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Doing it yourself

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, short

A few months ago [1], I managed to break the passenger side-view mirror on my minivan. While backing into the garage late at night, I misjudged the right side and hit the tip of the mirror on the side of the garage. In most cases in which that happens, the mirror simply snaps backward. But I hit it just right, and the case shattered and the mirror broke [2]. It was still usable, but not a solid piece any more.

My experience with our local body shop is that side-view mirrors cost an unreasonable amount to fix [3]. So I looked on the InterWeb. It looked comparatively straightforward to replace a side-view mirror. And aftermarket side-view mirrors are comparatively cheap. So I ordered one.

But then things got busy [4]. And I worried about what would happen when the process didn’t go as smoothly as it looked. While I had complete faith that I could unscrew the mirror from the outside, I had less faith about opening up the inside of the minivan to connect the wiring harness. So I didn’t want to try anything without a four-hour free period. Those were and are hard for me to find.

And so I’ve had a usable but ugly side-view mirror for way too long. It’s caused some problems. For example, the rest of my family was not happy driving with a broken side-view mirror. Once or twice, the duct tape stopped holding the mirror together and it would flap on the side of the car until I pulled over and re-taped it.

Michelle finally convinced me that it was time to either fix it or bring it in for repairs. After my experience with the ceiling fan, I should have decided to bring it in for repairs. But, well, I’m an eternal optimist. So I convinced middle son to help. We watched a helpful video and then we got started.

Taking the mirror off was as easy as they suggested. All I needed to do was pop off a plastic cover and then unscrew three screws with fun tips. I was happy to be to find that I actually had all of the tools I needed, including a fairly strange six-pointed screwdriver tip.

On the other hand, the interior work was not quite as presented. The video suggested that you can just pop off some interior trim. We discovered that there was a handle whose screws also held the trim in place. It wasn’t hard to unscrew them, but it made us worry about the other steps. However, we were pleasantly surprised to realize that it was actually easier to reach the wiring harness than we expected. By popping off a piece of trim on the driver’s side, we were able to pull off the dashboard and easily reach the harness. Michelle was amused to see the dash sitting on the lawn [5].

Putting everything back together wasn’t trivial, but it was straightforward. As the video suggested, the foam was thicker in the new mirror than the old, which made it a little harder to screw in [6]. In the end, we got the mirror in place in under an hour. It’s nice to know that there are things I can do myself, at least with the help of my family.

Postscript: Michelle tells me that she was expecting more failures, throwing of tools, and swearing. Sorry, Micki!

[1] To be honest, a few months ago is a bit of an understatement. It was probably last fall. It may have even been last summer.

[2] I don’t want to think about the seven years of bad luck.

[3] $600 or so, if I recall correctly.

[4] Long-time readers may recall that I was teaching 4.5 courses in the fall.

[5] She’d pulled up a chair; I think she was looking forward to more amusing things than that.

[6] As the video suggested, the housing on the mirror is shinier than the nearby exterior trim.

Version 1.0 released 2018-08-05.

Version 1.0.1 of 2018-08-17.