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How to Choose the Perfect Dash Cam for Your Winter Drive

How to Choose the Perfect Dash Cam for Your Winter Drive

It's snowing in Vancouver, BC, and as always, snow brings traffic chaos (Yes, us on the West Coast are spoiled by nice mild winters).

While there are many things you can do to winterize your drive, there isn’t much you can do to ensure total safety on the roads, especially when everyone's skidding and sliding all over the roads. That's when having a dash cam really comes in handy. No, a dash cam will not prevent the bus from sliding down the hill right into your car, but it will give you the video evidence you need to prove that "it wasn't my fault!"

So what should you look for in a dash cam for your winter drive?

Extra Pro Tip: For maximum protection, learn how to identify, avoid & navigate black ice. Check out this guide to find out how.

1. 4K UHD video footage

You cannot afford to have a sub-par dash cam that captures nothing but an unclear and pointless view of the situation. The industry standard now is 2K QHD or 4K UHD. Got questions about 4K dash cams?

What we recommend: A dash cam that is capable of recording highest possible resolution in the front and rear cameras for a complete front-and-back of car coverage, and we recommend the Thinkware U1000 2-CH 4K UHD dash cam or the BlackVue DR900S 2-CH 4K dash cam. On a budget? There's the VIOFO A129 Pro Duo, too!

2. Night vision and auto-exposure correction

The dash cam's night vision, or its capacity to record high-quality video during night-time or low-light conditions is extremely important as winter brings early darkness every day, making it more difficult to see through the fog and snow - especially in the dark. A dash cam with night vision is the only way to go.

What we recommend: High-quality dash cams equipped with Sony Exmor or Sony STARVIS image sensors as well as image auto-correction technologies like Wide Dynamic Range (WDR). The Thinkware U1000 2-CH 4K UHD dash cam and the BlackVue DR900S 2-CH 4K dash cam are great cameras in this aspect.

3. Built for extreme temperatures

You might have read stories about dash cams failing in cold weather. While the damage caused by a deep winter freeze is not as severe as the scorching summer heat, if a dash cam is outside of its operating temperature range, it will slow down or shut down. Don’t forget, the dash cam is just another piece of recording device, like your mobile phone or DSLR camera, and temperature outside of the dash cam's operating temperature range will affect the image sensors, which will affect the quality of the captured footage.

So what if temperatures fall below the operating temperature range and your dash cam won’t start? No need to panic just yet. Chances are, when temperatures drop to below freezing, the windshield will frost over, which means you will need to defrost the windows before you can drive off anyways. Luckily, the warm air you're blowing on the windshield is sufficient to warm up the dash cam, and when it's time to start driving, the dash cam would be ready to jump into action.

And what if there's snow and ice build-up or condensation on the windshield blocking the camera? Unfortunately, when weather and road conditions gets worse, excess of snow and ice accumulating on the windshield will block the dash cam's view, so would condensation. A proper installation can help lessen the problem. Like all electronics, dash cams tend to heat up when in use so if the dash cam is hugging the windshield, the heat it gives off is often enough to melt the snow and ice enough for you to wipe down.

What we recommend: While the IROAD X9 is an excellent camera for extreme heat conditions, we recommend the Thinkware U1000 2-CH 4K UHD dash cam and the BlackVue DR900S 2-CH 4K dash cam for winter driving.

4. Winter Time Battery Protection

Winter driving typically puts a higher strain on the car battery, especially with higher demands of accessories like headlights and windshield wipers. On a cold day, these extra demands can zap your battery fast and you certainly don't want to add more burden to your car battery - being left stranded on the side of the road with a dead car battery is just as traumatic.

What we recommend: The Thinkware U1000 2-CH 4K UHD dash cam or the Thinkware Q800PRO 2-CH 2K QHD dash cam as they come with built-in voltage meters that can prevent car battery drainage by automatically powering off when the car battery's voltage level is running low. The voltage meter is configurable for wintertime.

5. External Battery Pack for Parking Mode

While many accidents happen on the road, some happens when the car is parked and the driver is away. Ever returned to a car to find the windows smashed, sides scraped, etc.? It can get very traumatic, and even more so it's dark and freezing cold outside. Luckily, most dash cam offer parking mode recording - which means the camera doesn't stop recording just because the car's powered off, and one way of ensuring a steady power supply is to hardwire the dash cam to the car's battery.

But during cold winter months, we recommend getting an external battery pack to power your dash cam’s parking mode run-time instead. This way, you eliminate any chances of over-exhaustion on the car’s battery. The last thing you want is being stranded in a parking lot with a dead car battery, in the middle of a snow storm.

What we recommend: The Cellink NEO Battery Pack. It is a lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4) cell and is built to withstand extreme temperatures. Need to make sure they have enough power for an extending parking mode? You can link up as many extended batteries to the Cellink NEO as you need.

6. Cloud Ready

There is more to a dash cam’s Cloud capabilities than just live streaming your travels.

Here are some of the benefits that a cloud-ready dash cam can bring to your drive during the wintertime:

  • Push Notifications - receive notifications on your phone when an accident occurs, whether the vehicle is in drive or park
  • Remote Live View - remotely monitor your vehicle in real-time from anywhere; comes in handy when the weather is getting worse and you want to see if you should bring out the shovel to dig your car out, or just abandon it altogether
  • Cloud Backup - videos are immediately available via the Internet using the mobile viewer app, and if the dash cam gets stolen or damaged, the videos are safe in your cloud storage account
  • Two-way voice communication - you can communicate with any smartphone connected to your dash cam, comes in handy when you need them to send roadside assistance

What we recommend: The Thinkware U1000 2-CH 4K UHD dash cam or the BlackVue DR900S 2-CH 4K dash cam are both great cloud-ready dash cams.

Expert Tip: Spare SD Card

In general, SD cards are temperature tolerant. For instance, SanDisk rates all of their cards down to -13 °F. Any good-quality SD card will operate in any weather your camera will operate. But, we still recommend having a spare SD card handy, even if it’s a smaller one, for all the “just in case” situations, ie. you want to save that jaw-dropping clip of a family of deer galloping in the snow.

When buying an SD card, do watch out for poor quality or fake SD cards. Unfortunately, there is a large market of fake SD cards and while some of these fake SD cards have no-name brands, most of them look legit. Using a poor quality or incompatible SD card on your dash cam may cause your dash cam to stop recording and even shut down. You can read more about it on our article Best SD Card for 4K Dash Cams.

What we recommend: Our advice is to only buy from trusted resellers. eBay and Amazon are known to have a large problem with sellers distributing fake SD cards. When in doubt, use your common sense. If the price is much lower than the general market price, there is a high chance that the SD card is not genuine. And you can always pick up a spare SD card from our website.

Conclusion

While you can't just stay home and avoid the road the entire winter, you can winterize your drive so that you are better equipped for any situations or incidents. Got questions or want more tips on how to winterize your dash cam system for the winter season? Come talk to us! Until next time, Safe Driving, everyone!

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