Tips for accurately adjusting your side and rear view mirrors.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 2003

Dear Tom and Ray:

About six months ago, you talked about adjusting the outside rearview mirrors by placing the driver's head against the driver's window, then leaning toward the center of the car to adjust the passenger-side mirror. I tried this, and indeed it took a while to get used to the new "vision." However, I am now sold on this adjustment. It is SO much easier to get onto freeways, as I can see the cars in the lane I want to merge into without turning my head (although I still give a quick scan just to make sure). This advice should be part of all drivers' training in the United States, and I would encourage you to print it several times a year. Thanks for the great advice! -- Lane

RAY: Well, it might get old several times a year, Lane. But we'll try to slip it in as often as our editors let us get away with. Here's the column you're talking about:

TOM: We've discovered that it's possible to set your three mirrors (rearview and both side views) so that they eliminate almost any possible blind spots.

RAY: For years, we've been setting our side-view mirrors so they give us a view of the back corner of our car. This is the way it's been passed down from grandfather to father to us. But we've finally discovered something very interesting: The back corner of the car never moves. It always stays in the same exact place. So there's really no reason to keep an eye on it.

TOM: So, by moving the side mirrors farther out, you can line up all three of your mirrors so they have minimal overlap -- and you can see everything behind you and beside you.

RAY: Here's how to do it: Start by setting your rearview mirror as you normally would. Then, lean your head all the way to the left, so it touches the driver's window. From that position, set your left side-view mirror so you can see the back corner of your car. Then lean the same distance the other way, and set your right side-view mirror the same way. Now, here's what happens.

TOM: When a car comes up behind you, you should first see it in the center of your rearview mirror. But as it passes you (let's say on your left), you'll see it move to the left side of your rearview mirror. And as its left headlight disappears from your rearview mirror, it should instantly show up in your left-side mirror. There should be no delay. It should slip from one to the other, so you can always see it.

After you make the initial, rough settings, you might need to make some slight adjustments to your side mirrors to make everything line up perfectly. Pulling up next to a line of parked cars (to simulate another lane of traffic next to you) is a good way to do that.

RAY: Driving with the mirrors this way takes some getting used to. You have to learn to rely on your rearview mirror first. And you'll have to get used to what your side-view mirrors are now looking at.

TOM: But once you get used to it, you'll find that if there's no one in your rearview mirror, no one in your side-view mirror and no one immediately next to you, you can confidently change lanes without worrying about a blind spot.

RAY: Just don't do what my brother did. He was so intrigued by how well his three mirrors were working that he forgot to look forward, and he almost drove into the back of a manure truck.

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