Škoda Fabia 2010: Dashcam Installation


This is a walkthrough of hard-wiring a dashboard camera in Škoda Fabia 2010 (5J) (left-hand steering) using a hard-wiring kit. The installation procedure is very easy; it took me less than 30 minutes to complete, including taking pictures.

Below I assume that you know how to operate a simple digital multimeter.

Except where noted otherwise, all images that appear below where taken inside a Škoda Fabia 2010.

Shopping List

  1. A dashcam. There is an abundance of makes, models, and features. Personally, I like Mobius products: they are versatile, they offer various mounting options, the build and optics quality is good, the pricing is very reasonable, their power consumption is quite modest. You do not have to agree with me, however—choose any camera that you like. In respect of hard-wiring, the camera must be designed for it. There are several important parameters: the camera must support feeding power from a standard USB 5V/1.5A source; there must be an option of starting video recording automatically when the engine of the car is started and stopping video recording when the engine is stopped; if you would like to use it as a security camera when the car is parked then the camera must feature starting video recording on motion detection. Pay special attention to the type of the female USB power connector of the camera: most manufacturers use either USB 1.0/2.0 mini-USB or micro-USB (both type A and B are in common use), this connector must match the male connector that the hard-wiring kit (see below) is fitted with. The World Wide Web is at your service, read product specifications carefully.
  2. A hard-wiring kit for a dashcam. As with cameras, there is a plenty of supply. You should be looking, at minimum, for a kit that provides a fuse link for two blade fuses of the same standard size (note that you need a particular size: the ‘mini’ and the ‘regular’ are used most often in dashboard fuse boxes), a convertor box that transforms 12V DC that your fuse box outputs to standard 5V DC required by the USB power input of your camera, a sufficiently long output USB cable (3 m are enough in most situations, but check your requirements prior to purchase). Again, specifically check that the output of the convertor can be plugged into the camera (USB connectors must match). In general, look for a kit that reduces the amount of labour that you will have to perform: while reading the specification of a product, try to ‘use’ it mentally and note anything that you like or dislike. I advise you to find a kit that has a U-shaped crimp or ring termination on the end of the neutral (black) cable of the convertor box, this will save you the headache of finding a good way of fixing the cable to a grounding point inside the fuse box.
  3. Purchase or borrow a headlamp: you will work in a dark place, sometimes in an uncomfortable pose, with both of your hands busy, often without a good way of connecting a source of light.
  4. Purchase or borrow a multimeter. It must be capable of measuring the voltage of a DC circuit up to 20V. Do yourself a favour and get alligator clips, working with them is very much more convenient than holding probes with both hands, especially inside a car.
  5. Purchase or borrow a Torx screwdriver or, better, a set of them, you will need either the size T20 or T25 (I apologize for not remembering the size precisely). A small, angle Torx wrench of that size will also suit the purpose.
  6. Purchase or borrow a crimping tool. Any common 6" combination pliers will do.
  7. Purchase, borrow, or find at home an object that can be used as a prying and pushing tool. It must be sturdy and fit well into your hands, it should have a blunt, non-abrasive edge that, approximately, is half to quarter of an inch wide and not thicker than the USB cable of your hard-wiring kit. Do not use cutting tools of any kind or tools that may damage the cable or cut through its insulation when you tuck a cable under decorative trimming of the car with that tool. (I know, it is tempting, but do not use slot screwdrivers of any thickness!) Metal objects must be avoided. If unsure, purchase a professional opening and prying toolkit that is designed for auto repairs, usually they are cheap (less than 10 USD). If you are really worried about damaging cables or the interior of your car, find an auto shop, approach a merchant and ask for an advise.
  8. Purchase a pack of common zip ties, wire straps, or cable ties (actually, you will need one or two of them—maybe a good soul will give you one for free).
  9. Purchase or borrow a cutter for wire straps. I strongly advise against cutting wire straps with a knife: it is not safe and very inconvenient, especially near car's other cabling. A simple small cutter for electrical wires will do the job just fine.

In the description below, I install the old, original Mobius ActionCam using the Meknic SV-PC01 hard-wiring kit, I like everything about them.

Planning

A mini fuse link from the Meknic SV-PC01 kit, a matching 2A fuse and a one US cent coin (note perspective distortion)

In general, you will use a fuse link from the hard-wiring kit in order to split the car's electrical circuit at the fuse box that is located inside the dash panel, thus establishing a new power connection that will feed the camera. The fuse link must replace an existing fuse in the fuse box, therefore, first you must carefully choose one of the existing fuses. The choice of the fuse depends on the intended application, that is, on the reason why you decided to have a camera in the car. Most people pursue one of the following:

  1. Having a video evidence in the case of a road accident.
  2. In addition to road accidents, having a record when someone damages the car when it is parked and the driver is away.
Discussing whether having a dashboard camera helps these or whether one camera is enough is out of the scope of this article: the right answer depends on too many factors: lifestyle, driving culture, level of crime, local laws, and, sometimes, a pure luck. Technically, there is a difference between the two choices because the electrical circuit in modern cars remains powered also when the ignition is off and even when the car is parked and deadlocked with alarms armed. Inside the fuse box, however, some slots are cut from the power distribution when the ignition is off while others remain powered.

In this regard, there are two ways of hard-wiring a dashcam to the fuse box: let us call them the ‘powered-as-ignition’ mode and the ‘always-powered’ mode. The ‘powered-as-ignition’ mode is used when you are only interested in recording video while the driver is in the car and the engine is running, as in (1) above. The ‘always-powered’ mode is necessary when you wish the camera to be powered at all times (assuming that the car's accumulator is properly charged and connected to the car's circuit), as in (2) above.

While car manufacturers include fuse box diagrams with car's owner manuals, they usually do not specify the state of every fuse slot with respect to the state of the ignition. Finding a slot for connecting a fuse link is usually done by trial-end-error. Make a list of ‘candidate’ slots that includes only documented slots that are not related to safety and engine control (you do not want to mess with these because connecting an additional circuit to them will change the load on those parts of the existing circuit which may affect their function). Do not include in that list slots having a function that you do not understand. For instance, the manual may list something as enigmatic as ‘Lambda probe’—skip it just to be on the safe side. Do look for simple, clear descriptions of a single function like ‘Rear view heater’ or ‘Mirror adjustment’—these are your candidates.

Write the list of candidate slots in the form of a table of four columns:

  1. Fuse slot number according to the owner's manual of the car.
  2. Fuse slot description according to the owner's manual of the car.
  3. Volts when the engine is off.
  4. Volts when the engine is on.

Safety First

While the entire procedure is short and safe in a vehicle that is in a good functioning condition, remember that you operate on a live circuit of a car:

Probing Fuse Slots

Enter the car, do not insert the ignition key into the keyhole.

With the help of the owner's manual, find the location of the fuse box inside your dashboard. In Škoda Fabia 2010, it is located right above the brake pedal below the steering wheel. Open the fuse box (again, consult the manual). Match the diagram given in the manual with the internal layout of the fuse box:

The official left-hand and right-hand steering fuse box diagrams of Škoda Fabia 2010
(see the Owner's Manual, Do-it-yourself / Fuses and light bulbs / Fuses / Fuses in the dash panel):

The fuse box (note that a red-capped 10A fuse is removed from the slot number 26).

Inside the fuse box, locate a metallic unpainted bolt or a screw that holds the internal panel of the fuse box in place. This will be the grounding point of your connection. In Škoda Fabia 2010 there are two Torx screws on both left and right sides of the fuse block and another Torx screw an inch away from the left-top corner of the large purple OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) 16-pin port. I prefer that last screw because it can be clearly seen that it is good for grounding (there is a metallic unpainted spacer and a metallic unpainted threaded screw hole.

Use an alligator clip to connect the negative (it is sometimes marked as COM for ‘common’, usually black) probe of the multimeter to the screw or to another unpainted metal surface:

A grounding screw with an alligator clip clapmed to an unpainted metal surface (taken in Volkswagen Golf 2017)

Set the multimeter for measuring voltage up to 20V and start probing. The actual measurement is made by gently touching a tiny metal contact of a fuse on the side of the fuse's cap with the positive (usually red) probe of the multimeter:

Touching a contact of a plugged 15A ATO (standard, open) blade fuse with a multimeter's probe (taken in Volkswagen Golf 2017)

Note the reading of the multimeter and write it down in the third column of the table that you prepared. Each slot in its turn, locate in the fuse box all slots that their numbers appear on your list, take a measurement and write it down. Double check that each time you measure the correct slot and record the reading into the correct row of the table.

Now start the engine and take another set of measurements for all slots in your table but this time write the measurement in its fourth column. Turn the engine off and remove the key from the ignition when done.

Now, having the required data, you can make an informed decision about the fuse slot at which you will split the circuit of the car. For the ‘always-powered‘ wiring mode, consider those slots that have approximately 12.5V both in the third and in the fourth columns of the table. For the ‘powered-as-ignition‘ wiring mode, consider those slots that have zero volts in the third column and approximately 12.5V in the fourth column. Eliminate from the table those slots that do not suit your intended application by striking out their corresponding rows.

At this moment you should have a small number of slots to choose from. Always prefer those slots that should draw little power and used only occasionally (for instance, moving servo-motors for mirror adjustment) over those that may draw considerable power for prolonged periods of time (like seat or window heaters). Also consider immediate surroundings of the slot that you choose: the angled fuse link should fit well into that slot without touching other fuses, wires, plastic frames, etc.

In this walkthrough, I opted for the ‘powered-as-ignition‘ wiring mode and selected the slot number 26 that feeds the rear wiper.

Temporary Connection

Ensure that the engine is stopped and the ignition key is out of the keyhole.

Loosen the Torx screw that you used for grounding (while probing fuse slots in the previous step) by two to three turns. Take the converter from the hard-wiring kit (a small black box having the approximate dimensions of 1″ × 2″ × 1¾″ with wires coming out of it on both sides). Look at the back of the converter where there is a sticker with the Meknic logo, the model number, and electrical specifications of the device. Note which side of the converter is marked ‘INPUT 12–24Vdc’: on that side of the converter there must be two wires. Look at the sticker again: both wires must be clearly described, mine reads: ‘Red=+ve’ (which means that the red wire is the positive live wire) and ‘Black=Gnd’ (which means that the black wire is the ground wire). Just in case if someone at Meknic's production facilities had a bad day and the colours of those wires are not red and black, make sure that you take the ground wire, according to the sticker.

Another feature of those wires that helps telling which is which is the way they are terminated at their ends. The live positive wire is terminated with a small bullet-shaped male connector while the ground wire is terminated with a beautiful U-shaped electrical crimp.

If you are an Experimental Physicist in favour of a more precise approach, then take your multimeter, set it to measuring resistance of up to 200kΩ and hold both probes up in the air so that none of them touches anything. Note the reading of the multimeter—that would be the multimeter's idea of ‘no current’ (mine displays ‘1’ which means that the resistance is too low to be displayed using the scale that I selected). Now touch one probe with the other—the multimeter must change the displayed value, usually gradually coming to zero, meaning that it is overloaded (some multimeters display a special symbol when overloaded, like ‘OL’). Now detach the probes again so that none of them touches anything—the multimeter must come back to the same ‘no current’ value. Now simultaneously touch and hold one of the wires on the INPUT side of the converter with one probe and touch and hold another wire on the INPUT side of the converter with another probe. If you touched the ground wire of the converter with the black (neutral, COM) probe of the multimeter and the positive live wire of the converter with the red (positive) probe of the multimeter, the multimeter must display a ‘random’ value of several tens (mine shows 81.2): it means that a current flows from the red probe to the black probe and the multimeter successfully reads a certain resistance of this circuit. If you exchange probes (that is, you touch the ground wire with the red probe and the live wire with the black probe) then the multimeter should display the value of ‘no current’ that you noted before. This way you can reliably tell one wire from another even if their insulation is of the same colour and you completely lost your trust in humanity.

Gently and carefully tuck the U-shaped crimp of the ground wire between the head of the Torx screw (that you have loosened) and the metal spacer that is under the head of that screw until you feel that the crimp touches the screw at the lowest point of the U-shape. Now fasten the screw—just enough to prevent the crimp from falling off. You are making a temporary connection and you might need to re-attach the ground wire later, so do not apply much force.

Temporary connection: the ground (common, black) wire is in place.

Carefully pull out the fuse that occupies the slot of the fuse box that you have chosen. In the absence of anything better, you can use for pulling the plastic tool that is fastened to the back side of the cover of the fuse box.

In the Meknic hard-wiring kit there are two fuse links: one for mini fuses and another for regular (ATO) fuses. Take the fuse link whose size matches the fuse that you just pulled out. Depending on the packaging of the kit that you have, one of the fuse slots on the fuse link may be occupied by a 2A fuse having a gray cap: if it is not the case then search the kit for such a fuse (it must be in the box) and insert it firmly into the slot of the fuse link that is aligned with the red wire that comes out of the fuse link. Insert the fuse that you just pulled out of the slot of the fuse box into the second slot of the fuse link. Ensure that both fuses are seated well in the slots of the fuse link. Now plug the fuse link into the slot of the fuse box that you just pulled a fuse from:

Temporary connection: the fuse link with 10A (red-capped) and 2A (gray-capped) fuses in place.

Testing the Input of the Temporary Connection

Ensure that the engine is stopped and the ignition key is out of the keyhole. During the entire testing procedure, besides taking voltage measurements, use all your senses to detect anything abnormal about your car: there must be no smell of heated wires, no smoke or fumes, everything should look and feel as usual.

Using an alligator clip, connect the neutral (black, COM) probe of the multimeter to the same Torx screw that you conected the ground wire of the converter to. Using another alligator clip connect the positive (red, live) probe of the multimeter to the female connector that terminates the wire that comes out of the fuse link. Shake the probes and wiggle the wires a little bit to ensure that nothing falls out of its place. Set the multimeter to measuring up to 20V DC. The multimeter must read zero volts (remember, I opted for the ‘powered-as-ignition’ wiring mode):

Testing input: the engine is off, the circuit is dead.

Now start the engine, the multimeter must read about 12.5V (depending on the age and charge level of your car's accumulator):

Testing input: the engine is on, the circuit is live at 13.69V.

Now use the function of your car that is served by the slot of the fuse box that you connected the fuse link to. In my case, I turn on the rear wiper:

Input testing: the engine is on, the rear wiper is engaged, the circuit is live at 13.69V.

Now switch off that function. In my case, I turn off the rear wiper:

Input testing: the engine is on, the rear wiper is disengaged, the circuit is live at 13.70V.

Now turn the engine off and take the ignition key out of the keyhole. The multimeter must read zero volts exactly as in the beginning of this test.

Completing the Temporary Connection

Disconnect all alligator clips and put away the multimeter, you are done with it. Again, make sure that the engine is stopped and the ignition key is out of the keyhole.

While holding the wires by the insulation, not touching metal, gently push the male connector of the live wire of the convertor inside the female terminator of the fuse link. In the mean time, do not push the male terminator all the way in, just enough to create a good contact and ensure that the connection does not fall apart by itself.

Connecting the live (red, positive) input wire of the convertor to the fuse link.

Testing the Complete Temporary Connection

Ensure that the camera is set to wake up on external USB power. Connect the USB connector of the convertor to the camera. To free your hands, temporary attach the camera to the windshield, put it on the dashboard or on the passenger seat. Note the state of the power indicator of the camera:

Testing the temporary connection: the engine is off, the camera is off.

Now start the engine—the camera must receive power:

Testing the temporary connection: the engine is on, the camera is on.

Now stop the engine and take the ignition key out of the keyhole—the camera must loose power:

Testing the camera: the engine is off again, the camera is off again.

If you made it this far without issues, please receive my congratulations: you correctly assembled the circuit. Now it is the time to make it permanent and put all the wiring out of sight.

Permanent Connection

Now when you have an idea of connecting the circuits, you can find the best way of routing both converter input wires from the back of the fuse box, through available cut-outs of the internal plastic frame of the fuse box—to the front of the fuse box.

The exact routing depends on availability of that nice large opening (halfway from the fuse blocks to the purple OBD port) that I fed wires through:

Permanent connection: routing cables out through the back of the fuse box.

In some markets, Škoda fits the Daytime Running Light (DRL) switch into that opening, which somewhat complicates matters from your perspective: you will have to find an acceptable work-around.

Things not to do: feeding wires through notches that hold the clips of the cover of the fuse box; feeding wires between the plastic frame of the fuse box and the purple OBD port (thus you will make impossible plugging certain types of male OBD connectors into that port—your angry mechanic will have to disassemble that wiring.)

Things to consider: feeding the wires across the bottom edge of the fuse box compartment in the hope that the cover will not damage them (this should be done only if you must avoid making permanent modifications to the car at all costs); drilling two 8mm holes through the internal plastic frame of the fuse box (left and right of the DRL switch, or two holes one below another on either side of the DRL switch or below it; drilling above the switch is too risky). Should you decide to drill then do not go deeper than about 6mm (the internal plastic frame does not seem to be thicker than that) and drill extremely slowly and carefully because you well may drill into cables on the other side.

At very least, I carefully guided you to having a connection that can be easily re-made at this point: you can experiment.

Finally, you will have to crimp the connection of the live wire of the convertor to the wire of the fuse link. If you do not have enough degree of freedom for pulling both connectors so that they are before your eyes, note that you can temporarily disconnect the fuse link from the slot.

Warning: past this point, the wiring will become permanently connected. Ensure that everything else in the fuse box is in its final place. If you made a mistake then you might need to cut wires and repair parts of the kit (or worse, throw the kit away).

Push the male terminator of the convertor's live wire all the way into the female connector of the fuse link, ensure that connectors are seated well. The metal part of the male connector must be completely covered by the insulation of the female connector, you might need to apply light force for it. Take a crimping tool and firmly press both connectors together:

Crimping the connector of the live (red, positive) input wire of the convertor to the fuse link.

Routing the USB Cable

Most recommendations that I have heard are for attaching the camera to the windshield as high as possible. Place the camera where you like it, plug the USB cable to it and measure enough cable from the USB male connector so that the cabe can be easily reattached to the camera if required (you will leave this much cable hanging from under the top trimming). Locate the anti-interference magnetic ring that is attached to the USB cable (it looks like a little black plastic barrel). Slide this ring towards the male USB connector up to the first inch of the USB cable that must be hidden above the top trimming. This ring will also serve as a stopper that prevents the cable from being pulled out way too easily. Gently stick index and middle fingers of your working hand between the windshield and the trimming and try to pull the trimming down gently. You should quickly feel the real edge of the trimming that you can pull by. You will find that the trimming can be pulled down a little bit with very little force. Shove the anti-interference ring into the opening until it completely disappears:

Routing the USB cable behind the top trimming.

As you can see, the trim can be pulled simply, with your bare hands:

Pulling the top trimming (note that the cable can be seen in the opening above the trimming).

Continue routing the USB cable above the trimming towards the corner pillar on the driver's side of the car until you reach the corner itself, then turn down. At this turn you may need the help of a prying or opening tool for pulling the trimming up—just enough for tucking the cable behind it. Continue down for about an inch until you reach the joint of two pieces of trimming. At this point you must make another turn, routing the cable across the pillar, right behind the top edge of the piece of trimming that covers the pillar. This edge also can be pulled very easily:

Pulling the decorative cover of the front-left pillar.

Continue routing the cable across the pillar until the place where the edge of the pillar trimming is covered by the rubber seal. At this point you must turn down. Pull the rubber seal (it is not glued and can be pulled with no effort at all) and route the cable down behind the seal.

Pulling the rubber seal of the driver's doos-post.

Continue routing the cable down to the cover of the dashboard until you reach the joint:

The joint at the dashboard:

While this joint may seem to be the hardest one for passing because the cover of the dashboard is made of hard plastic, in fact, I passed this leg of the cable's journey across the car the fastest. First, look carefully at the joint at another angle:

Routing the cable down, behind the dashboard.

The cover of the dashboard is merely several millimeters thick and there is a vast (well, in terms of a dashboard, of course) empty space behind it. Here is the trick: make a little curve of the cable right above the dashboard. Carefully insert a prying tool between the rubber seal and the cover of the dashboard from the side, as high as you can and push the cover out of its place a little towards the back of the car until there is enough space for tucking the cable in the opening, the cable should exit from behind the cover of the dashboard on its side. The result should look as if the dashboard were alive and it was biting a very short piece of the cable with its top corner at the driver's side. Now let the rest of the cable hang freely on the side of the dashboard and go down to the bottom of the cover:

Routing the cable down, behind the dashboard, bottom view.

Repeat the same thing that you just did at the top corner: the bottom corner of the cover of the dashboard must ‘bite’ a tiny piece of the cable. The cable must enter under the cover of the dashboard from the side and exit at the bottom. Let the rest of the cable lay on the floor inside the car. Now hold the cable tight (do not fold it though) by the little curve that you have made above the dashboard with one hand. With the other hand, hold the rest of the cable at the place where it exits from behind the cover of the dashboard at the bottom. Imagine that you are holding a guitar string. Now try to stretch this ‘string’ while holding the top end (the little curve) at its place and simultaneously pulling the bottom end down and inside the car. If you do that carefully and slowly in a single motion, the ‘string’ will quickly slide behind the cover of the dashboard and you will suddenly feel that the cable hangs freely inside the dashboard. Now release the top end of the ‘string’ and gently pull its bottom end down until the little curve at the top of the dashboard straightens out and the curve disappears behind the rubber seal.

If all went well, you are done with the most boring part of that work: the USB cable is in its place. The result of your work should be no different from images above: on all of them, the USB cable is already routed and its is barely noticeable—only if you know what to look for.

Wrapping Up Wires

Now you are left with some cable and wires laying on the floor of the car, under the dashboard. Your first step should be carefully folding them together and binding them with a piece of wire (similar to the way cables are strapped together when packaged for retail sales of consumer electronics). After you have done it, still you have a hunk of cables and the converter box that hang from the bottom of the fuse box. You have to find a way of fastening them to the back of the fuse box.

This issue is very much the same of feeding wires through the internal plastic frame of the fuse box: basically, you may use existing openings or drill new holes. I decided to shove a plastic wire strap through the opening between the internal frame of the fuse box and the OBD slot:

The cabling is fastened with a plastic strap.

The cabling is fastened with a plastic strap, bottom view.

Yes, I contradict myself here: while being thin enough, this strap still may block an OBD male connector. However, (if warned beforehand) a mechanic can freely cut it without causing much damage to the wiring and then replace it with a new one. Maybe one day I will drill additional holes in that frame as described above.

Now cut the excess of the plastic wire strap and replace the cover of the fuse box.

The cover of the fuse box is replaced.

You are Done

Enjoy your camera and drive safely.

The view from the driver's seat.

The view from the passenger's seat.

Vadim Penzin, August 30th, 2018


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