How to adjust car mirrors

It’s less obvious than it sounds.

How to adjust car mirrors

How to adjust car mirrors

For the past few years, various carmakers have been offering blind-spot detection systems for their cars’ side mirrors. Often complex, these systems employ cameras or radar to scan the adjoining lanes for vehicles that may have disappeared from view.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published a paper in 1995 suggesting how outside mirrors could be adjusted to eliminate blind spots. The paper advocates adjusting the mirrors so far outward that the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the cabin’s rearview mirror. This can be disorienting for drivers used to seeing the flanks of their own car in the side mirrors. But when correctly positioned, the mirrors negate a car’s blind spots. This obviates the need to glance over your shoulder to safely change lanes as well as the need for an expensive blind-spot warning system.

The only problem is getting used to the SAE-recommended mirror positions. The cabin’s rearview mirror is used to keep an eye on what is coming up from behind, while the outside mirrors reflect the area outside the view of the inside rearview mirror.

Those who have switched to the SAE’s approach swear by it, however, some drivers can’t adjust to not using the outside mirrors to see directly behind the car and miss being able to see their own car in the side mirrors. To them we say, “Have fun filling out those accident reports.”

Updated May 16, 2021

How to adjust car mirrors

There is a reason driver’s education teachers hound you about checking your mirrors.

Your side and rear-view mirrors are among the most important safety features on your vehicle. Without them, you would only be able to view a fraction of the roadway at a time and your odds of a collision would skyrocket. While glancing from side to side and upwards every few seconds may be a bit awkward at first, developing the habit of correctly using your mirrors is a top priority.

Before you hit the road, you must adjust your side and rearview mirrors so that you have clear visibility in each of them. Here’s how:

How to Adjust Your Mirrors Properly

Sit in the driver’s seat. Position the seat and steering wheel so that you are comfortable and have access to the gear shifter, brake pedal, and accelerator.

Gently maneuver the rear view mirror so that you can see directly out of the middle of your back windshield without moving your head. The goal is to be able to quickly glance from the road in front of you to the road behind you without having to move or turn your body.

How to adjust car mirrors

Make sure you’re sitting in your usual position while adjusting a rear view mirror

Locate the levers or buttons that adjust the side mirrors. Many newer models have a small lever or joy-stick on the driver’s side door that electronically adjusts the side mirrors. Older models often require you to manually adjust them using a lever or by pressing on the mirror itself.

Never experiment with these buttons while driving

Adjust the driver’s side mirror first. Make adjustments then sit back in the driver’s seat to ensure that you can see the road behind you and a small sliver of the side of your car.

Next, adjust the passenger side mirror. If you have to adjust it manually, you may need to move between the passenger’s and driver’s seats until it is properly adjusted.

After all mirrors have been adjusted, sit in the driver’s seat and look in each, starting with the driver’s side mirror. You should view everything behind you in segments as you glance along.

To summarize, here is a video guide for mirror adjustment.

Now that your mirrors are adjusted, here are some driving scenarios that require you to use your mirrors:

How to Use Your Mirrors Properly

Merging on the Interstate

When changing lanes, first check your rearview mirror to see if any cars are following you. As you begin to signal your intention to turn, check the side mirror on the side you plan to merge to. For example, if you plan to merge from the left lane to the right lane, check your right side mirror for traffic approaching in that lane. Continue to glance between your rearview and side mirrors as you complete the merge. The video below contains a smart tip for choosing appropriate timing while changing lanes.

General Driving

Safety experts recommend that you keep a constant scan of all your vehicle’s mirrors while driving. Take a quick glance at one mirror every five seconds starting with the driver’s side mirror.

Parallel Parking

All three of your mirrors are essential to successfully parallel parking your vehicle. Check out How to Parallel Park for more information on how to use your mirrors to squeeze your vehicle into a tricky parking space.

The following video will also give you an idea of how to use mirrors while parking:

When Pulling a Trailer

Checking your mirrors is a must when your vehicle is pulling a trailer of any kind. When making turns, watch the mirror to the inside of the turn to ensure that the trailer’s wheels do not hit the curb.

Proper adjustment and usage of your vehicle’s side and rearview mirrors will prevent dangerous blind spots and keep your vehicle out of the path of approaching traffic.

Ladies, remember that your rearview mirror really isn’t for make-up application, especially while operating the car!

Updated May 16, 2021

How to adjust car mirrors

There is a reason driver’s education teachers hound you about checking your mirrors.

Your side and rear-view mirrors are among the most important safety features on your vehicle. Without them, you would only be able to view a fraction of the roadway at a time and your odds of a collision would skyrocket. While glancing from side to side and upwards every few seconds may be a bit awkward at first, developing the habit of correctly using your mirrors is a top priority.

Before you hit the road, you must adjust your side and rearview mirrors so that you have clear visibility in each of them. Here’s how:

How to Adjust Your Mirrors Properly

Sit in the driver’s seat. Position the seat and steering wheel so that you are comfortable and have access to the gear shifter, brake pedal, and accelerator.

Gently maneuver the rear view mirror so that you can see directly out of the middle of your back windshield without moving your head. The goal is to be able to quickly glance from the road in front of you to the road behind you without having to move or turn your body.

How to adjust car mirrors

Make sure you’re sitting in your usual position while adjusting a rear view mirror

Locate the levers or buttons that adjust the side mirrors. Many newer models have a small lever or joy-stick on the driver’s side door that electronically adjusts the side mirrors. Older models often require you to manually adjust them using a lever or by pressing on the mirror itself.

Never experiment with these buttons while driving

Adjust the driver’s side mirror first. Make adjustments then sit back in the driver’s seat to ensure that you can see the road behind you and a small sliver of the side of your car.

Next, adjust the passenger side mirror. If you have to adjust it manually, you may need to move between the passenger’s and driver’s seats until it is properly adjusted.

After all mirrors have been adjusted, sit in the driver’s seat and look in each, starting with the driver’s side mirror. You should view everything behind you in segments as you glance along.

To summarize, here is a video guide for mirror adjustment.

Now that your mirrors are adjusted, here are some driving scenarios that require you to use your mirrors:

How to Use Your Mirrors Properly

Merging on the Interstate

When changing lanes, first check your rearview mirror to see if any cars are following you. As you begin to signal your intention to turn, check the side mirror on the side you plan to merge to. For example, if you plan to merge from the left lane to the right lane, check your right side mirror for traffic approaching in that lane. Continue to glance between your rearview and side mirrors as you complete the merge. The video below contains a smart tip for choosing appropriate timing while changing lanes.

General Driving

Safety experts recommend that you keep a constant scan of all your vehicle’s mirrors while driving. Take a quick glance at one mirror every five seconds starting with the driver’s side mirror.

Parallel Parking

All three of your mirrors are essential to successfully parallel parking your vehicle. Check out How to Parallel Park for more information on how to use your mirrors to squeeze your vehicle into a tricky parking space.

The following video will also give you an idea of how to use mirrors while parking:

When Pulling a Trailer

Checking your mirrors is a must when your vehicle is pulling a trailer of any kind. When making turns, watch the mirror to the inside of the turn to ensure that the trailer’s wheels do not hit the curb.

Proper adjustment and usage of your vehicle’s side and rearview mirrors will prevent dangerous blind spots and keep your vehicle out of the path of approaching traffic.

Ladies, remember that your rearview mirror really isn’t for make-up application, especially while operating the car!

Driving is an extremely visual task and requires constant views of your surroundings. Seeing in front of you is a given as long as your windshield is clear and the weather conditions aren’t extreme. Seeing to the sides and behind you can be a little bit trickier. All cars have blind spots that you have to watch out for, but with these tips to adjust your car mirrors for maximum visibility, you’ll significantly improve your vision and safety on the road.

Adjust Rear View Mirror

The rear-view mirror should be able to show you the entire lane behind you. You should be able to see it by looking up without you having to move your head. To adjust your rear-view mirror, you should do so while sitting straight in the driver’s seat and move the mirror until you can see as much of the back windshield as possible. By doing this, you will cover the blind spots which the side mirrors leave.

At night, remember to flip the tab on the bottom of the rearview mirror for nighttime driving. This dims the headlights of the cars behind you so the light reflected from the mirror into your eyes doesn’t blind you.

A tip for tall people: if you are 6 feet tall or above, re-position the mirror entirely upside down. You should do so because it raises the mirror further up by about 2 inches. This will help you view the scene behind your car without having to move your head too much.

Adjust Side View Mirrors

You might be surprised to know that side mirrors are meant to be in a more outward direction than you might be used to. Many motorists are unaware of this and adjust their side mirrors so they can just barely see the flanks of their own ca. This only creates redundancy with the rearview mirror and allows a larger blind spot to linger.

Here’s how you should adjust your car’s side view mirrors:

  • Lean your head to the left and rest it on the window. Adjust the driver’s side mirror while in this position until you can only see a sliver of the side of your car in the mirror. When you sit up straight, you’ll notice the mirror now has a much wider viewing angle.
  • Lean your head to the right toward the center console and adjust the passenger’s side mirror while in this position until you can barely see your car’s right flank in the mirror.

Many newer models have a small lever or joy-stick on the driver’s side door that electronically adjusts the side mirrors. Older models often require you to manually adjust them using a lever or by pressing on the mirror itself. In the case that you need to manually move your mirrors, it’s best to get the help of a friend to adjust your passenger side mirror while you are viewing from the driver’s seat.

Visibility is one of the key factors that affect road safety. Apart from external factors like day light or night lights, there are also other factors in your car that help you achieve great visibility. Car mirrors are one among them. They add to your visibility, enabling you to see much more than you can from your vantage point otherwise. However, you need to adjust your car mirrors optimally to achieve the best of visibility.

When you do that, you can increase road safety manifold. This is why you need to learn how to adjust them perfectly, so as to get and unrivalled view of the road around you. Let’s take this tour to know how to do it.

How to Adjust Car Mirrors for Optimal Visibility

Well, some of the latest cars now come with blind spot detection systems. But, not everyone has those cars especially, if you are buying one from a pre-owned car sale . So, odds are that you will have to cope up with blind spots with a standard rear and side view mirrors. Let’s learn how to adjust these.

The Rear View Mirror

As the name suggests, this mirror provides you a view of the lane and the traffic behind you. It must show you the entire lane without you having to move your head. This is how you must adjust it. It is easy to do so. No rocket science involved.

Place it such that you can see as much of the rear window as possible. The aim is to enable you to see the road behind the car right through the reflection of the rear window. By doing this, you will cover the blind spots which the side mirrors leave.

Nevertheless, if you are 6 feet tall or above, here is something you may want to do. Re-position the mirror entirely upside down. You should do so because it raises the mirror further up by about 2 inches. This will help you view the scene behind your car without having to move your head too much.

How Should Side View Mirrors be Adjusted

Whether you own a have a left hand drive or a right hand drive, you will have to adjust the side mirrors in both the cases accordingly. Also, it’s very good if you have remote mirror adjustment controls. But, if you don’t, please ask someone to sit in the passenger seat and help you adjust your car mirrors.

For a left hand drive:

Lean to your left hand side and simply rest your head on the window (driver’s side). See that only a slice of your car’s side is visible to you in the driver’s side mirror. Adjust the mirror in this very fashion.

To adjust the passenger’s side, lean a bit to the right so that you are close to the center console. Adjust the passenger’s side mirror so that you can see barely see the side of your car from where you are sitting.

For a right hand drive:

If you have a right hand drive, just inverse the procedure for each side.

How to adjust car mirrorsAdjust Your Car Mirrors to set the side view (photo source: thinkingdriver.com)

A lot of drivers believe in another way to adjust the side view. It is by holding your head still and then adjusting the edge of the mirror and the side of your car in one line. Unfortunately, this will mostly make the same point visible as the rear view mirror and leave a large blind spot on the side.

SEE MORE:

For more information of adjusting mirror, check this video.

Other Safety Driving Tips

Apart from learning how to adjust your car mirrors, there are certain other things that you must also keep in mind. Here is a short list of driving techniques to improve your car’s safety :

  • Acquaint yourself with the new mirror setting. Sit parked on a safe side of the road and observe for a few minutes before driving.
  • While reversing or overtaking, always do a head check to make sure that the coast is clear.
  • For the night time, set the rear view mirror so that the lights of car behind you do not flash in your eyes. There is tab behind the mirror in mirror which you just need to flip for this setting. Automatic mirrors turn it on by default.

We hope that now you know how to adjust your car mirrors. Implement it, and you will be a lot safer on the road.

How to adjust car mirrors

Your vehicle’s side- and rear-view mirrors are designed to give you a good view of the road behind you while minimizing blind spots. Adjusting them properly is very easy, but it’s also key to staying safe on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year, blind spots factor into about 840,000 side-to-side collisions, helping cause 300 deaths, plus thousands of injuries millions of dollars in damages. Proper mirror adjustment and use can help minimize blind spots and reduce the chances of a blind spot collision.

If you’re driving a car that is not your own, or if you recently let someone else drive your car, it can be very easy to forget to adjust your mirrors before you hit the road. Mirrors can also fall out of adjustment due to vibration or bumps as you drive. However, it’s never a good idea to try to adjust your mirrors while driving , as distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle accidents. Instead, get in the habit of taking a quick glance at all your mirrors before you set off to make sure your rearward visibility is optimized!

Follow the steps below to adjust and use your mirrors properly.

How to Adjust Your Side Mirrors

Here’s how to adjust your left and right side-view mirrors for the best visibility:

  1. Locate your car’s mirror adjustment controls. Most modern cars have an electronic switch that controls the position of your left and right-side mirrors. These switches will have buttons that move your mirrors upward, downward, left, and right. They’ll also have a button that switches control between the left mirror and the right mirror. It’s important to know where this switch is located in any car you drive and how to operate it, so it’s easy to adjust your side mirrors.
  2. Adjust the side-to-side position. Toggle the side mirror adjustment switch to control your left-side mirror. Then, move your head until it’s resting against the lift-side window. Look at your left-side mirror, and adjust it until you can just barely see the edge of your car in the inside of the mirror. Then, toggle the mirror adjustment switch to control your right-side mirror. Move your head to the right, so it’s positioned right above your car’s center console. Now, set the ride-side mirror, so you can just start to see the edge of your car on the inside of the mirror. This positioning will help maximize your view of the road behind you while minimizing your blind spots.
  3. Adjust the up-and-down position. Use the side mirror adjustment switches to set your side-view mirrors vertical position. You should give yourself the best possible view of the road behind, but exact vertical placement often comes down to personal preference. You don’t want to see too much sky or too much road. Instead, it’s best to balance the position of each mirror so you can see traffic clearly as well as curbs while parallel parking.

How to Adjust Your Rear-View Mirror

How to adjust car mirrors

Once your side mirrors are adjusted properly, it’s easy to adjust your rear-view mirror. Be sure to sit normally and use minimal head movements when looking at your rear-view mirror. Then, manually move the mirror until your view is straight out of your car’s rear window, centered, and level. The goal is always to maximize your rearward view.

Depending on your vehicle, your rear-view mirror may also have a manual adjustment tab for night-time driving. These tabs are generally in the center of your mirror, along the bottom. Moving the tab all the way forward or backward will adjust the tilt position of the rear-view mirror. In the daytime position, it will look normal. But, in the night-time position, you will be unable to see much of anything, except headlights. Use this position for driving at night, so other cars’ headlights don’t obscure your vision but be sure to switch back for day-time driving. If your rear-view mirror does not have a manual adjustment tab, it should handle this switch for you automatically.

How to Use Your Mirrors While Driving

Together, your car’s mirrors will give you a good view of the road around and behind your car. It’s best to scan all of your mirrors frequently while driving, using quick glances rather than long, extended stares that can distract you from the road ahead. As you’re driving, glance at each mirror roughly once every 10 seconds, at minimum. This way, you can build up a mental picture of the cars around you on the road.

While mirrors alone will not eliminate your blind spots fully, having them adjusted properly and using them correctly will help you keep track of other cars around you. You should always check your blind spots with a quick turn of the head before changing lanes or making any other lateral movements. But, actively monitoring your mirrors and tracking your fellow motorists can help you avoid surprises and potential accidents.

To learn more about handling blind spots in Texas, California, Florida, or anywhere else in the US, have a look at our certified drivers education courses.

Your car’s wing mirrors are there to allow you to see behind your car so that you can manoeuvre in car parks, change lanes and pull out of parking spaces. They are not a complete replacement for turning your head and looking over your shoulder – they’ll always have a blind spot – but they help minimise the blind spot and keep you abreast of what’s going on behind your car. The problem is that many people just don’t have them set effectively and that increases the risk of pulling into the path of another road users.

We’re going to show you how you can easily set up your wing mirrors using three photos we took while were were in New Zealand of all places. Wing mirror setup is universal, so don’t think that we’ve done it a special Kiwi way; it’s just as relevant in the lucky country.

Moving the mirrors

Before you start, you need to find out how to adjust the mirrors in the particular car you’re in. If it’s a modern car there will be some kind of electric adjustment (see below). If it’s an old(ish) car then you might see a lever poking into the passenger cabin where the wing mirror joins the bodywork. If it’s a really old car then you might have to wind down the window and move the mirror or the whole assembly with your hand.

Modern systems tend to look similar to this one which is off the Commodore in the driveway.

How to adjust car mirrors

Or this one, which is off the Toyota.

How to adjust car mirrors

Both have a selector to choose between the left and right mirror, and a four-way button to adjust them up, down, left or right. The Toyota also has a button to fold the mirrors inwards – useful when parked in tight spaces to avoid damage by pedestrians passing between cars, and to reduce the risk of other vehicles hitting them.

The correct angle for the mirrors

Too far in

You can see far too much of the car in this shot. You don’t need to see that much – the mirror can be angled further out so that you see more of the lane beside you. Angling it like this increases your blind spot.

How to adjust car mirrors

Too far out

When the mirror is too far out you can’t see cyclists approaching from behind, so it’s dangerous. While you can see further into the lane beside you, you don’t have any reference point as to exactly where the vehicles are.

How to adjust car mirrors

Just right

This mirror is adjusted perfectly. You can only just see the car that you are in. It means that you get the benefit of being able to see back up the line of cars parked behind you (good for spotting cyclists approaching), as well as a good deal of the lane beside you. Having your mirror adjusted correctly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look in your blind spot, too, though. Every time you change lanes or pull out from a line of parked cars you must check your blind spot.

How to adjust car mirrors

Once your mirror is properly adjusted remember that objects in it will always appear further away than they really are because of the convexity of the mirror. This is another reason why turning your head to take that final look is a good check.

Your rear view mirror should be adjusted so that you can see as far back up the road as possible. Most rear view mirrors are large enough so that you can see more than the rear window, therefore adjust it so that it’s suitable for you and remember that if you adjust your seating position you will also need to readjust your mirrors.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

Your car has three mirrors that provide views behind and to either side of you. While they’re not the most technologically advanced accessories on your vehicle, they’re critically important. If they’re not adjusted properly, your view will be obstructed and your safety (plus that of your passengers) will be compromised. How can you adjust car mirrors, though? Whether you need to adjust a car side mirror or the rearview, it’s actually pretty simple.

Side view mirrors

To adjust your side view mirrors, make sure the driver’s seat is positioned correctly for your reach. You should be easily able to grip and turn the steering wheel, and your feet should reach the pedals without stretching.

Next, find the mirror adjuster. On some cars, this is a rod that juts out from the back of the mirror housing. On others, it’s a series of buttons on the armrest of the door. You want to see none of your vehicle in the mirror. This flies against common habit, but the fact remains that if you can see the side of your own vehicle, you cannot see cars to the side. Repeat this for the other side view mirror.

Rearview mirrors

Adjusting your rearview mirror is just as simple as your side view mirrors. Whether you’ve had a car mirror replacement, someone else has been driving, or the mirror has just been knocked out of place, you only need to follow a few simple steps.

Sit properly in the driver’s seat, with your hands gripping the steering wheel like you’re driving, and your feet able to reach the pedals without stretching your legs. Tilt the mirror up or down until you have a view out the full rear window. You may also need to adjust it left or right – the mirror has a ball pivot and will move easily.