A car door mirror, also known as a wing mirror, is a mirror found on the exterior of vehicle for the purposes of helping the driver see areas behind, to the sides of the vehicle, and outside of the driver’s peripheral vision.

The side mirror is equipped for manual or remote vertical and horizontal adjustment so as to provide adequate coverage to drivers of differing heights and seated position. Remote adjustment may be mechanical by means of bowden cables, or may be electric by means of geared motors. The mirror glass may also be electrically heated and may include electrochromic dimming to reduce glare to the driver from the headlamps of following vehicles. Increasingly, the side mirror incorporates the vehicle’s turn signal repeaters.

Mirrors on different vehicles can be mounted on the doors, fenders, front windshield, and hood (for buses and larger vehicles). Mirrors mounted on vehicle doors came in three different types: triangle mount (luxury chrome design, usually found on older vehicles), top or front side mount and bottom mount (usually found on dually vehicles), and reverse mount (mounted within the inside of the door).

Today’s mirrors can have electric heaters for climate adjustment for cold environments. These mirrors will melt ice and snow off them for drivers to see the areas behind the vehicle.

Mirrors can be damaged in many ways. The most common ways are the mirror’s housing breaking off and hanging by the wires. Sometimes the mirror inside the housing falls out due to a large blow or jolting the vehicle hard on the ground, like driving over a speed bump at 50 miles per hour. Other times are when the electronics in the mirror fail allowing the mirror not to adjust or heat up.

When replacing a mirror on a vehicle, it is recommended that you install a mirror from the manufacturer. Installing a mirror that is aftermarket may not align up and the harness may not connect to the harness pigtail in the door. It is not safe to manually wire the mirror to a harness. It can heat up the wires and/or may have too much resistance on the mirror causing the system to prematurely fail.

  • Note: Driving with a missing mirror or a cracked mirror is a safety risk and is illegal.

Part 1 of 5: Verifying the door mirror condition

Step 1: Locate the door with the damaged, stuck, or broken door mirror. Visually look at the door mirror for any exterior damage.

For electronic adjusting mirrors, gently tilt up, down, left, and right on the mirror glass to see if there is any binding of the mechanism within the door mirror. Other mirrors, feel the glass to see if it is loose and can move around.

Step 2: On electronic door mirrors, locate the mirror adjusting switch. Place the selector on the mirror and verify the electronics work on the mirror mechanics.

Step 3: Turn on the switch for the mirror heater system if applicable. Check to see if the glass on the mirror begins to radiate heat.

Part 2 of 5: Removing and installing a triangle mount mirror on vehicles before 1996

Materials Needed

  • Boxed end wrenches
  • Cross tip screwdriver
  • Flat tip screwdriver
  • Ratchet with metric and standard sockets

Step 1: Park your vehicle on a flat, hard surface.

Step 2: Place wheel chocks around the rear tires. Engage the parking brake to prevent the rear tires from moving.

Step 3: Install a nine volt battery saver into your cigarette lighter. This will keep your computer live and keep your setting current in the vehicle.

If you do not have a nine volt battery saver, that is ok.

Step 4: Open the vehicle’s hood to disconnect your battery. Take the ground cable off of the battery’s negative post disabling the power to the door lock actuator.

Step 5: Locate the mirror that needs replaced. Loosen an allen key screw or a cross tip screw and pull off the cover between the mirror arm and the door.

Step 6: Remove the three mounting bolts holding the mirror base to the door. Pull off the mirror assembly and take off the rubber or cork seal.

Step 7: Install a new rubber or cork seal onto the mirror base. Place the mirror onto the door and install the three mounting bolts and secure the mirror to the door.

Step 8: Install the cover on the mirror base between the mirror arm and the door. Tighten the allen key screw or the cross tip screw to secure the cover in place.

Part 3 of 5: Removing and installing the door mirror on dually vehicles with top and side mount mirrors

Materials Needed

  • Boxed end wrenches
  • Cross tip screwdriver
  • Flat tip screwdriver
  • Ratchet with metric and standard sockets

Step 1: Locate the mirror that needs replaced. Remove the two or three bolts on the lower bracket that is mounted to the door.

Step 2: Remove the mirror. Remove the two or three bolts on the top bracket.

This is mounted on the front side of the door or top of door. While holding the mirror, pull the mirror down off the door.

Step 3: Grab the new mirror and hold it to the door. While holding the mirror, install the two or three top or front side mounting bolts.

Step 4: Install the bolts on the lower bracket. Let the mirror hang and install the lower two or three bolts onto the lower bracket.

Part 4 of 5: Removing and installing the reverse mount door mirror

Materials Needed

Step 1: Remove the panel on the inside of the door. Be sure you are working on the side where the mirror needs to be removed.

Step 2: Remove screws and clips. Gently pry the panel away from the door all the way around and remove the screws that mount the door grab handle in place.

Remove the screws in the middle of the door panel. Use a flat screwdriver or a lisle door tool (preferred) to remove the clips around the door, but be gentle so you don’t damage the painted door around the panel.

Step 3: Remove the panel. Once all the clips are loose, grab the panel top and bottom and bend it slightly away from the door.

Lift the whole panel straight up to lift it clear of the catch behind the door handle.

  • Note: Some doors may have screws that hold the door panel onto the door. Be sure to remove the screws prior to prying off the door panel to prevent damage.

If you have to remove a window crank handle:

Pry up the plastic cover on the handle (the handle is a metal or plastic arm with a metal or plastic clip). Remove the cross tip head screw holding the door handle to the shaft, then pull the handle off. A large plastic washer will come off with the handle along with a large coil spring.

  • Note: Some vehicles may have torques bit screws that hold the panel secured to the door.

Step 4: Disconnect the door latch cable. Remove the harness to the speaker in the door panel.

Disconnect the harness at the bottom of the door panel.

Step 5: Pull the plastic sheeting away from the front half of the door. Do it gently and you’ll be able to reseal the plastic.

  • Note: This plastic is essential to forming a water barrier on the outside of the inner door panel. While you are at it, check that the two drain holes in the bottom of the door are clear, and that there is no buildup of debris in the bottom of the door.

Step 6: Remove the harness from the mirror to the cluster in the door. Remove the three mirror mounting screws on the inside of the door and the mirror from the door.

Step 7: Clean the harness connections. Clean these connections in the door and door panel with electrical cleaner.

Step 8: Install the new mirror into the door. Screw in the three bolts and secure the mirror to torque specifications.

Connect the harness from the new mirror to the cluster harness in the door. View the instructions that come with the new mirror for installation torque specifications.

  • Note: If you do not have the specifications, apply blue threadlocker to the bolts on the mirror and tighten by hand, turning 1/8 of a turn.

Step 9: Put the plastic sheeting back on the front half of the door. You may have to apply clear silicone to seal the sheet.

Step 10: Connect the harness at the bottom of the door panel. Install the harness to the speaker in the door.

Connect the door latch cable to the door handle.

Step 11: Install the door panel onto the door. Slide the door panel down and in towards the front of the car to ensure that the door handle is in place.

Snap all of the door tabs into the door securing the door panel.

If you have to install a window crank handle, install the window crank handle and make sure that the window crank handle spring is in place prior to securing the handle.

Install the small screw to the window crank handle securing it and install the metal or plastic clip onto the window crank.

Step 12: Open the vehicle’s hood. Reconnect the ground cable back onto the battery’s negative post.

Remove the nine volt battery saver from the cigarette lighter.

Step 13: Tighten the battery clamp up. This ensure that the connection is good.

  • Note: If you did not have a nine volt battery saver, you will have to reset all of the settings in your vehicle, like your radio, electric seats, and electric mirrors.

Part 5 of 5: Testing the door mirror

Step 1: Test a mechanical mirror. Move the mirror up, down, left, and right to check for proper movement.

Check the mirror glass to insure that it is tight and clean.

Step 2: Test an electronic mirror. Operate the mirror adjusting switch and move the mirror up, down, left, and right.

Make sure to check both door mirrors by toggling the switch from left mirror to right mirror. Check the glass to insure that it is fastened securely to the motor in the mirror housing. Toggle on the mirror heater switch and check to see if the mirror heats up. Make sure that the mirror glass is clean.

If your door mirror will not operate after installing the new mirror, then there may be further diagnosis needed or a possible electrical component failure within the door mirror circuit. If the problem persists, then you should seek out help from one of YourMechanic’s certified mechanics to inspect the door mirror assembly and perform a replacement if needed.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Replace a Door Mirror.

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