Rear View Mirrors, Side View Mirrors and Baby Car Mirrors Oh My!

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: December 26, 2020

There are a lot of famous mirrors out there.

Beauty and the beast mirror

Belle from Beauty and the Beast famously uses an enchanted mirror to lovingly spy on her dad and the Beast.


Snow white mirror

The evil stepmother in Snow White throws a class-A hissy fit when her magic mirror tells her she’s not the prettiest lady in the land.


Alice in wonderland mirror

Everyone remembers Alice passing by the mirror after falling into the rabbit hole on her way to Wonderland.


But… there’s a mirror far closer to home that—while perhaps a tad less interesting to ponder—is at the heart of saving your life Prince-Charming-kiss-style every day.

This unsung mirror hero? Yep. Your car’s rear-view mirror. Ok, ok, we admit it: side-view mirrors and baby car mirrors also deserve a lot of street cred.

Get it, get it? STREET cred?

We crack ourselves up. Seriously, though, your car’s mirrors are perhaps some of the most important safety features in your car. Without your mirrors, you’d only see a tiny slice of the road at a time, and it would be impossible to see obstacles all around you.

It would almost be like driving with those horse-blinder things on. If you did, your chances of crashing would exponentially increase. Fortunately, a quick look in your car mirrors tells you all you need to know to navigate even tricky roads smoothly.

Let’s not forget about baby car mirrors! Although they are fairly new, the little drop-down mirror that allows you to keep an eye on the baby or other passengers in the backseat of the car while driving down the road has become a welcome addition to many vehicles for people who never drive alone.

So, about those mirrors. Do ya have to use ’em? How? Why? We’ve gotcha covered.

Why Your Rear View and Side View Mirrors are SO Important!

To summarize some really boring technical jargon from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and DMV for states around the country, here’s what you need to know about your mirrors:

That’s all well and good, but how do you use your mirrors? (Let me clarify. We know you know how to use a mirror—you look in it—but how do you ensure that your mirrors are tilted for maximum visibility, and when and how often should you check your mirrors?)

How To Adjust Your Rear View and Side View Mirrors

Driver’s Seat Positioning for Optimal Car Mirror Performance

To best use your mirrors, first thing’s first. You should shimmy into the driver’s seat and get comfy. Make sure you can easily and comfortably reach the steering wheel, the brake pedal, the accelerator, and the gear shift.

When you’re in the right position behind the wheel, only then are you in the best position to start fiddling with the mirrors.

If you adjust your mirrors before you find where you’re actually going to sit when driving the car, you’ll find yourself in the frustrating position of having to readjust… and possibly while your driving… while you can’t see! Take it from us: settle in first, then adjust those mirrors.

Adjusting Your Rearview Mirror

After you’ve settled into a comfortable driving position, shift your mirror around until it points directly to the middle of the road behind you.

You should have a clear view. If instead, you see heaps of bags you intended to drop off at Goodwill or stacks of books or your kids’ hockey jerseys or a mountain of billy goats—if you see ANYTHING in your way of a clear view of the road, stop then and there and clear out your car.

Keep in mind: all this shifting and positioning should happen BEFORE you start the car!

Adjusting Your Side Mirrors

Once your view in the rearview mirror looks good, it’s time to check out those side mirrors. Almost always, there will be small buttons to the left of the steering column that control the mirror adjustments.

Find these buttons, and click on the “L” button to adjust the left mirror and the “R” to adjust the right mirror. When the button is clicked into a position between “L” and “R,” this means that your mirrors are “locked into place” until you flip the “L” or “R” buttons again to readjust the left or right mirrors. Before you take off, be sure that the “L, R” button is switched to this neutral middle position!

To actually adjust the mirror position, after you have switched to the “L” button to indicate that you want to adjust the left driver’s side mirror (assuming you don’t live in England or Ireland…), then you can usually adjust the physical tilt of the mirror using a joystick or a little directional pad. (Keep in mind, this is for newer cars with electronic controls).

If your car doesn’t have electronic control, you may have to adjust your mirrors with a manual joystick, or you’ll have to give it some elbow grease and physically push the mirror into the position you want. You’ll know the mirror is in the right position when you can see behind you for 200 feet without having to turn your head.

The goal is to be able to tell in one quick downward glance where everybody is on the road. After the driver’s side mirror is adjusted, click over to the “R” button and do the same for the passenger’s side mirror.

Testing Your Vehicle’s Mirror Positioning

Double-check all your mirrors before you drive, then recheck them on the road. If you still can’t see approaching cars, pull over, and make further adjustments to your mirrors. DO NOT FIDDLE AROUND WITH YOUR MIRROR ADJUSTING BUTTONS AS YOU DRIVE.

Note: for the first test drive, don’t rely on your mirrors before changing lanes!

Check their position by glancing in the mirror, then physically turning around to check behind you to ensure that the mirror is giving you a clear picture of what’s really there. If it is, then you can start relying on the mirrors.

Careful, though! Especially if your system is electronic, it’s pretty easy to bump the controls and move your mirrors accidentally. Make sure that, after adjusting, the “L, R” button is in the neutral position so that a little elbow bump won’t throw your mirror off-kilter!

Car Mirrors Positioned Correctly Will Improve Your Driving Abilities

That wasn’t so hard, right? Now, what about when to use your mirrors? Our short answer is: constantly. You should always be flicking your gaze toward your rearview and side mirrors to keep tabs on your surroundings. However, there are a few situations in which the use of mirrors is a must:

A final tip: always use your turn signal when changing lanes, merging, or turning!

Rear and Side View Mirrors: I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone Mirrors are Adjusted!

Well, there you have it! Sure, it would be nice if your car mirrors were enchanted, but the fact is, they are like magic at making the world visible all around you as you drive. And who knows? Although they can’t talk, it’s almost certain that your car mirrors think you’re the fairest person in the land, so be nice to them and look into them often so they can see your beautiful/handsome face! Just remember, as magical as mirrors are, you may not always see what you want to, even with proper adjustment. Stay safe out there!

Police cars in your rear view mirror  Jurassic park side mirror
The simpsons rear view mirror