Side Mirrors

Side view mirrors, also known just as side mirrors or even wing mirrors, are an integral part of your vehicle's safety system. Side view mirrors are as important as your car's windshield. They are required by law on road-use vehicles and provide drivers with a safe view of their surroundings, while still being able to keep their eyes on the road relatively easily.

Types of Side View Mirrors throughout History

The use mirrors on cars can be traced back to the early 1900s. Motorists originally used hand-held mirrors to glance back once in a long while, if at all (most just turned their heads). There is an account of a race car driver using a fixed rear mirror, rather experimentally in 1911. By 1914, vehicles were manufactured with rear view mirrors. Rear view mirrors became common from then on, but the development of side mirrors was slow to follow.

The Early Days of Side Mirrors

Early roads in America were mostly just two way, with no need to see side-to-side. This began to slowly change though, and by the 1960s, side view mirrors were deemed as a necessity. They didn't originally appear in the way you know them today though. Many early style side view mirrors were round and mounted on the A-Pillar and B-Pillar of the car. These pillars are the two thin strips of metal body that run vertically up alongside your car's windshield. These mirrors were manual, so the mounting position allowed for easier adjustments. Another side view mirror position that was more commonly found on foreign cars was mounted forward on the front fenders. The position of these mirrors allows a larger degree of visibility, and makes for a narrower vehicle.

Side view mirrors typically are found mounted on a car's door today. Although once a simple piece of glass moved manually, these car mirrors are now packed with technology. One of the first developments was making these mirrors convex.

Convex mirrors slightly distort the reflection by making objects look further away than they really are. The trade off is that convex mirrors offer a much wider viewing angle. This is why the commonly known "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear," phrase appears on side view mirrors. Some mirrors even have two sections that can be adjusted separately of each other in order to eliminate blind spots. Drivers without this feature often opt for aftermarket stick-on mirrors. These take up only a small corner of the mirror but provide and increased viewing angle because of greater concavity.

Folding Side Mirrors

Next came the folding mirror, doubling as what is called a breakaway mirror. This type of mirror conveniently folds in towards the body of the car, making parking in narrow spaces easier and cutting down on the risk of damage. Some high-end vehicles even have auto-folding mirrors that close after a car has been parked. The breakaway mirror was invented for safety reasons as well. In the event a car mirror strikes someone or something while the car is moving forward, the mirror will absorb a majority of the force and fold inward so as to avoid damage to the mirror and what it came in contact with.

Electric Side Mirrors

One of the more convenient technology developments in side view mirrors was the invention of electric mirrors. These mirrors allow the driver to adjust the left and right mirror independently using a toggle switch, usually located on the dashboard or door. Electric side mirrors allow the driver to adjust the mirrors while sitting in a normal driving position rather than making trial and error adjustments over and over. Some high-end vehicles are even equipped with memory settings. Cars driven by multiple drivers can have their side mirrors reset to their specifications with one touch of a button.

Towing Mirrors

In addition to adjusting side view mirror glass left, right, up and down, larger pickup trucks have towing mirrors. Towing mirrors are able to be extended outward from the body of the vehicle, which allows for an extended view further back behind the vehicle, which is essential when towing trailers. Some towing mirrors are extended manually, while other electronic tow mirrors are able to be adjusted conveniently inside the cab. Smaller trucks generally come with standard mirrors, so towing mirrors are a popular aftermarket upgrade for many of these drivers.

Heated Side View Mirrors

Heated side view mirrors are another convenient feature that can be priceless in the wintertime. This is an option that rarely comes standard, but can be found in “winter weather packages” as an upgrade from car manufacturers. Heated side view mirrors act similarly to a defroster on a rear windshield, allowing snow and ice to melt off quickly. It is a particularly popular option for those drivers who live in northern states.

Integrated Turn Signals

Other features added to side view mirrors as of late include integrated turn signals. These amber lights on the front of side view mirror housings provide just another visual indication to other drivers when a vehicle has their blinker or hazard lights flashing. This extends beyond the rest of the car's body, making it more visible.

Blind Spot Detection

The latest safety feature built into side mirrors is blind spot detection. Many vehicles always seem to have a blind spot, no matter how well the mirrors are adjusted. Blind spot detection systems aim to eliminate scary close calls, and even accidents, by using sensors to detect when other vehicles are passing in an area not easily seen. Typically a small amber light will show in the driver's field of vision. This is usually located on the mirror itself, letting the driver know that a vehicle is in their blind spot.

The technology of side view mirrors continues to develop. What's next in the world of automotive side mirrors? Maybe nothing. Literally. Government regulations still require mirrors, but technology advancements predict that the side view mirror will soon be a thing of the past. Side view mirrors may instead be replaced by cameras and sensors integrated into a vehicle's body.

Side Mirror Replacement Options

What do you do if your mirror needs to be replaced? There are several options depending on the extent of the damage. If the mirror glass itself does not give a clear view but is still intact, a replacement mirror can be mounted directly on top of the existing. These pre-cut mirrors are adhesive backed and provide a quick, easy, cost efficient fix. If the mirror is cracked to the point of being an uneven surface, the glass will need to be removed and replaced with a new piece. A worst case scenario would be that the mirror housing is broken as well. In this case, the entire assembly will need to be removed and replaced with a new unit.

Other issues that may require replacement include broken heating elements, broken extension or auto-folding motors, electronic mirror adjustment not working, and other issues. Sometimes these problems can originate from the switch inside your vehicle, or even in the wiring that runs from the switch to the mirror. It is important to take the vehicle to a qualified auto glass installation professional so that the problem can be properly diagnosed. They will make sure the correct side mirror parts are ordered and properly installed, saving you time and money. Get back on the road today. Receive free auto glass replacement estimates from shops near you using Glass.com.

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