The wing mirror (outside mirror) was one of the first applications intended to improve safety and road comfort of cars. The incentive was all too obvious: an adjustable external rear-view mirror enables the driver to observe what happens behind him without the need for turning around and losing view of the road in front of him.
The mechanical principle hasn’t changed over the years: a mirror glass is mounted on an adjustable mechanism, though the system has become considerably more complex and comfortable.
In the 1980ies, enhancement of comfort and equipment meant more cost pressure for car manufacturers due to the inexorable Japanese competition supplying standard equipment of which luxury class cars owners could only dream: electric window openers, seat heating, adjustable steering wheels and even four-wheel drive were offered by Toyota, Subaru, etc. in mid-range and compact class cars.
In order to keep pace, German and Italian manufacturers adopted radical compromises: for several years, the second wing mirror on the passenger side became an extra feature available at a surcharge. As a result, plenty of cars on the road had an odd, asymmetrical appearance caused by the lacking rear-view mirror. Fortunately, this situation came to an end at the end of the 80ies and the double side mirror has been standard ever since.
Function and safety
The first wing mirrors only had a ball-joint enabling manual adjustment. The connection with the frame or the door was rigid or could only be moved in one direction. This had dramatic consequences in case of collision of the mirror with a wall, lamp post or wing mirror of another car, often causing damage to the door which as a result had to be flattened and painted.
Nowadays, manufacturers offer a better option. The wing mirror has a plastic housing mounted directly on the window frame. An eventual collision causes it to fold in or in the worst case, break off without damaging the door. In narrow circumstances the mirror housing with its massive appearance can be folded. Since a few years, automatic folding of the side mirror is offered as a special feature. On busy roads this is no silly luxury: a mirror catching cyclists is now a thing of the past.
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The modern concept enables a larger version of the whole mirror. In the 1980ies the mirror was relatively small in many cars. Nowadays even in mini-class cars there is no cause for complaint about inadequate viewing comfort of wing mirrors. Furthermore, many manufacturers offer an extra feature on the wing mirror housing: its edge and front turned out to be an excellent location for an additional turn indicator. With the addition of modern and powerful LED technology, VAN WEZEL wing mirrors of today are an essential part of car signalisation.
Maximum comfort in all weather
A wing mirror with interior adjustment is generally standard today. The common mechanical solutions are increasingly replaced by electric adjustment systems. This is particularly convenient for a car with profile memory: in a car used by several drivers the matching adjustment can be selected by pressing a button.
The heated wing mirror is not generally standard yet. This feature, which is particularly convenient in winter, makes a frozen side mirror fit for use in no time.
High tech in the glass
Development of car mirror technology has made considerable progress.
The simple mirrors of the past have been replaced by high-grade vacuum-coated reflection surfaces with an aligned curvature, minimising the blind spot and enhancing residual light at twilight and in the dark.
No worries in case of damage
No matter how technically advanced, a wing mirror remains exposed to many dangers. As before, they are easily affected in case of collisions. As previously stated, they are built in such a way that they break off before they can cause damage to the bodywork.
A broken mirror should not immediately be thrown away. Due to its technical complexity this component is ideal for modular construction, meaning that the accessory retail offers all wing mirror components separately. If only the housing, mirror glass or anchor plate are damaged, replacing just these particular parts whilst making further use of the other components could be a cheap solution.
Replacing broken mirror glass is very simple. It is glued onto a carrier. Glass plus carrier can be levered from the housing with a broad screwdriver. Scratching off the remaining mirror parts from the carrier can be attempted. However, replacing both carrier and mirror is the easy way. The price difference is negligible. Prior to replacing the housing, inspecting it is worthwhile. Scratches can be filled and painted over. In case of cracks a strong plastic glue should be used. No water should penetrate the housing. The internal electronics and mechanism could corrode quickly and become damaged beyond repair.
And there’s the look
Wing mirrors are specifically suitable for adding to the car’s appearance. A striking paint colour or a complete replacement matching the body kit: the tuning and accessory trade offers a wide range of wing mirrors for every car. In addition to replacement of a new component after a collision, the functionality of the wing mirror can be upgraded. However, depending on the car, there are limits to this.
Replacing and upgrading the wing mirror
Replacing a wing mirror is rather simple in most cars. Start by placing a pillow or a folded blanket on the ground directly under the mirror. The window-mirror anchoring as well as the electronics can be found behind a cover on the frontal window frame.
The cover can be levered with a broad screwdriver. Consider cushioning it off with a cloth to prevent scratches. Behind the cover are three bolts and the plugs. First, the plugs from the electric adjustment are removed and then the mirror heating, if present. Now remove the three bolts. No problem here: the mirror is still attached and shouldn’t fall off. An even if it does, it falls on the blanket or the pillow and remains undamaged.
The installation is executed in the reverse order. If a retrofit mirror is used, the connection plug may need adaptation. We recommend using an adapter or building one yourself. If the plug shape fits but the contacts are not compatible, adaptation is required. Before you start by cutting the cable and building a makeshift solution with help of lustre terminals, it is important to try a professional solution first.
Equipping a wing mirror with heating generally doesn’t work. The necessary adaptation of the car wiring is rather complicated and requires a separate safety. Theoretically it is possible with the help of a professional car electrician. This also applies to the electrically adjustable rear-view mirror. Retrofitting this feature is no layman’s job, particularly as the cavities for the switch etc. must be milled in the side panels. DIY solutions are often unsatisfactory as here too, the competence of a professional service provider is required.
Correct wing mirror adjustment
A rear-view mirror is only as good as its adjustment. Only an optimally adjusted mirror ensures adequate rear view, enabling to react to overtaking vehicles and all else happening behind the car.
The rear-view mirror is adjusted when the driver’s seat and the steering wheel are properly adjusted. An optimally adjusted rear-view mirror enables the driver to see the rear wheel in the bottom edge of the mirror. Now, the entire mirror is optimally adjusted for monitoring rear traffic.
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