Mirror Buyer’s Guide
- Car mirrors are reflective components that help drivers see vehicles and road conditions outside of their peripheral vision.
- There are two main types of car mirrors: rear-view mirrors and side mirrors.
- The rear-view mirror is an interior mirror that lets the driver monitor traffic at the vehicle’s rear.
- Side mirrors are external mirror components that give drivers a view of the length of the vehicle.
- Side mirrors can be categorized by use (standard or towing mirrors), location (driver or passenger side mirror), adjustability (fixed or foldable), mechanics (manual or power mirrors).
- Mirror adjustment type, mirror design, and assembly finish are some of the things you need to consider when buying side view mirror replacements.
- OEM replacement car mirrors will cost you anywhere between $40 and $2,200. These parts are either sold individually or as part of a kit.
- Replacing your side mirror on your own is easy if you have the necessary tools and know-how.
The most important car parts are often those with the simplest mechanisms. A good example of this is your car’s mirror components. These mirrors are so important that they’re the first thing we check before switching the ignition on. Let’s take a closer look at automotive mirrors and determine why they’re critical for road safety.
What Are Car Mirrors?
Car mirrors are reflective components that aid drivers in observing their surroundings. They allow drivers to see other vehicles and road conditions that are outside of their peripheral vision.
Types of Car Mirrors
There are two main types of car mirrors: rear-view mirrors and side mirrors.
The rear-view mirror is an interior mirror that lets the driver monitor traffic at the vehicle’s rear. It makes it possible to observe the movement of vehicles behind your car without turning your back on the steering wheel.
This type of mirror is essential for safety while making turns, switching lanes, and backing up into a parking spot. Without a rear-view mirror, it will be difficult to accurately estimate distances, navigate oncoming traffic, and check for pedestrians.
A convex mirror is typically used for the rear-view mirror because of its capacity to reflect distant images. It is installed on a plastic base plate that is attached to the upper middle part of the windshield. The angle of the reflective surface can be adjusted using a switch or by manually moving the swivel joint.
All rear-view mirrors are made with anti-glare functionality, which limits the amount of light that is reflected into the driver’s eyes. This prevents the driver from being blinded by bright headlights from vehicles driving behind the car or strong sunlight during the day. These are also commonly referred to as day-night mirrors.
The car side mirror refers to the external mirror component installed on either side of the windshield. The driver and passenger side mirrors make it easier to observe the length of the vehicle. They are also known as wing mirrors.
The side mirror assembly can be broken down into several parts. They include a mounting piece, top cover piece, structural base plate, lower cover piece, mirror motor, LIN bus, swivel arm, and mirror glass piece.
Types of Side Mirrors
There are two main types of side mirrors based on use: standard and towing side mirrors. These types can be further categorized based on location, adjustability, and mechanism.
Side mirrors come in various colors and finishes, such as paintable (paint to match), textured black, chrome, and stainless finishes.
Standard Side Mirrors
Standard side mirrors provide visibility by reflecting the length of a single vehicle.
Towing side mirrors improve a driver’s line of sight by reflecting the full length of a larger vehicle and its hitched trailer or camper. Towing mirrors can be classified into two: permanent and portable.
Permanent Towing Mirrors
These are telescopic mirrors that can be retracted to give an enlarged view of the end of a camper or trailer.
Portable Towing Mirrors
Portable towing mirrors are installed on top or as an attachment to existing standard side mirrors. These can be convex mirrors attached using adhesive, custom slip-ons for specific models, or universal fit mirrors that can be mounted on any car’s fender or window.
Driver Side Mirror vs. Passenger Side Mirror
If you look closely at your car’s side mirrors, you’ll notice that there is a difference between the images reflected on the driver side and the passenger side. Two different mirrors are installed on purpose to manipulate the angle by which light hits the mirror’s surface and reflects images.
Driver Side Mirror
Flat mirrors show reflected images at the exact angle where light strikes the surface. Flat driver-side mirrors generally provide accurate reflections because of the short distance between the mirror and the driver. However, these can’t be used on passenger side mirrors because the distance of the driver puts him in an angle that will distort the image and only show a fraction of the mirror’s reflection.
Passenger Side Mirror
Passenger side mirrors often come with the warning that, ‘Objects in the reflection are closer than they appear’. This is because these are built with convex mirrors. Their shape allow the driver to see a full reflection, eliminating blind spots on the right side of the vehicle.
Fixed vs. Foldable
Side mirrors can also be categorized based on their adjustability. These car mirrors are either fixed or foldable.
Fixed Side Mirrors
As their name suggests, fixed side mirrors cannot be adjusted according to the driver’s preference. This type is common among lower-priced vehicles and base models that leave out adjustability to minimize cost.
Foldable Side Mirrors
Foldable side mirrord allow the driver to fold the mirror inward for better maneuvering in tight spaces. They come with either a manual or power mirror mechanism.
Manual Side Mirrors
This type of foldable side mirror requires the driver to physically change the angle of the mirrors. Older vehicles require the mirrors to be adjusted from outside the car.
Power mirrors are foldable mirrors that are motorized and can be electronically adjusted. These mirrors often come with a LIN bus control module that uses serial communications technology that allows the driver to move the assembly to a pre-set angle with a touch of a button.
Features of Automotive Side Mirrors
Side mirrors are often fitted with glass that has features that help the driver’s vision adapt in different driving conditions.
Heated side mirrors are often installed in vehicles that are used in winter climates. They have integrated heater elements that help improve visibility on the road by warming up the mirror to melt frost or ice.
Anti-glare mirrors, also known as day/night mirrors, use specialized glass that prevents the driver from being blinded by the bright light from the sun or other vehicles’ headlights. They typically come in a wedge shape.
Auto-dimming technology uses glass surrounded by electrochromic gel and an electronically conductive coating to manage glare. This electronically darkens the side mirror based on input from sensors that detect brightness and ambient light.
Some side mirrors come equipped with built-in turn signal lights and puddle lights.
Blindspot detectors are convex mirrors that are either built-in or come as an additional attachment to your side mirror. These are circular or rectangular mirrors that can be fitted horizontally or vertically. These are often built into towing mirrors or as an adhesive attachment to standard side mirrors.
Why Are Replacement Mirrors Important?
Cracked or missing mirrors make it difficult to measure your distance from objects and other vehicles on the road. They also make it harder to anticipate other cars’ movements. A car mirror is an important legal requirement and safety component, so you should replace a broken one immediately.
What to Look for When Buying a Side View Mirror
Here are some things that you should consider when you are out to shop for a new side mirror:
Mirror Adjustment Type
Side mirrors are common among older vehicles and the low-cost trims of newer models. Thye are a viable option if you want to skip all those wiring work required during installation. On the other hand, power mirrors allow you to conveniently adjust the angle from a controller. With a few flicks and presses, you will be minimizing your blind spots.
The mirrors that are out in the market vary from OE replacements, the sporty designs, and the simple ones that get away in blending in with different models. The OE replacement is suitable if you are driving a more recent model and you want to retain its factory look. It also means that you get to retain its features without any alterations. The sporty design works when you are into modifications and you want to complement your go fast goodies with the right look. And then there's the more simpler ones. They can be integrated into your ride without the risk of it looking bad.
Since the mirror is integrated to the body of your vehicle, you would want it to match according to your preference. You can choose from different assembly finishes available in the market. There are those that are chromed, powder coated with a flat black shade, and those that can be painted to match the body color.
How Much Are Replacement Mirrors?
Replacement car mirrors will cost you anywhere between $40 and $2,200. These parts are either sold individually or as part of a kit. While it may be possible to install this part on your own, we recommend going to a mechanic for proper fitting.
The cost of a mirror replacement varies depending on your car’s year, model, and make. The type of mirror you are replacing can also affect the price (e.g., the cost of a side mirror replacement is not the same as a driver side mirror replacement’s).
How to Replace Your Side Mirror
Losing a side view mirror can be extremely frustrating. Fortunately, there's no 7-year string of bad luck to worry about here. Replacing your side view mirrors is an easy job you can do yourself. Note: Steps in this guide are easier than they appear.
Here's what you'll need:
- Torx driver
- Pry tool
- Socket wrench
- Any small, clear container
- Replacement side view mirror
- Vehicle owner manual
Step 1: Roll down the window on the same side of the damaged mirror then shut your vehicle off.
Step 2: Open the hood of your vehicle and use the socket wrench to disconnect the negative battery cable from the battery terminal.
Step 3: Remove the interior door panel by first removing the trim pieces with your pry tool. Use your screwdriver to remove the screws keeping the panel in place. A corner trim piece may also need to be removed before the door panel can come off. Put all the screws in the small container so you don't misplace them.
Step 4: If you're replacing a power-controlled mirror, unplug the wiring harness by pulling off the connectors with your fingers.
Step 5: Use your socket wrench to remove the mirror bolts then pull out the entire mirror assembly. Put the bolts in the container.
Step 6: Pull the mirror off the mirror assembly. Use your torx driver to remove the screws then pry off the plastic tabs on the backing until the mirror is free of the assembly.
Step 7: Install the new mirror to the assembly. Snap it into the backing with the tabs.
Step 8: Put everything back together by following the reverse order of disassembly. Reuse all the screws and bolts you removed (or replace them with new ones if necessary).
Refer to your vehicle's manual for specific information that may require you to deviate from these general instructions.