New side-view mirrors – A comparison and review

When I first started this blog, I never really intended to specifically review products or companies with which I deal. For the most part, I simply wished to report how I completed my projects and provide information about the parts I used and why, with no expectation of people following my path beyond gaining some insight or additional information for their own use. Buying parts is a personal endeavor in which some favor low cost over quality (which I did in my early VW days because of budget constraints) and others endure horrendous costumer service because of vendor reputation for very high-end parts. That does not even take into consideration that climate, varying degrees of care and maintenance, quality of installation, and many other factors come into play with overall satisfaction and success.

My perspective on writing product reviews changed a few months ago after a request for a such a review landed on my blog’s doorstep. In mulling the situation over and conferring with a few people whose opinions I respect, I realized that with some project posts I indicated the specific product used and occasionally the vendor with which I dealt. In addition, the vendor links included here (for the purpose of helping those not familiar with such businesses) reflect the companies I have had good results with in terms of finding parts (although not necessarily great prices or customer service).  Yet in other posts, I neglected to reveal such information, which in hindsight might lessen the value of those posts. To rectify what I view as a discrepancy, I decided to be more uniform in the information I provide, at least in the sense of brands, vendors, and standards I use for parts, with a goal of openly stating facts (good, bad, or otherwise) while trying to avoid the cheerleader/naysayer role – and that includes full disclosure of any official request received from vendors. I do want to emphasize that I have no horse in any vendor/parts race, and simply want to report what I discovered based on research and experience.

With that in mind, I begin my first official product review requested by VW Heritage, a parts company based in the U.K.. When asked to review one of their products, I immediately thought of Moby’s inexpensive, low-quality, modern reproduction side-view mirrors. While they look great, these mirrors fail to maintain alignment despite the many attempts to fix them. The most annoying characteristic is their tendency to move every time the door is shut forcing a very patient Martha to constantly adjust the passenger mirror after she gets in the bus.  In researching original style side-view mirrors over the years, I found most people recommend original/NOS and, somewhat less often, vintage aftermarket side-view mirrors  These same folks strongly warn against buying modern reproductions (mostly for the same issues mentioned above).

In my searches, I found many originals for sale, although most were not in great shape, and I kept thinking I would buy some at a swap meet where I could inspect them in person and not rely solely on pictures.  NOS (New Old Stock, i.e. never used originals) are very expensive and are perfect for the show queen bus, but I drive mine and these mirrors get whacked a lot by insects, road debris, and the occasional camper stumbling around at night. In terms of modern reproductions, I discovered several levels of pricing: low ($15-$20), moderate ($30-$40), and a top-end (around $50), depending on vendor. Yet without backing from the VW community, I balked at going for the top-end mirrors (lest I risk $100 for the same nuisance I currently endure) and regarded the rest as junk.

With an example of an OG mirror and low-end reproductions on site, I asked VW Heritage if they would be willing to let me compare their best quality side-view mirror with the former. They agreed and sent me the following items: right bay bus mirror, left bay bus mirror, and mirror to door seals. In the following images, I intend to reveal the differences between an original mirror, the high-end reproductions, and Moby’s pieces of &^% for mirrors. If you want to skip the picture show, you can find my conclusions at the end of the post.  I also included the steps I used during installation in the series of photos.

The high-end reproductions mirrors (described a best quality by VW Heritage) are made by Wolfsburg West as indicated by the sticker here and same emblem on the webpage linked to in the above text. Delivery time was extremely fast given the ocean between VW Heritage and myself.

The high-end reproduction mirrors (described as best quality by VW Heritage) are made by Wolfsburg West as indicated by the sticker seen here.  The same emblem is found on the VW Heritage webpage linked in the above text. The people at VW Heritage were very pleasant to work with, and delivery time was extremely fast given the ocean between them and myself.

Each mirror was wrapped in plastic and traveled well.

Each mirror was wrapped in plastic and traveled well.

Each mirror is held within a stainless steel head. The arms are chrome plated.

The mirror consists of a stainless steel head and chrome plated arms while a light-grey rubber gasket forms a seal around the glass.

The mirror to seals come from West Coast Metric and are of excellent quality.

The mirror to door seals are manufactured by West Coast Metric and are made of a stiff yet flexible rubber (rubberized?) material of excellent quality.  These seals are essential for successful installations.

The old seals (bottom in photo) are made of inflexible plastic. Upon receipt of the new rubber seals (top in photo), I might suspect some of the problem with the old mirrors lay with the low-grade seals. Changing seals however, would not have solved all the problems.

The old seals (bottom in photo) are made of inflexible plastic. Upon receipt of the new rubber seals (top in this photo), I began to suspect some of the problems with the old mirrors tending to rotate on the the door lay with the inability of the low-grade plastic seals to grip either the door or mirror retaining nut. Changing seals however, would not have solved all the problems with those mirrors.

All three mirrors - front view. Original (A) on left, good repro (B) on right, and Moby's repro (C) center top. Glass quality is about the same in all versions. Surprisingly Moby's cheap repro was the heaviest of the three with the new repro the lightest in weight.

All three mirrors – front view. Original (A) left, good reproduction from VW Heritage (B) right, and Moby’s repro (C) center top. Glass quality is about the same in all versions but only A and B have the seal around the glass (though it dried up and broke away from A. Surprisingly Moby’s cheap reproduction was the heaviest of the three with the new repro the lightest in weight.

All three mirrors - back view. Original (A) on left, good repro (B) on right, and Moby's repro (C) center top. Although difficult to see here, the new repo stainless steel head is not as shiny as the OG or Moby's repro heads. However, I think this is something one would only notice during a direct comparison like this.

All three mirrors – back view. Original (A) left, good VW Heritage reproduction (B) right, and Moby’s repro (C) center top. Although difficult to see here, the new repro stainless steel head is not as shiny as the OG or Moby’s reproduction heads. However, I think this is something one would only notice during a direct comparison.  The stainless steel head also retains fingerprints and, therefore, smudges easily (this same characteristic occurs with most stainless kitchen appliances I’ve seen).

The nut that holds the mirror on the door for the new repro (B) and OG (A). The are about the same hieght and both are higher than Moby's repro mirror (for some reason, I did not take photos of Moby's mirror nut).

The retaining nut that holds the mirror on the door for the new reproduction (B) and OG (A). They are about the same height and both are taller than Moby’s repro nut (I forgot to take photos of that one).

While they are the same height, the new repo mirror nut has a slightly smaller outer diameter. I have no found any issues with this tiny difference however.

While they are the same height, the new repro mirror retaining nut (A) has a slightly smaller outer diameter. I have not found any issues with this tiny difference however.

Thread count and length of threaded anchor is the same between the new repro and og mirror arms.

Thread count and length of threaded anchor is the same between the new repro (B) and OG (A) mirror arms.

Moby's repro (C) is signifcantly shorter than the new repro and og mirror anchors.

Moby’s reproduction anchor (C) is significantly shorter than the new repro (B) and original mirror anchors.

The new repro has the same ball type socket with raise joint as the original. The type of joint is critical for fine adjustments after the mirror is installed. The joint is nice and tight in these mirrors, meaning there is no slop and mirrors stay in position.

The new repro has the same ball type socket with raised joint as the original mirror. This type of joint is critical for fine adjustments after the mirror is installed. The joint is nice and tight in these reproduction mirrors, meaning there is no slop and the head stays in position.

OG mirror joint.

OG mirror joint.

Moby's repro mirrors do not have the ball-type joint and lack the ability for find adjustments. This is a huge negative in my opinion and made adjusting these mirrors challenging.

Moby’s repro mirrors do not have the ball type socket and lack the flexibility for fine adjustments. This is a huge negative in my opinion and made adjusting these mirrors challenging because they had to be perfectly aligned during installation.  When they got out of alignment, the retaining nut usually needed to be tightened again after adjusting the mirrors (very difficult to do when a gust of wind or bump moved a mirror while driving).

When compared to OG, they new repros are the same lenght (left-right in photo) but are slightly wider top to bottom (see top in photo). I'm not going to complain about more mirror area, especially in width and it increase the range of view to the sides.

When compared to originals, the new reproduction mirror heads (C) are the same length (left-right in photo) but are slightly wider top to bottom (top to bottom in photo). The difference is noted by the rubber gasket peeking from around A at the top (under green arrow).  I’m not going to complain about more mirror area, especially in width as it increases the range of view to the sides.

When compared to Moby's repro, the new repros are clearly larger all the way around with the old fitting inside the mirror head of the new.

When compared to Moby’s repro (C), the new reproductions are clearly larger all the way around as the old easily fits inside the mirror head of the new. (Glove is used to keep those pesky fingerprints off the stainless steel for photos)

Installation of all three is the same, but with some minor exceptions for the og and new repo mirrors. Although they did not come with instructions, VW Heritage makes a note on their webpage about installation. The tension on the mirror arm is set at the manufacturer and damage can occur if over tighten during installation. They suggest making marks (I used a Sharpie marker) on the arm and nut for reference. I will state that one of my mirrors came with a loose arm which I tightened by comparing with the second mirror.

Installation of all three is the same, but with a minor exception for the VW Heritage mirrors. Although they did not come with instructions, VW Heritage makes a note on their webpage about installation. The tension on the mirror arm is set at the manufacturer and damage may occur if the cap nut is over tightened during installation. They suggest making marks (I used a Sharpie marker) on the arm and nut for reference. I will state that one of my mirrors came with a loose cap nut which I tightened by comparing with the second mirror.  Seems these are set at a strong finger-tight tension, no wrenches needed.

Before attaching the mirror to the door, loose the cap nut just enough to be able to move the arm into the correct orientation. Note my mark is visible on the arm, but the nuts has turned. It may help to keep track of how many turns it took to loosen the nut - mine turned 3 times.

Before attaching the mirror to the door, loosen the cap nut just enough to allow the arm to move within the anchor. Note my mark is visible on the arm, but the nut has turned. It may help to keep track of how many turns it took to loosen the nut – mine turned 3 times.

Secure the mirror to door seal over the threads (it is a tight fit!).

Secure the mirror to door seal over the threads.  It is a tight fit and I found that placing the seal at an angle to the threads and the screwing the seal on worked best.

With the securing nut slightly loose, start threading the arm anchor into the door.

With the retaining nut slightly loose (about one turn), start threading the arm anchor into the door.

Screw the arm in until it is snug, but not tight and the arm is vertical.

Screw the arm in until it is as snug as possible and the arm is vertical. DON’T screw the anchor in until it is tight!!  The retaining nut is what will hold the mirror in place.

Keeping the arm vertical, tighten the retaining nut until finger tight and the mirror held in place. Get the the but and adjust the mirror in the rough viewing position - it doesn't have to be perfect, just close.

Keeping the arm vertical, tighten the retaining nut until finger tight so as to hold the mirror in place but allow some movement when pushed or pulled. Now is the time for rough adjustments; get into the the bus and adjust the mirror to your preferred view – it doesn’t have to be perfect, just close.  Don’t use the ball joint on the back of the mirror head for adjustments at this point and don’t worry about horizontal adjustments.  Concentrate on vertical modifications related to the arm (in other words, you’ll push the mirror towards the front of the bus or pull it back towards the rear).  I used a ladder placed to the side of the bus about where I expect cars to leave my rear view mirror as they pass as a viewing target.

Tighten the retaining nut. Don't go crazy, a good snug nut is all you need (this wrench I used is overkill).

Tighten the retaining nut. Don’t go crazy, a good snug nut is all you need (the wrench in the photo is overkill).

Check the rough view in the mirror again and when happy, tighten the arm cap nut until the marks align again.

Check the rough view in the mirror again and now make those horizontal adjustments.  Rotate the arm towards or away from the door to get the appropriate view of your target.  When satisfied, tighten the arm cap nut until the marks align and then wipe off the marks.

Try to move the mirror around and if the arm and anchor stay put, you are done and ready for the next side.

With everything tight, try to move the mirror around and if the arm and anchor stay put, you are done and ready for the next side.

Front view.

Front view.

Once installed get back in the bus and do the fine adjustments rotating the mirror on the ball-type joint. Word of advice on blind spots.....

Once both are installed get back in the bus and do the fine adjustments by rotating the mirror head on the ball joint. For those who think blind spots are inherent to stock mirrors, here is a tip (you’ll need a helper carrying something about as long as an average car):  For the driver side mirror, lean towards the left, front door so your head is close to where window would be if rolled up.  Adjust the mirror so you can just see a bit of the side of the bus in the reflection.  Now, sit as if driving, and have your helper walk past the bus from rear to front while holding the car-length object as if they were a passing car.  You should be able to see the front of the car-length object pass into the side-view mirror just before the back end of the object leaves the rearview mirror.  In other words, you should see the front of a passing car show up in the side-view mirror just before the back of the car leaves the rearview mirror.  For the passenger side, lean towards the passenger seat so your head is aboutaq quarter of the way between the front seats (or about the same distance to the right as you leaned left when doing the driver side).  Adjust the side-view mirror so the passenger side of the bus is just visible in the reflection. Now have your helper repeat their “drive” past the bus on the passenger side. Using this technique in all my cars ensured I never received a surprise by a passing car.

Passenger side.

Passenger side.

Conclusions:  Installation of the VW Heritage reproduction side-view mirrors is pretty simple and is equivalent to the originals.  Moby’s low-grade reproduction mirrors are much more complicated to install because getting the correct orientation of the head must occur before the retaining nut is tightened.  These low-end mirrors are a just an all around pain.

After installation, I put the high-end reproductions through a battery of tests to find how they hold mirror alignment.  The tests included opening and closing the doors a dozen times or so, trying to move arms by hand, and buffeting the mirrors with a pillow to imitate pedestrian interference.  Moby’s low-grade reproductions could never pass such tests as they could not even handle a door closing once without losing adjustment.  The originals on my old buses never had any issues and stayed true unless severely bumped.  The high-grade reproductions from VW Heritage handled the tests like OG mirrors and only lost alignment when hit forcefully (and even then, only moving at the ball joint between mirror head and arm making them easy to readjust).

In terms of longevity of finish, it is difficult to make an evaluation as the most important factor here is time of exposure to the elements.  I have only owned the high-end mirrors for a few weeks and they have yet to be exposed to anything but sunshine.  Moby also lives in a garage which also limits exposure and there are many other factors that will affect the metal finish  However, I will say that original mirrors are 40+ years old and, if taken care of, have held up extremely well (with the exception of the rubber seal around the glass).  Even originals with a good amount of oxidation usually polish up quite nicely.  Moby’s low-end reproductions still look brand new after five years, which, to be honest, surprised me a little bit.  They did receive regular cleaning along with staying in a dry garage.  I expect the new high-end reproductions will also stand up well.  Since the heads are corrosion resistant stainless steel, the biggest question for me is the quality of chrome plating on the arms.  As time passes, I will be sure to update this post with any new information on finish durability for these high-end mirrors.

My final thoughts:  Honestly, I am very happy with the mirrors from VW Heritage and must admit that the results were unexpected given everything I read about reproduction mirrors.  They are vastly superior to the low-end side-view mirrors that came with Moby, so much so I would not recommend the low-grade at all (well, except the pair I have for sale – any takers?).  When it comes to ease of installation and maintaining alignment, these high-end mirrors are on par with originals.  The miles logged in the future will better test this equivalency of course, but if a bus out there in the world requires new side-view mirrors, the VW Heritage reproductions are an excellent choice.

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2 thoughts on “New side-view mirrors – A comparison and review

  1. When I had to buy a new set for Taiga Lily in 2010, I first bought medium cheap ones, and realized when they arrived that they came without the seal between mirror surface and outer metal case, so exactly as your current cheap ones. sent those back and bought a better version which came with that seal and with a stainless steel outer shell, very much like your good reproduction ones. I believe they were 40 Euro each and came via a German distributer. 4 years later I am still very happy with those. Good idea to post details on the maker and distrubuter. Forgot to do that in my 2010 post. Will look this up when I will be back in Berlin, in January. The stainless steel surface is also slightly less shiny then the chrome version in my case, but looks still very good, and there will (hopefully) never be a problem again with corrosion, as was the case with the old original chrom-coated ones I had before.

    • That’s great info to add. I wondered how the middle of the road compared and now we know. If someone is going repro mirrors instead of originals, go for the best! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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