Volume 34, Number 7, July 1999




Replacing Car Mirrors Could Boost Business Success

by Leslie Shaver

With most glass shops seeking ways to increase profitability and improve customer service, adding mirror installation can be a viable alternative. Advances in exterior mirror installation techniques and the frequency of mirror breakage have made this a viable add-on service for glass shops, while technological improvements to interior mirrors have made them more difficult for glass shops to replace.

"The exterior car mirrors break quite a bit," said Tim Conklin of Wholesale Glass Distributors in Greenville, SC. "In the old days, they would take a mirror piece, grind it and put it on the car. These days there are custom-cut mirrors. Now you can slap the mirrors on the car and be done with it rather than having to work forever to get it right on a belt-grinding machine."

Steve Coyle of the Performance Achievement Group in Madison, WI, said glass shops that offer this service can save the consumer a lot of money. "It is a good product for people to offer in the aftermarket because they do break," he said. "Doing this in the dealership would mean replacing the whole mirror assembly instead of the glass. The glass itself is available to the aftermarket and 99 percent of the time it is relatively easy to change."

Usually installing outside mirrors is not complicated. Other than handling a heating element that is essential on heated mirrors, glass dealers do not have to face many technological hurdles when replacing mirrors. "Many times we can take the glass off and reuse the heating element," said Tim Heinrich of Pro Auto Glass and Mirror in Hermitage, PA. "Other times it is so busted up that you cannot do anything with it. Some people don’t care if it breaks or not."

However, technological innovations, such as digital compasses with LED readout and turn signal indicators could make exterior mirror installation more difficult in the future. So far, Henrich has not dealt with this new generation of side mirrors. "I have not done any of those newer mirrors," he said. "However, when I get one, I will probably fool with it a little bit and try to fix it."

Dealing with the interior mirrors can offer different problems for glass shops. Some shops carry used versions of these mirrors in stock and offer them as a courtesy to customers with older cars. "We have a stockpile of used mirrors," said Rich Lewton of Kirksville Auto Glass in Kirksville, MO. "When someone comes in and needs an interior mirror, I just give them one."

On many newer cars, however, inside mirrors are day/night mirrors with tapered glass that makes simple mirror replacement impossible. Instead, installers are forced to replace the whole mirror bracket. "On these mirrors you are limited to two options: getting an original bracket from the dealer or getting a universal aftermarket bracket," said Gene Mish of Mike’s Auto Glass in Bethlehem, PA.

Another dilemma with interior mirrors arises when consumers have cars utilizing technologically advanced mirrors which can include dimmers and compasses. "With more things involved in these mirrors, they can get pricey," said Coyle. "I have seen mirrors in the $300-$400 range. I don’t think these are feasible for the aftermarket." Mish agrees saying installers are forced to get the mirror and bracket from the dealer.

With the many technological variables surrounding mirror installation, auto glass shops must ask themselves if it is worthwhile to even replace mirrors. The surprising conclusion from most shops is that while replacing mirrors is not lucrative, it does help shops make inroads with customers. "We offer mirror installation to our customers because I think that if we do the small jobs, we will get the bigger jobs later on," said Kerry Battles of Batt’s Auto Glass in Colfax, IA.

"We don’t charge very much for mirror installation. We do it as a courtesy to our customers," he said.

However some companies regard mirror installation as a money maker. "We get a lot of customers wanting mirror installation," said Heinrich. "You cannot believe how many people whack other cars with their mirrors."

Lewton, who cuts and grinds his own exterior mirrors, finds installation to be a "necessary evil." "It is a pain to install mirrors," he said. "They take quite a bit of time and there is not that much money involved. It is one of those parts of the glass business that is not a money maker, but you have to do it anyway."

However, Lewton acknowledges there are advantages to installing rearview mirrors. "You do make a little money," he said. "But the important thing is that you make people happy and they will come back and have you do something more expensive."

Leslie Shaver is an assistant editor of USGlass magazine.


Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.