Changing out an exterior car mirror with Jill of All Trades

This week, our Jill of All Trades, Jill Washburn, shows us how to change out an exterior mirror on a car. It sounds intimidating, says Jill, but it’s really not that hard.

Jill’s vehicle is a 2011 Grand Cherokee. To swap out her mirror, she had to remove the door liner first. Not every vehicle will require that, though. Some vehicles only require removing a small piece of interior trim. Jill recommends searching online for a tutorial video specific to your car’s model and year.

To remove the door liner, Jill had to remove a trio of screws behind the door handles. All three were different, but not of them were especially difficult. Next, Jill had to disconnect the window switches out of the door handle. You can pry them right out. They pop out easily, allowing you to disconnect the power plug to them. That frees you to pop off the door liner.

Jill recommends starting at the bottom. She, first, slid a thin putty knife between the door liner and the actual door, so that she could then use a 5-in-1 painters tool to pry the liner away from the door, without damaging the painted part of the door. Jill warns that the fasteners are tough to pry out. You will feel like you’re going to break part of the door. Once you get the first one or two to pop, the rest get easier. (Jill says special thanks to Derek Kevra for helping her get the first couple fasteners started!)

Occasionally, you may break a fastener or two, probably more likely on a colder day when the plastic may be slightly more rigid, although Jill replaced her mirror on a cold day in December, with no issues. If you do break some, they are easily replaced.

Once you pop all the fasteners around the sides and the bottom, you’re ready to pop the ones on the top and then lift off the liner. Before you pull it away, you’ll need to disconnect the power supply to the mirror. After that, the door liner is free to set aside.

For Jill’s vehicle, there was an additional piece of trim around the window that needed to be removed. That pulled away easily. Removing that exposed the three bolts that hold the mirror on. Those nuts are easily removed and the mirror will fall away. In fact, Jill says that you’ll need to hang onto it as you loosen the final nut or, at the very least, hang onto the power cord, so that the mirror doesn’t fall down the side of the car and cause damage.

Once you reach this point, you reverse the process. It will all go together faster and easier than how it came apart. Put the new mirror on, feeding the power cable through first, and then apply and tighten the three fastening nuts. There is a rubbery foam gasket around the three bolts. Jill’s new mirror (actually a salvage mirror) already came with that. If yours doesn’t, take the gasket off the old one and pop it onto the new one. Next, connect the mirror’s power connector to the cable on the door.

Rehang the door liner, taking care to connect the power cable to the door lock/window switches. They simply plug back together. Jill says to start re-installing the liner at the top, making sure the lock stem lines up and then lining up the fasteners along the top. Once you line them up, give the top of the line a firm smack with the heel of your hand or the outside of your fist over each fastener and they should pop into place. Then, follow around the rest of the edge of the door. As you make your way around, the fasteners should line up easier. Give each spot over a fastener a firm smack with your hand and they’ll pop right back into place.

Once you’ve made it all the way around, you’re done! You’re ready to hit the road again!

PROJECT RATING: Medium+ (It takes a little patience and persistence, but it’s not super difficult.)

To watch Jill take you through the process, click on the video player above.