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Troubleshooting Your 4x4 With Modern Video Technology

Posted in How To on November 1, 2011
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It ain’t like it used to be, that’s for sure. The days of guessing and re-guessing and then guessing again at what and where the problem sound or possible dysfunction is within your 4x4 are nearly gone. There are computers that tell you that sort of thing these days.

The GoPro HD Hero 5MP digital camera allows you to capture video and still images of your 4x4’s vital components in action. Check out the complete video of our ’99 Jeep Grand Cherokee traveling a bumpy trail and others at

But what if you are fortunate enough to own a vehicle that’s old enough to be sans computer? Or what if you are experiencing a problem that is beyond the scope of your new 4x4’s computer system? What or who or where do you look to then? Well, modern technology, of course (isn’t that always the answer?).

GoPro HD Hero
In 1988, I bought a 1971 Ford Bronco that had intermittent problems but was otherwise fairly sound. There was a lingering vibration issue that I suspected was coming from the driveshaft but I wasn’t sure. As a result I had my trusted friend S. Paccie hang out the open passenger door and inspect the driveshaft in motion as I sped down my residential street. Dumbest thing you could ever do? Absolutely! Never, ever do that. I repeat: Do not do that!

The HD Hero camera can be secured in place using a variety of available GoPro mounts, including a suction-cup mount, a roll-bar mount, and GoPro’s buckle system, which uses provided 3M adhesive pads. Here it is fastened to the factory bumper shroud pointed rearward toward the front axle and suspension components.

But it worked. S. Paccie noticed that the driveshaft wasn’t spinning true and we discovered that the transfer case yoke nut had loosened and fixed the issue before further damage could occur. Flash, um, a lot of years forward to 2011, almost 2012, and we have much better (and safer!) solutions to solving these annoying, yet unseen, mechanical issues. The GroPro HD Hero digital camera is one of the solutions we suggest.

Shockproof, bombproof, and waterproof (to 180-foot depths), the GoPro HD Hero is the best way to capture video and still photos of your 4x4 while in motion. The HD Hero is a 5-megapixel digital camera that offers three different high-definition video resolutions, giving you three filming modes to capture the best angles of whatever action you’re attempting to capture.

Set at 1080p you get 1920x1080 true HD, featuring a 127-degree angle of view, 30 frames per second, and a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. The 960p setting gets you 1280x960 ultra wide and tall HD with a 170-degree angle of view, 30 fps, and a 4:3 aspect ratio. And the 720p provides 1280x720 ultra wide HD with a 170-degree angle of view, both 30 and 60 fps, and a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. When set to take still photos the HD Hero can shoot automatically at 2-, 5-, 10-, 30-, or 60-second intervals for more than two hours. The HD Hero can also be set for single or triple shot and also features a self-timer for more traditional photo taking.

The GoPro HD Hero is smaller than a pocket-sized camera and has just two control buttons – menu and shutter. It’s powered by a rechargeable 1100 mAh lithium-ion battery and offers auto exposure control with user selectable center weighted average and spot metering settings, and auto white balance.

GoPro offers a variety of mounting options for the HD Hero, allowing you to position it just about anywhere on your 4x4. The motorsports HD Hero includes a suction cup mount with a pivoting arm that can be used on any flat surface, and also 3M adhesive mounts that snap in to a buckle that secures the camera in place. We were leery of the adhesive mounts at first but after bumping down a rock-strewn trail for an hour without failure, we were much more confident. We’ve also seen the sturdy HD Hero fall from the side of a 4x4 in motion and it fared very well. It’s a tough little camera that can take a beating. Just in case though, GoPro offers replacement lens kits for $20 and replacement housings are also available.

We used the GoPro HD Hero in a variety of positions to try out the mounts and get a feel for what locations would offer the best angle of view. We weren’t currently experiencing any unresolved mechanical issues so we weren’t looking for any particular problems, just out for a drive to play with the camera and get our tires dirty. Since video isn’t very interesting in magazine print, please check out to see the video we captured.

The most interesting videos were that of the front axle and suspension in action. Using an adhesive 3M GoPro mount the HD Hero was secured beneath the front bumper pointed rearward. Set up this way we could easily view the front axle nearly knuckle-to-knuckle, as well as all of the suspension components. Had we been experiencing any suspension or steering bind it would have been clearly visible in the video. Other views we tried out included using the suction cup mount on the passenger door with the camera pointed at the right front tire, and also on the rooftop, which offered a neat view of the trail ahead.

GoPro’s motorsports version of the HD Hero includes a variety of mounting accessories, including a suction-cup mount with a three-way pivoting side-arm assembly and a waterproof, quick-release housing. Sold separately are GoPro’s Battery BacPac accessory, designed to increase recording time, and the LCD BacPac, which adds an LCD screen to the back of the camera. Larger housings are available to accommodate the camera and BacPac accessory.
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Harbor Freight Digital Inspection Camera
Seeing the unseen is this product’s specialty. The Cen-Tech High Resolution Digital Inspection Camera with Recorder from Harbor Freight allows you to view and record images or video of parts of your 4x4 that you may never see otherwise. Check out the inside of a cylinder head via the spark plug hole; inside intake manifolds via the throttle body; inside a door panel; behind/under a dash; inside a wiring loom; the possibilities are endless.

The Cen-Tech high-resolution digital inspection camera from Harbor Freight is an awesome product that has made troubleshooting much easier. The camera is stored in a protective carrying case and includes a detailed instruction manual, a 120V adapter, a USB cable, and a video-out cable.

The Cen-Tech High Resolution Digital Inspection Camera with Recorder shoots 640x480 resolution images or video clips and features a tempered glass lens and a 3.5-inch color 320x240 display. The lens is at the end of a 38-inch flexible watertight probe that is just 8.5mm in diameter — small enough to fit most spark plug holes or other small openings. The tip of the probe features an LED light with adjustable brightness. The probe tip also accepts hook, mirror, and magnet accessories. Images can be saved using the unit’s internal flash memory or by using an SD memory card (not included). A USB cable is included, allowing you to stream video directly to a laptop or PC.

The Cen-Tech digital inspection camera features a 3.5-inch color 320x240 display and a built-in, rechargeable 3.7V lithium-ion battery pack that offers 5-to-6 hours of continuous use. A rubber boot protects the camera housing. The Cen-Tech camera also records audio.

We have had a lot of fun using this camera. Its uses are seemingly endless. So far it has helped determine the location of a leak in a radiator core and locate frayed wires in the power door locks/power windows wiring harness loom, which was causing a short. We’ve also used the camera to locate dropped nuts and bolts that would have otherwise disappeared — the camera’s magnetic tip accessory is very helpful for these situations.

A video out port and supplied cable allow the camera to be connected to a TV for real-time viewing. It can also be hooked to a computer using the included USB cable, which will also charge the camera battery. Side ports include DC power source, video-out, earphone port, charging indicator light, and mini USB port.
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Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

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