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What is a Wing Mirror?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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A wing mirror, also commonly called a door mirror or side view mirror, is an outside mirror that is mounted near the front edge of an automobile's front doors. Prior to the early 1970s, automobile front doors typically had small windows that could open separately from the main window glass. These small windows were called wing windows, which prompted the outside mirror mounted near them to be dubbed a wing mirror. The main purpose of the wing mirror is to eliminate the blind spot adjacent the driver's rear quarter of the vehicle. In an effort to aid vision even more, many vehicle owners install a small convex spot mirror on the edge of the wing mirror.

In most areas, the inclusion of a driver's side wing mirror is mandatory on every vehicle; however, the added vision provided by this outside mirror has led to the mounting of a mirror on both sides of most vehicles. On many vehicles, the wing mirror is power-controlled. The controls for the mirror are typically located on the driver's door arm rest. For vehicles with a passenger-side power wing mirror, the controls are often located low in the center of the dashboard. Many vehicles with a power driver's side outside mirror, however, continue to feature a manually-operated passenger side outside door mirror.

The effectiveness of the wing mirror on the automobile led to the inclusion of a rear-view mirror-mounted outside of many fighter airplanes in World War II. By mounting a mirror on the outside of the fuselage, fighter pilots could see pursuing enemy aircraft and attempt to dodge their machine gun fire. Without the aid of a side mirror, a pilot could only maneuver by closely watching the enemy's tracer rounds as they missed their mark. If the enemy did not miss, the pilot had no real method of avoiding further damage other than instinct.

Motorcycles use a very close version of the wing mirror mounted on the outside of the handlebars. Due to the center positioning of the motorcycle rider, only a mirror mounted high and to the outside of a rider's shoulder line can afford rear vision with a clear picture of rear traffic. Racing vehicles also use a derivative of the mirror by mounting a convex mirror inside of the roof and door line on a roll bar. This allows the driver to monitor the following traffic without creating the drag produced from an outside-mounted mirror.

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Discussion Comments
By John57 — On May 20, 2011

Not only are wing mirrors for cars helpful, but they are really needed if you ride a motorcycle. They are indispensable when you are on your bike and have so many things that you need to be constantly aware of.

Having a clear, unobstructed view of the traffic around you at all times helps make you a better driver. When you are on a motorcycle, or any vehicle, it is not worth taking any chances.

By sunshined — On May 17, 2011

It is hard to imagine driving a vehicle today without wing mirrors on both sides. I use my side mirrors all the time and would be lost without them. Once when my car was parked at a restaurant, somebody got too close and broke one of my mirrors off. It seemed to take forever before my replacement wing mirror arrived.

I felt so much safer driving when I had both mirrors instead of constantly turning my head. When I was learning to drive, my Dad always told me to 'use my mirrors'. Now I understand the importance of that advice.

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