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Wing Mirror Position + Usage

This article was originally published in 2011, but it has been popular recently so I have updated it.

Someone found the blog on the search term adi how to check wing mirror position. A bit of a strange
question if it was from an ADI, but for pupils it is often a problem certainly to start with.
The wing mirrors
should be adjusted
to give the
maximum view
behind without
creating blind spots.
My own lesson
plans use the image
shown on here
however, this is not
intended to provide
millimetre-perfect guides for where to put the mirrors!
The bottom line is that you arent interested seeing birds and aeroplanes, or road kill. You want to see
as much as possible of what is happening behind you and to your sides. You dont want to be looking at
half of your own car. It isnt rocket science.
I currently teach in a Ford Focus and Ive found that a good position position for the wing mirrors from
the pupils position in the driving seat is when they can just see the tip of the front door handle in the
extreme bottom right of the nearside mirror, and the extreme bottom left of the offside mirror.
Anywhere near that position is fine it doesnt have to be measured with a ruler! Obviously, if youre
an ADI using a different car, you set the mirrors yourself and then look for a reference you can explain
to your pupils when they have to do it.
One point I do stress to my learners is that if they plan on using the mirrors for any reversing
manoeuvres, it makes sense to adjust them consistently each time they get ion the car (during their
cockpit drill). If they dont, what they see can vary and early on that can be a problem.
An ADI needs to have their own reference positions from the passenger seat so they know if the pupil is
doing things properly. These references are just based on instinct, because with the mirror position
you have to remember that all pupils are different some sit 4 feet behind the steering wheel because
theyre 6 7 tall, whereas others sit only a few centimetres away because theyre 4 10! You just get a
feel for it over time.

I remember one occasion when one of mine had driven to a location for a manoeuvre. Just before we
started I casually glanced at her offside mirror and something struck me as being odd. I couldnt
immediately pinpoint it, but then it hit me: I could see the side of the car in it from the passenger seat.
When I tested the position later I confirmed that she would have been unable to see anything but the
side of the car and quite probably just her own reflection!
Lord knows what she was thinking, or better still what she thought she was seeing. Shed been through
her cockpit drill and insisted everything was OK. She was religiously doing the MSM routine
throughout the lesson, but was obviously seeing nothing at all. It just goes to show what you have to
look out for.
What is the correct position for my mirrors?
You want to see as much as possible of whats going on behind you and to your side, and not leave any
unnecessary blind spots.
You can see from
the diagram that
there is overlap of
the mirrors
coverage behind the
car but you dont
want this overlap so
far behind that you
have huge blind
spots that could
conceal things, nor
do you want to
increase the blind
spot area to your
left and right (i.e
where the red car
is).
There is no
advantage to being
able to see the birds and aeroplanes anymore than there is to being able to check out the squashed
hedgehogs. And it goes without saying that the interior mirror is not for checking your hair and makeup.
How you achieve the correct mirror setting is really up to you, but it makes sense to have a consistent

position so that you can see the same space around the car whenever you go out. If the mirrors are too
high then you wont see the lines when youre reversing into bays, for example, but too low means you
cant see behind you properly when youre driving, particularly when the road isnt level and youre
going up and down hills.
On my Ford Focus, I get them to use the door handles as a reference position for the wing mirrors, as
explained above. For the inside mirror they want to see all of the back window with a slight bias
towards their left ear. But remember, this is just a very general guideline that I use it isnt written
down anywhere that you have to use it.
How much of the car should I see in the passenger mirror?
Almost none of it just the same as with the one on your side.
Although there is no cardinal rule that says they have to be set in a precise way, common sense dictates
that the mirrors are there so that you can see whats going on around you not so you can stare at the
side of your car. Therefore, you want to adjust them so that you cant see much of the car at all, and not
too much sky or road.
Can I re-adjust my mirrors for particular manoeuvres?
Yes. My personal opinion is that you should avoid doing it when it isnt really necessary you dont
need to do it for reversing around a corner, for example, although I know some instructors teach
methods where you do. My own pupils only adjust it for the parallel park, and thats because I have a
method which accurately positions the car relative to the kerb. For normal observations, they dont
really need to be moved.
Can I re-adjust my mirrors if Im on my Part 2 (driving instructor) test?
Yes. Same caveat as above, though.
Can I ask the examiner to adjust my mirror for me?
If you only have manually-adjustable mirrors, yes. The examiner will not refuse this request. The
examiners SOP (DT1) says:
The candidate may ask the examiner to assist in adjusting the nearside door mirror before a
manoeuvre. The examiner should not refuse this simple request, and assist the candidate as
appropriate. The candidate should not have to lean across the examiner to adjust the
mirror.
Would I fail if I touched (clipped) someones wing mirror?
If you mean clipping it with your wing mirror (or any other part of your car), almost certainly, yes!

You could fail just for being too close to someones wing mirror, so clipping it would be even worse.
Like most things you can never be 100% certain that it would result in a fail there might be
extenuating circumstances but in all normal cases it would mean that you were passing too closely,
and that has its own box on the DL25 Marking Sheet. Youd get a serious or a dangerous fault for it
depending on the actual situation.
I clipped someones mirror. Does it make me a bad driver?
Only if you keep doing it. Most people have done it at one time or another, but they learn from their
mistakes.
If you actually break someones mirror, my advice is to let them know.
Who are you to tell people how to set their mirrors?
Yes, that question has been asked in those aggressive terms on more than one occasion. I also
remember seeing a moronic comment from an alleged driving instructor on a forum demanding who
are you to tell people how to set their mirrors in response to another ADI criticising how a newlyacquired pupil had allegedly been told to do it by their previous instructor. This kind of tit-for-tat
rubbish is common in this industry, Im afraid.
The short answer is that if someone hasnt done it before, they need guidance on the best way from
someone who knows. If your instructor isnt helping you with stuff like this it is probably because he or
she doesnt know how to deal with your problem, and you might want to begin considering what else
they might not know.
What am I checking for when I use the mirrors?
Anything or anyone that you might hit or inconvenience if you move off. And the mirrors are only part
of it you also need to check your blind spots, which are not covered by the mirrors.
How should I use the mirrors?
Generally, at least in pairs. Use your own common sense.
For example, if youre parked on the left hand side of the road and want to move off, you would
typically check your inside mirror, offside (right hand, or wing) mirror, and right shoulder blind spot to
get the maximum amount of information about what is coming up behind you. However, if you were
parked on the right hand side of the road then youd check your inside and nearside (left hand, or
wing) mirrors, and your left shoulder blind spot.
In either of the above examples, if youd seen pedestrians, children, people getting into cars in
driveways, or anything else that could be relevant, then you may well decide to check your other mirror

and blind spot as well.


Do I need to check them in any particular order?
Not really, but checking the inside, wing, and blind spot in that order makes the most sense in most
cases. If a car is coming up from behind on a straight road it will initially be visible in the inside mirror.
As it gets closer it will appear in both the inside and offside mirrors, then move to only the offside
mirror. Finally, it will only be visible in your blind spot until it passes you.
However, if you know there is a hazard of some sort behind you cyclists or pedestrians, for example
look in the mirror most likely to tell you where it is and what its doing.
Remember that it is your responsibility to check properly, so use the appropriate mirrors, check the
appropriate blind spots, and even turn around and physically look in the appropriate direction if
necessary. In extreme cases it may even be prudent to stop and get out of the car. For example, what if
you see a small child on a bike, or even a dog, which then disappears from view as youre about to move
off? Where are they? This is especially relevant if you are doing a reversing manoeuvre of some sort.
I failed my test for observation when moving off, but I did look over my shoulder
The examiner is watching you to make sure you take effective observations before moving off (and
in other circumstances). Looking isnt enough. You have to actually see, too. Thats what is meant by
effective.
Think about it. Looking in two mirrors and over your shoulder involves three head movements, but you
could do this with your eyes closed and not see anything at all. The problem is that when people dont
appreciate why theyre looking or what theyre looking for, they wont do it properly. In that case they
may as well have their eyes shut for all the good their checks do.
I have lost count of the times my pupils have looked all round on lessons and not seen the car or lorry
coming straight towards them. The chances are that something similar to this is what happened on
your test. Or perhaps the examiner wasnt happy that youd have seen something if it was coming
(even if it wasnt on your test) because you didnt look properly.

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