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Replace a Broken Side View Mirror

Replacing a broken side view mirror is easier and cheaper than you might think. Once you have the right tools, the hardest part is just finding the hidden fasteners.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Step 1: Overview

You had plenty of clearance yesterday morning. But as you drank your coffee and backed out this morning, the garage door opening mysteriously closed in on your car and ripped off the side view mirror. Even if your insurance will cover it, this body shop repair is most likely less than your deductible. In other words, it's coming out of your pocket. The good news is that you can replace the mirror yourself for a lot less!

Step 2: Order a replacement mirror online

Start your repair job by searching the Internet for an aftermarket mirror and for the factory paint color code. Most mirrors are available from online sources for a fraction of the dealer price. Because replacement body parts have to be painted to match your car, we located the factory paint color code and then visited an auto parts store and purchased cans of aerosol touch-up paint and primer.

Painting the mirror was easy. We simply masked off the glass and followed the spraying instructions on the paint cans. But if you're not up to painting it yourself, take it to a body shop.

These are the tools you'll need.

These are the tools you'll need.

Figure A: Special Tools

Special tools for removing the panels and replacing the mirror are available at auto parts stores.

Step 3: Remove the cover and door panels

Our power mirror repair required the removal of the door trim panel to access the mirror's electrical connector. This may seem scary at first, but with the right tools (available at auto parts stores), it's simple. If your car has a manual mirror, you can probably skip that step and simply pop off the mirror trim panel and remove the three retaining screws (Photos 1 and 4).

Removing the door trim panel isn't hard. It's designed to be removed for all types of servicing, such as repairing door handles and window mechanisms. The most challenging part is finding all the hidden fasteners. The trick to removing the trim panel is to know that trim panel screws are usually hidden behind decorative vanity caps (DVCs) or in obscure recesses. Start your search with the armrest. Look for screws in the finger pull area, under the armrest or behind speaker grilles. If you see a round cover that serves no visible purpose, chances are it's a DVC. Using a “hooked pick” (available at hardware stores; Photo 2), pry off the DVC and you'll most likely find a hidden screw. We found four hidden screws in our vehicle.

After you remove all the screws, use the trim panel removal tool shown in Figure A to remove the Christmas tree–shaped fasteners from the door. There is no universal pattern to these fasteners, so you'll have to feel around to find them by slowly prying around the edge of the trim panel. As you locate each fastener, insert the removal tool behind it and pop it out of its hole. When you've removed all the fasteners, lower the window and lift the trim panel up and out. Check the trim panel and door to make sure all the fasteners came out of the door properly. If any were damaged, take them to an auto parts store to get the proper replacements. Leave the power window and door lock connectors in place and lean the trim panel against the door.

Figure B: Door Panel Fasteners

Door panels come off easily once you find the hidden fasteners.

Step 4: Disconnect the cable

Next, follow the cable from the mirror and disassemble the mirror's electrical connector. Remove the screws that hold the mirror and remove it from the door. Attach the new mirror. Reconnect the electrical connector and make sure you test the new mirror before putting the parts back into place. Reverse the entire procedure to reassemble the door trim panel. Use your fist or a small rubber mallet to reinsert the Christmas tree trim panel fasteners. Replace the screws and the DVCs.

Crank window handle

Crank window handle

Door handle removal tool

Door handle removal tool

Taming the Crank

If your car has power mirrors but manual windows, you'll have to remove the window crank before you can remove the trim panel. It's impossible to do without this special door handle removal tool, the Lisle No. 18600. Simply slide the tool onto the window crank and dislodge the spring clip. Make sure you hold a cloth around the crank to catch the clip. Then pull the crank off the splined shaft. To replace, insert the spring clip in the grooves on the crank and push the entire crank onto the splined shaft until it “clicks.”

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver

You'll also need a panel removal lever, trim pad remover, hooked pick. A door handle removal tool is optional.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Aftermarket sideview mirror
    • Matching spray primer and paint

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 5 of 5 comments
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July 24, 5:09 PM [GMT -5]

Update: I ordered the mirror on Ebay and it cost 32.00 with free shipping. Arrived today and I went straight out to the garage and an hour later I have it on! And it looks just like the original !! I'm so proud of myself :) After taking off the door panel, I realized I never had to take it off - the wiring and screws for the mirror were all above the door panel. So that was a waste of time ... everything else was just like the video another user posted. Thanks again for this article, you saved me time and money and I know how to do again if needed.

July 21, 7:40 PM [GMT -5]

Thank you for this article!! I just trashed my side mirror this morning backing out the garage. I've been stressing all day about the possible cost but then I came across this article. My husband is gone until next month, so I'm going to tackle this on my own - But the comments give me confidence :) Wish me luck.

October 11, 3:03 PM [GMT -5]

Here's a great how to video that will walk you through the repair process.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evFapzdi7XE

June 15, 5:29 PM [GMT -5]

So... I am a 29 year old "girl." I looked online for my broken mirror's replacement. I found one fore $39.95 with free shipping. I paid $7 for spray paint and I purchased none of the tools mentioned. I had never done anything like this, never! I was scared that I was going to break something and cost myself more money. But after two hours, and one fight with my husband because he thought I was going to do more harm than good, it was done! And looks perfect!

The hardest part was getting the mirror itself off and trying to understand how the fasteners worked on the door panel. It felt fantastic to know that I did it and I didn't have to go somewhere and pay $200-300 for someone else to do what I did for less than $50!

May 26, 10:27 AM [GMT -5]

This was completely helpful! I was able to change my mirror like a pro. Now I can tell my husband "Don't worry, I can do it myself!

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