Home Interior Trim & Air Con Replace Rear View Mirror: A Guide To The Right Way

Replace Rear View Mirror: A Guide To The Right Way

by Kelvin Yates

The rear view mirror is a blessing when it comes to making sure the lane next to you is clear for shifting. If you don’t want to crash against a nearby object or person, it is necessary to have one in your car. Rear view mirrors are attached snug to a car’s windshield, but they may still fall off. Here’s how to replace rear view mirror if that happens.

A rear view mirror can come off for a variety of reasons, like a crash, jerking it too hard when fixing, accidental impact, as well as prolonged exposure to the sun, and constant vibration that weakens the adhesive holding it to the body of the car.

In case one breaks or goes missing, you must replace rear view mirror as soon as you can. While you might run to your local mechanic to get it repaired, knowing the DIY procedure might come in handy. This is how to replace rear view mirror the right way. But before that, let’s know a bit more about mirrors.

History And Function Of Rear View Mirror

It was rare to find rear view mirrors on new vehicles up until the early 1930s while it took another decade for side mirrors to become mainstream. The story starts with the law enforcement objecting to cars with mirrors as they would allow motorists to see police officers coming up from behind.

Whether this be a true story or not is debatable, but in the ‘20s, an inventor by the name of Elmer Berge sold one aftermarket mirror he named “The Cop-Spotter.”

Rear view mirror is a component that lets drivers see rearward. One would generally find this at the top of the windscreen inside a cabin. Although one of the most basic safety additions made to a car to date, the rear view mirror serves purposes that are overshadowed by its small stature.

It helps the driver when they want to overtake, park in reverse gear, and many more. Usually, vehicles also come with a pair of mirrors that fit the external body. These go by the names “side mirrors” or Outer Rear View Mirrors (ORVM).

1. Day-Night Mirror

Almost all rear view mirrors feature an anti-glare function, otherwise known as a “day-night” mirror. Depending on the mirror, it adjusts to reduce glare manually or automatically when headlights in the back reflect off the mirror. You adjust a manual mirror by inverting a lever on the bottom or back of it; this is called a prismatic mirror.

Replace Rear View Mirror

The internal mirror glass has a wedge shape – the thicker end is at the top and the mirror is at the back. When in the “day” position, you would see objects reflected off the mirror surface. The plain glass front of the mirror also reflects light but the amount is so little that you would not see it in the daytime.

At night, when light from behind bounces off the mirror and creates a distracting glare, turning the level switches the angle. The rear mirrored surface then reflects the headlights away from your line of sight. The lights are reflecting off the plain front even then, but the view is significantly dimmer.

2. Auto-Dimming Mirrors

Auto-dimming mirrors provide similar anti-glare services but function differently. They rely on 2 pieces of glass that have an electrically-conductive material coating. They are sandwiched together with an electrochromic gel “filling” which gets darker when struck with electricity.

The majority of these mirrors come with 2 sensors. Looking forward, the ambient sensor checks the level of light, and when it is dark enough outside, it sends a signal to the mirror’s control unit to dim the surroundings. The glare sensor indicates to the back and decides how much light is striking the mirror.

When it can cause glare, an electrical charge is sent by the control unit to the conductive material on the glass. This in return, activates the gel and makes it darker in proportion to the amount of light hitting it. Once the glare has vanished, the power turns off and the mirror lights up again.

Based on the features of the vehicle, auto-dimming may be found on the rear view mirror only.

3. Position Of A Rear View Mirror

An anchor secures the rear view mirror to the windscreen by using a particular joint known as a “swivel” joint. Thanks to this, the driver can adjust the mirror according to their seating position. These days, automobile makers create mirrors with convex lenses in comparison to plain glass that was used traditionally. The inclusion of convex lenses has significantly raised the power of mirrors to capture distant images.

However, the image in a rear view mirror is closer than they appear as convex lenses project smaller images. Thus, manufacturers include a warning message on the mirror which says, “Objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear.” To avoid accidents, every rear view mirror comes with this default message on a sticker.

Types Of Rear View Mirrors

Rear view mirrors are available in a standard size, but you can find them in many different designs to add a fancy touch to your vehicle. These categories include wide DOT, wide bus DOT, custom symbol cut, standard DOT, wide with deflector DOT, custom cab fit, and electric DOT.

Replace Rear View Mirror

Pickup trucks have rear view mirrors too. When you use a pickup truck like a passenger vehicle, the mirror finds the vehicles behind it. In contrast, when a pickup truck has a bigger trailer behind it, the rear view mirror can be used.

DOT Rating

The mirrors that come with a DOT (Department of Transportation) rating are certified safe for use in vehicles at all times and are installed by the automakers for safety. Uncertified rear view mirrors can interfere with your vision when you are driving and jeopardize judgment. A knob or switch is used to adjust electric DOT rear view mirrors. In addition, the mirrors might be equipped with radio tuning buttons, a clock, and a temperature.

If a rear view mirror refuses to stay put on the windshield, you should refrain from driving that vehicle. A rear view mirror with cracks can interfere with your view when looking at traffic or objects behind. Glare deflector-equipped rear view mirrors slowly slow their power and make the mirror go up and down during operation. Not only is this a distraction to the driver, but it also reflects lights onto the view of the driver.

Symptoms Of A Bad Rear View Mirror

A mirror can go bad when the dimming function is faulty, is discolored, or missing entirely. Driving a car with a cracked rear view mirror or without a rear view mirror is a safety hazard and illegal in many regions. When you replace rear view mirror on a vehicle, we suggest you get one from the manufacturer.

1. Cracks Or Broken Mirror

If your rear view mirror has developed significant cracks, cannot be adjusted, or broke from the hinges, it may be time to replace it. A few minor cracks might not be a big deal that you have to get replaced almost immediately, but that becomes a necessity if the damage is too distracting. But bigger cracks that distort your vision are a red flag that has to be tended to.

2. Staining Or Discoloration

The glass on a rear view mirror can slowly get stained from different things (learn how to fix that here). Perhaps you cleaned it with a substance that isn’t suitable for cleaning mirrors, maybe a stubborn mold has got to it and does not come off. Constant exposure to the sun can cause permanent discoloration to the mirror. Despite how it happened, the staining has probably made the entire scene very chaotic and difficult to see.

At this point, consider booking an appointment with a mobile mechanic before it does major damages to your vehicle (or you and others).

3. Malfunctioning Light Dimming Function

Many modern cars come with a rear view mirror function that effectively dims the reflection (video on that here). This is very handy when driving at night, especially if there is a car at the back with very bright headlights that would otherwise make the ride uncomfortable. If this function does not work on your car anymore, replace rear view mirror to fix it.

Not all cars are equipped with this feature though, so if you aren’t accustomed to using it often, you may not have to deal with it at all. But you know the drill: if it is there, it will require maintenance checks.

4. Missing Rear View Mirror

This one pretty much goes without saying. If the rear view mirror is entirely missing or disconnected, waste no time in installing a new one. You might think you don’t need it as all the side mirrors are working just fine, but to get the best (and full) view around your vehicle, all three mirrors have to be functional.

A Step By Step Process To Remove Rear View Mirror

We have already established the importance of a rear view mirror in a car – it is surely one of the best safety accessories. Having a malfunctioning or broken rear view mirror isn’t an option. Follow the steps below to get a fair understanding of how to remove rear view mirror by yourself.

Replace Rear View Mirror: For Mirrors That Are Glued

Selected automakers glue the rear view mirror to the windshield. The weapon of choice which in this case is the glue is usually a mirror adhesive used to hold the mirror firmly in position without any chance of the glue melting. When you want to remove the rear view mirror in this case, you can try blow-drying it. Alternatively, apply a heat gun to the borders.

This step would help in loosening up the adhesive so the mirror easily slides off. When you are using the heat gun, make sure to move the mirror to and fro to see whether it is even coming off or not. By continuously sticking to this method, the mirror does come off.

When you want to replace rear view mirror, try to do it when the temperature is between 100 to 230 Celsius – a requirement that becomes necessary if you want to set the epoxy better. Apply the glue to the back of the mirror and press it against the windshield. Allow it to settle for a few hours and that’s all!

Replace Rear View Mirror: For Mirrors That Are Screwed

There are also rear view mirrors that have been secured in place with the help of screws. These screws keep the mirror in place with ease. You can find this system in Chevrolet and similar GM vehicles. It is relatively easy to unscrew the mounted mirror, for this case specifically.

Use an Allen wrench and start working from the bottom of the mirror and to each part that has to be loosened. Once you have gotten all the screws to loosen their grip, you can proceed with unscrewing them one by one. Slowly pull the mirror from its resting position and it should come off.

When replacing the rear view mirror, ensure the new screws and screw holes align perfectly. Place the new screws onto the base and use the Allen wrench to tighten them. Make sure you do not over-tighten them.

Replace Rear View Mirror: Mirrors That Come With A Metal Pivot Point

Some vehicles feature a metal pivot point to attach the rear view mirror. Fortunately, removing these mirrors is the easiest of them all. All you have to do is turn the mirror to your side and then slide the bracket down or up the resting button.

Over time, sometimes, the bracket can get stuck, or the dirt accumulated there can intervene with the operation. In this case, you can use a small hammer to help you make the process of loosening the grip of the plastic bracket on the back button easier.

The pivot-oriented mirrors come with an existing metal bracket made to support the windshield. It becomes necessary to match the new mirror to the length of the base of the bracket or you cannot do anything. We recommend buying mirrors that were attached to your vehicle by default or getting ones recommended by the carmakers. Refer to the owner’s manual for more instructions.

Replace Rear View Mirror: Removing The Rear View Button

When the mirror has come off, you may be confused about how to remove rear view mirror button. What you absolutely should not do is pull it off its original place. Instead of applying force, use an acetone-soaked cotton pad around the edges of the button.

You can use an acetone-based nail polish remover since they are readily available on the market. Once applied, allow it to settle for a bit while trying to remove it carefully. If you see no effects, apply more of this solution. This is the best way to rid your vehicle of the button as it does no damage to the windshield.

How To Install A New Rear View Mirror

Replacement varies based on the kind of mirror used and how it has been attached, as hinted earlier. Modern-day cars that are equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in the mirror, only a professional should replace the mirrors in this case. These systems are rather delicate and if the rear view mirror is replaced, it has to be calibrated.

If your car is not equipped with any of these systems, read on to learn how to replace rear view mirror. Luckily, the process can be done with a simple DIY kit (found online or in local auto-parts stores). Some auto glass technicians reinstall them for a price.

Tools And Materials Needed

  1. Remove the mounting button from the rear view mirror. That is what attached it to the windshield. You can either slide it off or screw it off from the mirror’s arm (refer to the section above).
  2. Apply uniform heat to the windshield. You have to make sure the windshield is nice and warm before activating the glue. A cold windshield can result in unwanted condensation and prevent the glue from attaching to the glass. This is where the hairdryer would come in handy. Use it to warm up the glass for the next steps.
  3. Remove old adhesive from the windshield and clean it. Before installing the mirror, ensure the surface of the glass is clean. If there are any glue remnants on the mounting button or windshield, try a razor blade to remove them. Once all the glue is done, use cleaning alcohol or glass cleaner to clean the inside of the windshield as well as the bracket’s backside that will attach to the windshield.

Additional Tips And Tricks

Also, make sure that your fingers don’t come in contact with the windshield to avoid getting any oil stains on the glass.

  1. If you drive an older vehicle, use tape on the exterior of the windshield to mark exactly when you want to place the bracket inside. Many newer vehicles are equipped with a black band on the exterior that indicates the ideal placement of the bracket.
  2. Apply an activator spray on both surfaces – the backside of the bracket as well as the interior of the windshield where the bracket is supposed to go. Allow the activator to dry for a few minutes.
  3. Place adhesive on the mounting button, not the windshield. Firmly push down the button against the windshield and apply pressure for a minute. Make sure that the glue has been applied to the right side of the bracket.
  4. Attach the new mirror to the mounting bracket. Wait for five minutes for it to stick completely to the windshield before attaching the mirror to the bracket. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for this process.

Replacing a Rearview Mirror Facts:

  1. Rearview mirrors are important safety features in vehicles.
  2. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in modern cars make mirror replacement delicate and require professional calibration.
  3. A generic replacement mirror can be found at an auto parts store.
  4. Replacement mirrors are usually sold as a unit and not just as glass.
  5. Auto-dimming glass or electrochromatic technology require an OEM replacement mirror from a car dealer.
  6. Masking tape can be used to mark the original mounting location before removing the old mirror.
  7. A heat gun or blow dryer can be used to soften adhesive before removing the old mirror.
  8. A thin piece of piano wire or fishing line can be used to break the bond between the glass and mirror mount.
  9. The surface must be prepped and cleaned before installing the new mirror.
  10. The manufacturer’s instructions for the replacement kit should be closely followed when installing the new mirror.

Bottom Line

This is all you should know on how to replace the rear view mirror. Never underestimate the power of a clear and well-positioned mirror in your vehicle. Do not risk your life and that of others by driving a car with a cracked or missing mirror, especially when replacing it is relatively easy.


Here are some popular FAQs:

1. How Much Does It Cost To Repair A Side Rear View Mirror?

Side mirror replacement costs range anywhere between $139 to $328 for labor and parts whereas you can expect to pay around $35 to $90 for just the part.

2. How Much Does It Cost To Change The Entire Side Mirror?

Changing the entire side mirror at the dealership will end up costing you $290 to $420 – for the average car.

3. Does The Warranty Cover Side Mirrors Too?

Yes, but keep in mind that factory warranty will only care about manufacturing defects; nothing regarding accidental scrapes, damage, or vandalism.

4. Does Insurance Cover A Broken Side Mirror?

Full coverage auto insurance will cover a damaged side mirror. Your liability coverage will cover it if you were the one who hit another driver’s side mirror. However, you must still pay your deductible; the rates may increase, so make sure to calculate whether making a claim is worth it.

5. How Easy Is It To Replace A Side Mirror?

Changing a broken side mirror is cheaper and easier than it seems. Once you get the right tools, perhaps the most difficult part is simply finding the fasteners.

6. Can I Drive Without A Mirror?

A motor vehicle needs to have an inside rear view mirror that allows a clear view of the road behind the driver. You have to be able to see the path you have crossed along with all the vehicles trailing behind.

7. How Much Does It Cost To Change A Car Mirror?

Side mirror replacement will set you back between $139 and $330 for labor and parts. Third-party mirrors can be acquired for relatively lower prices in comparison to official car market parts. But that is usually not what the dealership will use.

8. Can Cameras Replace Mirrors?

NHTSA recently conducted tests of a prototype of a designed rear-view camera. If and when they get certified by the agency, cars can have cameras in place on side mirrors. After performing their tests on the prototype, it was concluded that the cameras worked in most situations.

9. Is There A Camera On The Mirror?

Some mirrors, interestingly enough, do come with cameras. Additional features include a privacy cover, a built-in microphone, and much more.

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