Put your hitch ball on TV

New backup camera system makes coupling up easy

When hooking up to your boat trailer, how many times do you have to get out of your tow vehicle and walk back to check on the stormy relationship between its hitch ball and the trailer’s coupler?

Don’t fib now: There is probably a divot in your rear license plate for each time you needed to go back and look but didn’t.

Driving the back end of an aerial ladder fire truck in downtown Dallas for years taught me to think backwards well enough to line up a coupler and ball without a single thought about which way to turn the steering wheel. And, I could tell when they were lined up just by looking at the bow of my boat.

Unfortunately, that was decades ago, and it must have been a perishable skill because “the force” no longer tells me when ball and coupler are aligned, so I have to see it through the backup camera on my pickup.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a backup camera on your tow vehicle — but making half a dozen trips to the back of your truck to look is no longer the only answer.

Outdoor Insight’s new iBall wireless trailer hitch camera system, which retails for $169.95, is even better than the factory backup cameras on many trucks because its camera can get a better angle on the hitching-up process, and its monitor has a larger screen than many factory and after-market systems.

And the iBall’s camera is waterproof (even temporarily submersible), so there are no worries about hitching up in the rain.

Digital cameras can deliver a great image under lower-light conditions than most people realize, and thanks to this ability and the glow from your vehicle’s backup and license plate lights, you should be able to see plenty well enough to hook up your trailer in predawn darkness.

You don’t have to be a tech-head to install this system. Each time you hook up to your boat trailer it takes less than a minute to pull the monitor and camera out of your console, set them in place and be ready to back up.

The camera has an industrial-strength magnet built into its base, so no drilling or fasteners are required to mount it. You can stick it to the bumper in front of the hitch ball or on top of the hitch ball carrier’s square shaft so the camera looks straight back at the ball and coupler.

Or, you can stick it up on the tailgate of your pickup or on the rear hatch of your SUV for a downward view of the hitching-up process.

Mounting the camera safely up on the tailgate or hatch door keeps it well clear of the trailer tongue’s coupler should you back up a little too far.

In other words, you can choose the mounting spot providing the viewing angle that your brain finds easiest to use. And the camera’s wide-angle lens has a 120-degree field of view for optimal visibility.

The manufacturer doesn’t recommend leaving the camera mounted during high-speed driving, but the magnet is strong enough to hold it in place down some pretty crummy roads should you forget to remove it after your boat trailer is hooked up.

A rechargeable lithium ion battery powers the camera, and a USB charging cable is included.

The 3.5-inch color LCD monitor delivers a clear, sharp image. It plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt cigarette lighter/accessory power plug socket using a plug connected to the monitor by a strong, 6-inch “gooseneck” arm. The plug and flexible arm support the monitor, and you can position the screen at virtually any angle for the best visibility.

A wireless connection between camera and monitor uses a frequency of 5.8GHz that won’t interfere with wireless gadgets operating on 2.4GHz Bluetooth. And, you won’t see interference from those Bluetooth gadgets on the screen.

The wireless link has enough power to broadcast 100 feet (unobstructed), so you can also stick the camera to the back end of your boat trailer before parking it when you come home from the lake. This could be very helpful if you have to back around corners or fit the boat into a tight space.

If you need to back the motor’s lower unit close to a garage wall or fence, you can use the iBall system to help you do it. The camera doesn’t have to be stuck on your rig; you can attach its magnet to practically anything made of steel in your garage.

Back during the days before pickup trucks grew back seats, hooking up to a fifth-wheel trailer or backing under a slide-in, cab-over camper was simply a matter of turning around in your seat and watching what you were doing. That isn’t possible anymore with most of today’s extended cab and double cab pickups, so the iBall camera system can help with these tasks, too.

You could also stick the camera safely to the pickup bed floor to monitor tie-downs on a 4-wheeler, motorcycle or other piece of equipment for transport.

You can buy the iBall system factory-direct with free shipping within the U.S., and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

It also has a one-year warranty. If the system fails due to a manufacturing defect within a year of its original purchase date, it will be repaired or replaced.

Visit www.iballhitchcam.com for more information.