Side View Mirrors: Vanagon

When the Vanagon first appeared in 1980, it sported a black plastic-housed side view mirror about one and a half times larger than the mirror on the model it replaced, the VW Bus. It was a non-power mirror, and the one on the passenger side was convex for a better wide-angle view. From day one, the trouble with the design was that the mirrors tended to blow around in a stiff wind. This is a real bummer, especially regarding the passenger side mirror. The Vanagon is really too wide a vehicle to easily reach across to the passenger side, open the window and adjust the mirror. At least, not with a cup of coffee in one hand, at 70 MPH… okay, maybe only 63MPH. So most people just let the damn thing blow over and give up. Check out our article specifically on these non-powered mirrors for details on what the problems are, and what solutions we have come up with.

You will notice that the right lower side of the body on every other Vanagon you come across has been scraped by a low object. Vanagons turn on a dime, which is one of their most redeeming features. It is pretty easy to not see a low object on the right side when turning sharply. So with no useful mirror at all on the right side, well, forget about it…

For the 1985 year model, VW introduced a newly designed side view mirror as an option. The design differed physically in that the mirror housing was about one and a half times bigger, was much more aerodynamic, was much more securely locked in place by a spring loaded pivot system with deep indents, and fastened to the door with three screws instead of only two. Instead of the entire mirror housing having to be moved to adjust the angle, only the glass within moved. This alone would have been just dandy, problem solved. But on top of that, these mirrors were also powered. Power mirrors were not standard on any year of the Vanagon camper. Contrary to popular belief, the GL and Wolfsburg models did not come with power mirrors as standard equipment; they had to be ordered with them.

The power mirrors were a great improvement: larger, which is better, and they stayed put. The problem of them blowing out of adjustment was solved. Bolting a set of power mirrors onto a Vanagon not originally equipped with them is very easy. Two of the three screws (the top two) are in the same spot as with the non-power mirror. So, all that is required is adding one more screw from the side, and viola! No more blowing around in the wind, and larger, more aerodynamic mirrors. I often wonder why VW did not offer the same damn mirror, but without power. It would not have cost much more than the crappy non-power mirror they offered. The fact that they are power-operated is just icing on the cake, and really unnecessary. Most folks are happy with just bolting on a set of power mirrors, and do not care whether or not they are powered, which is a good thing. Adding the power feature is another story. It requires three harnesses, and a switch, which is just not worth it…


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