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E46 M3 (2001-2006) Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006.


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Old Tue, Dec-20-2011, 11:47:26 PM   #1
RaceMX-M3
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Default Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Radar-Mirror.com is a proud new sponsor of the M3 Forum.

If you own a E46 M3 and haven't experienced a rear view mirror failure chances are good that you will down the road. I've owned a E46 M3 since 2004 and my mirror failed twice - I've been working on these mirrors for 5 years now and thought I'd share some info about how the mirrors work, why the Magna mirrors fail and why we hope you will choose us if your mirror needs to be repaired.

The first version of an auto dimming mirror was actually a prismatic mirror (the tilt mirror everyone had before auto dimming) - there was a light sensor on the mirror and a small motor inside the mirror that automatically tilted the mirror up and down. The mirrors were only available on very expensive cars for the time and became obsolete when the electrochromic auto dimming mirrors were developed. BMW was among some of the first car manufacturers to offer the mirrors on their cars.

There are two companies that produce all of the auto dimming mirrors for 90% of the car manufactures around the world. Magna Donnelly is one and if you're not familiar Gentex is the other. The companies actually originated from the same family and are both headquartered in Holland, MI. When the electrochromic mirrors were first made available Magna had the lion's share of the business - over time primarily due to the overwhelming number of mirrors that failed Gentex has emerged as the leader and now enjoys (I'm guessing) 80% of the auto dimming mirror business. The mirrors they produce have not had the issues that the Magna mirrors do - BMW jumped ship in 2007 and moved all of their business to Gentex.

What is an electrochromic mirror and how does it work?

An auto dimming mirror is comprised of two pieces of glass that are slightly overlapped on the edges, sealed together and have a transparent conductive gel or fluid injected between the layers of glass. A mirror coating is applied to the rear portion of the glass and when a very low voltage is applied to the overlapped edges of the glass the gel darkens and reduces the amount of light transmitted and eliminates glare.







An electronic circuit board is attached to the rear of the mirror with wire leads soldered to the edges of the glass. There are two photocells (light sensors) - one facing out the front windshield and one facing the rear of the car. If a sufficient amount of light is hitting the forward facing sensor the mirror will conclude that it's daytime and will not dim the glass, regardless of what the rear facing sensor sees. As it starts to get dark outside the forward sensor sees less light - concludes it's nightime and when the rear facing sensors sees any light behind the car the voltage flow is opened and the mirror begins to dim. The level of dimming is determined by the combination of light levels the two sensors are detecting.





How do the mirrors fail?

The failure of the mirrors is due to a manufacturing defect by Magna. The mirrors are sealed along the edges of glass and over time the seal breaks down and eventually fails, allowing the fluid to escape which is replaced by air. The amount of fluid that escapes and whether it begins to leak depends on where the seal breach is located. If the seal fails on the bottom of the mirror the fluid is going to escape a lot more quickly than if it's on the top. In most cases it takes a few years for the seal to fail - the environment that the car is in can have an impact on how long the mirrors last. Heat is known to accelerate the process so if you live in a hot climate and park your car outside in the sun for extended periods your mirror is going to fail sooner. From the pictures below you can clearly see where the seal failed on this mirror - with a small amount of pressure the two pieces of glass completely separate.







Why have so many of the mirrors manufactured by Magna failed over an extended period of time? Why wouldn't they have resolved this a long time ago?

This is the million dollar question. We repair 5 - 10 of these mirrors every day and the mirrors range from Jaguars built in the mid to late 90's all the way to Lamborghinis built as recently as 2008. I know Magna has struggled with this issue over an extended period of time and continues to make changes to their manufacturing process. They may have the issue resolved at this point but only time will tell.

What about the mirror repairs from Radar-Mirror.com? How reliable are your replacement mirrors?

We have repaired about 2000 mirrors at this point, many of them for members of the M3 Forum and we have yet to see one of our mirrors fail due to a seal breach. The only failures that have been reported to us were due to the glass cracking and there have only been 3 or 4 of these. We're an authorized dealer for Mito Corp (distributor for Gentex) and our repairs include a lifetime warranty.

Sybesmas has repaired many mirrors for M3 owners and gets great reviews, why should someone choose Radar-Mirror.com for thier mirror repair?

Hopefully the fact that I am a hard core BMW enthusiast, own an M3 and now sponsor the forum wins us some favor. Mirrors that are shipped to us will be repaired, tested and shipped within one business day and guaranteed to look and work like new. The one thing that really separates us from Sybesmas is our warranty - thiers is 90 days - if anyone experiences an issue with a mirror we have repaired we will fix it for free for as long as you own your car. Our mirror repair is normally $104 with shipping in the US, for M3 Forum members we're going to match the price Sybesmas offers @ $95 shipped in the US and $135 shipped out of the country. Please mention that you are an M3 Forum member when you contact us.

We appreciate the business and kind comments we've received from this forum and look forward to serving others as the need arises.

Last edited by RaceMX-M3; Wed, Dec-21-2011 at 02:24:53 AM.
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Old Wed, Dec-21-2011, 12:15:06 AM   #2
maveric23
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Question Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Thanks for the helpful info Scott!

I already had my mirror repaired by Sybesmas before I knew about your service. Do you know if Sybesmas uses Magna Donnelly or Gentex mirrors for their repairs?

I just want to know the likelihood of my repaired mirror failing again. If it does, I will certainly send it to you based on your lifetime warranty and overall helpfulness.
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Old Wed, Dec-21-2011, 12:21:05 AM   #3
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

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Originally Posted by maveric23 View Post
Thanks for the helpful info Scott!

I already had my mirror repaired by Sybesmas before I knew about your service. Do you know if Sybesmas uses Magna Donnelly or Gentex mirrors for their repairs?

I just want to know the likelihood of my repaired mirror failing again. If it does, I will certainly send it to you based on your lifetime warranty and overall helpfulness.
Sybesmas gets their mirrors from Magna - we've had a few sent in to us but I don't know how long ago the repairs were done.
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Old Wed, Dec-21-2011, 01:11:14 AM   #4
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Great write up Scott, hope to make it out to a Saturday meet soon.

Bump for a great product!
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Old Fri, Dec-23-2011, 08:05:22 AM   #5
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

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Originally Posted by RaceMX-M3 View Post
Sybesmas gets their mirrors from Magna - we've had a few sent in to us but I don't know how long ago the repairs were done.
What do you use for the replacement mirror for the M3 (Magna or Gentex)?
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Old Wed, Dec-21-2011, 01:26:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Bump for a great service that Scott offers. They repaired my mirror; it came back as good as new and in very little time, thanks!
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Old Wed, Dec-21-2011, 05:33:13 PM   #7
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Question Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Scott,

Can you please elaborate on the transparent conductive material that is injected between the layers of glass?

I assume that it was originally a fluid and at some point it changed to a gel. Do you know when that happened? Do both Magna Donnelly and Gentex now use gel? Do both companies use the same substance?

Can you describe the toxicity of these substances? It sounded like the fluid was very harmful, what about the gel?

Thanks!
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Old Sun, Aug-25-2013, 07:24:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevblah View Post
Bump for a great service that Scott offers. They repaired my mirror; it came back as good as new and in very little time, thanks!
+1

A few weeks ago I mailed my mirror out on a Saturday, it was repaired and back in the car by Thursday. Excellent service Scott!

Highly recommended!
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Old Tue, Oct-29-2013, 02:16:32 AM   #9
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew Stahlgrau View Post
+1

A few weeks ago I mailed my mirror out on a Saturday, it was repaired and back in the car by Thursday. Excellent service Scott!

Highly recommended!
+1

mirror looks good
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Old Mon, Nov-04-2013, 05:34:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors

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Originally Posted by kevblah View Post
Bump for a great service that Scott offers. They repaired my mirror; it came back as good as new and in very little time, thanks!
+1

Thanks for the great service and super-fast turn-around, Scott!

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Discussing Insight into BMW's (Magna Donnelly) Failed Rear View Mirrors in the E46 M3 (2001-2006) Forum - Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006. at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)