Anyone who has seen a modern car or other vehicle has most likely seen a wing mirror. Wing mirrors are the mirrors jutting out from the sides of the car, not unlike a set of wings, that help the driver get a better view of the road. Some wing mirrors may be melded onto the sides of the vehicle, while others are attached separately. Regardless of how they are hooked to a vehicle, all wing mirrors share certain features, considerations and hazards.
Wing mirrors are positioned at an angle to afford a view of objects behind them. They are most commonly used on cars and other vehicles for the driver's convenience and safety. They are almost always a must outside the driver's side, and frequently found outside the passenger window as well.
Wing mirrors usually have a sturdy base in which the mirror is embedded, and a brace of some sort that attaches the mirror and base to the vehicle. The base and brace can be made of the same material as the vehicle--often fibreglass--or made of metal, like those found on the sides of trucks and buses. Wing mirrors are adjustable to provide the best viewing angle for the driver's height or position. Some have controls inside the vehicle that can adjust the mirror part up, down and at a variety of angles. Others will need to be manually adjusted on their frame.
If the glass or another part of the wing mirror breaks, the vehicle owner doesn't always have to run out and buy a brand-new unit. Parts for wing mirrors are available at auto-part supply stores or online (see Resources). If only the mirror part breaks but the frame and brace are still intact, you can buy stick-on mirrors that fit right over the cracked glass. Nuts, bolts, new metal braces and frames are also available for wing mirrors that are used on the side of buses or trucks. Car owners who need to replace an entire wing mirror on a particular make and model will usually end up making an expensive purchase from a dealership.
Although wing mirrors offer a fairly wide view of the side and some of the rear of a vehicle, they are not the only key to full visibility. A rear-view mirror, mounted in the front centre of the vehicle, is also a must. Wing mirrors will also leave blind spots on either side of the vehicle, usually near the rear wheels. Motorists should always turn their heads fully to check for other vehicles before changing lanes or merging, to ensure that they do not crash into a vehicle or other object that doesn't show up in the wing mirror.
Because wing mirrors protrude from the side of a vehicle, they are often hit by other vehicles. They are also prone to being smashed into trees, impediments around tight parking spots and the sides of garages or fences. Bicyclists, too, have been known to run into or be hit by wing mirrors.
Wing mirrors may also distort distance, which is why some sport the phrase "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." This is often stamped on the bottom of the wing mirrors found on the passenger side of the vehicle, which has a mirror that is convex. The convex mirror allows the driver a wider view of the roadway, but also makes objects appear farther away than they really are.