The Basics: How to adjust car mirrors for maximum visibility

The Basics: How to adjust car mirrors for maximum visibility


Whether you’re a learner driver and want to brush up on your knowledge, or awaiting driving lessons and want to get ahead, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about adjusting your car mirrors. 

At Bill Plant Driving School, we help thousands of people to learn to drive every year. The basics are where we all start. So in this series, we’re covering everything your instructor will teach you in your first few driving lessons. 

In this guide, we’re going to focus on how to adjust your car mirrors to allow for maximum visibility. But first of all, you need to make sure you’ve set up your car seat and arranged your steering wheel into a suitable position. Once this is completed, you’re ready to adjust your car mirrors.

Having properly adjusted mirrors for your height and seating position is paramount for your and your passenger’s safety. Every time you change your seating position, you will need to readjust your mirrors to ensure you have maximum visibility of everything that is going on around you. 

Adjusting your car mirrors is part of the cockpit drill, and your driving instructor will teach you how to do this during one of your first driving lessons. 

Adjust the rear-view mirror

The rear-view mirror is mounted onto the upper part of the windscreen, and is there to give you a clear view of what’s happening behind you. 

  • Make sure you’re sitting in your normal driving position, as leaning to adjust the mirror won’t provide you with the best visibility of the road behind you. 
  • Adjust the mirror until you can see the entire rear window with a minimal amount of the interior of the car. 
  • Try not to touch the glass when adjusting your mirror as this can leave fingerprints and hinder your view of the road behind you. 

Adjust the side mirrors

Side mirrors, also known as wing mirrors, are placed on the exterior of the vehicle. These are curved mirrors that provide a wide viewing angle of each side of your vehicle. 

Depending on the make and age of your vehicle, there are two different types of controls for adjusting your side mirrors. 

  • Electric controls – Most modern cars have electric controls, which allow you to adjust your car’s side mirrors with simple buttons.
  • Manual controls – Older vehicles often come with a joystick or lever that you manually control, or you may have to physically move the mirrors themselves. 

Right side mirror

  • When adjusting the right side mirror, you should sit in the driver’s seat in a suitable driving position. 
  • You want to adjust your mirror so that you can only see a small section of the car, but have a clear view of the road and traffic behind you. 
  • For the mirror angle, the horizon should be in the centre. The horizon is the further point that you can see, where the distant road disappears. 
  • Adjusting your right side mirror to the correct position is crucial, as you rely on this mirror particularly for moving off, overtaking and joining dual-carriageways or motorways. 

Left side mirror

  • Make sure you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, in the correct driving position. If you have manual mirror controls, it may be trickier to adjust the left side mirror. Try moving the mirror a little at a time until you get the correct position, or you can always ask the person sitting in the passenger seat to help you. 
  • As with the right side mirror, you want to adjust the left side mirror until you see just part of the car, and a good view of the road behind you. 
  • The difference with the left mirror is that you want it angled slightly lower. This will give you a better view of the curbkerb when pulling over or making a manoeuvre. 
  • Make sure your mirror is at a height that you can still see the end of the road behind you. 

What is a blind spot?

Blind spots are the areas around your car that aren’t visible through your windscreen or car mirrors. Depending on your vehicle, you may have a smaller or larger blind spot. 

It is important that you don’t solely rely on your mirrors when driving. When completing manoeuvres, changing lanes or turning, you should always look over your shoulder to check if it is safeit safe to do so.

What else do you need to consider when adjusting your car mirrors?

  • If at any point when driving, you decide your mirrors have not been adjusted correctly, make sure to pull over in a safe and legal position before properly adjusting them. You must not adjust your car mirror whilst driving, as this can compromise safety. 
  • If you’re driving somebody else’s car, it is important that you properly adjust the mirrors to suit you as the driver, even if you’re driving for just a short distance. 
  • You should check your mirrors are adjusted to the correct position every time you set off to drive or change your seating position. Doing this will ensure that you have a clear view of the road around you.

Bill Plant Driving School helps you with the basics

Here at Bill Plant Driving School, we help thousands of people of a variety of ages to learn how to drive. Whether you’re hoping to learn in a manual or automatic car, our instructors are here to take the stress away from that first lesson. 

Your driving instructor will teach you everything you need to know, including how to start a car, move off and stop, and what gears are and when to change them.