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Jun 21

Where and How to Mount your Radar Detector for the Best Performance

Where should you mount your radar detector on your windshield and how does that impact your radar detector’s performance? Should you mount it high or low? Should you skip over using suction cups altogether and hang it under your rear view mirror? Does a tint strip or do those black dots at the top of your windshield impact performance? Instead of mounting onto your windshield, should you opt for custom installed remote mount detector that’s installed somewhere in your grill instead? Let’s take a look at the best places to mount a radar detector and the pros and cons of each mounting location.

So in general, the rule of thumb is that the higher you mount your radar detector, the better the radar detection performance of your detector. It’s not a massive night and day difference, but mounting it higher does allow the detector to do a better job of seeing radar over hills and over other vehicles that may otherwise be blocking the signal.

If you mount the detector lower on your windshield, it will do a better job of detecting laser because it’s physically closer to your headlights and grill area and since laser is such a small and thin beam of light. However, even with a low mount, and even if your detector goes off when you’re shot (any many times it won’t at all because laser is so tough to detect in the first place), by the time your radar detector does alert to laser, the officer already has your speed and so there’s little to no real world benefit of a radar detector picking up laser when it comes to protecting you from speeding tickets. It’s for that reason that you’ll want to use a laser jammer for combating laser and optimize your radar detector to detect radar.

In terms of alignment, you’re also going to want to make sure your detector is mounted level with the ground and aimed straight ahead, not up or down or left or right. Straight forward.

You also have the option of mounting somewhere on your windshield or custom installing a remote mount radar detector somewhere in the grill of your vehicle. Usually this is done if you desire a more hidden and clean install and/or if you own a vehicle where the windshield (typically in certain higher end vehicles with heated windshields or those with metallic ) would prevent the radar signal from passing through properly. I’ll cover this towards the end and we’ll start with your traditional windshield mounting locations first.

Mounting High by the Rear View Mirror

Radar detector mounted in the optimal location: Up high by the rear view mirror

Pros:

  • Ideal mounting location
  • Best radar detection performance
  • Clean install
  • No ugly cable running down your windshield or dash when hardwired (hardwire install tutorial)
  • Radar detector easily within reach
  • Stealthy installation location, very hard to see by potential thieves

Cons: 

  • Takes a little more work to install initially, particularly if you want to run a hardwire cable (recommended) for a clean install (see hardwire cable options)
  • If you don’t hardwire, you’ll have an ugly power cable running all the way down your windshield
  • Laser detection is reduced since the RD is farther away from the headlights and grill area
  • If you make YouTube videos, it’s tough to mount a camera to both look out the windshield and see the radar detector’s display simultaneously (which is why I often mount it low for videos but high in real life)

Mounting Low on the Windshield

Pros: 

  • Easy and convenient mounting location
  • You can run a power cable down your dash to your cig. lighter without it blocking your visibility
  • Optimal location for laser detection (which doesn’t actually matter in practice as mentioned earlier)
  • Looks good on camera if you make YouTube videos, easy to mount a GoPro just above it and see both the RD and the road ahead

Cons: 

  • Less range when it comes to detecting radar
  • Running power cable down your dash is kind of ugly and can block the stereo buttons and display
  • Radar detector is easily visible to thieves if left on windshield when parked
  • Suction cup mount (or suction cup marks on the windshield when the mount is removed) is also a telltale sign that thieves look for
  • Radar and laser signals may be obscured by your wipers (if you mount it low, make sure you mount it above the wipers, not behind them)
  • If you have a steeply angled windshield, that can put the radar detector far ahead of you and make it tough to reach to access the mute button, change settings, or mount and dismount as desired

Mounting in the Center of the Windshield

Sometimes radar detector manufacturers recommend installing the radar detector in the middle of your windshield as a sort of compromise between the high and low mounting options. Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason they might do this is to make sure that you and everyone else around can see their product. 🙂 This isn’t always the case of course, but sometimes you’ll see it.

Pros:

  • Radar detector will be more accessible than if you mount it lower, closer to the wipers

Cons: 

  • Blocks your visibility no matter what
  • No good way of doing a clean installation
  • Compromised location for both radar and laser detection
  • Very visible to thieves

Mounting Under Your Rear View Mirror

This option is especially popular in states where mounting electronic devices (including GPS, phone mounts, radar detectors, etc.) to your windshield is illegal (see this article for information about your state), for people who want a cleaner looking installation, or for people who are tired of dealing with suction cups that will eventually fail over time and can have trouble sticking to your windshield.

Pros:

  • If mounting to your windshield with suction cups is illegal in your area, this is a great alternative
  • You don’t have to worry about suction cups failing over time and your RD falling off your windshield
  • Clean and professional looking installation
  • You can power your RD right from your powered RVM or run a traditional hardwire cable

Cons:

  • Added cost of an additional mount
  • Radar detector may partially block your visibility, particularly in smaller vehicles
  • Requires additional installation (but not very difficult)

The two most popular RVM mounting options are the Blendmount and the Radar Mount. The Blendmount is better built, but more expensive. I compared the two here and now I prefer and recommend the Blendmount.

If you have a powered rear view mirror (if it’s autodimming, has a Homelink garage door opener, digital compass, etc.), you can tap into your RVM’s power cable for a convenient and clean location to power your radar detector. (Watch this tutorial for info on how to install it.)

Custom Installed Remote Mount in your Grill

Remote radar detector and laser jammers installed in grill (courtesy of rickrodney, original source)

If you don’t want anything mounted on your windshield at all, you can opt for a remote mount radar detector that’s custom installed in your grill area. It’s more expensive and requires professional installation, but it leads to a cleaner looking install.

Additionally, some vehicles, particularly higher end vehicles, have windshields that block radar signals from passing through the windshield. This is common with heated windshields or those that have metallic coatings. You’ll know this is the case with your vehicle if GPS devices or RFID toll passes don’t work well behind the windshield. Many windshields even have little cutaways near the RVM where you can mount a GPS receiver, toll pass, or radar detector. Another way to tell if your vehicle has a metallic tinted windshield is to see if it has a purple tint in the sun.

Metallic tinted windshield

 

Pros: 

  • Most stealthy and hidden install option available
  • No radar detector or mounts on your windshield
  • Great option if your windshield prevents normal operation of a radar detector
  • Nothing to take off your windshield when you park or put back on when you resume driving
  • Nothing visible to thieves
  • Allows for a more OEM look to your vehicle and cabin
  • Can often integrate with a laser jammer for a complete countermeasure setup

Cons:

  • Remote radar detectors are more expensive than windshield mounts
  • Professional installation takes time and money
  • Installing yourself can be done to save money, but that takes time too
  • More difficult to upgrade or change systems years down the line
  • If you’re leasing a car, you may not want to go through the trouble of installing and uninstalling
  • May require drilling into your car for running cables or mounting equipment
  • Some vehicles may offer less than ideal mounting and placement locations

Now as far as the optimal mounting location for a remote detector, you’ll want something with a clean line of sight view of the road ahead, so the ideal location for performance is mounted in a grill area with NOTHING in front of the radar detector antenna so that it has an unobstructed view of the road ahead.

If that’s not an option based on the design of your vehicle or you want it hidden for aesthetic reasons (which is very common and usually desired), the next best option is to mount it behind a flat, non-metallic body panel of your vehicle. You’ll need to find or build some sort of mount for your radar detector antenna to attach to and this will vary from vehicle to vehicle. In terms of body panels, you’ll want to avoid curved or angled body panels, any metal, and any metallic paint. Again, aim for flat, non-metallic body panels. (My vehicle has metallic paint unfortunately so I have to mount all of my remote detectors (I have multiple installed for comparison testing purposes) with nothing in front of them. This does make for a much easier installation, however.

My (admittedly slightly ridiculous) install with multiple remotes for testing

Finally, by FAR the most common mistake people make is that they install their remote detectors so that they’re behind a grill that has mesh or horizontal or vertical slats. The reasoning is that the detector is visually obscured by the grill yet can still see through the grill so it totally makes sense, however, we’ve found that doing this can reduce your radar detector’s range by as much as 50%!! (Here’s some discussion on the subject.) Not good when you’re spending a bunch of money on a high end detector and professional installation, only to completely obliterate the long range capabilities you thought you were buying.

The reason that installing a radar detector behind a grill is so detrimental to performance is that the radar signal passes through the grill unevenly. Some passes straight through while some gets slightly delayed and distorted. This leads to a problem known as destructive interference where because some of the signal is arriving slightly delayed, it actually starts to interfere with itself and the delayed part of the radar signal will actually start to cancel out part of the signal that is passing through unobstructed. This is really common to see people do and it’s totally understandable, but it’s a huge mistake which is why I’m addressing it here specifically.

Tint Strip or Dots on the Windshield?

Speaking of tinted windshields, one of the most common questions people ask is whether or not a tint strip at the very top of the windshield or if those little black dots at the top of the windshield will cause problems for radar detectors. Generally speaking, things are fine, but let’s take a little closer look.

Tint strips are generally actually a great place to mount your radar detector behind. It makes the detector even more stealthy and hidden which is fantastic. If you have a non-metallic tint, there will be no impact to radar detection performance. If you have a metallic based tint, yes it will reduce your detector’s range. A quick and easy way to test if your tint strip is metallic (if you’re not sure) is to find a weak radar source like a speed sign or automatic door opener and move the radar detector back and forth behind the tint and not behind the tint. See if the signal strength of your detector changes. Try several different sources just to be sure. That will let you know if the tint is impacting your radar detector. Laser will be affected for sure since laser is just light and a tint blocks a lot of light. However, a high mount isn’t ideal for a RD in the first place and either way, you’re gonna need laser jammers so yeah.

As far as those little black dots are concerned, those are called frits. Jalopnik has a great article on them. They’re there to either block the sun from shining above your RVM or for making a more gradual transition between the clear windshield and black edges. In terms of radar detectors, again so long as they’re non-metallic (which is the norm), you should be just fine. You can do the same test as with the tint strip to be sure. Some frits are on the inside of your windshield and can make it tougher for a RD’s suction cup to stick, but many are literally baked into the glass itself and so you can stick your suction cups onto them with no problem.

In short, so long as you have non-metallic tint and frits (which is the norm), you should be just fine. If not, simply mount your radar detector so it can peek out just underneath.

Make sure your Radar Detector is pointed straight forward

Finally let’s talk about how your radar detector should be pointed. In short, you want it pointing straight ahead. Radar detectors are fairly directional so you don’t want it looking like it’s trying to pick up radar from the International Space Station or pick up radar from underground somewhere. Doing that will greatly diminish the performance of your radar detector and it’s a common mistake that people make when starting out.

Radar detector mounts typically designed (with the exception of some of the cheapest ones) to let you aim the detector up or down. Sometimes it’s part of the mount and other things it involves bending the mount slightly. Here’s a set of instructions straight out of a Cobra manual (which I’m pulling from because many Cobra users in particular make this mistake).

Picking a Radar Detector

So that’s what you need to know when it comes to mounting a windshield mount or a custom installed remote mount detector. The same principles apply to all radar detectors so this will apply no matter which radar detector you choose.

If you’d like help in selecting a radar detector, check out my Complete Radar Detector Buyer’s Guide.

3 comments

  1. Dal

    Which states prohibit windshield mounts?

  2. Robert

    Can today’s detectors stand mounting two side by side on a windshield with electromagnetic compatibility? I recall many years ago I could not do this without one detector interfering with the other.

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