This is the 3rd and final part in our "How-To Identify" Series. In this dashcam installation centric how-to guide, we’ll cover:
- What is the ground side of circuits?
- Quality ground points vs. poor-quality points
- The best types of ground points
- Alternative grounding locations
- Negative battery terminals as ground points
Identifying A Proper Ground Point
Before we do anything, it’s important to remember that this type of work should only be performed by a qualified individual or qualified business. Working with your vehicle’s electrical system can be dangerous both to you and your vehicle. If all of this is new to you and you don’t feel confident working with your vehicle’s electrical system, we recommend that you consult a professional!
If you’re in Central Texas, we’d be happy to install your dash cam for you here at The Dashcam Store. Here’s a link to our install photo gallery to see what the finished product will look like and here's a link to schedule a dash cam installation at our location in Austin, Texas.
If you’re outside of the Austin area, here is a list of our recommended dash cam installers in other parts of the U.S.
Did you miss the previous "How-To Identify Series" articles in this series? No worries, use the links below to refresh your memory. How To Identify Your Vehicle's Fuse Type, click here. How To Identify Constant and Switched Fuses, click here. Click on any image below to view a larger version.
The "Ground Side" of Circuits
A ground point acts as the conductor between a negative terminal and a positive terminal.
As previously iterated in the 2nd installment of our "How-To" series, your vehicle uses electrical circuits just like the ones in your home. A vehicle is a closed-circuit system energized by the battery under the vehicle’s hood. These circuits supply power to the electrical components located throughout your car, like your headlights, radio, and your door locks. Think of the ground point as the bridge between your vehicle’s electric components and a supply of energy.
Quality ground points vs poor-quality ground points
Bare unpainted metal is an ideal quality ground point because, it allows for electromagnetic waves to travel and complete or close circuits without interruption.
Quality ground points can conduct an unlimited amount of electric currents, allowing your devices to operate properly as well as minimizing the harmful risk of stray voltages and static build ups.
In another scenario you may come across a poor-quality ground point covered in rust or paint. Paint and rust can act as a resistant coating or as an insulator over ground points. Making it less conductive for electric currents to travel.
This low-quality ground point may cause your devices to function intermittently but, in most cases a bad quality ground point won’t allow your device to operate at all. Eventually it can lead to deterioration of your electronics and loss of electrical performance.
The Best Types of Ground Points
The best types of ground points are the existing factory points on your vehicle. Factory ground point location’s vary by manufacturer but, they tend to look like bolts or metal studs.
For example, in some vehicles you can locate a metal bolt or stud by your glove box or behind a removeable panel on either the driver or passenger side of your vehicle. After finding a factory ground point make sure to check that the point is bare metal. If there is an interrupting factor on your factory ground point you have the option of sanding off the paint/rust. You can also just search your vehicle for another a ground point if the point you located isn’t conductive due to rust or paint. Remember an interrupted ground point will have reduced flow of electricity to your devices.
For example: If you have a dashcam that requires 12 volts to operate but, it is only receiving 8 volts of electricity because your ground point has paint or rust on it, this may lead to your dashcam operating intermittently or not even turning on at all.
Alternative Grounding Locations
Alternative ground points can be bolts, studs and screws connected to your vehicle’s frame. Most bare metal on your vehicle’s body can be used as an alternative ground point.
There’s also the option of manually installing your own ground point if you don’t feel like searching your vehicle for an open ground point. While installing your own ground point is an option, it is best to use an already existing ground point if you’re not confident with your installation capabilities.
Whatever location you choose, it is critical that the mounting surface is bare metal and the ground point is in a convenient location that you can easily access is for wiring purposes.
Negative Battery Terminal
A battery negative terminal means that the vehicle's steel frame or chassis is directly connected to the negative side of the battery by a negative battery cable.
Though the battery negative terminal is usually located under the hood of vehicles, different car manufacturers may have the negative battery terminal in a different location, such as under the trunk of your vehicle. Meaning if you were to use the battery negative terminal to ground your dashcam you’d have to arrange all the dashcam and electrical components from under your vehicles hood to the interior of your car where your dashcam will be mounted, which is very inconvenient to access.
With that, you’ve been informed on how to identify a proper ground point. You’ve learned about:
- The ground side or circuits
- How to distinguish quality ground points from the poor-quality points
- Alternative ground points
- The negative battery terminal as a ground point for your vehicle
If you want to revisit the prior installments in this "How-To Identify Series", use the links below to read them. How To Identify Your Vehicle's Fuse Type, click here. How To Identify Constant and Switched Fuses, click here.
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