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In a passenger car with 3 mirrors (rear-view and 2 side mirrors), how do you set your side mirrors so as to see as much as possible?

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2 Answers

When you set your mirrors with the Click & Clack method, if you find the (electric) mirrors won't adjust out far enough, try moving the mirror up or down and then try to go further out. Failing that, I wouldn't be afraid to gently push on the mirror if the electric motor won't adjust it quite as far as you need. As Nick mentioned, manufacturers don't quite get the Click & Clack method, so sometimes the mirrors won't adjust out far enough without a little trickery.

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The "won't adjust far enough" problem isn't limited to power mirrors. The manual mirrors on my 2005 Cavalier won't adjust that far out without help either. –  Compro01 Jan 4 '13 at 14:28
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Click & Clack method:

Sitting in the driver’s seat (left or right-hand drive vehicle):

  • Driver’s side mirror

    Lean your head against the window, and set the driver’s side mirror so that you can just see the side of your car in the mirror.

  • Passenger side mirror:

    Position your head, as best as possible to the middle of the car. Use your radio, or center console as a reference. Now set your passenger side mirror so that you can just barely see the side of your car in it.

The difference? In my experience, most people seem to have their mirrors set narrowly (left) which has much overlap (blue area), what you get is more information per sq. in. of mirror (right):

Mirror comparison

Image taken from a good article on the subject.

Reasoning

It seems that a lot of driver education classes promote what I would call is the improper, narrow-view method. Perhaps for newer drivers it is easier for them to understand where things are in the mirror if they have their own vehicle visible in the mirror as a reference. I can’t see how that outweighs the clear benefits of the wide-view.

Using the wide-view method, you all but eliminate blind spots. The only things that can fit in your blind spot are small trolls that are attached to your rear quarters. You do not need to turn your head as far to check your sides. If you need to reverse into a tight spot, you simply lean toward the needed side to see more relevant visuals for backing in.

For some, this is controversial. I can’t see why. You decrease the amount of visual overlap, and increase the amount seen through the mirrors. That is, you only decrease the size of your blind spots (greatly). There is no drawback other than having to get used to the new positions, which is temporary.

Here's another good article.

Caveats

None specific to this method, really. But keep in mind that this optimizes the view for the lanes adjacent to yours. Merging lanes coming in at an angle, or the 2 lanes over, visibility will be better, but you still need to shoulder-check those. Also, no guarantee that it works on all vehicle shapes and sizes.

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This is a great answer and the diagram really drives it home. +1 for answering a question I didn't know I had. –  Bob Roberts Dec 31 '12 at 15:24
    
+1 for a well put together answer; and that [leaning to the driver side / center console] is exactly how I set my mirrors. I was actually reading my Camry's instruction manual [I got bored] and it said to adjust the mirrors so that you could see the sides of your car. I can't believe that's the "instructed" method! –  Robbie Dec 31 '12 at 18:13
    
Robbie, I've found that a lot of manufacturers seem to have their side mirror housings setup to prefer the narrow method. For example, the 2001-2004 or so Nissan Pathfinder: If you set it narrow, the mirrors "go" with the housing more. If you set it wide, they look weird. On another car, I couldn't even adjust it correctly--it was beyond the limits. I've never gone back to the narrow method, and wish this were more widely known. –  Nick Dec 31 '12 at 18:49
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