Rear-view mir­rors

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They give you eyes in the back of your head

Start by ad­just­ing the car’s or­di­nary rear-view mir­rors be­fore you hit the road, so that you can clearly see what’s hap­pen­ing be­hind you. (Don’t ad­just the mir­rors while driv­ing.) Ad­just all three rear-view mir­rors – the ones on the right and left side as well as the one in the mid­dle – so that you have the widest pos­si­ble view to the back and still limit the blind spots to a mim­i­mum. Ad­just the side mir­rors so that you can barely see the coach­work. If you can see quite a bit of the car­a­van (or your­self!) in the side mir­rors, they’re an­gled too far in­ward, creat­ing huge blind spots on both sides of your car. The en­tire rear win­dow must be vis­i­ble in the in­side rear-view mir­ror.

of driv­ing. Say, for ar­gu­ment’s sake, you’re tow­ing in the city for an hour, and in that time you have to look in your rearview mir­rors about 554 times – ac­cord­ing to the five-to-eight-se­conds prin­ci­ple.

Sup­pose this is a con­tin­u­ous trip with­out you hav­ing time to stop, and that it takes a sec­ond to look in the three rearview mir­rors each time. You will have spent al­most half an hour – a full 28 min­utes – on look­ing back!


With the mir­rors prop­erly ad­justed, you shouldn’t have much of a blind spot. A sim­ple test is to sit in your parked car and look in the rear view mir­rors while some­one walks around the car. Take note of when and where you can­not see him or her in the mir­rors. The two most prob­a­ble blind spots are on ei­ther side of the back of the car – right at the cor­ners and al­most ver­ti­cal to the sides. An ef­fec­tive way to get rid of th­ese spots is to fit some of those small blind-spot mir­rors onto the ex­ist­ing mir­rors. You can get them from any Mi­das store. In new cars, the blind-spot func­tion is of­ten in­cor­po­rated in the mir­rors.


By law, your car must be fit­ted with rear-view mir­rors that of­fer an un­ob­structed view of traf­fic be­hind you in “fair weather” con­di­tions. Fur­ther­more, legally, if what you are tow­ing is wider than your tow­ing ve­hi­cle, you must fit tow­ing mir­rors. Peo­ple are quite of­ten fined for trans­gres­sions in this re­gard.

If you cal­cu­late the av­er­age width of three sedans such as a Mercedes-benz C200, a Subaru Out­back and the pre­vi­ous model Volk­swa­gen Jetta, you’ll get to 1,79 m. The av­er­age width of three car­a­vans – the Jur­gens Exclusive, Sprite Splash and Gypsey Ro­many – is 2,22 m. You could there­fore justly say that the av­er­age sedan tow­ing ve­hi­cle is about 22 cm nar­rower than the av­er­age car­a­van. You will there­fore need to fit tow­ing mir­rors.

The av­er­age width of big­ger bakkies such as the older Toy­ota Hilux, Nis­san Navara and Ford Ranger is 1,95 m. Bush car­a­vans such as the Con­queror Com­man­der, Echo Ka­vango or Imag­ine Com­fort­line are about just as wide. Le­gal all the way. (How­ever, if th­ese bakkies tow a road car­a­van, tow­ing mir­rors are still re­quired.)

The gen­eral rule of thumb is: The big­ger your rear-view mir­rors in re­la­tion to the area that they cover, the bet­ter. A use­ful cal­cu­la­tion state that for ev­ery 3 m that your tow­ing com­bi­na­tion is long, your mir­ror should be 2,5 cm in di­am­e­ter. A 15 m com­bi­na­tion would there­fore re­quire a mir­ror di­am­e­ter of 12,5 cm.

If you use tow­ing mir­rors in ad­di­tion to your or­di­nary ex­ter­nal rear-view mir­rors, you will cer­tainly be able to see well enough be­hind you. And this in­cludes keep­ing an eye on the wheels of your car­a­van as well.


When you can re­v­erse your ve­hi­cle by re­ly­ing on the rear-view mir­rors only – with­out Mom hav­ing to im­per­son­ate a wind­mill be­hind your car­a­van – then you pass tow­ing on higher grade. Here are a few tips for those who don’t yet know the ropes:

First, do a recce. Be­fore you start to re­v­erse, first walk to the space into which you wish to re­v­erse so you can take note of any taps, holes or low branches.

Other right. When you re­v­erse, ev­ery­thing works the op­po­site way. If you turn the steer­ing from top cen­tre to the right, the back of the ve­hi­cle will turn to the right, but the car­a­van will go to the left.

It takes a while to get used to this and you will have to prac­tice it a few times on a quiet stretch of road be­fore you get the hang of it.

Let the car­a­van dis­ap­pear. An easy rule for re­vers­ing straight: If you can see your car­a­van in a side-mir­ror, turn the steer­ing in the di­rec­tion of that same mir­ror and the car­a­van will re­turn to a straight line.

Hand signs, please. If you re­v­erse with the help of an as­sis­tant, he should stand where you can clearly see him in the rearview mir­ror on a par­tic­u­lar side. It’s bet­ter for him to point in the di­rec­tion in which you must re­v­erse than shout­ing “left” or “right” from way back there. It can be con­fus­ing to fig­ure out whether you must turn right or re­v­erse to the right.


Mir­rors make things eas­ier, es­pe­cially when tow­ing, but never solely rely on what you can see in the mir­ror. Even though you may have made cer­tain that you have a clear view right around your ve­hi­cle combo, smaller ve­hi­cles such as mo­tor­bikes may lie hid­den out­side the scope of your mir­rors.

Glimpse briefly over your shoul­der just to make sure one last time. Re­mem­ber that the vi­sion in a mir­ror is two-di­men­sional. Look­ing back keeps you in check while aim­ing ahead.

In­ter­net sources: Wikipedia, Smart­mo­torist, How­stuff­works, Wik­i­how, Web­site-re­pair­guy.

If you can see a large sec­tion of your ve­hi­cle and car­a­van’s coach­work in your rearview mir­rors, the mir­rors have been an­gled too far in­ward and you’re go­ing to have large blind spots in your rear view.

Ad­just the rear-view mir­rors so that you can only just not see the coach­work of your ve­hi­cle – only the sides of the car­a­van. Any blind spots are now min­i­mal.

If your rear-view mir­rors are an­gled too far out­ward so that you can­not see any of the ve­hcile or car­a­van’s coach­work, the mir­rors are ad­justed too wide.

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