Out of all safety devices found on your LandCruiser, one of the most important ones is also one of the simplest – the side mirrors. Side mirrors were relatively rare on new vehicles back in the 30s, and the rearview mirror came one decade later than side mirrors. The story is that law enforcement objected to vehicles with mirrors since they allowed drivers to see them coming up behind them. Whether that’s really true or not is still up for debate, but one thing is for sure – in the 1920s, Elmer Berger, an inventor, sold aftermarket auto mirrors that he named Cop-Spotters.
Nowadays, your vehicle is required to have side and rearview mirrors by law. There are a couple of standards that your Toyota LandCruiser mirror needs to meet in order to be road-eligible, including how much it reflects and how far it sticks out. That being said, if you have a worn-down or damaged Toyota LandCruiser mirror or assembly, you need to look for a suitable replacement as soon as possible. Replacement mirrors won’t break your bank, and modern models can come with a wide range of features, including anti-glare, auto-dimming automatic adjustability, in-built heaters, etc.
Manual mirrors are still the most commonly used ones, and they’re adjusted by flipping a small lever at the bottom or back of the mirror. These mirrors are also known as prismatic mirrors, where the internal mirror glass is wedge-shaped and the top and mirrored surface at the back are thicker. When the mirror is positioned in the “day” position, you’ll be seeing objects off the mirrored surface. The plain glass will also reflect light, but very small amounts that you won’t notice. At night, when headlights behind you reflect off the mirror and cause distracting glares, flipping the lever slightly will change the angle, reflecting the headlights up and away from your eyes. The lights will still reflect off the plain glass, but they’ll be much dimmer.
Auto-dimming mirrors do the same thing as anti-glare mirrors but in a different manner. They take advantage of two pieces of glass that are coated with an electrically-conductive layer and are sandwiched together with a filling of electrochromic gel that turns dark when electricity is applied to it. These mirrors also generally come with two sensors – an ambient sensor that looks forward and checks the light level. If it’s dark enough, the sensor will signal the mirror’s control unit that dimming may be required. Then, there’s a glare sensor which points to the back and determines how much light is reaching the mirror. If there’s enough light to cause glare, the unit sends an electrical charge to the conductive material found on the glass, activating the electrochromic gel which will darken the mirror.
Many concept vehicles feature cameras instead of mirrors, and that’s definitely going to be the norm in the future. Honda’s LaneWatch system already gives you a camera view of the vehicle’s passenger side when you activate the turn signal, whereas General Motors have implemented a rearview mirror that can be used normally but also be switched to a digital display of what’s behind you for a wider view than a typical mirror would be able to provide.
In order to get a wider view without the aforementioned advanced and expensive technologies, many automakers place convex-shaped surfaces on the passenger-side mirrors. These curved mirrors reflect light so that you get to see more of what’s around you than you would with a flat glassed mirror. However, these mirrors also compress the image and make everything appear smaller and farther away, which is why they come with a warning that says “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”. But flat glass mirrors don’t work as well on the passenger side, simply because the angle from the driver’s point of view will show a small area alongside your vehicle. Flat glass works fine on the driver’s side, as the mirror is closer and the angle is appropriate. However, some manufacturers add a small convex piece to give you a slightly wider range of view.
Regardless, your mirrors will work optimally only if they’re adjusted properly. The rearview mirror should provide you with a full view of the back, and it should be angled to give you vision between the pillars on both sides of the rear window. Side mirrors should give you vision along both sides of your vehicle, and you shouldn’t be seeing any part of the vehicle itself when you’re sitting straight in the driver’s seat. Cracked or broken mirrors should be replaced immediately, otherwise you’re putting everyone you share the road with at risk, and you make yourself liable to hefty fines that can easily be avoided.