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The 411 on Automotive Mirrors

Side-view mirror
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Reflecting Back

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Objects may be closer than they appear,” – the statement that’s been emblazoned on nearly all passenger side mirrors since the ‘70s. But have you ever thought about why it’s there?

Passenger side mirrors are convex in shape to extend a driver’s field of vision to the rear of the vehicle. This leads to the distortion of distance between the vehicles. It’s also the reasoning behind that warning statement we’ve all come to have memorized.

Automotive mirrors usually are made from first-surface chrome glass, meaning they’re essentially a one-way mirror designed to absorb headlight glare from behind your vehicle. This allows a driver to see reflections from activity on the sides and behind the vehicle without being impaired by bright headlight reflections.

Vehicle Side Mirror Reflection

Meeting the Standard

For driver protection, there’s a safety standard for automotive mirrors that auto manufacturers must follow: the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 111 (FMVSS 111). This specification pertains to the rear vision parts of a vehicle, specifically, the required range of vision the driver must achieve using rear vision products.

These ranges are both horizontal and vertical angles from the side and rear of the vehicle. The standard also requires rear vision products use a “low reflectivity mirror” (40-60 percent reflectivity) to reduce glare from headlights. Household mirrors should never be used in automotive mirror applications.

When It’s Time for a Replacement

Damage to automotive mirrors doesn’t happen as frequently as it does to windshields. But if your mirrors appear to be hazy, cracked or have sustained surface damage, then it’s time for a replacement. Damaged mirrors not only distort the images reflected, but they can cause a distraction if the driver has to strain to see what’s beside or behind them. After all, automotive mirrors are designed to make viewing other vehicles and objects easier, not harder.

So, you need to have one of you mirrors replaced—where do you look? Well, just like with windshields, a trained technician at an auto glass shop should be able to replace the mirror. But, depending on the extent of the damage, there is another option: pre-cut mirror applications.

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Know Your Options

Redi Cuts, manufactured by the auto mirror replacement company Burco, can be a great solution to fixing a side-view mirror. They’re offered at a variety of auto part retailers, and they’re available online. These replacements are known as fit-over glass because they are attached to the broken mirror using an automotive grade adhesive. This option is cost-effective compared to having the entire side-view mirror assembly replaced, but, there are a few things to consider before taking the pre-cut route. Keep in mind, these kits are do-it-yourself, so if that’s out of your comfort zone, it’s best to contact an auto glass repair shop.

First and foremost, pre-cut applications are only suitable for mirrors that have damage to just the glass. The backing plate must be intact for a proper fit-over replacement. Your solution could be a pre-cut mirror if the damage is contained to the surface of the glass. These replacement kits are available in many makes, models and years to suit most vehicle’s mirror shape, size and functionality.

An auto glass repair shop should be consulted if the backing plate is broken to see if an assembly replacement is needed. Not every auto glass repair shop has automotive mirrors on-hand, so it’s important to schedule a repair early. That way, the shop you choose to go to will have ample time to order the specific mirror required.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Katherine Coig

Katherine (Kat) Coig, editor of Window Film Magazine, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, with a bachelor of science in grammar and English. She is responsible for WINDOW FILM magazine, its e-newsletter, and the award winning FILM’d newscast. As assistant editor of USGlass magazine, she travels to industry events, and writes news and feature articles for the publication. In her spare time, Kat loves to paint (acrylics), and she too is a runner and also has a new-found love of boxing.

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