Tool Review: OTC Automotive Inspection Camera

March 5, 2013
Tool allows users to view tight and hard-to-reach areas.

OTC's Automotive Inspection Camera, No. 3880X, comes as a portable, handheld video scope ergonomically designed for the internal inspection of engines without their costly demolition or disassembly. The 5.5mm camera transmits images and video to the large 3.5" high-resolution color screen for optimal viewing of hard-to-reach areas. The camera head includes four built-in adjustable LEDs for optimal viewing from light to dark areas. It also features the ability to record digital still images and MPEG video on the removable SD memory card, and can be viewed on the removable camera display or transferred to a computer.

The Review

Eric Moore, a mechanic at DeMary Truck in Columbus, OH, works in a medium duty shop and is used to doing tough, grueling work such as engine tear downs. Moore hates nothing more when a diagnosis requires a teardown, only to find that the problem is in fact elsewhere. When he received a video scope from OTC to review, he was looking forward to what a modern video scope can do. 

Years ago video scopes did not always cut it. Their video was in black and white, they did not sufficiently light up the viewing area, they were hard to view in the right area, they did not record video files and the image resolution often was insufficient. Their most critical Achilles heel was often the diameter of the actual video probe. With the Automotive Inspection Camera, No. 3880X, Moore was pleasantly surprised.

Moore put the tool to work on a job where he had to determine whether or not to remove the cylinder head. "The smaller size allowed us to access right through the glow plug hole," he noted.

Another job required Moore to check the part number on the back of an instrument cluster, to aid with a diagnosis. "The video scope was able to easily view the printed circuit board on the back of instruments without removal of the gauge cluster," he said.

Moore had ideas for a few improvements for the tool. "The addition of a mirrored attachment to view 45 to 90 degrees from the angle of the camera face would help tremendously," he says. 

The tool's ability to access spots that were otherwise inaccessible was its key strength, according to the reviewer. "We currently own a similar handheld camera, but the diameter of that camera head prevents us from using it in the manner in which we used this camera," Moore said. "Personally, I would rate this tool a solid 9.5. The ease of use, smaller size for better access where previous products were restricted due the size of the camera head, really puts this tool ahead of the others on the market."

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