Gizmos & Gadgets: This isn’t your father’s side-view mirror!

I was recently driving a new 2015 vehicle when I was hit by a deer. The adult buck took out the left side view mirror and damaged the left front fender before rolling onto the hood, up over the windshield and down the back of the vehicle – kicking out one of the rear sensors on the bumper in the process. While myself and the Mrs. were OK, and the damage was mostly cosmetic – the left side view mirror was a mess of broken plastic and tangled wires.

Looking at the internal complexity of what used to a very sophisticated safety tool, made me wonder – and research.  May I introduce you to the automotive side-view mirror!

Also known as a wing, fender, or door mirror, it is a mirror found on the exterior of motor vehicles for the purposes of helping the driver see areas behind and to the sides of the vehicle, outside of the driver’s peripheral vision (in the ‘blind spot’).  Currently regulated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #101 (FMVSS101), the traditional side mirror is equipped for manual or remote vertical and horizontal adjustment so as to provide adequate coverage to drivers of differing height and seated position.  Today’s cars mount their side mirrors on the doors, normally at the “A” pillar, rather than the wings (fenders – portion of body above the wheel well.

In the early days of motoring, vehicles were just equipped with a driver’s side-view mirror – passenger side view mirrors at the time were considered a luxury and were available as optional equipment.  By the late 1960’s FMVSS101 required the automakers to have the passenger side-view mirror as standard equipment.

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.

The side-view mirror of today does even more in the way of safety than just merely giving the driver a view of what is behind the vehicle.  The falling price of electronics has given rise to the incorporation of the vehicle’s turn signal repeaters. There is evidence to suggest mirror-mounted repeaters may be more effective than repeaters mounted in the previously predominant fender side location.

Blind side warning systems use the side-view mirrors sensors to warn the driver of other vehicles in the blind spot.  The mirrors are also being used to incorporate sensors for the lane departure warning system and even small cameras for the growing use of 360 degree viewing of the outside the vehicle from the driver’s seat.

As a result of these enhancements and those yet to come, it’s a sure thing that the automotive side-view mirror will be more and more an integral part of vehicle safety in the years to come.

1931 Ford Model A “wing” side-view mirror – mounted at the top driver’s side door hinge.

1950 Pontiac Chief Deluxe Silver Streak 8 sedan – fender mounted side-view mirror, manually operated.

1989 Lincoln Mark VII coupe – driver’s door mounted heated power operated side-view mirror.

2015 Lincoln MKC – dual heated power door mounted side-view mirrors – equipped with turn signal repeaters and blind-side warning indicators.


Ken Chester, Jr. is President & CEO of Motor News Media Corporation – an automotive news service founded in 1989 as The AutoBuyer Plus Corporation. Featured on numerous television and radio programs, viewers, listeners and readers alike relate to Ken's friendly manner and wealth of information about the many vehicles currently for sale in today's complex automotive marketplace.

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