Car mirrors are reflective components that aid drivers in seeing vehicles and road conditions outside of their peripheral vision.
There are two main types of car mirrors: the rear-view mirror 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 provide 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)
OEM replacement parts will cost you anywhere between $40 and $2,200. These parts are either sold individually or as part of a kit.
The most important car parts are often those with the simplest mechanisms. A good example of this is your car’s mirror components. These parts may seem too simple, but there is so much more that goes into each assembly. These mirrors are so important that they’re the first thing we check before switching the ignition on but do we really understand how they work? Let’s take a closer look at automotive mirrors and discover why they’re critical for road safety.
What are car mirrors?
Car mirrors are reflective components that aid drivers in observing their surroundings. The reflected images 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: the rear-view mirror and side mirrors.
The rear-view mirror is an interior mirror that lets the driver monitor traffic at the vehicle’s rear. This mirror 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 even as you’re 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. This mirror is installed on a plastic base plate which 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. These mirrors limit the amount of light that is reflected into the driver’s eyes while driving. 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.
Side mirrors are external mirror components installed on either side of the windshield. The driver and passenger side mirrors make it easier to observe the length of the vehicle. These mirrors are also known as wing mirrors. The side mirror assembly can be broken down into several parts which 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 or stainless finishes.
Standard side mirrors
Standard side mirrors are exterior mirrors that are meant to provide visibility by reflecting the length of a single vehicle.
Towing side mirrors are mirror components that 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 are installed instead of a standard side mirror. It 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 an adhesive, custom slip-ons for specific car models and make, 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 that are bowed in the center and has curved sides. Its shape allows 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 its name suggests, fixed side mirrors cannot be adjusted according to the driver’s preference. This type can be seen in lower-priced vehicles and base models that leave out adjustability to minimize cost.
Foldable side mirrors
This type of side mirror allows the driver to fold the mirror inward for better maneuvering in tight spaces. Foldable mirrors either come with 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. Newer models have levers or cables installed on the window or door panel, allowing it to be manually adjusted from inside the vehicle.
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. This type of side mirror has 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. Anti-glare side mirrors 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.
How much are replacement mirrors?
The cost of replacement mirrors varies depending on your car’s year, model and make. OEM replacement parts 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 trusted mechanic for proper fitting.
Why are replacement mirrors important?
Whenever you’re driving, your judgment relies heavily on what you see on the road. While rear-view mirrors are less prone to daily wear, the location of side mirrors makes them more likely to get broken and damaged.
Cracked or missing mirrors make it difficult to measure your distance from objects and other vehicles on the road. It’s also harder to anticipate other cars’ movements because you won’t see light signals from vehicles behind you. As an important legal requirement and safety component, you should always prioritize repairing an obscured or broken car mirror.