaining tube along each of the 4 indents/tabs.






Needed a little bit more massaging with a hammer and flat blade to fully separate the retaining tube halves.



Step 8: Pry the hell out of the plastic pieces until they fully break away. Now the rigid rotable plastic assembly and spring can be lifted away from the mirror assembly base.



Step 9: Remove small base cover by pushing on tab shown and pulling cover forward/away.



Step 10: Remove aluminum mirror core by unscrewing 3 torx screws if you haven't already done this step. Aluminum core can be pulled out now.



These are the parts I've kept for this project. Since the modifications/additions will be extremely light by comparison, most of the aluminum structure is no longer necessary excepting the base with mounting threads. Later on, I will truncate the aluminum assemblies with an angle grinder & cutoff disk which will make room for the 3D-printed inserts that will house the cameras.

Next Step: ordering cameras and monitors.


Edited by connectvanplans
spelling and such

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I ended up sourcing the cameras and monitors from Aliexpress.


Starting with the cameras, I chose these swivel-adjustable cameras so I won't have to try and get the 3D-printed camera housing orientation perfect or design some kind of adjustments for camera positioning.



As a bonus, this type of camera housing will also be very easy to mount in a matching diameter which will also keep the additive plug design simple which is nice. As for resolution, while a higher resolution like 1080P would be ideal, the AHD camera options are somewhat limited as with the monitors in the size and form factor I think will work best. This camera supposedly has a wide 170 degree viewing angle and feeds a 720P resolution image so that'll have to be good enough.


Cab Monitors:

Initially I was thinking 7 inch screens, but the size ended up being larger than I wanted. I used cardboard to gauge where the monitors would sit and how obtrusive they would be with the deep dashboard and the 5 inch form factor seemed to strike the best compromise between visibility and obtrusion.



Pic taken at my eye-level showing box with same dimensions as 5 inch monitor in location. It'll likely sit up a little higher when mounted, but I think this'll be pretty good for not obstructing in front of the windshield.



Here's the 5 inch monitor I chose. It is not great that the screen resolution does not match the 720P-capable cameras, but at 1024 X 600, it's not bad and will probably be just fine.


Camper Monitor:

I have a bit more room to place this secondary screen as a security measure since the cargo van does not have any windows in the back so I went with a 7 inch monitor here.



From the sale page.



Since I want to put it on a small swivel arm, this slot arrangement on the back of the monitor looks like it will be a good interface to adapt to.


Next steps: design 3D printed plugs.


I probably won't finalize plug designs until I have the parts in hand sometime in December.

Also, I expect routing the wires, especially through the door jams, to be the most troublesome part of this project. That part might not happen until this next Summer so just an FYI if this thread goes without updates for a long while.

Edited by connectvanplans

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3D Printed prototype design completed.


The design was fairly tricky since many of the surfaces were complex-contoured - I'm already anticipating some Dremel modifications being necessary for fitting and, once I see how close I came with the fit, if I'll need to make some modifications for a second prototype trial. It's very likely, but at least the bulk of the design effort is complete now. The slotted holes are there to help account for the possibility of bad drilling operation(s) (in 1 direction anyway) when making the fastener holes.

I'm planning on printing these in black ASA material. My printer arrives tomorrow, so it'll probably be some time before I'm proficient with the machine. That said, once everything is assembled, I'll probably go over the whole assembly with black Plastidip create a uniform finish when the weather permits.

I stumbled upon a screenshot in an Amazon product review that shows basically what my screen layout will look like (I'm also adding the rearview camera screen similar to the BMW owner, but I'll do that at a later date in a separate thread).336479270_AmazonScreenExample.png.3e5d4d8dde8ab4259788d5aeed44f5fe.png

Looking at this screenshot, I started to worry that the screen brightness may become a nuisance, especially at night. I thought about this a bit and decided to order some basic 12V switches so I can power on/off each screen at will. I think that'll be a good compromise. Another bonus is I'll have the ability to completely eliminate light pollution from poorly aimed headlights in situations where I don't need or want to see them having removed the side mirrors AND added the ability to turn off the screens when I want.

More updates - so most of the parts have arrived:


Here I've wired up a screen/camera combo to test functionality. I only ended up ordering 1 camera to see how I would like the picture, and it's a good thing since I wasn't a fan of how pronounced the fish-eye effect was of the "SonyCCD170/180" degree was. I placed another order for 2 that claim a 140 degree viewing angle. If they are what they claim, I think the 140 will be a good compromise between the more standard 110 vs the wide 170/180 degree viewing angle. Kinda feels like a shot in the dark ordering from AliExpress, but I'm optimistic. Excited for the printer to arrive...

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