Mirrors: Vanagon Non-Powered (Floppy) Mirrors

When the VW “T3” Vanagon was introduced in late 1979, it replaced the earlier “T2” Bus. Everything about the Vanagon was bigger and better than the Bus it replaced, except for the mirrors: they were just bigger.

The Bus mirror design had two possible adjustment points:

1) At the mounting point on the door. This would be selected one time, and left pretty much alone, and

2) Out at the end of the arm at the mirror itself. This is where occasional adjustments were made.

That design worked pretty well as far as staying put once adjusted-so served its main purpose. It was just a bit small.

The Vanagon design was much larger, and with only one adjustment point, where it mounts to the door. All of the holding power was supposed to be handled by this spring-loaded, ball/socket system:

Theoretically, this was a great idea—a wider range of vision, more easily adjusted and/or folded completely in if/as needed. The problem is: They would just not stay put, they would flop when hit by a (not necessarily super stiff) gust of wind. Thus, the main purpose of the mirror was critically hampered by the attempt to make it do more than just be a mirror. The folding capability would cause the pivot point to wear and loosen. Eventually, VW came out with a no-holds-barred power mirror, check out our article on that design.

As many VW designs go, actually executing the theory required lots of attention to detail. You just could not beat the original, German-made, Genuine VW quality that went into executing the theory. And, back when they were available, the price reflected the quality—the mirrors were many times more costly than the aftermarket versions. Here are the basic guts of the original VW mirror, as well as two common aftermarket types:

OEM German VW brand:

-Ball with hex hole, with spring retention inset
-Thickest wire spring, 12.75mm tall uncompressed
-32mm shaft length
-9.5mm Thread Length
-5.5mm of thread left when the spring is fully compressed

-Ball with hex hole, with spring retention inset
-Medium wire spring, 10.3mm tall uncompressed
-No washer
-Nut with flange
-31mm shaft height
-10.5mm thread length

-Ball with square hole (huh?), no spring retention inset
-Smallest wire spring, 10.1mm tall uncompressed
-Nut with nylon locking feature
-32mm shaft length
-16.5mm thread length
-5.75mm left when the spring is fully compressed.

There are other aftermarket attempted copies of the OEM mirrors on the market. None of them come close to the function as well as OEM, and truth be told: even OEM was not really up to the task. A mirror of this design and size moving through the air at 65+ MPH ground speed, and facing an occasional gust of wind in speeds that high or more—add up to over 100MPH gusts: all bets are off.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Say goodbye to floppy mirrors forever! We now offer an affordable non-powered mirror solution that is quickly becoming the standard on Vanagons around the globe. Click the link below to check it out!

GoWesty Deluxe Manual Mirror Kit