Driving tests

How to adjust your wing mirrors correctly

Adjusting your wing mirrors correctly is very easy once you know what to do. Both your left and right mirrors should be adjusted so that you can see the maximum amount of the lane to the side of you as possible, but while still just seeing the edge of your car.

When you are reversing, some vehicles will angle the mirror down towards the ground on the left side so that you can see the kerb. Or you can do this manually if you need to.

The following three images were taken in the same place on the street but showing different mirror angles.

Too far in

In the following image you can see far too much of the car – while the view back up the road looks fine, there’s a large blind spot over your right shoulder. If you are on the motorway you wouldn’t be able to see vehicles approaching from behind in the right lane as easily.

wing mirror too far in

Too far out

In this image the mirror is set too far out. There’s a risk you will miss cyclists approaching from behind as you pull out of a parking space. It also makes it more difficult to judge distances of approaching vehicles, and to judge where you are when reversing.

Objects in mirrors always look further away than they are because of their convexity. In America, Canada and India it’s a legal requirement to have “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” on the mirror itself.

wing mirror too far out

For a van without side windows this position will work best if you cannot see into the blind spot by turning your head, but bear in mind it will be more difficult to reverse using the mirrors. If you don’t have a rear window, this view also doesn’t allow you to see directly behind you, and that’s not good either.

Just right

For a car this mirror is adjusted perfectly in terms of left-right. It’s up to your personal preference whether you angle it slightly further down, but not too much further down otherwise you compromise your view back up the road. You can only just see the edge of your vehicle in the mirror, so that gives you the point of reference for everything else in the mirror. You can see along the line of parked cars behind which makes it easier to see cyclists approaching, and you’ve got the mirror at the best compromise angle to minimise your blind spot.

Unless you have a convex mirror edge (not many vehicles do), there still will be a blind spot – you should definitely look over your shoulder when pulling out of a car parking space or changing lanes.

wing mirror just right

Adjusting your mirrors

Sit back in your normal driving position. Turn your head to the left and right and look in the mirror – that’s what you’ll see when you are driving.

Most modern cars have electric adjustments on the mirrors and it’ll look something like this:

wing-mirror-controls

The top switch determines whether you are adjusting the left or right mirror, the four way pad controls up/down/left/right, and (if your car is so equipped) the top right button folds the mirrors inwards, which is useful when parking to help avoid damage to them by passing vehicles or pedestrians.

If you get into someone else’s car to drive, adjust the mirrors so that they suit you. It’s better that you cause them minor inconvenience but remain safe.

Rear view mirror

Set your rear view mirror to give you the best view through your rear window. The three mirrors together cover a large amount of the road behind you.

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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Posted in Advice, Car
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