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How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors

Posted on February 25th, 2008 in , | 16 Comments

By Steve Carrellas, NMA New Jersey State Chapter Coordinator

How To Adjust Your Side View Mirrors

When do we rely on our mirrors the most? Probably when we are changing lanes. Our objective is to change position without getting in another driver’s way or cutting him/her off.

The positioning for the inside rearview mirror is fairly obvious — you should be able to see out of the rear window. Be sure the day/night switch found on most rearview mirrors is in the day position during daytime operation.

As for the side mirror or mirrors, most people adjust them so they can see the side of the car on the inside edge of the mirror. Consider the view when the side-view mirrors are set up as just described. Essentially, you have created “tunnel vision” to the rear. Your side-view mirrors overlap much of what your inside rearview mirror sees and you’ve also created blind spots.

What is the solution to tunnel vision and blind spots?

Simply adjust the side-view mirrors just beyond the point where you could see the side of the car on the inside edge of the mirror. With this setup, you almost completely solve the blind spot problem. To adjust the outside mirrors this way, follow these two steps (This of course, is for vehicles with an inside mirror):

  • For the driver side mirror, roll up the window and press your head against the glass. Adjust the mirror so that you can just see the edge of the car.
  • For the passenger side mirror, place your head in the center of the car (directly behind the inside mirror mount) and adjust the outside mirror so that you can just see the edge of the car. This is necessary even with convex (curved) mirrors where the image is distorted a little.

When you’re in your normal driving position, you won’t be able to see the sides of the car but will be able to see other vehicles in the adjacent lanes.

For those times where there is a vehicle present in the other lane that isn’t visible when checking the mirrors, the other vehicle’s position will probably be such that its front is adjacent to your door and you’ll spot it in your peripheral vision as you check the side-view mirror.

Most of us have dealt with blind spots by turning our head for a quick check. This isn’t generally a problem in terms of missing something ahead; however, there can be a dangerous side effect.

Unless you’ve worked to control it, your arms will move in the direction your eyes are looking causing the steering wheel to turn.

With well-positioned mirrors, your head won’t have to turn as far to check any remaining blind spots.

There are other applications of changing lanes that this setup is useful for as well. For example, when getting on a highway, your ability to judge how to best merge with the traffic flow will be greatly enhanced with the view provided by the “wide-view” side mirror. Likewise, as you pass interchanges on the highway, your ability to monitor traffic entering the highway is enhanced.

And finally, a good guideline for deciding when to move into the passing lane or back into the traveling lane is to make sure that you can see the headlights of the vehicle you want to pull in front of in the rearview mirror. We can all appreciate the value of adequate pull-in space.

Interesting tidbit:
The Indianapolis 500 race was originally envisioned as a test-bed for new ideas. In the first race in 1911, Ray Harroun, a test driver for a now-defunct car company, installed a rectangular mirror mounted in front of and above his head, the first such use of a mirror. He won the race.

Some racers of the day said he cheated because of that. (All the other racers had a mechanic who rode facing backwards. Harroun’s use of a mirror saved his car the weight of a mechanic.) It wasn’t until the mid-Twenties that rearview mirrors were required on Indy race cars.


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16 Responses to “How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors”

  1. [...] when you are backing out of a parking spot. Just go slow until you can see perpindicular traffic. How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors __________________ '11 Cavalry Blue Off-road package, convenience package, hitch. Done: [...]

  2. [...] This helped me greatly. How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors [...]

  3. [...] The blind spots are pretty hard to get used to. I make sure that my passenger's seat is set so that my eyes have a clear view to the small window. Also, adjusting your mirrors using this method will help tremendously. I was paranoid as crap when I bought my car, but once I used this method, I got very comfortable. How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors [...]

  4. [...] How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors [...]

  5. [...] This how-to helped me drastically. I was paranoid to change lanes when I got the 370, but setting the mirrors with this method has made it very comfortable. It's a little weird at first, but it does work. How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors [...]

  6. [...] people incorrectly assume they have their mirrors in the proper position because depending on who you ask, you may hear different answers to how to make your mirrors blind [...]

  7. Todd says:

    I did not mean what I said in my comment that I made on Dec 31, 08. It was a mistake. Also if my past two comments were the same I very sorry. I hit the submit button twice by mistake.

  8. Todd says:

    Warning – What I will recommend is what I belive is good. You should use whatever method works best for you. When you use this method you are taking on responsiblility for whatever outcome you get.

    I know this comment is long but please read it all.

    Setting your side view mirror so that you can see the side on your car in the half of your side view mirror and the other half looking behind of you is wrong. This mirror setting creates a huge blind spot by you back left and right side of your vehicle and this can hide 2-3 cars. The BGE mirror setting allows you to see more into your blind spot however this is too much toward the extream. The BGE setting thus becomes dangerous because if you are carrying passengers in the back seat the rearview mirror is useless and if you want to change lanes you only can see into your blind spot and not whats comeing up like 50ft behind you in the lane you want to go into. So say if you want to switch lanes to the left, your rearview mirror is useless because of passengers in the back seat blocking its view and your left side view mirror only shows your blind spot. You change lanes to the left and then you hear a horn and find out that a suv is like 1 ft behind you. This could have been avoided if your left side mirror was adjusted so that you could see what was coming up in the left lane NOT to see into your blind spot(That is what turning your head is for). With that adjustment you would have seen the suv coming up in the left lane would have hopefully (Out of courtesy) waited untill it passed. So the BGE method is now just as dangerous as adjusting your mirrors so that half of it shows the side of your car. Both the narrow and wide mirror setting is dangerous. So what is the SOLUTION. I have develop my own method. First I get into proper seating possition. Next for my left side rearview mirror I tilt my head 20 degrees to the left, then I turn my head 45 degrees to the left, I look into my left mirror and adjust it until I can barely see the side on my car. When I bring my head back to my normal position I no longer can see the side on my car in the mirror which gives my left mirror a wider view and I can see more to what is in the left lane. If I want my left rearview mirror to show an even wider view all I have to do is move my body forward and look into the left mirror. If I wish to see far back into the left lane all I have to do is sit in my normal driving position then tilt my head 20 degrees to the left, turn it 45 degrees to the left and look into the left mirror and I can see far back into the left lane for cars coming up behind in the left lane. Do the same thing for the right mirror. No matter what you should always turn your head to completely check your blind spot. My method as a whole is a compromise between the traditional mirror setting and the BGE mirror setting.

    Again this is my method I have develop so feel free to use it but just remember to give credit where its due and that me.

    I also found two web sites on this issue.

    http://www.driveandstayalive.com/articles%20and%20topics/driving-myths-and-mistakes/setting-the-mirrors.htm This site talks about 8 reasons why the BGE is bad and why the traditional mirror setting is good.

    http://www.smartmotorist.com/car-accessories-fuel-and-maintenance/adjusting-your-mirrors-correctly.html This web site says why the traditional setting is bad and why the BGE method is good. I will give you the a quote from that site that covers key area on this subject. “Exterior rearview mirrors – As for the side view mirror or mirrors, most people adjust them so they can see the side of the car on the inside edge of the mirror. If you adjust your mirrors using those criteria, are you aware of the huge blind spots that you’ve created? (Now is the time to take another look at the animated diagram at the top of the page.) Consider the view when the side view mirrors are set up as just described. Essentially, you have created “tunnel vision” to the rear. Your side view mirrors overlap much of what your inside rearview mirrors sees and you’ve also created blind spots. What in the solution to tunnel vision and blind spots? Simply adjust the side view mirrors just beyond the point where you could see the side of the car on the inside edge of the mirror. With this setup, you almost completely solve the blind spot problem. It takes a little while to get used to, but it is an improvement. Some quick tips: For the driver’s side mirror: Place the side of your head against the window, then adjust the mirror until the side of your vehicle comes into view. For the passenger’s side mirror: While sitting in the driver’s seat, lean to the right so that your head is in the car’s centerline. Adjust the mirror until the side of your vehicle comes into view.”

    From there you can see which method works best for you. Maybe you might compromise between the two like what I did. Good Luck!

    Yes I know I made some grammer and spelling mistakes. Sorry.

  9. Todd says:

    I think that this is a good method. Any comments?

  10. [...] Re: Always On Backup Camera It does not really help for changing lanes. Best thing to do is to adjust the mirrors correctly. How To Adjust Your Side-View Mirrors [...]

  11. John Mehrtens says:

    I have taught many driving schools involving safety,performance & race driving.
    I myself raced sports cars for some 5 years.
    I have also driven on Daytona International Speedway in a mercedes-Benz S600 at 160 MPH.
    The instructions on setting mirrors is the most important (next to proper following distance) you can learn.
    GOOD JOB.
    THANK YOU
    John M.

  12. James Young says:

    Chet, I try to do everything that I can to provide recognition, information and maneuvering room for truckers. I just wish they would reciprocate in kind. I can’t tell you how many times I’m running 90 mph along I-80 through Wyoming only to have one truck pull into the inside lane at 69.01 mph to pass another truck running 69.00 mph. Grrrr.

  13. Chet Eastlick says:

    I am a trucker. Please tell people that just because they have many wheels don’t mean that they can stop on a dime. If a truck is merging please back off and help him, blink lights to let him know it is ok, if you force him to go on the shoulder it may be soft and cause truck to roll.
    There are 4 main BLIND SPOTS that truckers can’t see you. The trucks are our and YOUR LIFE LINE. Any thing you can do to help US will be appreciate

  14. Douglas Guerra says:

    In Europe, most cars are fitted with convex mirrors on boths sides. Many have aspheric reflective glass on the driver’s side which means the mirror is more bent toward the outer edge. Where this bend begins, there is a vertical line. When a reflected vehicle is on the right side of that line, it is safe to move into the left lane. If the vehicle is on the left of the line, it is too close.
    Of course, in the United States, these mirrors are illegal so some manufacturers go to expensive links to solve the Blind Spot problem (such as cameras and radar) which exists simply because of US law.

  15. patty bodine says:

    Why is there no “radar” device that measures assured clear distance. More accidents are caused by failure to keep assured clear distance than speeding. Measuring for ACD and ticketing for this offense would certainly provide the needed revenue to municipalities that is now aquired by citations for speeding and it would make the roads safer by far.
    I do get frustrated when I have to drive with my focus behind me because of some knucklehead on my tail.
    Your thoughts?

  16. E. Meyers says:

    I have a 95 Ford Windstar. Recently I broke the passenger side mirror. They wanted forty dollars for a piece of glass. I got a couple of convex mirrors and put them as replacements. Works for me.




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