Vanagon – power mirror repair

I have manual mirrors on the syncro and they are less than satisfactory. They are small, don’t stay adjusted very well (I have gone through all the tricks to keep them adjusted), and they frost up in winter. Now I finally have collected enough used parts to get 2 power mirrors installed, as yet not powered, and not without having to bugger around to make them work.

I have one white one, complete but the heating element connection broke, and one black one which also had the same broken connection plus a broken stem. I’ll deal with the black one first. By the way, the mirror had been “repaired” by its previous owner using duct tape and lots of shoe-goo. What a pillock.

Here is a shot of the socket showing the broken stub.

And here is the part that was broken off.

The bracket that receives this stud looks like this.

The stud passes through that bracket and is held in place with a nut and spring arrangement. The lumpy end of the bracket fits into corresponding divots in the socket on the mirror arm, you can see them in the first picture. Here is the spring and nut on the broken stud. The white thing is a plastic washer, but it was cracked and not reused.

A new stud had to be made and affixed to the mirror. I had an idea and, not surprisingly, I discovered that someone else had the same idea before. SpitsnRovers posted his fix on the samba. As an aside, his website has some pretty useful Vanagon info on it. It is just a matter of  tapping for a new stud to be screwed in. The stud has a 13 mm X 1.5 thread  so if I had a bolt with that thread and the corresponding tap, I would be in business. But I didn’t so I wasn’t. I did have some 1/2″ NC bolts and the right tap, why not use that instead?

I used the die to make the threaded portion of the bolt a bit longer. The bolt was chucked up in the lathe and drilled out (passage for the electrical wires). Oh I am so clever eh? Well, no. I drilled the hole a tad to large.

Found another bolt and drilled the right sized hole. Shown below is the drilled and cut bolt, a 1/2″ Nyloc nut, the stock nut, the broken plastic washer, and the spring. I feel like I am becoming even more pedantic.

I then enlarged the hole in the socket and tapped some threads. Not much meat there though.

I cut the drilled out bolt to the right length, actually a little longer than the broken stud, and threaded it in with some locktite and set it aside overnight. To be honest, I had my doubts whether the stud will hold, there are so few threads engaged. Righty-oh, next day I put it back together. I used a 1/2″ Nylok nut instead of the stock slotted nut, but here it is assembled onto the bracket with plain nut (that broken plastic washer was discarded later).

It withstood cranking down on the nut, the threaded stud did not pull out. I set that aside and had a look at the mirror glass itself. The glass is glued onto a molded plastic backing, with a metal heating element sandwiched between. There are two tabs bent up from that metal that connect to the 12V power supply wires. Here is an intact tab.

One of those tabs was broken (same thing with the other mirror). I tired to solder on a new tab, but no luck, the solder would not flow onto the metal. Time for the cheesy fix, I could lift the plastic backing up from the metal enough to slip the bare end of a wire in. It helps of you heat the plastic with a hot air gun. The wire was trapped and it made electrical contact. I tested it by popping the mirror into the freezer for a while then connected a 12V source to the tabs and watched the fog disappear from the glass. To make the cheesy fix even more obvious, I dolloped a bit of silicone onto the area. This picture is of the repainted white mirror (Krylon Fusion satin black) and you can see the same repair on the back of the mirror.

I routed all the wires (mirror motor and heat) and put the darn thing together. I’ll post more about the wiring when I get around to connecting the electrics to the van, I’m happy right now to have the bigger mirrors. The repainted white mirror was put together, minus that broken white washer.

Not quite the right sized screwdriver, but close, and German. So you know it has to be complaining about my lack of mechanical skill.

And a final shot.

A word about the electrics. The heating element supply is connected to the rear window defogger circuit, so it gets power when that is switched on. That will be a simple connection. The adjuster motor (and its little magnetic clutches) is wired to a control switch mounted on the driver’s side door. I have to find a switch. I believe some mid ’90’s cabriolets share the same switch? I’ll document that sooner than later, I’m keen to see the mirrors move and de-mist.

  1. #1 by Marius on October 5, 2011 - 9:31 pm

    if you’d posted this three weeks ago, I’d have given you the spare switch I had. I’ve since given it to another person converting their rig to powered mirrors.

    • #2 by albell on October 6, 2011 - 7:52 am

      doh! do you recall what are the other VW cars that share the switch?


      • #3 by Marius on October 6, 2011 - 11:02 am

        Sure don’t. My other switch had come out of another Vanagon at a junkyard.

  2. #4 by Steve on December 2, 2011 - 12:21 pm

    How did you install the bottom screw to the door?

    • #5 by albell on December 2, 2011 - 12:28 pm


      i didn’t have a riv-nut or the like, so I used a nylock nut on the inside. It is a bit of a pain, there is some pressed metal reinforcing bits back there that interferes a little with the nut and washer.


  3. #6 by Chris on March 5, 2013 - 4:28 pm

    Do you have a source for the black plastic piece that mounts top the mirror body and holds the motor. The motor is plentiful at the junkyard but I need the backing. OR all I have is an empty housing.

  4. #9 by Patrick Mills on September 20, 2016 - 12:57 pm


    I have hunted high and low on how to wire up the heated elements to the rear demister – can you tell me where you connected the live? is there a relay or should i just connect to the switched live wire from the switch itself? Love your blog by the way – always keep pushing the envelope!


    • #10 by albell on September 20, 2016 - 1:30 pm

      Hi Patrick,

      At work right now, will do this evening.



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