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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Towing Mirrors: Improve Your Visibility

Any licensed driver is bound to be familiar with the use of mirrors while driving. All vehicles, commercial and recreational, must be outfitted with a number of mirrors - as prescribed by law - in order to provide the best level of visibility to the driver.

This is because the value of attention, paired with optimum visibility, helps to mitigate the risks of the road. Concepts like the “blind spot,” an area around the rear and sides of the vehicle which the driver cannot easily see. Even with the help of the side view mirrors, seeing fully into the blind spot is difficult; it’s a good practice for drivers to turn around and actually look out the side and rear windows of the cab to ensure that the space is clear.

This is just the best practice for recreational vehicles; that is, cars, SUVs, and the like. For commercial vehicles, RVs, and trucks equipped to tow larger loads, the picture changes quite a bit - literally.

This is because the blind spot takes on a new meaning in these scenarios. Whether you’re driving a moving truck with a cab and “trailer” that are joined, an RV with no rear visibility, or simply towing a trailer that severely limits your sight picture, your rig may actually have true blind spots. That is to say, even with the help of most mirrors, there will be areas that remain blind to you.

For example, some rigs have no visibility for a couple of yards directly behind the rear of their trailers. That’s why some truckers place a convex mirror at the rear, top corner of their trailers; it gives them a small measure of visibility into an area that would quite literally be obstructed without it.

That’s a bit of an extreme example because, for most drivers, the blind spots they’re concerned about are the ones at the rear sides of the trailer. This impacts safety because drivers must be sure these areas are clear before making moves on the road, such as changing lanes or while turning.

To help with these maneuvers, most drivers enlist the help of specialized mirrors known as towing mirrors. 

What Are Towing Mirrors 

When you’re driving a recreational vehicle (like a car, as opposed to a commercial vehicle) typically, your side-view mirrors will provide you with enough visibility to make safe decisions while you’re driving. However, these mirrors are limited both in size and in the sight picture they offer. Towing mirrors are specifically designed to provide better visibility to the rear and sides of the vehicle.

Let’s say your vehicle is not equipped with tow mirrors (some pickup trucks are) and you go to tow a camper with your car or van. When you hitch up the trailer, with it extended away towards the rear of the car, you’ll probably notice that suddenly your mirrors are not as useful as they should be.

For one thing, your rearview mirror will probably be useless. It depends on the size and height of your trailer, but typically rearview mirrors are totally obstructed when you’re towing a load. That throws them out of commission.

It also means you now need to rely entirely on the sight picture provided to you by your side-view mirrors. However, once you have a trailer behind your vehicle, you’ll find that it’s hard to acquire the visibility or the sight picture you need with just the mirrors that come with most vehicles. Either you’ll be cropping out the rear edge of the trailer or it will be difficult for you to see what’s right behind and to the side of your actual car.

Before we go any further, that only addresses visibility issues on one side of the vehicle - the driver’s side. The passenger side of the vehicle is a whole different animal.

With a trailer behind the car or truck, you’ll have even less visibility on the other side of the vehicle. Here’s the kicker -  you’ll have the same limitations on the passenger side, but the problem is that you won’t be able to turn your head and see what’s there because the trailer will be obstructing your view.

The first few times you drive a truck or tow a load, the knee-jerk reaction to check your passenger-side blind spot is to turn around. When you do, you’ll just be looking at the trailer. It’s very frustrating and takes some getting used to. Luckily, tow mirrors were specifically designed to solve this problem.

Just in case you’re not familiar with them, have you ever seen a truck, like a pickup truck, on the road, with really large, tall, wide side view mirrors? Meaning, mirrors so large they almost seem oversized? Those are tow mirrors. Take a look the next time you’re on the highway; basically, all commercial vehicles, from tractor trailers to buses, have these mirrors, and several angles of them, on the sides of their vehicles. 

How Towing Mirrors Can Change Your Experience 

Generally speaking, towing mirrors, especially those that have been built into the design of a truck or another large vehicle with limited visibility, are large mirrors with a lot of surface area and dimensions that make them useful for eliminating or at least minimizing drivers’ blind spots.

Since some vehicles come readily equipped with tow mirrors, we can only assume that you’re here because yours does not and you are probably interested in the value they provide - or in options at your disposal.

What you can expect from towing mirrors (depending on what you choose to add to your current vehicle) is that they will make it much easier for you to see along the sides and to the rear of your vehicle and trailer. These types of mirrors will not eliminate the blind spot that exists directly behind the trailer, but when adjusted properly, they will allow you to see the full length of your vehicle and trailer on both sides. That will enable you to make much safer reactions and decisions while you’re driving. 

Towing Mirror Options 

Since many vehicles do not come with tow mirrors, there are plenty of options on the market today that can be added to your vehicle’s current mirrors in order to improve your visibility and provide utility similar to towing mirrors.

Short of providing you with a custom job to retrofit your vehicle with new tow mirrors, here at RV Upgrades we provide a number of towing accessories including tow mirrors that clip, snap, or clamp onto your existing mirrors. These mirrors both add surface area to the mirror and extend your visibility along the sides of your rig.

Some of the tow mirrors on our website slide onto your vehicle’s existing mirror using adjustable rubber straps. There are a few benefits to mirrors such as these. For one thing, they are adjustable, which makes it easy for you to get the proper sight picture, regardless of who’s driving or how the seats are positioned.

Additionally, these types of mirrors will experience minimum vibration when adjusted properly. They can be removed easily and stowed somewhere safe when you are not towing, and, in addition, they do not obstruct your vehicle’s mirrors since they do not overlay them (as some do).

Others attach to your current mirrors via different methods. The Prime Products SpeedFix Clamp-On Towing Mirror attaches via a series of high-quality plastic and steel clamps that are engineered to last a lifetime. Because of the nature of attachment, these mirrors are easy to affix and remove, are suitable for almost any vehicle's mirrors, and can be used on either side of the vehicle.

They are also highly adjustable, making it easier to get exactly the view you need and are aerodynamically engineered to ensure minimal wind resistance.

A number of the tow mirrors we sell here are produced specifically to fit the factory mirrors of specific models. Our line of K-Source Snap & Zap Exterior Mirrors is made specifically for certain models of Dodge, Ford, GMC, Toyota, and Chevy Trucks. They’re designed to give you a perfect fit for your vehicle with minimal fuss.

They also do not obstruct your current mirrors, require no hardware to mount, and have an adjustable, flat lens to help minimize or eliminate your blind spot. For a no-frills solution that works, these might suit your needs. 

Other Considerations 

At certain points in this article, we mentioned that some mirrors “don’t obscure your current site picture.” The reason for this is that some supplementary mirrors occasionally referred to casually as towing mirrors, actually overlay your side-view mirrors. This requires a brief explanation.

Some mirrors actually stick onto or lay on top of your current mirrors. Often these are little, circular mirrors called convex mirrors or hot spot mirrors. They’re very functional, but they don’t provide quite the same level of functionality that true tow mirrors do.

What these convex mirrors do provide is the ability to see further around the sides of your vehicle, which helps to eliminate your blind spot. They are very practical and can improve your visibility on the road, but they are small and usually occlude part of your mirror.

You may notice, however, that some commercial vehicles have more than one set of side-view mirrors. Occasionally, they are outfitted with convex mirrors on the top or bottom of their flat side mirrors that give them the functionality of these smaller convex hot spot mirrors.

Depending on your circumstances, it might be valuable for you to get a set of mirrors that you can easily remove. This will make it easier for you to maintain them, allow you to store them somewhere out of the elements, and cut down on the clearance on the sides of your car or truck. 

Get Your Other Towing Essentials and Accessories Here

By the way, while you’re here reading up on towing essentials, keep in mind that they are not the only useful pieces of equipment or “must-haves” for towing. Here at RV Upgrades, we also provide the following useful towing essentials, among our other camper accessories:

     Tow Bars and Tow Bar Accessories: Tow bars are the quintessential piece of equipment that enables you to tow a load, whether it’s a camper, a trailer, or a disabled vehicle. We also provide a number of tow bar parts and accessories, along with tow bar adapters.

     Hitches: Naturally, if you’re going to tow a load, you need a towing hitch that’s properly rated to do so. In our collection of hitches, we carry 5th wheel hitches, gooseneck hitches, and a variety of other hitches, ball mounts, hitch covers, hitch pins, and more.

     Wiring Kits: Towed vehicles must often be properly lighted in order to comply with the law and foster safe communication between other drivers on the road. We have a full collection of towed vehicle wiring kits to ensure you’re safe and compliant!

     Towed Vehicle Braking Systems: In our collection of dinghy towing accessories you will also find towed vehicle braking systems that significantly enhance the safety of your rig. Designed to brake for the load, they will improve your control and handling, thereby improving safety.

     Tie Downs: Depending on what you’re towing, you may need a set of towing tie-downs or ratchet straps.

     Jacks and Levelers: When you get to your destination, the journey hasn’t ended! You may need a jack to raise or lower the tongue of your trailer so that it can be hitched and unhitched - we carry tongue jacks, in addition to a variety of other jacks and levelers.

Call Us for Help! 

As proud as we are of our expansive collection of RV essentials and accessories, we’re every bit as proud of our customer service. If you have questions about towing and would like our advice, don’t be shy about reaching out to us.

You can reach us via the live chat feature on our website and of course, you can reach us by phone at 866-332-7881. Give us a call any time and let us know what you’re looking for and we’d be glad to help.

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