What Are the Different Types of Side View Mirrors?


Over the last century, automotive side mirrors have been mounted to the fenders, doors, A-pillars, and yes even on the fender mounted spare tires! As crazy as it sounds, during that whole time, there have really only been 3 different styles of side view mirrors.

1. Manual Mirrors

Manual Mirrors

A manual car mirror is the oldest and simplest design of all. It's typically bolted onto the body or door of the car, and if it isn't aimed right, you need to physically stick your hand out the window and push on it to adjust it. A manual mirror won't have any fancy wires or joysticks, and it is almost always the most inexpensive and easiest side mirror to replace.

2. Manual Remote Mirrors

Manual Remote Mirrors

This style was sort of the first step in the mirror evolution, and became hot stuff in the early 1960s. In the simplest words, a manual remote mirror can be adjusted from inside the car with your windows up. It's not done with magic, and it isn't electricity either. These mirrors have a mechanical connection sticking through the body of the vehicle for you to adjust it with. The mechanical connection is usually in the form of a fun little joystick, just like on your favorite video game system in the 1980's. Replacing one of these side view mirrors on your car is often just as easy as replacing a manual mirror, but you will have to snake the joystick through a hole in the door. Again, no electricity required.

3. Power Mirrors

Power Mirrors

This is where things start getting wild and crazy, folks. By the mid-1970s power mirrors were beginning to pop up in all of the automotive production lines. A power mirror is adjusted with - you guessed it - electricity! If you have a basic power mirror, without any other options, it most likely has just three wires coming out of it. Inside your vehicle, you will find a power mirror switch that controls its every move. It's really a thing of beauty to be able to sit in the climate controlled car or truck and dance your passenger side mirror around like you are the puppet master of automotive mirrors. Replacing a power mirror is one step more complicated than the process of a manual remote mirror, but still extremely doable by the average do-it-yourselfer. The only additional challenge will be plugging the mirror wiring connectors together, and that's a piece of cake!

Under the "power mirror" umbrella, you will also find a delightful selection of fun options. Let's talk about them.

  • Heated Mirrors - The most fascinating thing about heated car mirrors is that most drivers don't even know if they have them. Does your mirror melt snow off of it in the winter time? Well, then, it's heated. Does your factory mirror have five wires coming out of it? Then, it's probably power and heated. Heated mirrors also often have a little "heat" symbol on the glass. Unfortunately you can't install a heated mirror in place of a non-heated mirror, or vice versa. It may physically bolt onto the car, but the wiring definitely won't work. You'll end up with blown fuses and totally stressed out.
  • Mirrors with Memory - Some of the fancier cars and trucks come with mirrors that have the "memory" option. That means that when you hop into the car, the seat, steering wheel, and electric mirrors adjust to their last known location. The majority of cars that have mirrors with memory also have heat, which often means that they have a six (or more) wire connector.
  • Signal Mirrors - Typically found on luxury vehicles and large trucks, these mirrors have turn signals / directionals built into the mirror glass or mirror housing. Like the mirrors with memory, these side mirrors typically have six or more wires in the connector.

Towing Mirror Upgrades:

Towing Mirror Upgrades

If you have a truck, you likely already know how useful and rugged-looking tow mirrors can be. Some trucks come with them already installed from the factory, and some do not. For the trucks that actually do tow large trailers, they are an absolute necessity. For trucks that don't tow things, but want to look awesome, they are a terrific upgrade. They can have almost any variety of options as well, like:

  • Manual
  • Power
  • Heated
  • Signal / Directional
  • Memory
  • Manual-Folding
  • Power-Folding
  • Manual-Extending
  • Power-Extending
  • Single Glass
  • Dual Glass
  • Convex Glass
  • Universal Clip-on

The options are nearly endless on towing mirrors, so making sure that you select the proper option package for your specific truck is paramount. We've created a buying guide on towing mirrors to help you do just that, so be sure to check it out, as it goes over all of the different options available in great detail. 1A Auto also has a massive selection of towing mirrors in stock for those of you that do or don't have the factory tow packages. Between having increased rear vision, and making the truck look extremely burly, you can't really do wrong when it comes to towing mirrors.

Telescoping / Telescopic Mirrors:

Telescoping Mirrors

While we are on the topic of towing mirrors, we absolutely must discuss telescoping mirrors, because the two go hand in hand. Telescoping (also known as "telescopic") mirrors are a type of mirror that can extend out from the sides of the vehicle to increase rearward vision. By far, they are most commonly found on towing applications, because they aren't really necessary otherwise. This style of side view mirror can be power telescoping, or manual telescoping. The powered ones are obviously extremely cool because you can sit in the comforts of your truck while pushing a button to make the mirrors extend. Manual telescoping mirrors require a person to physically slide the mirror outward, which is slightly more effort, but they are far more reasonably priced as well.

Telescopic mirrors can be a terrific upgrade if a truck already has towing mirrors, but needs just a little more vision for whatever it is towing. They also make a truck appear much bigger and badder, which is always nice.

Additional Mirror Information & Facts:

Sometimes the car mirror industry uses lingo that normal people aren't familiar with. This quick reference guide should help out if you see some unfamiliar terminology.

  • "PTM" - Acronym for "Paint to Match". This means that the side view mirror comes primed, and you will need to have it painted to match your car color. You could also leave it as is, if matching colors doesn't concern you.
  • "Sail Mount" - Mounts in the corner of the door glass, at the front of the side window.
  • "Fixed" - Means that it doesn't fold back if you bump into it.
  • "Matte" finish - Flat color, no gloss.
  • "Textured" finish - the plastic housing has very tiny ripples in it, instead of a perfectly smooth finish. Normally textured mirrors are black, and rarely, if ever, painted the body color.
  • "Dual Swing" - This type up mirror folds forward and backward if bumped into.
  • "Swing Lock" - These are typically found on Broncos, Explorers, Rangers, and Ford trucks. They are usually made of a stainless steel metal bar, mount to the door skin, and have a mirror perched on top.
  • "Manual-Folding" - This means that you have to physically push on the mirror to fold it back against the vehicle.
  • "Power-Folding" - This means that you hit a button inside your vehicle and it automatic folds to make the vehicle less wide.
  • Almost all passenger side mirrors will have a short message on the bottom that says something like: "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear". Any exceptions will be called out in the description on the website.

How Do I Know a Side View Mirror Will Fit my Year, Make, and Model?

Now that you know the different kinds of mirrors, the next step is to identify your mirror operation (manual or manual remote). The right replacement mirror for your vehicle will have the exact same options as the original mirror.

In some cases, you may need to know the submodel, trim package, or body type to verify fit. This can be found on the vehicle or in the VIN.

Once you know what options your original mirror has and what your vehicle type is, you can compare them with the specifications found on our product page in the description tab. Our site will verify fitment for your year, make, and model once you add the item to your cart.

How Do I Know if This Mirror Can be Upgraded?

Upgrading electrical options on side view mirrors can involve custom electrical work. We recommend that you replace a side view mirror option-for-option. Although, some mirrors can be upgraded to certain options if the wiring is already present in the vehicle.

Side view mirrors can also be upgraded to towing mirrors, depending on the vehicle and the current mirror options.

To learn more about upgrading to tow mirrors, read here.

Need a Side Mirror Replacement?

At 1A Auto, we're here to help you get the right side view mirror replacement for your car, truck, SUV or van. You can browse our large selection of side view mirrors and shop right here on 1AAuto.com.

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