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Why Have Towing Mirrors?
When towing a caravan or having a slide-on camper the tow vehicle internal rear view mirror is of little use as the view is obstructed. For some tow vehicles the fixed external side mirrors on your door may not have the capacity to provide a clear view of any following vehicle.
A reversing camera fitted to the rear of your caravan and connected for viewing on a display screen in the tow vehicle cab will also provide a good rear view but may not adequately provide good vision so you can see down both sides of your caravan or trailer. You need to consider if the tow vehicle mirrors are adequate to supplement the rear view camera.
Rules And Regulations For Tow Vehicle Mirrors
After searching the various state and territory transport websites and The Australian Road Rules website only the following information about towing mirrors was located (as at 10/7/09):-
The Australian Road Rules site states – “Extra mirrors may be needed for the towing vehicle if towing a large trailer”
- The RTA New South Wales (NSW) website states – ‘Where the trailer is wider than the towing vehicle, side mirrors on the towing vehicle may project beyond the width of the trailer. However, when the trailer is detached, these mirrors must be removed if they project more than 150 mm beyond the extreme width of the towing vehicle. [In the case of vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), collapsible mirrors may project up to 230 mm beyond the width of the vehicle provided they are capable of collapsing to 150 mm]”. NB: Any towed vehicle is referred to as a trailer in their publication.
- The South Australian (SA) website ,The Driver’s Handbook 7th Edition states – “At least one rear vision mirror must be fitted to each side of any vehicle towing a trailer that is wider than the towing vehicle”.
- Queensland (QLD) Transport website, Safe Towing booklet simply states ‘Extra mirrors are required for towing large trailers’.
- Victoria (Vic Roads) website states – “It is important to have adequate rear vision when the caravan is attached. Depending on the width of the caravan, you may need to fit extension mirrors to the towing vehicle”.
- Northern Territory (NT) website Road User’s Handbook states “At least one mirror must be fitted to each side of any vehicle when towing a trailer that is wider than the towing vehicle”.
The common factor is the driver must have an unrestricted clear view of the road to the rear of the caravan or camper trailer and be able to view any overtaking or following vehicles. Extended (external) rear view mirrors should be used where the trailer is wider than the tow vehicle to accommodate this.
There are various bonnet, guard, door and clip on mirrors available. The cost of the towing mirrors can range from $23 to $150 per mirror and as the saying goes ‘You get what you pay for’.
They should be stable and as rigid as possible as any bouncing or vibrating effect can make it difficult for clear vision.
A metal cross bar extends from one side of the tow vehicle bonnet to the other. The bar straddles the bonnet and is held by a clip inserted on each side of the bonnet near the wheel arch. A mirror is attached to each end on either side. Some brands have a bracing arm for extra support.
The disadvantages of this type of mirror are that it can take some time to set it up on the tow vehicle and adjust the mirrors. When you are seated in the tow vehicle the mirrors are beyond your reach to be able to adjust them whilst you are driving.
As the name suggests these either clip on or strap on, together with suction clips, to the tow vehicle’s external door mirrors. The mirror can be swivelled horizontally or vertically and the arm can be extended to accommodate the desired viewing position. Some brand names are Ora, CIPA Clip-On Mirror and Coast Deluxe 4 x 4 Towing Mirror.
As you are no doubt aware, the tow vehicle external mirrors have an adjustment so they can be pushed in against the body of the vehicle. So one disadvantage of these type of clip on or strap on mirrors is the force of the draft from an oncoming semi-trailer as it passes can cause the tow vehicle mirror to flip back in against the vehicle. For those who have not experienced this, it can make one loud noise when this occurs and can startle you.
To overcome this occurring some brands , such as the Ora ‘Big Red’, come with a bracing arm which is secured to the tow vehicle door by a magnetic pad.
Clearview Mirrors make great caravan, boat or trailer towing mirrors. They are full replacement mirrors, in other words, you remove your current side mirrors from the vehicle and fit the mirrors into the same fitting. The electrics for the mirrors on your existing vehicle will work for the Clearview Mirrors and it is possible to do the fit yourself (instructional DVD provided) A single Clearview Mirror has two mirrors – the top glass in the mirror will operate electrically and it is flat glass. The bottom mirror is a manually operated mirror and is convex glass, it allows you to see into the lane beside you, removing most of the blind spots.
When you hitch up your caravan you simply pull the mirror head outwards and it will slide out an additional 100mm (giving a total extension of 200 mm) allowing you to see down the side of your van. When you arrive at your destination you simply push your mirrors back into the closed position.
When fully extended, the outer edge of the mirror is 46 cm from the vehicle window. This is measuring directly out from the window and not along the angle of the mirror arm. Compare this to the Aussie Truck Mirrors and they measure 51cm to the edge of the glass so the extended Clearview Mirror would be 5cm narrower.
On the plus side for Clearview Mirrors, there is the convenience of the mirrors being permanently affixed (replacing the vehicle’s standard mirrors), simply pulling/ extending them out when required, no stowage problem and no scratching on the vehicle’s side glass window. The Clearview Mirrors do extend out further than the standard vehicle mirrors but they do fold forward against the vehicle body for any tight parking spaces.
The company is extending their range to suit various makes and models of vehicles and offer a 12 month warranty.
These type of mirrors are reported to be more stable and are considered to be the best performers. They also cost more than the clip-on type.
Three such brands are Aussie Truck Mirror, Ora ‘Enzo Magnetic Mirror’ and CIPA Delux Door Mount Towing Mirror. The Aussie Truck Mirror brand has had excellent feedback on caravan and camper trailer forums. As the name suggests, Aussie Truck Mirrors are Australian made (Keysing Holdings Pty Ltd).
These brands of door mounted towing mirrors operate similarly. The adjustable arm attached to the mirror has a piece that slides into the window cavity of the tow vehicle once the window is down. The adjustable strap (similar to a seat belt) has a non-scratch mounting pad that rests against the door and a clip at the bottom of the strap attaches to the bottom of the door. A winding ratchet system at the top tightens the strap.
Ora Mirrors (made in Italy) have added the ‘Torino’ to its range of towing mirrors. The Torino is a door mounted mirror to suit all cars and most 4WD vehicles. One of the new features is the mirrors are able to fold in. The Torino mirror doesn’t fit the Toyota Prado without an adaptor which is available. The Torino mirror clips into the window cavity and the rubberised strap (to protect the painwork) clips onto the bottom of the door. The strap is tensioned by a ratchet mechanism. The mirror is available from Ora Products and most caravan parts and accessory stores.
Take care when closing the window of the tow vehicle after you have secured the door mounted towing mirror. Make sure the mirror strap has been tightened. Close the window slowly to avoid any scratches to its surface particularly if it has been window tinted.
One disadvantage of the door mounted towing mirror is they are larger to store away than say clip-on towing mirrors. Also, as the arm may be hinged, be careful not to catch your fingers when folding away for storage.
Towing mirrors are available from caravan accessory stores, on-line caravan accessory and trading stores, TJM 4WD Megastores and ebay.