Fixing a rearview mirror is a beginner-level project for most DIYers. Here’s everything you need to know to complete this project at home.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Time Required: One hour
- Tools & Materials: Window cleaner, a microfiber cloth, a hairdryer, a clean razor, a screwdriver or Allen wrench, and replacement parts
What Is a Rearview Mirror?
The rearview mirror is the small mirror mounted in the center of your windshield. Unless it’s mounted to the ceiling of your vehicle, your rearview mirror is held in place by a mounting bracket that is glued onto your windshield. Glue can lose its bond over time due to temperature changes or being bumped. Fixing your rearview mirror involves gluing it back in its proper location.
Is it Safe to Drive With a Broken Rearview Mirror?
It’s unsafe, as well as illegal, to drive without an un-obstructed or unattached rearview mirror. Using your side mirrors and turning your head to see behind you are standard driving practices. Still, they don’t allow you to see traffic and objects directly behind you.
Repairing a rearview mirror is less costly than a safety violation ticket from the police. This job is worth tackling at home due to the parts’ low cost (under $20), relatively low difficulty, and the timeliness of getting your car back on the road safely and legally.
When To Fix a Rearview Mirror
Rearview mirrors often stay in place for the life of a vehicle, but if it’s bumped into or exposed to years of hot and cold temperatures, the mirror can detach from the glass.
Your mirror may completely fall off or be left hanging by the wires used to its power accessories, like directional and exterior temperature gauges. Your rearview mirror may also become partially detached or function poorly if it’s not solidly affixed to the windshield.
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this story are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs.
What Are Common Symptoms of a Broken Rearview Mirror?
Common symptoms of a broken rearview mirror include:
- The mirror falls off the windshield completely, landing on the floor or dangling by its wires.
- The mirror rattles loose or vibrates, making it hard to see objects behind you.
A loose rearview mirror can be remedied by tightening the screw that holds the mirror to the mount. Make sure the mount is securely attached.
Keep in Mind
Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and check for specific information for your make and model. Some rearview mirrors may have wires for accessories like temperature gauges, backup cameras, or reading lights that require care to keep them intact.
Be very mindful of the orientation and placement of the mounting bracket since the strong glue that holds it in place makes an incorrectly placed bracket almost impossible to remove without cracking the windshield. You should also make sure to buy a high-quality repair kit that hasn’t been on the shelf gathering dust, ideally one that’s original-equipment-manufacturer-(OEM)-approved.
Rearview mirrors fail for three main reasons: temperature changes, stress, and age. Like all components, the glue that holds the mirror in place is susceptible to wear and tear. Hot and cold weather and condensation weaken the adhesive. Jostling the rearview mirror on rough roads or inadvertently bumping into the mirror accelerate wear. Age also weakens the bonds that hold the mounting bracket to the windshield glass.
If the mirror itself is broken, OEM or aftermarket products are available. Buying an entirely new mirror can be expensive depending on the features it has, including built-in compasses, temperature gauges, reading lights, and brightness-dimming features. Replacement mirrors can range from under $20 to hundreds of dollars.
How to Fix a Rear View Mirror
Step 1: Remove the old mirror and its attachments and mount. Remove the mirror with care to ensure you remember where the components go when it’s time to put it back together. Applying masking or electrician’s tape to the outside of the windshield to mark the mirror’s location can be helpful. Carefully remove the wiring harness if there is one.
There should be a screw that holds the mirror to the mounting tab, which has likely fallen off or come loose. Loosen the screw and slide off the mirror assembly. Note the orientation of the mounting tab since it will need to be reinstalled the same way. Repair kits may supply a new mounting bracket, or you may need to clean and reuse the old one carefully.
Ideally, you, or an assistant, can use a hairdryer to warm the glass and loosen the mounting bracket, but be careful not to use too much heat. Especially in cold weather, fast temperature changes can crack the auto glass. The glue should cure in an ambient temperature between 50 and 75 degrees. Make sure you’re vehicle isn’t parked in the sun, and use the heater or air conditioning to bring the temperature within this curing range.
Step 2: Thoroughly clean the area. Ensure the attachment area on the glass and the mounting bracket surface are completely clear of glue residue, dirt, oily fingerprints, or other contaminants that can compromise the performance of the new glue. A new razor blade, rubbing alcohol, or glass cleaner can help remove dirt and debris, but be careful not to scratch the glass. Dry the glass and mounting bracket with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel.
Step 3: Install the mounting bracket and mirror. The mounting bracket must be installed in the same orientation to ensure it properly attaches to the mirror assembly. Carefully review the instructions for your mirror reattachment kit. Each kit has its own instructions, including cleaning and treating the glass, cleaning and applying glue to the mounting bracket, and affixing the bracket. Wait the specified amount of time for your kit’s adhesive to cure.
Typically, the mounting bracket just needs a small dab of glue held firmly in place for about a minute to set to the glass. Check your kit’s instructions for details.
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