Looking for Trouble with a Drain Camera

A drain camera is a very useful device to have if you're often, or even just occasionally, faced with the problem of a blocked drain or other problems of water not flowing as it should. A waterproof camera and its cable are attached to and guided by a long flexible rod, which is inserted into drains, sewers, and pipes to help you locate blockages or damage visually. You can find a range of new and used drain inspection cameras on eBay, each with various features, depending on the brand and model.

How is a drain camera inserted?

The camera and its cord are attached to a flexible helix-shaped 'snake' that can easily be pushed down pipes and follow curves. The camera, at the head of the snake, has LED lights so you can see inside the pipe clearly. The camera displays its progress, via its cable and a USB connection to a laptop for real-time viewing, while recording the video, usually onto an SD card for later inspection. How far into the pipe you can go depends on the length of cable and snake that a particular model offers. That's why eBay is such a good source; you can easily compare the various features and choose which is most useful to you.

How does a sonde help?

Some models include a sonde. When you insert the camera a considerable distance into an underground pipe, especially one with bends, you can't know its exact position. The sonde is a radio detection device that can be used to locate the camera head's position from above ground, so you know where to dig down to the site of damage, if necessary.

What useful information can a drain camera provide?

The camera can reveal the condition of the pipe and problems such as:

  • Blockages: Some snake devices have a hook that enables you to disperse a light blockage there and then, without any further action needed, such as digging down from the surface to remove it manually.
  • Cracks: These cause water leakage if they're severe enough.
  • Root intrusion: The weakest point of a pipeline is where two sections of pipe meet. If they fit together poorly, roots from vegetation in the surrounding soil will find their way in. Root intrusion can cause eventual blockage as fats, oils and other materials stick to them and build up over time. This can show up clearly on a drain camera.