Parking Mode in dash cams offers continuous surveillance when parked, capturing incidents for added security and peace of mind on the road.
What is Parking Mode?
What is Parking Mode?
If you’ve owned a car, you’ve probably been there at some point; returning to your car and found something you wish wasn’t there, be it a gash in the bumper, some trash thrown on the car, or your belongings rifled through, if not missing altogether. A dash cam can help keep you informed about what happened when you were away from the vehicle.
Dash cams are primarily designed to record your drive, but did you know your dash cam can also monitor your car even when the engine is turned off? Thanks to a feature called Parking Mode, a staple in modern dash cams.
Parking Mode is simply a fancy way of describing any recording your dash cam does when the ignition is off and your car is parked. You may also hear terms like sentry mode, parking surveillance, or parking guard - these all mean parking mode. Think of it as around-the-clock protection and surveillance for your vehicle.
Parking mode is a very useful feature to have if you are worried about hit-and-runs or vandalism on your parked vehicle. But not all parking mode is the same, and not all dash cams offer parking mode. Parking mode is usually found only in premium dash cams.
When does the dash cam switch to parking mode?
To be in true parking mode means your dash cam knows when your vehicle is truly parked and is capable of automatically switching from Normal Recording to Parking Mode Recording without any manual intervention.
Some dash cams switch to parking mode recording when the ignition is turned off, others rely on the built-in G sensor to detect inactivity.
As the ignition is switched off, the dash cam senses the change in voltage and switches to parking mode recording. Ignition-triggered is preferred if you want parking mode to kick in as soon as the ignition is powered off, or if you commute through high-traffic areas and quite frequently stuck motionless in traffic for more than 5 mins at a time. Our Thinkware, VIOFO, and FineVu cameras behave like this.
The dash cam will switch to parking mode after the built-in G-sensor detects the vehicle is stationary for 5 minutes. G-Sensor triggered is preferred if you need to leave your ignition on even when parked. Our BlackVue cameras behave like this.
The different types of parking mode
In parking mode, your dash cam is active all the time but does not save footage to the memory card unless:
- Movement is detected by the front or rear camera. In this case, a one-minute event video will be created and saved onto the memory card.
- Impact or vibration is picked up by the dash cam’s G-sensor. In this case, a one-minute event file will be created and saved onto the memory card. This can be enabled on its own, but is normally bundled in with motion detection.
- Time-Lapse mode. In this case, the camera will take a still photo every second and the photos are strung together to make a one-minute event file that will be saved onto the memory card.
Some other cameras models have different variants off of these options, such as VIOFO’s Low Bitrate recording, and FineVu’s power-saving parking mode. Generally, they are based on the above.
Motion & Impact Detection
When the camera detects an impact or motion, it will wake up and start recording. This type of parking mode is one of the most energy-efficient, but because it takes time for the camera to wake up and start recording, it can sometimes be tough to catch the perpetrator in the act.
This specific parking mode is great for you if:
- You tend to park in a quiet area with little to no action
- You want to have audio in all circumstances
- You are worried about anybody coming near or around your vehicle
When using the time-lapse parking mode, the camera shoots a still picture every second or so – allowing you to watch a time-lapse of what was going on around your car while you are gone. Some cameras will switch to normal if motion or impact is detected.
The time-lapse mode is great for you if:
- You have a small-capacity microSD card
- You are parked in a busy area with lots of vehicle and foot traffic
- You prefer to have a quick overview of everything that happens around your parked car
Radar Motion Detection
The radar motion detection is a Thinkware exclusive. The Thinkware RADAR module is an optional radar motion detection – it enables ultra-high-frequency radar motion detection to act as buffered recording in the event of an impact. Instead of being in an “always-on” passive recording state, this parking mode option reduces power consumption, providing 3X longer recording time than motion detection by regular motion sensors. Radar modules will allow the camera to last for 1-2 days of parking mode off of an average car battery, and 5+ days off a battery pack. For more info on the radar module, check it out here. The radar module is only currently an option for Q1000, X1000 and U1000 models.
Radar motion detection is great if:
You are planning on parking your vehicle for an extended period
What do I need to use parking mode?
You will need a parking mode kit to connect your dash cam to the vehicle’s battery to draw power when the vehicle is off, or a Battery Pack. Depending on the dash cam you have, your options may include:
Hardwire kits provide power to the dash cam when the engine is off.
The hardware kit draws power from the car battery through the fuse box. Hardwire kits are generally brand or model specific - make sure you are pairing your dash cam and vehicle to the right hardware kit. Hardwiring can be a bit technical but is made easier with add-a-fuses. Check out our Add-a-fuse guide here.
are a simpler solution and more convenient than hardwiring the fusebox, while providing all the same features, with a fraction of the effort.
The downsides of an OBD cable are relatively minimal, but include:
- Thicker cabling making a slightly more challenging wiring process
- OBD ports stick out a bit more than a fusebox, making for a less hidden install
- The increased price of an OBD cable compared to a hardwire kit
Dash cam battery packs are power packs that you can either plug into your cigarette lighter socket or hardwire to your vehicle battery and charge as you drive. When the car is turned off, the dash cam draws power from the battery pack.
Avoid USB power banks as these devices have a lower temperature tolerance and are not designed to be left inside of a parked vehicle and may result in fire or other damage. Read more about battery packs vs USB batteries here.
Learn more about Parking Mode
What is Buffered Parking Mode?
Buffered parking is the ability for a dash cam to record without writing to the memory card.
If a dash cam offers a buffered recording option it means that the camera continues to record, but instead of saving to the memory card, it saves to the internal memory of the dash cam. In the event that motion or impact is detected, footage before the impact will be taken from the cache and saved on the microSD card. Buffered parking mode is a staple of premium dash cams, and is incredibly useful for getting a full picture of the incident; before and after.
Buffered parking mode is normally applied to impact/motion detection automatically in units that have this feature.
Parking mode with Cloud
Cloud takes parking mode to a whole new level.
Impact detected → Buffered Event recording → Impact Push Notification sent to phone + Live Event Upload to Cloud
Traditionally, you won’t be notified of any incidents or recordings during parking mode until you have returned to your vehicle. But when you have a Cloud-enabled dash cam, like the Thinkware or BlackVue higher-tiered models, you can be alerted instantly of anything that happens in parking mode on your phone!
Cloud features that enhance parking mode:
- Receive impact/motion push notifications alert messages once parking mode starts. Then you can instantly check what’s actually happening around your car with Remote Live View.
- Live Event Upload lets your dash cam save real-time videos to the Cloud when an impact is detected, including the five seconds before the impact. This adds an extra layer of protection and could be invaluable in case your dash cam is stolen.
- Real-time GPS tracking, visualize on a map your car’s location and speed. Many plans also have Geo-Fencing, which will notify you when the vehicle exits a set range, a virtual fence.
- Remote Video Playback. Stream videos stored on the camera remotely, as long as the camera is currently connected to the cloud. Even when it’s not, important footage is uploaded directly to the cloud, at your discretion.
*For the cloud to function, the camera will require a constant connection to the internet. This can be supplied a few different ways depending on your situation, such as a mobile hotspot in the vehicle, built-in wifi in your car, parking in-range of your house wifi, or a built-in SIM slot/LTE module (BlackVue units).
How Long can you record in parking mode?
Parking mode draws power to record footage when you are away from the vehicle. It’s important to have an accurate picture of just how long parking mode is going to last you, and just how long your vehicle is going to stay protected. The short answer is on average, off of a car battery, you can expect 7-8 hours of parking mode off of an average, healthy car battery.
The long answer is that your findings will likely be different, one way or the other, due to just how many factors are at play here. Curious? Let's go through them.
Battery size and health
Car batteries come in all different shapes and sizes, but as a vague, general rule, they tend to have a 3-6 year lifespan. Car batteries deteriorate as they are discharged over the course of use (especially when the car is off, which yes, includes the dash cam parking mode), or even if they remain inactive and not in-use.
The large majority of reputable dash cams have voltage cut-off in some form or another, which tracks the current voltage of your vehicle, so that the Dash Cam will never kill your car battery. The goal of a dash cam is just to use the extra charge at the top, like trimming the icing on top of a cake, cutting off power to the camera through voltage monitoring before the dash cam takes a hearty bite out of the battery. An average car battery will have a resting voltage of 12.6V, normally we set the cut-off to 12V or 12.2V, so the dash cam is only really drawing that .6/.4V.
Car batteries are naturally charged and topped up as the vehicle is driven, with a normal car battery, a 30-minute drive will fully charge a car battery, giving the camera plenty of charge to power off of.
As these car batteries deteriorate over time, the resting voltage that they sit at lowers as well, as they cannot reach the same peaks they used to. This leaves less and less for the dash cam to draw from, sometimes lowering to only a few hours, or in some extreme cases, a few minutes. Any reputable dash cam with voltage cut-off will also have the option for different voltage cut-off settings, if you find you aren’t getting enough parking mode try lowering the cut-off, and seeing how much of an effect that has. Replacing/upgrading a weak car battery will frequently result in significantly longer parking mode.
If you would like more specific information on the health of your car battery, connecting a voltmeter, or scheduling a visit with any local mechanic will provide more information on your specific car battery, and most importantly its resting voltage.
There are plenty of exceptions to the rule, with plenty of larger vehicles operating off of large banks of power with their 24V batteries, or hybrid/electric vehicles needing to be wired to a smaller, shorter-lasting, accessory battery.
Looking to avoid this altogether? A Battery Pack is ideal for long-term parking, and avoiding any intricacies of your vehicle’s electronic system.
Note: Turning voltage cutoff below 12V has the potential to draw beneath your vehicle’s startup voltage, leading to a needed jump-start. The advice here is generalized, and your specific situation/battery should always be taken into account.
Temperature is always a factor with technology, and dash cams are no different, especially as your car sits idle under the burning sun, or in the freezing cold. If the camera becomes a temperature outside of its operating range, then it will shut down until temperatures return to normal. This can lead to the camera not recording in parking mode as needed. Picking a camera that camera that is resistant to your specific weather is worth consideration.
Concerned about extreme temperatures when the car is parked? Check out the FineVu GX1000’s AI heat monitoring feature here, our best option for parking in extreme weather.
Concerned about cold weather? Check out our article covering the basics here.
Concerned about hot weather? We have you covered there too, with an article here.
Different cameras, and different parking modes will draw different amounts of power. On the extreme ends of things, you have the energy efficiency of models like the Thinkware U1000 with its radar module, only recording at all if there is motion, compared to BlackVue’s cloud connection, which will be continuously connected to the internet, and monitor the camera’s status.
Still, let’s start with more of a baseline for how parking modes operate. Most reputable dash cameras record impact and motion in parking mode. While that would be a nice end-all, only drawing power when those happen, it’s a bit more complicated. The camera will need to be alert enough to detect said impact/motion, and if it only recorded when one of these events happened it wouldn’t give you a full picture of the situation, which is where buffered parking mode comes into play. Even if nothing is detected, there will still be a power draw to keep the camera alert.
Impact and motion detection remains more energy efficient overall than many of its competitors like time-lapse, and allows the camera to keep only one eye open, so to speak. If you are parking in a location with a lot of movement, then this can cause the motion detection to be triggered repeatedly, drawing more power.
Sometimes it’s some leaves blowing in a storm, or a silly cat; either way, checking over the footage and adjusting the sensitivity of the camera detection can save your camera some extra power draw.
Other modes such as time-lapse mode will naturally draw more power generally, due to it's constant recording. Though it is comparable to impact/motion detection in high-traffic areas. As time-lapse mode is recording constantly, using it will give you an exact time stamp for when parking mode recording stops as well.
Other features, such as camera LEDs, camera wifi, and a constant cloud connection will increase the power draw of the camera. A cloud connection would add the most draw, increasing power draw by 30~%, depending on the use, situation and model.
What can I do to lengthen Parking Mode?
There are plenty of different options for extending parking mode, and ensuring that you are covered the whole time you are away from your vehicle.
If you are wired to your vehicle battery, taking additional steps to keep your vehicle battery topped up can help lengthen parking mode, for example connecting a Trickle Charger, or Battery Tender can help feed power to the car battery. As the camera does not draw much power, it can roughly balance out with the slow power supply from the battery charger, depending on your gear.
The best way to ensure a proper power supply for your dash cam is still with a battery pack. Dash cam battery packs are power packs that you can either plug into your cigarette lighter socket or hardwire to your vehicle battery and charge as you drive. When the car is turned off, the dash cam draws power from the battery pack, removing all power draw from the vehicle
Battery packs will charge over the course of your drive, and then supply that power to the camera once the engine has been turned off. Looking for longer parking mode with a battery pack? Consider charging it in your house with a Power Inverter, or adding an expansion pack!
Beyond that, it may be time to change your dash cam model. Thinkware cameras for example are more energy efficient than their competitors, especially when combined with a radar module in their more premium models. Off of the car battery, you can expect 1-2 days of parking mode with a radar module, and in combination with a battery pack, you can expect 5-7 days of parking mode. Find out more about a radar module here.
Power Consumption of different brands
Different camera brands are also more energy efficient than others. Let’s compare based on a standard 7,500 mAh battery pack (The charge of a PowerCell 8), seeing how long parking will last for on average.
These numbers are based on 2-channel variants, 1-channel variants will draw less power, and 3-channels will draw more. These are estimates, and discharging times may vary based on other factors such as age, usage conditions, and parking enivronment.
Thinkware dash cams draw 200mA on average in motion detection mode. This will result in 35 hours of parking mode.
A radar module will decrease that power draw to 45.2 mA, that’s almost 4x less! That will result in an average of 7 days of parking mode. Now that’s some long-term parking!
BlackVue dash cams draw 300mA on average in motion detection mode. This will result in 20 hours of parking mode.
When using the cloud feature this , the draw is increased to 360mA, 17 hours of parking mode.
VIOFO dash cams draw 400mA on average, varying between the different parking modes. This will supply 15 hours of parking mode.
Parking Mode is Important
Let’s be honest - a lot of times door dings on our new car or even acts of vandalism are the absolute worst to deal with. Without any witnesses, these claims are not only hard to resolve with insurance companies but could cost thousands of dollars in damages.
A dash cam in your vehicle will help you in whatever situation you're in. So what are you waiting for? Explore our collection of dash cams today. If you have any further questions, comments or suggestions, then don't hesitate to reach out to our product experts today!
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