Your car is required by law in most states to have a minimum of two mirrors that allow you to see behind the car. It can be any combination of the two side view mirrors and the rearview mirror. Of the three that came with your car, the rearview mirror is the largest and the most easily adjusted. It provides you with a direct view right behind your car, while the two side view mirrors show traffic to the right or left and slightly behind you.
The rearview mirror doesn’t actually do any work, but it is still subject to wear and tear. The most common issue is the effect of high temperatures and direct sunlight on the adhesive that holds the mirror to the windshield. Over time, the adhesive can weaken, and eventually the bond will be destroyed. The result is that the mirror will fall off.
When the mirror falls, it’s possible that it will strike the dash, the shifter, or another hard object and crack or break. If it breaks, it must be replaced. However, if the problem is only adhesive-related, it can be reinstalled.
There’s no set lifespan for your rearview mirror, and the mirror assembly itself should last the life of your car as long as it is properly maintained. However, if you park your car in direct sunlight often, it’s very likely that you will eventually experience adhesive degradation.
With that being said, some cars come equipped with power mirrors. These offer a range of different functionalities, from additional lights built into the mirror to auto-dimming technology and more. Because these mirrors incorporate electronics, they can succumb to age, malfunction and degradation over time. Again, there is no specific lifespan.
Without a rearview mirror, you have no direct line of sight behind your car. Watch for the following signs and symptoms that your mirror is about to fail:
Electronic functions not working
Mirror seems “loose” when you adjust it manually
Mirror is discolored or cracked (the plastic housing can sometimes crack with age and exposure to sunlight)
Mirror has fallen off the windshield (check the mirror for cracks and breakage)
If your rearview mirror has fallen off, or is showing signs of age, YourMechanic can help. One of our mobile mechanics can come to your home or office, re-attach your rearview mirror, or replace the mirror completely.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Rearview Mirror Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.