As I say over and over, one of the reasons I love working on cars is that I can’t fix the world’s intractable problems, but I can completely solve a problem on a car and revel in the gloriously inconsequential decisions I make along the way.

Case in point: I was out running errands in Louie, my ’72 2002tii Ran When Parked car, when it lost the driver’s side mirror. I heard the “thunk” when it dropped off, but I was going about 40 mph in local traffic, and it wasn’t safe to suddenly jam on the brakes and pull over. Besides, I could see the stub of the mirror still attached to the bracket on the door, so the mirror had likely broken as opposed to falling off whole. No matter. I knew that I had several spares at home, both well-used and new.

When I got home, I checked it out. It looked sort of like a decapitated chicken. In the photo below, the lighting makes it looks like the bolt hole is intact, but it was actually pretty munged up. If I had the top part, I could’ve fixed it, but it wasn’t necessary.

Repairable, but I had easier better options.

I dug into a box in the basement and found another mirror, but it was a “flag” mirror, whereas the one on the car was a “trap” (trapezoidal) mirror. I’m not a guru regarding the dates of component changes on 2002s, but I believe the cars had so-called “swan” mirrors until 1969 when they changed to trapezoidal mirrors, and that the larger rectangular left and right “flag” mirrors came in with the “Modell 73” cars that had rectangular tail lights and, in the United States, big bumpers. While Louie is a fairly original-looking car, my short-term goal was simply to get a mirror back on the door so I could drive it safely. I could scour my parts hoard for a trap mirror at a later date. Besides, the flag mirror I’d unearthed had patina that matched the car.

The first problem was that the little 50-year-old “grub” screw holding the mirror to the bracket was rusted in place. The slot is so small that these strip easily, and if you can’t get them out, you’re faced with cutting the assembly they’re in with a Dremel tool, as it’s difficult to get a drill on them without damaging the door. Fortunately, with a little SiliKroil, patience, a right-sized screwdriver, inward pressure, and a Vise Grip providing torque on the screwdriver shank, it gave way, exposing the bracket underneath. If you ever take a mirror off, when you reach this point, if there’s any play in the bracket, be certain to tighten the two Phillips screws holding the bracket to the door.

Home free? Well, no.

I fit the flag mirror over the bracket, and immediately realized that the the rubber gasket between the base of the mirror and the door—the one that was left over from the trap mirror—wasn’t right. I looked at the bases of the two types of mirrors and saw that they’re different shapes, with the base of the flag mirror being quite a bit larger than that of the trap mirror. And the used flag mirror I’d found didn’t have a gasket with it.

I played around with leaving the incorrect gasket in place to protect the paint, as well as removing the gasket entirely (Louie is far from a mint car, and there was already paint damage and rust under the old mirror). The mirror seemed to fit fine without it, hovering on the bracket a few millimeters above the paint. No big deal, I thought. Running gasket-less is fine for now. And the correct gasket is a $16 part. I made a note to order one the next time I put in a parts order.

It’s not as if I was risking damage to an otherwise perfect door.

Then I had a thought, people sometimes talk about “closet shopping” (looking in their closet for clothes they forgot they had). While I can’t say that I do that for entire cars, I “garage-shop” all the time for parts. I’ve been gifted several parts hoards over the years, and while I’m not organized enough to have a spreadsheet of the inventory, I make it a point to look in the boxes so I have some trigger-able memory of what’s inside. I recalled seeing mirror gaskets. It’s a mystery to me how I can routinely misplace my keys and my phone inside the house while also being able to go directly to some old box in the basement or garage and pull out some needed part, but our peculiar skills don’t always make sense. There, in a plastic bag, were three flag mirror gaskets.


You can see the different size and shape of the flag mirror gasket (top) and the one for the trap mirror (bottom).

And, with that, the heavily-patina’d flag mirror went on Louie.

Looks like it’s always been there, right?

Really, it was the perfect repair. Forgive me if, with all the problems in this broken world, I enjoy this inconsequential victory over a broken mirror.

Rob Siegel


Rob’s newest book, The Best of The Hack Mechanic, is available here on Amazon, as are his seven other books. Signed copies can be ordered directly from Rob here.




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