I consider myself fairly proficient at backing up and aligning my tow vehicle hitch and the trailer coupling without getting out of the truck — most of the time. The problem arises when approaching the trailer from an angle rather than straight on, thereby losing reference points through the mirrors.
In my family we often tow with different vehicles, which always seem to leave the trailer coupling at a different height and occasionally results in dented license plates and bruised egos. Having someone guide the driver to precise alignment can be difficult, if not dangerous. With Swift Hitch, however, those problems are history.
Swift Hitch is a wireless camera system with infrared night vision that greatly simplifies hitching up to any trailer. The system consists of the camera, with a magnetic mount, and a wireless receiver for in-vehicle viewing. The camera temporarily attaches to either the tow vehicle or the trailer, depending on the viewing perspective you prefer, while the receiver is placed inside the tow vehicle. The receiver’s color display provides a clear view of the tow ball and coupling, making misalignment issues almost non-existent.
The camera assembly measures 5 inches long, including the 1-1/4-inch antenna, and stands 3 inches tall on the magnetic base. It uses a 1/3-inch CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) image sensor and has a viewing angle of 55 degrees, similar to the standard lens of a 35 mm camera. If you like to think in pixels, the rating is 628 by 582 (PAL), 510 by 492 (NTSC). Power is supplied by an internal rechargeable 12VDC lithium battery that can be recharged with the included power cord in two hours.
I found the camera to have a close focus point of around 2 feet, and it transmits a signal to the receiver more than 250 feet away, allowing various other uses for the unit.
The receiver measures 5 by 3-1/16 by 1-1/4 inches, and the 2-1/2-by-2-1/2-inch TFT LCD has a resolution of 960 by 240. It also operates on its own rechargeable internal 12VDC lithium battery. After turning on the receiver, additional activation of the power switch allows you to select either normal or reverse viewing on the screen. I found this feature very useful, especially with the camera mounted on the trailer.
As you slowly back into position, the trailer tongue comes into view, and it is easy to confirm accurate alignment. The night-vision feature is effective to about 15 feet and provides good infrared visibility, while changing the display from color to monochrome. When using the night-vision feature, I keep the camera a bit farther from the subject than during daytime, which helps soften and even out the infrared illumination. The more you use Swift Hitch, the more you will appreciate it.
Swift Hitch operates on the 2.4-GHz band, which also is used by many residential cordless phones and computers with WiFi. These devices can create occasional signal degradation in the form of horizontal lines appearing on the screen. The system obviously isn’t high-definition, but it isn’t supposed to be. I found image quality to be very consistent and more than capable of providing a clear and focused view.
Although the literature advises against using the system within steel structures because of signal loss, I mounted the camera inside my steel horse trailer and enjoyed watching our horse munch on hay and look out the window for several hours on a road trip. (I always wondered what they did back there.) This system could easily be adapted to monitor a machinery space on board, or it could be mounted on the rear of a trailer or boat to serve as a camera for backing up when trailering. With a few electrical adaptors from Radio Shack, it’s possible to power both units from the vehicle batteries, which would extend run time.
Although I don’t advise doing this, I took a 20-mile trip with the camera attached to the tailgate of my truck, and it didn’t fall off. (I did attach a safety lanyard.) The only concern I have with the camera mount is the potential for it to scratch the vehicle, although I used it extensively without issue. It may be helpful to place a thin piece of tape across the mounting surface to cushion the installation a bit.
Swift Hitch comes with the wireless camera and its weatherproof cover, wireless receiver, batteries, charging cord, carrying bags for receiver and camera, and instructions. Retail price is $309. It’s a product of Two Loons Trading Company and is available through PLM Trading Company at (888) 809-5183 or (603) 319-4909. Visit www.swifthitch.com for information or to order online.
This article originally appeared in the August 2008 issue.