As I grow older, doing some things aren't as easy as they once were. I recently confirmed this fact after looking over my shoulder for several hours while running my Woodland Mills WG-24 Stump Grinder. The next day was a good old' neck ache. I used to run a hay baler in the same fashion but I was a few decades younger back then and my joints were much more forgiving. I wasn't going to give up using my new stump grinder and so that started a quest to find a suitable camera and monitor by which I could watch things behind me without having to constantly look over my shoulder.
Like most of my projects, it all starts with a internet search to see what is out there. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but didn't know if the right equipment was available. It needed to have solid construction. Vibrations from the tractor and PTO driven stump grinder could easily shake apart a poorly manufactured piece of electronic equipment. It has to be waterproof. While I do park my tractor in the garage, I can't control the weather and there is always the chance I'll be in the woods when a rain shower lets go. There are always puddles and low spots where standing water could splash up onto the camera too. Expandability.....supporting more than a single camera, while not a top priority, would be nice to have too.
Did I want a wireless camera or a wired camera? It didn't me long to decided a wired camera would be the best choice. Regardless of the video signal being wireless or reliant on a video cable, the camera still had to be powered. They haven't come up with a method by which to magically send 12 volts through the air to power a wireless device. I had no desire to fumble around with rechargeable batteries for the cameras power source. Since the camera had to have a power cable, there was no reason to not include the video signal wiring in the same cable. Also, not having to mess around with the wireless binding of camera to monitor made for one less thing to go bad, in my opinion.
Commercial grade or consumer grade was another question that needed an answer. This answer would directly impact the project budget. In electronics, you typically get what you pay for, all other things being equal. Since I wanted a highly reliable and waterproof system, the budget was going to have to allow for commercial grade equipment. After spending a few hours searching web sites, reading reviews, and looking at equipment specs, I decided to try one of the product offerings from Rear View Safety.
After looking at the various setups from Rear View Safety's website, I ordered the RVS-7706131 monitor and camera. After a couple of weeks and warmer weather, I unboxed everything and started the installation. At that point, I discovered that I was sent the RVS-7709900 system. The camera is the same but the monitor has some additional features and comes with a remote, the later being of little use for me on a tractor. Regardless of the change in monitors, the camera and monitor both carry a waterproof rating of IP69K. The IP69K rating provides protection against ingress of dust and high temperature, high pressure water. Testing for this certification is performed by spraying the object at a distance of 4" to 6" at a rate of approximately 4 gallons/16 liters per minute with water pressure of between 1160-1450 psi, at a temperature of 176°F/80°C. To me, this means it isn't going to care about the rain storm or a quick pressure washer bath.
The monitor has a 10G vibration rating while the camera boasts a 100G impact rating and a 20G vibration rating. It uses a proprietary electrical connector for the camera instead of the commonly used RCA connector bundle. This makes for a simple install. The 1/3" color CCD camera has a 2.5 mm Sharp® lens with a 130 degree viewing angle and 620 TV lines. It also has one heck of an infra red LED lighting setup which means you can use it in the dark albeit I've no intention of doing any stump grinding at night.
Since the monitor carries the IP69K waterproof rating, it too can be mounted in any application where water may get to it. The monitor has a 7" TFT LCD display and cabling for 3 camera inputs. Video switching is done within the monitor so should I ever decide to add another camera, I won't need any kind of a video switcher. The system uses just 6 watts of power and can be fed from either 12 or 24 VDC ignition system. Regardless of what you have under the hood, you should be good to go unless you have a really old tractor that uses just 6 VDC.
All of this meets my camera and monitor requirements for a waterproof system that should work reliably on a tractor.
This is my Massey Ferguson 1529 tractor. It is a compact utility tractor and is powered by a small 3 cylinder diesel engine. With it, I run a stump grinder, a wood chipper, a rotary tiller, a broadcast seeder, and a bush hog. I also use it to haul wood, move snow, and spread soil and gravel and necessary.
I decided to mount the monitor on top of the instrument cluster. This would put it just ahead of the steering wheel and centered on it. The Massey has a large plastic cowling that covers the entire instrument cluster and all of its associated wiring, the fuse block, hazard and turn signal switches, etc.
Eight screws and the cowling was off the tractor. It doesn't get much easier than that. There is a reasonably sized empty space behind the instrument cluster that I used for tucking away the excess camera cable and for the wiring harness that connects to the monitor. For powering the monitor and camera, I ran a 12 volt positive fused power lead from the tractor's battery to this area of the instrument cluster. This was not supplied with the monitor. I found a clean unpainted mounting screw for connecting the negative power lead.
I used a toggle switch to control power to the monitor which in turn routes power to the camera. This was a switch from my spare parts drawer and I need to replace it with a waterproof switch. For the time being, it will do the job. I mounted it just above the hazard light switch in an empty space on the "dash".
Since the cowling is made of plastic, I didn't want to attach the monitor's mount bracket directly to the cowling as I was afraid it would stress crack at some point in time. Digging through a parts box, I found a piece of fiberglass flat stock that was thick enough to spread the stress across a larger area of the cowling. I cut it to length and drilled two holes for the bracket's mounting bolts. Using the fiberglass stock as a template, I marked and drilled the holes in the cowling. Two bolts later, I had the mounting bracket for the monitor secured to the cowling.
More Video System
4x4 Off-Road Homestead Firearms RC Flying