We recently bough a 2006 Mercedes ML350 for our Daughter now that she is driving. We picked this car because of the 5-star crash rating, the AWD system (as it snows a lot here in the winter), the size of the car was manageable and it was the nicest car we found for the money. We knew when we bought it that we would add navigation, hands-free Bluetooth for the phone and a backup camera. The ML350 only had the Comand head unit and did not have those other features, this was one of the reasons we got such a good deal on the car.
I solved the navigation and hands-free Bluetooth features by installing an aftermarket GPS head unit from Seicane. I wrote up a tutorial about how to install it here and a review of the head unit here.
Since I now had a head unit that would accept a backup camera, I decided to install a wireless backup camera in the Mercedes ML350.
What You Will Need
You will need some basic tools and of course the camera and wireless system.
- Backup Camera – There are a lot of generic cameras available online, but I bought this one off of e-bay as it looked like it would work the best for me.
- Wireless Camera System – There are several of these systems online, I bought this one on e-bay.
- Assorted Screw Drivers – You will need a phillips head screwdriver as well as a torx bit screwdriver for removing the interior panel from the hatch and removing the head unit from the dash. I just used a screwdriver with interchangeable bits as this was the simplest way to go. If you need some inexpensive tools, I recommend Harbor Freight Tools, their tools may not be the highest end, but if you do not use them often, it may be the best choice for you cost wise.
- Wire Stripper – You will need this to strip the power and ground wires when connecting the wireless system.
- Electrical Tape – You will need this to wrap up the electrical connections and wires.
- Multimeter – You will need this to verify which wires have power and which are ground.
- Interior Panel Removal Tool – You can buy these online. I chose to use a pry bar covered in tape to protect the paint. It worked OK, but I am sure the right tools would have worked better.
The Backup Camera
I wanted a camera that would look close to factory and would be easy to install. I found this backup camera on ebay for $30 shipped. The camera is designed to mount into the license plate light on the rear hatch. The ad showed that the camera was compatible with the 2012 ML350 and not my 2006. I looked at the camera and compared it to the light on my 2006 ML350 and decided it looked close enough to give it a try.
Here is the camera I bought. As you can see, the edges of the back/lens are rounded on the camera. On the 2006 ML350 the factory lens mounting is squared off. However, the camera does fit. The screw holes line up fine and once installed it is not even noticeable at all.
In this picture you can see the tabs for placing the license plate bulb. Once installed the light still works.
The camera came with a power cable and a 6 meter video cable. I chose to use a wireless system because I did not want to run the video cable from the hatch to the dash, too many panels to remove for my taste. However, if you are willing to do the install then this is all you would need.
The Wireless System
I decided to try a wireless video transmitter and receiver for the backup camera as I did not want to remove all the interior panels from the hatch to the dash to run the video cable. So, I found this wireless system on e-bay for $17.99 shipped. As you can see from the picture it is a pretty basic system. All you have to do is wire the power and plug in the video cables and you are done. The system automatically connects when powered on.
Remove the Interior Panel from the Lift Gate
Removing the interior panel is not overly difficult, but you may end up breaking some plastic tabs that hold it in place. If you do break the tabs you will need to order replacements from the dealer or an online seller.
Remove the trim panel at the top of the lift gate. This panel just pops off. I used a pry bar with tape on it to protect the panel and the paint.
Next we need to remove the two panels that run down the sides of the glass. First remove the screws that hold each panel in at the top. You will need a torx bit for this. Once the screws are out, you can pop the panels out.
Removing the large panel is not difficult but can be a little nerve racking. You will need to start on the sides and, using either a pry bar or panel tool, pop the panel away from the hatch. This takes a good amount of force and I thought I was going to break it, but I didn’t. Once pried back you can look under the panel and see all of the plastic tabs holding it on. You will need to pop those tabs out to remove the rest of the panel. I just slid the pry bar under the panel next to each tab and managed to pop them all out. Some of the tabs will come out with the panel and some may stay attached to the hatch. You will need to remove the ones still in the hatch before you can put the panel back on. I broke two tabs trying to get them out of the hatch, so be prepared to buy new tabs just in case. I forgot to take pictures of this process. Sorry.
This is what the rear hatch looks like with the panel off.
Next we need to remove the lens from the passenger side license plate light. I tried to remove the whole light fixture, but the corner just broke, so I left it in place. After the lens is off, remove the bulb. You will now need to drill a hole in the center of the light assembly so that the camera RCA cable can fit through. I forget the size I used, I just compared the drill bit to the RCA cable to make sure it was big enough. Drilling through plastic is easy, so don’t go too fast. Also, be careful not to hit the power wire for the light when drilling the new hole.
Now just feed the camera wires through the hole and put the light bulb back in place. Next, just screw the camera in place instead of the factory lens. It will look like this when completed.
Now we need to find power for the camera and wireless unit. The camera plugs into the wireless transmitter and gets its power from the transmitter, so you only have to connect the transmitter to power. I decided for ease of installation to power the transmitter and camera from a switched power source instead of the reverse light power. I did this so that there would be no delay in the camera and for ease of installation as trying to run a wire to the reverse light was a lot of work. This means the camera and transmitter are both powered every time the key to the car is on. I suppose this will reduce the life span of both, but I was willing to make that sacrifice for ease of installation.
I chose to tap into the switched power of at the wiper motor. I used a multi-meter to check which wire was switched power and which was ground. Once I did that I simply tapped into the power line and connected the transmitter to the switched power. I then taped everything up to make it nice and secure.
Next, I used double sided tape to attach the transmitter to the inside of the rear hatch. I used heavy duty tape to make sure it stayed in place. I also bundled all of the wires together and taped them with electrical tape to protect them and keep them from moving around.
Now it is time to move to the front of the car. I left the rear hatch panel off until I was sure everything was working.
The installation at the head unit is similar, I tied the power into a switched power source (cigarette lighter) and then plugged the video cable into the head unit’s rear camera input. The head unit I installed uses the CAN system to determine if the car is in reverse, so there was nothing left to install. Once I verified the camera was working, I used double sided tape to attach the receiver to the top of the head unit and taped up all of the connections to protect them and keep them from coming apart.
The system works great. The camera comes on instantly when in reverse and the image quality is good, even at night.