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What Is a Borescope? Plus Tips & Tricks to See In Hidden Places

What Is a Borescope? Plus Tips & Tricks to See In Hidden Places

What is a borescope and how can it make an RVer’s life easier? In today’s post, we’ll answer those questions. We’ll show you what a borescope is and how we’ve found one helpful for certain projects on our RV. We’ll also show you several other ways to see into hidden spaces using items you may have on hand.

RVs have lots of confined spaces that can make it difficult to see what’s required to get a project done. So, let’s take a look at a few tricks to help us see into tight spaces, as though we have RV X-ray vision.

What Is a Borescope?

A borescope is a tool for seeing in hard-to-reach places. It’s a camera with a wide field of view attached to a flexible tube, ideal for inspecting RV nooks and crannies.

While there are several different types of borescopes, they all have some sort of rigid or flexible tube with a lens or camera on one end. They mostly differ in what’s connected to the other end:

  • some have their own self-contained display unit
  • some have a small battery-powered module that sends the image via Bluetooth to another device (like your phone or tablet)
  • others (like ours) have a USB plug you can use to connect it to your own phone/tablet (this kind tends to be the cheapest option)

A rigid borescope is best used for visual inspection of areas that don’t involve moving around curves and angles. Imagine a straight rigid stick trying to turn 90 degrees to get into the space you need to see. In situations where you need to see around angles or curves, you’ll instead want to choose a borescope with a flexible tube.

Borescopes often include LED lights so you can see your way around as you inspect the area in real time (or via video and/or image captures).

A hand thrust through a wall holding a borescope

This borescope is a complete unit with its own handheld display screen and semi-rigid camera tube… great for inspecting inside walls, in your engine compartment, or any tight space.

Video cameras on borescopes vary in terms of image quality. Larger diameter borescopes are often brighter and have inspection cameras that capture video at higher resolutions. There are also fiber optic borescopes on the market that vary in terms of the number of fibers they use.

But while there are different types, qualities, and features of borescopes, they’re all designed to let you to see what’s going on in places that are either difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye.

Being able to see into tight spaces in any vehicle or home can come in mighty handy. On an RV in particular, for example, there are several places/tasks a borescope could help with, including:

  • Locating signs of a leak or broken plumbing
  • Tracing plumbing through walls
  • Finding something lost behind furniture or under a vehicle seat
  • Inspecting your water heater tank for scale deposits (or proof that your water heater flushing worked)
  • Looking in hard-to-reach or tight places (on top of your slide, for example) to avoid climbing on a ladder or getting up on your RV roof

How to Use a Borescope to See In Tight Spaces

When you need to see in the tightest of spaces (where none of the other options we list below will work), a borescope is the perfect solution.

For example, we inspected inside our motorhome’s water heater before and after cleaning to see how effective our vinegar treatment was. The borescope we used was very flexible so we attached it to a straightened wire coat hanger using electrical tape. This enabled us to aim the borescope inside the tank.

However, this was several years ago. Newer borescopes are made with more rigid wires that, when bent, hold their shape better and can be aimed as needed. They’re not expensive, but they can be useful for many purposes, including seeing inside all types of holding tanks.

Sale
DEPSTECH 5.0MP USB Endoscope, Type-C UHD Inspection Camera, 8.5mm Scope Camera with IP67 Waterproof Borescope Cable, 6 Adjustable LED, Compatible with Android(OTG) Phone, Windows, MacBook PC -16.5ft
  • 【Ultra HD 5MP (2592*1944) Camera】: The borescope camera with 0.33in ultra thin probe can inspect any hard-to-reach places without efforts. 5.0MP...
  • 【USB Connection, Easy Set-up】: This endoscope camera can connect with Android smart phone, windows computer and MacBook via the micro USB, USB and...

The best way to show you how to use a borescope to see into tight spaces is to point you toward the video in our post on how to flush an RV water heater. For that project, we used our video borescope to look at the interior of our motorhome’s water heater.

We fed the borescope into the tank and the tiny camera on the end inspected the interior of the tank for us, allowing us to view the condition of the tank before and after treatment.

Other Tricks & Tips to See Into Tight Spaces

There are many different methods you can use to look into areas that are otherwise tough to see, from low-tech to high-tech. Let’s take a look at several other techniques we can use to see almost anywhere.

Inspection Mirror

A simple, low-tech device that auto mechanics often use to see around a car engine is a mirror. Mirrors with extendable handles and adjustable mirror heads can be very useful in many situations. A mirror can allow you to see what’s going on in an area where you can’t get your head to see with only your eyes.

A mechanic's inspection mirror reflecting the other side of a wrench

A mechanic’s inspection mirror helps you see into tight places or gain a perspective you might not normally see.

In one of our earliest videos, we showed how our kitchen sink plumbing was leaking but we couldn’t get our eyes on what was going on back there to figure out the source of the leak. Before we started dismantling things, we wanted to know if the leak was coming from the plumbing or the drain pipe.

So, we stuck an extendable mirror down behind the sink and we used a flashlight to illuminate the area as we inspected it with the mirror. This enabled us to see that the drain pipe (which was flexing every time the slide was extended/retracted) had a cracked seal at one end.

Here’s the type of extendable mirror we used:

Tooluxe 20731L Telescoping Magnetic Pickup Tool & Inspection Mirror Set, 3 Piece, Telescoping Handle W/Additional Mirror Attachment, Telescoping Magnet Tool, Magnetic Pickup, Telescoping Mirror Tool
  • VERSATILE: This handy inspection mirror and magnetic pick-up tool assortment is perfect for finding and retrieving metal. Easily grab nails, metal...
  • FEATURES: Magnetic pickup tool features a pulling load capacity of 16 lbs. (even weight distribution) with telescoping handle that extends from 7 to...

Smartphone

This is one of the best pieces of equipment we all have on hand for seeing around corners and into tight spaces.

Sometimes, you can simply stick your smartphone into an area that’s tough to see with your eyes because you can’t get your head back there… and snap a quick picture of what you’re trying to get a good look at.

You can also use your smartphone’s video camera to look at an area you need to study before undertaking a repair. We did this when we needed to repair a plumbing leak. Because we weren’t sure exactly how the plumbing worked back there, we needed to create a schematic so we could diagnose our problem and figure out the repair. So, we put our phone back there and took a video of the entire system and we were able to create a schematic from that video.

Here’s our YouTube video on that very repair:

PRO TIP: Remember – your smartphone has two cameras – one in the front and one in the back. So depending on the situation you need to visualize, you can use your phone’s camera in two different ways.

Also, if you can’t reach your phone in a tight space when holding it in your hand, you can use a “selfie stick” to extend your reach. Simply clip your phone into the holder on one end of the selfie stick, extend the stick as far as you need to, and use the remote feature to snap a picture or take a video.

For example, this one extends to 46″ which would give you a nice long reach into an area that might otherwise be difficult to get your camera to.

Sale
BZE Selfie Stick, Extendable Selfie Stick Tripod,Phone Tripod with Wireless Remote Shutter,Group Selfies/Live Streaming/Video Recording Compatible with All Cellphones
  • 【3-In-1 Selfie Stick and Tripod Stand】Selfie stick tripod can be extended , which makes it very suitable for Photograph, Face time, Business,...
  • 【with Remote Shutter】: The range of the wireless connection can be up to 10 meters. Remote control can take up to 1,000+ photos. It can be...

Getting a look at the top of your slideout this way (for water or debris) before retracting it is a terrific way to prevent a slideout flood.

Action Camera

You can also use a GoPro or other action camera on the end of a selfie stick to capture footage of a difficult-to-see area and have the camera send the footage or image directly to your phone.

Here we are doing just that in the basement of our motorhome:

Using a GoPro action camera on an extended selfie stick to send video footage to a phone

Here we’re using a GoPro action camera on an extended selfie stick to send video footage to our phone so we can get a good look into the back of our motorhome’s basement.

You can do this with any type of action camera that offers decent footage, whether it’s a GoPro or a less expensive version. You can send footage to your phone or tablet, or you can use the remote control feature to take photos or videos from far away. Plus, these little action cameras will even take photos underwater!

Sale
GoPro HERO12 Black - Waterproof Action Camera with 5.3K60 Ultra HD Video, 27MP Photos, HDR, 1/1.9" Image Sensor, Live Streaming, Webcam, Stabilization
  • High Dynamic Range Video plus Photo: HERO12 Black takes its best-in-class image quality to the next level with HDR for both videos (5.3K and 4K) and...
  • Unbelieveable Image Quality: With 5.3K video that gives you 91% more resolution than 4K and an incredible 665% more than 1080p, HERO12 Black captures...
SJCAM Sj8pro Real 4k60fps Action Camera with 2.33'' Touch Screen Stabilization 2.0 Helmet Camera 131ft Waterproof Underwater Camera Support External Mic Remote Control with 2X1200mAh Batteries
  • 【Real 4K 60FPS Action Camera】: Compared to other interpolated 4K 60FPS action camera, SJCAM SJ8PRO built in high quality image sensor and chip,...
  • 【Support External Mic and Clearer Sound】: The SJ8pro 4K camera comes with speaker and supports external MIC. Adding an external MIC can make your...

Here’s our YouTube video on how to see almost anywhere to show you exactly how we’ve found these tips and tricks handy:

What Are Your Favorite Ways to See Into Tough Spots?

If you’ve got any other tips or tricks for seeing into tight spots, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment down below and share!

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Lou

Wednesday 11th of April 2018

I love this video. Great tips on how to use the cell phone. I also have a Borescope and have found it invaluable when doing repairs and upgrades to my RV.

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 11th of April 2018

Thanks Lou! Great to hear you're making use of such helpful tools, too. :)

Franklin

Friday 23rd of March 2018

Very professional video and your voice is so clear and easy to understand.I really do appreciate all the information you have given me. Having just got a new iphone I can now see when my usage will go way up. Please keep making these informative and delightful videos.

TheRVgeeks

Friday 23rd of March 2018

Thanks so much Franklin! We sure do love the many, many ways our iPhone continues to surprise us with new uses. It’s our favorite invention ever!

Mark Austin

Friday 23rd of March 2018

Thanks for another handy video. It's the simple things that make rving easier.

David White

Wednesday 21st of March 2018

You got me to thinking..... Great ideas that I plan to use

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 21st of March 2018

Excellent! Good to hear, David. :)

Don Thorne

Wednesday 21st of March 2018

Great video, I have most of the equipment you talk about except the selfie Stick. I like the one you have, can you tell me the brand/model. Also there are two things I see in your wet bay that I have a question about. We have a 2008 Newmar Ventana and our wet bay looks the same except. Where I have a paper towel holder you have what looks like a cover for a paper towel holder. When there's a breeze out mine unravels. And lastly, is that a light fixture above your hose reel?

Thanks, Don

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 3rd of April 2018

Hey Don,

While looking through Newmar's online parts catalog today, we stumbled across the part number for the cover for our paper towel holder. It's part #49701. It doesn't look like that part # includes the metal bracket that holds the cover to the wet bay panel, but at least it's a start for identifying it with Newmar if you decide to order one from them.

Hope this helps!

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 21st of March 2018

Hi Don! Thanks for the nice comment and great questions. This is our selfie stick: http://amzn.to/2HywPy5 And yes, that is indeed a cover over the paper towel roll, and a soap dispenser (rotated upside down to prevent leaks) above the hose reel. Both of those items came installed directly from the factory. Probably some of the additional little items that get added as you move up the Newmar line. We're betting if you called their parts department and said you'd like to buy the paper towel cover that you've seen in the water bay on an '05 Mountain Aire, they probably can find it. Always great to hear from a fellow Newmar owner. :)

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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