Exploding passenger side mirror

If you search the web for people who have experienced this, it really is more common than most people think and on different makes & models. Thus, I am hoping that this issue will be taken more seriously by those who choose to reply to original posters in a blog/forum. They are not making this stuff up!

I drive a 2009 Lexus RX-350, which I bought brand new in Jan 2010. It is in excellent condition with limited mileage. Last week, I was stopped, sitting in traffic at a stop light, and suddenly there was a loud explosion emanating from the passenger side mirror. The mirror cracked and completely came out of its casing, hanging by the wires that connect it to the rest of the unit. Moreover, the side mirrors in this vehicle have a fluid in them that facilitates the auto-dimming feature. When this fluid gets onto your vehicle, it damages the paint. Thus, not only do you have to fix the mirror, you also have to have any panels buffed out and repainted that got the fluid splashed onto them during said explosion!

I can assure you that:
A) There was a very large explosion/boom that accompanied the mirror breaking and popping out of its casing.
B) I did NOT hit anything; I wasn’t even moving and, moreover, that damage would have been on the back side of the unit that houses the mirror.
C) No biker, person walking by, or crazy bird hit my mirror.
D) It was a typical 57-60 degree morning in San Francisco, so this was not weather-related.
E) The way the mirror cracked & broke - it was not shot at by any type of gun.
F) If this were to happen to someone while they were driving, it could have very serious safety implications not only for the people inside the vehicle but other vehicles near by if they were to lose control of their car in response to the loud explosion.
G) There were two other people/witnesses in my car who can attest to this fact; it really scared the heck out of all of us.

Lexus said it is my problem and this is why I am upset. Just because they claim that they have never heard of this before is not a sufficient reason to ignore their customer and serious issues that they bring to their attention in good faith. As I said above, there are other people who have experienced this situation and probably countless more that haven’t taken the time to post their experience online.

Given all of the issues and litigation that Toyota, Lexus, GM and countless other car companies are facing/have faced for blatantly disregarding customers claims and experiences, you would think they would learn from prior mistakes. Sadly, they are still acting in a manner that refuses to recognize possible defects that have the potential to seriously hurt if not kill someone/people, and the resulting liability that they could ultimately face. They are simply bean counting here and relying on the fact that the majority of people will choose not to do anything and go on their merry way. Or, alternatively, the dealerships will make you pay for the repairs and then they will submit an internal claim, thereby getting paid twice. The only way you will uncover this is through the discovery process if you sue them.

If anyone can recommend a possible path forward on how this very serious issue - which is clearly happening in more than one manufacturer’s vehicles - can be heard and acted upon, I would very much appreciate hearing it.

If you just want to say that I am crazy and that this didn’t happen, then please don’t reply.

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I don’t think you’re crazy.

You just need to be in the auto repair business long enough to see all the weird things that can happen to a vehicle, and there’s no reason or explanation.


Was anything other than the mirror/glass damaged?

A part malfunction on a 2009 car is what I’m reading. It’s true this is an odd failure, but isn’t this sort of like a starter motor that quits working on an older car, strands the owner, and you need to tow the car to a shop for diagnosis and part replacement? Frustrating surely, but since it is out of warranty, can you expect the manufacturer to be responsible to fix it gratis?

Maybe I’m not seeing the OP’s perspective on this? How is this different than a starter motor on the fritz?

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I’ve tried without success to find out what purpose a fluid might have in an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Does anyone here have any insight into this?

Thank you for your comments and my replies to your questions.

Joe Guy:
The passenger side door has to be buffed and repainted as the fluid from the mirror is all over it due to the ‘explosion’.

Here is some more info.

I called the Lexus dealership where I purchased my RX-350 last Friday and spoke with someone in their service division. I told him exactly what happened. My 5-year warranty expired this January, and he explicitly said, “You purchased the extended warranty. This is covered, so please bring your car in”.

So, I scheduled an appointment for Wednesday (yesterday). When I got there, the service rep that was assigned to handle my case proceeded to listen to my story and basically dismiss everything that I said. And I quote his words, “I have never heard of something like this before”, and he basically looked at me as though I were crazy and didn’t believe me. He then proceeded to have the audacity to tell me that if this were the case, then the driver’s side mirror should have similarly exploded at the same time. I explained to him that by his logic, if your right tire blows, then your left tire or perhaps even all three remaining tires, should similarly blow at the exact same time. There was NO logic to what he said. He then proceeded to tell me that this isn’t covered by an extended warranty, with no explanation as to why, and that I would have to pay for everything.

The primary issue that I have is that something is clearly defective/going wrong AND it can be a serious safety issue, especially if one is driving when the unit/mirror decides to explode.

If you search the web for people who have experienced a similar, serious phenomena, you can find several links. Indeed, an online Lexus forum (please see link below) has two reported cases of something similar happening.


Here are some additional posts, where similar incidences have been noted:





In my opinion, it is neither acceptable nor sufficient reason to ignore a customer and a serious issue/defect that they bring to their attention in good faith simply because they have never heard of it happening before. Perhaps if they had spent just even a few minutes doing some research, they would see that other people have encountered similar issues, even with Lexus vehicles.

Safety is my number one concern. And instead of taking my experience and my emphatically expressed safety concern seriously, they just dismissed me. At the very least, they should have documented everything and relayed it to the appropriate people in their corporate office.

I posted my story on Lexus’ Facebook page in an attempt to get their attention. I got a prompt reply from someone there asking me to contact them via their less public, company website, which I did. We’ll see if anything comes of it…

Thank you all again for your input, it is much appreciated.

Broken mirrors aren’t typically covered by extended warranties, even if they self destructed.

My suggestion would be to file a formal report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). If they receive enough complaints about the issue, they’ll initiate an investigation. An investigation could lead to a recall (voluntary or involuntary), an agreement by Toyota to cover repairs under warranty, or some other resolution. Short of that action, I don’t see any recourse beyond simply getting the mirror replaced and moving on.

Sincere best.

Thanks, I’ll do that.

At the dealership your conversations will be with service advisors or service managers. Very, very few of those people have a mechanical clue.
Rather than appear ignorant by stating they don’t know this or that, many of them will come up with some off the wall stuff to cover that ignorance.

The reason for warranty not covering it is because they have no way of knowing if this was a spontaneous explosion or whether it was broken by some 14 year old comedian in a parking lot.
I do believe you when you state that it was spontaneous.

Unfortunately, parts failures occur all of the time with every make of car and many of those failures occur on cars not as old as yours.
I’m in agreement that you can file a complaint with the NTHSA but you should remember the wheels turn very slowly; if at all.

I assume that since safety is your number one concern, that you quickly had the mirror replaced and kept all the old parts.

Thanks. In this case, I also have two witnesses who were in the car with me.

I fully agree that the wheels turn very slowly, if at all. However, if none of us ever speak up, then it will only continue to stay that way.

The presence of social media outlets also dramatically helps gets peoples’ messages out there.

And if I can bring more awareness to the situation, even if only slight, it may help someone else.


It sounds like you were not treated very professionally at the Dealership OP. Especially the part where they implied it didn’t happen as you said it did, and the only way it could have happened that way would be if it happened to both sides simultaneously. Like you say, that is nonsensical and dismissive. If a Dealership treated me like that, I’d make an appointment with the owner and have a lengthy sit-down chat with them.

I guess my issue would be with item F. A loud noise or other distraction should never cause someone to lose sight of their primary responsibility to drive. Even if being shot at, you still have to maintain control of the car, and a loud noise is not an excuse.

Gotta say though that parts go bad. It could have been weakend some from an object hitting it at some time in the past or maybe using the mirror heaters would cause an expansion/contraction of the glass and lead to a failure. As far as the Toyota recall issues, there were forced to accept all responsibility as part of the settlement. Doesn’t mean anything has really changed though.

Just have it fixed, turn in a claim if you must, and go on with your life.

It’s not really a liquid it is a gel.

The technology is called electrochromics, which applies electricity in order to tint glass through a low-voltage power supply. The electricity moves through an electrochromic gel placed between two pieces of glass during manufacturing, which have been treated with an electrically conductive coating.

Read more: http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5003057_auto-dimming-mirrors-work.html#ixzz31E31iAeM

Thanks a million Pvt.
The link leaves me curious as to the actual way the gel under electrical load affects the passage of light, but I was unable to find even the link you posted. I don’t seem to be searching in the right places.

Try electrochromism in Wikipedia it give an explanation of sorts. Or maybe look at the gentex web site they make the mirrors.

@PvtPublic, do you have any insight into why they are exploding, or even if they are exploding? is this a hoax?

Thanks once again Pvt. Your suggestions have led me down the paths I was seeking.

No I don’t, although with several million of these mirrors in use I really don’t think that it is a systematic problem, rather then some isolated instances.

wesw - this is not a hoax and has happened to several individuals.

I totally agree with PvtPublic that millions of these mirrors are in use and the incidence rate is low. However, one could effectively argue that the ignition switch issue that GM is currently dealing with, mind you one decade later, ‘failed’ at a low incidence rate as well. Thirteen deaths, to date, have been associated with their faulty ignition switches, which is why they have recalled millions of cars. I have not seen a published number from GM regarding the true failure rate, accounted for by documented claims, so if anyone has a link to that info I would like to read it.

Bing - Of course everyone should be expected to drive responsibly. However, until you are in a given situation - no matter what it is - you do not know how things will play out a priori, you can only do your best and try to remain calm. I sure hope that if you or a loved one are ever shot at while driving, and you/they are focused on trying to live, that all works out well.