There is something you just have to love about Z3 owners. We drive one of the best roadsters on the market yet it seems that dozens of owners have come up with ways of making the car ever closer to being ‘perfect.’ Does the car make them creative or does it draw creative people to it? It doesn’t matter really, either way we all benefit.
A very common owner complaint is that the rear view mirror blocks a large portion of your forward vision out to the right side. It is caused by two things. The mirror itself is positioned to low and it is rather large. On the ‘M’s the mirror is even larger and presents more of a problem. After taking delivery of my car in ’96 I quickly learned to duck down and look under the mirror for right hand turns. This was annoying but what could I do? Nothing… at least for a while.
Early in 1999 Gary Hansel bought his M-Roadster. Like many owners before him he was annoyed with the rear view mirror. Unlike everyone else he decided to tackle this problem and see what could be done. He came up with an elegant solution.
The result is Gary’s ///Mirror Adapters. http://www.z3mirrors.com/
Gary’s adapter lets you mount a GM, Chrysler or Ford mirror, depending upon the adapter used, to the BMW lug that is glued to your windshield. Unlike BMW mirrors GM mirrors are adjustable vertically, you can move the entire mirrors face up and down to suit you. We want the mirror up high near the windshield header to improve visibility. With Gary’s adapter and a GM mirror you can position the mirror so its top edge is hitting the header just to the front of the dome light. This gives you the best forward view possible.
GM manufactures many different mirrors, with Gary’s adapter you have a choice of an assortment of mirrors that you can install. Gary typically sells four different styles of mirrors to go with his adapters.
A rectangular compact mirror (8 5/16″ x 2 1/2″) This is the mirror you want if you are only interested in getting the best forward visibility possible.
A medium rectangular mirror (9 1/2″ x 2 1/2″) Just a little larger version of the mirror above. The extra length to the mirror adds a little more vision to the rear.
A dual reading lamp mirror (10 1/4″ x 2 1/2″) This mirror isn’t quite a rectangle. Its sides are slightly curved and the upper edge has a very slight curve as well. It has more depth to its body. On the underside it has two toggle switches to turn on/off each of the lights built into the base of the mirror. If you were looking to add map lights to your car this is the way to go. The lights on the GM version of this mirror will also illuminate when you open the doors. This mirror is wider than the mirror that came on my Z3 but not quite as tall. Since you can position it higher you still get a nice increase in forward visibility. The mirror needs to be wired into the car.
The last is the electrochromatic (EC) self dimming mirror. (10 1/2″ x 2 3/4″) This mirror’s sides angle in similar to the factory BMW mirror. It also has a small projection on the bottom with a “Off/Lo/Hi” switch that illuminates in green when power is applied to the mirror. On the upper right hand side of the mirrors face there is a small circle for the rear facing light sensor. The body on this mirror is the largest of all. The mirror needs to be wired into the car. This is the mirror I have had installed in my car for over 6 months.
Most mirrors have two surfaces that reflect light for the day/night positions of the mirror. In the day position you will always see faint ghost images caused from the night surface. When you put the mirror into the night position bright lights above the mirror will reflect full brightness at you. The result is when you drive under a street lamp at night with the top down you are going to be blinded.
The EC mirror is totally different. It is a normal mirror in that it has a single reflecting surface. There are no ghost images seen in this mirror and driving under street lights no longer blind you. The surface of the mirror literally dims itself as needed to reduce the amount of light reflecting off it. It constantly adjusts the tint based on the amount of light to the front and rear sensors built into the mirror. The switch on the bottom controls the amount of dimming. I leave mine on ‘HI’ all the time and the mirror does the rest.
I installed all of these mirrors in my car and measured their positions to see how they compared to stock. I measured from the top inside edge of the windshield down to the bottom edge of the mirror to see how much higher each mirror was.
* Stock: 4.5″
* Small: 3.25″
* Medium: 3.25″
* Map light: 3.25″
* EC: 3.75″
All the replacement mirrors lower edges were closer to the top of the windshield. In all cases the replacement mirrors face was about 3 – 3 1/2″ closer to you then the stock mirror as well. The EC mirror’s bottom sits lower than the others for two reasons. The mirror itself is taller but also the pivot on the mirror is more in the center of the mirror. On the other mirrors the pivot is right on top. So for the EC mirror to clear the top of the windshield header you need to adjust the mirror somewhat lower. Even so it still gives you a nice increase in forward visibility but not quite to the same degree as the other mirrors.
The different pivot position of the EC mirror can cause a problem for taller drivers. When I received my EC mirror and adapter from Gary months ago I quickly ran into a problem. I am 6’5″ and I wasn’t able to tilt the mirror up enough to see straight back out of the car. The two pivots on the mirror were at the edge of their adjustments. I mentioned this to Gary then modified my mirror to let me adjust it as needed. This worked fine and I promptly forgot about it.
Gary didn’t. At Homecoming I stopped by the ‘Owner Solution’ tent to meet everyone and check out their products. Gary showed me a ‘tall guy’ version of his adapter to correct the problem I had run into. This adapter is a little different then his others. Instead of being a flat disc it actually is an angled spacer that changes the orientation of the mount on the GM mirror. This ‘tall guy’ adapter lets the EC mirror adjust properly for a taller driver. Another elegant solution to a problem!
The ‘tall guy’ adapter is not needed on any of the other mirrors, just the EC. If you are over 6’2″ or so you probably will need the ‘tall guy’ adapter if you want to install the EC mirror.
How difficult the install is depends upon the mirror you choose. For the first two mirrors they install will take a minute or two. With the second two mirrors (map light and EC) the installation is more involved.
To remove the factory mirror just grab the stalk that attaches to the windshield. Twist the stalk clockwise about a ¬ turn and the mirror will be released from the lug that is glued to the windshield.
If you are installing the non-powered mirrors you just line up the new mirror, with adapter already attached, at the same angle the factory mirror released at. You will feel the adapter fit over the lug when you have it correct. Then just rotate it counterclockwise about ¬ turn and it will lock into place. Adjust the mirror as needed and you are done. Don’t forget you can now move the mirror up and down as you desire.
If you are installing the reading lamp equipped mirror Gary has full instructions. Basically you need to tap into the existing wiring for the dome light to power the map lights. When you are done you mount the mirror and connect the plug into it.
For the EC mirror things are a little more complex then the map light wiring. You need to supply switched 12v power to the mirror. You can not use the dome light wiring as it is unswitched and the mirror could drain your battery over time. You need to decide where you want to get a source of switched power. I used the switched power that runs to the radio you could also use the connector for the cellular phone setup or any other switched source of 12v power.
Start out by disconnecting the battery. Assuming you use the radio power you will need to remove it. Depending upon the radio it may be held in place with an Allen key or it may use a special BMW 5 sided tool. If your radio needs the 5 sided tool you might be able to get it out using a 2 mm Allen wrench if you are lucky. Take the radio out so you have some room to work.
You need to run a power wire for the mirror from the radio up to the mirror. I ran the wire around the passenger side footwell and up the A-pillar then across the header so that the wire ends behind the dome light. You will want to tuck the wire away as much as possible. Pop the dome light out so you can make the electrical connections easier. Slide the cut end of the mirrors wire harness behind the trim panel in front of the dome light. Solder the power wire you ran up from the radio to the 12v input on the mirrors wiring harness. Insulate it well. For a ground there is a torx screw behind the dome light, take it out. You need to mar the surface on the bottom of the screw head to get a good electrical contact from it. Do that then reinstall the hex screw with the ground wire for the mirror under it. You can reinstall the dome light now.
Now you need to tap into the 12v switched power to the radio. On my car it was pin 5 on the radio connector and the wire was violet with black. Use a sharp razor to peel back the insulation on the wire without cutting the copper itself. Then solder the wire for the EC mirror to that. Be sure to insulate it well when you are finished. Reinstall your radio and install the EC mirror and adapter into your car. Plug the mirrors wiring harness into the mirror then reconnect your battery.
When you turn on your ignition the switch on the mirror should illuminate. If it does your electrical connections are fine and you should be all set, if it doesn’t you need to recheck your wiring. Most likely the ground isn’t good. You can double check the power wire and the ground with a multi-tester.
Gary’s ///Mirror adapter let me kill two birds with one stone. I reduced the blind spot caused by the factory mirror and as a side bonus it let me convert to the EC mirror that I really love.
This mod is highly recommended! I could not imagine going back to the factory mirror.