Exploding passenger side mirror

I’m sorry but there is no way you can equate this with the GM ignition recall. While I did not read all of your references I don’t think there have been any deaths or even minor injuries because of this problem, and failure of an outside mirror while annoying does not affect the drivability of the vehicle. From what I have read this is something that happens at a rate by a magnitude less than even flat tires, which affect a car much more. As to Lexus not addressing this issue, well why would they warranty is expired. So they should fix it on their dime? I don’t see it that way.

I m big on reasonable explanations. I have yet to hear one. some thing to do with a heater may make sense. I could even imagine moisture getting trapped some where and the gap being sealed as the heater warms and expands things, eventually causing steam to explode out. I don t know. I m just surprised that no one here has an explanation

A mirror heater isn’t going to warm it enough to produce steam.

What’s probably happening is that the glass is tempered, which means that any tiny little chip or flaw causes the entire sheet to fail. It could also potentially be caused by nickel sulfide inclusions, which would have been a flaw introduced when the glass was made due to metal shavings off of the machines that make it.

But the most likely cause is that somehow the glass got a small chip, which caused the whole sheet to fail. That chip could be from anything - using an ice scraper on the mirror can chip it if you aren’t careful enough. Or a rock could get jammed between the glass and the mirror housing, and then cause a chip when you adjust the mirror. Lots of random little things can cause the glass to fail, and unless you have hard evidence that Lexus installed faulty glass, you should just chalk it up to “Stuff happens,” fix it, and move on with your life.

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With a failure rate as low as it is with these, there are probably exactly 0 (zero) people even interested in the why. In all products that I know of there is an acceptable failure rate, unless that rate is exceed not even the manufacturer is concerned. Even if there were several hundred failures I doubt it would exceed the manufacturers accepted failure rate.

@‌ tsm

Here’s another link that provides some insight into the physical construction- http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/construction/green/smart-window4.htm

maybe an electrical short?

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“Glass” is a term people use generically to describe what is actually a myriad of products with various formulations used in their construction. There are hundreds of different formulations that make up various types of windows or the transmissive part of a mirror assembly for example.

One thing they all have in common is that they are under stress. Most undergo some form of stress relief to make them less prone to “spontaneous shattering”- a term I find misleading.

A lot of glass used in car windows and mirrors is float glass- a soda lime concoction that is more prone to shattering than some other more robust formulations. It’s also heat treated to produce the “safety glass” aspect of how it breaks up and to relieve some of the stress from manufacture.

If you ask me, the incidence rate of “spontaneous shattering” has been going up lately. At least the number of reported incidents has made people more aware of it. Perhaps that is only due to the access to social networking to more easily disseminate information among the masses, I don’t know for sure. But look around, people complaining about everything from glass bakeware to car windows just exploding unexpectedly.

Due to the construction of the mirror assembly in an auto-dimming mirror, it may be placed under higher static loading and so, when it lets go, it does it in spectacular fashion. It might even be something to do with the method of restraint and the fact it is an electrically active panel that has greater need for freedom to expand and contract than the traditional mirror.

I know we have done extensive experimentation on the best methods for retaining high precision mirrors in optical assemblies that are subjected to wide ranging environmental conditions. The best way to secure them is with a single dab of specially formulated epoxy (LTCoE) right in the center of the assembly. This insulates them from the differences in coefficient of expansion for the mount versus the mirror. Grabbing or restraining them across the entire surface or by the edges is sure to result in failure. In contrast, the last side mirror glass I replaced was bonded across the entire rear surface to a plastic carrier…

Or perhaps the higher incident rate has something to do with using cheaper glass formulations in order to save money but having a higher incident rate of shattering due to the way they are held and being more prone to stresses? Only an industry insider will probably know the real cause…


" As to Lexus not addressing this issue, well why would they warranty is expired. So they should fix it on their dime? I don’t see it that way."

OP said the Lexus still has extended warranty

Somebody at the dealer told them the mirror is covered, and they should bring the car in

When OP showed up, the manager insulted their intelligence and implied that they were lying

The following is taken from an old bulletin. It is an example of a known manufacturing problem;

’01 LS 430 & RX 300

Improvements have been made to the outside rear view mirror glass. The bonding
process, when the EC terminal for the heater is attached, has been improved.
A field fix is available for outside rear view mirrors that have thermal stress cracks
brought about by the mirror heater element.

There are no bulletins for the 2009 RX350, this appears to be a random failure.

I really doubt an outside mirror is covered under an extended warranty any more than tires per se. That being said if it is I apologize. Regardless of what anyone said over the phone we all know that what is really written in the warranty is what matters.

Is it not covered because it is presumed that any glass, mirror, etc. breaking is always the fault of the driver?

I still think OP was treated very rudely at the dealer, based on what was posted

It is sufficient to say “I’m sorry. The mirror glass isn’t covered under the extended warranty. I’ll be happy to come up with an estimate to repair the car.”

It is unnecessary . . . and rude . . . to question the customer’s story, and imply that both mirrors should break at the same time.

The mirror actuator is covered by some extended warranties, I don’t think the glass is ever covered.
I doubt the person who answered the phone could imagine to cause of the “explosion” and thought the mirror might be covered by the warranty.

Most service advisors don’t have the patiencs to listen to a long story about an explosion or want to check if a component is covered by a warranty without the vehicle present and tell the customer to bring the car in.

Being rude to the customer may influence their decision, as to whether they want to buy another Lexus, or do business at that particular dealership again

Something to consider

If I am treated rudely at a business, I think about if I want to come back. If I notice it as a pattern at a particular business, I sometimes make a concrete decision to shop elsewhere, even it is slightly inconvenient.

I think OP needs to go back to the dealership and hunt up the guy who told him it would be covered, and deal with that guy and only that guy. If that guy’s willing to do the job for free, great!

The dimming technology must be similar to how liquid crystal display’s work. A voltage change in the electrodes bounding the gel causes a reconfiguration of the material, changing the optical properties. The mechanism for the “explosion” could be that the gel expands with temperature and/or that it expands with applied voltage. i.e, maybe it’s the unstoppable force vs the unmovable object problem. It could have nothing to do w/the gel too. Maybe there’s just something wrong w/the way the glass is mounted which isn’t allowing it to flex enough to compensate for temperature changes. It’s interesting to speculate anyway.

As far as the OP is concerned, while I agree the treatment received was unprofessional, I don’t think the dealership has either a legal or moral responsibility to fix it gratis. But given the warranty had only run out a few months prior, in the interest of customer relations the dealership might want to do more than simply agree to replace the mirror and the customer pays parts and labor. One compromise might be that the customer pays for the parts, and the dealership absorbs the labor costs. The dealership would still make a little money on the parts mark up, and possibly – by granting a small and inexpensive favor – generate a new car sale at a future date.

George, LCDs came to my mind too, but LCDs to the best of my knowledge cannot vary their transmission characteristics; they either transmit or they don’t, transparent or opaque depending on whether voltage is applied or not. If I understand this mirror technology, the gel has the ability to vary its transmission characteristics based upon applied voltage. That’s what piqued my curiosity. I’ve never been involved in this technology.

My gut suggests that there must be an element of thermal expansion incompatibilities involved, sort of like a bimetallic choke control but unintended, but I wish I were in a position to really find out. It interests me.

I wholeheartedly agree with your post overall.

I am equating “incidence rate” only based on what I’ve found in public domain. There is clearly a defect with these mirrors, in my opinion as well as others. If something is defective, it should be looked into and not just dismissed as trivial and unimportant. And a primary reason why reporting agencies exist.

Lexus sold over 95,000 RX-350s in the U.S. alone, just in the year 2010, over 93,000 in 2009, over 84,000 in 2008, and over 103,000 in 2007. While the number of incidents you found on the internet may seem high, it may not be as high as it seems when put into context.

Repot it to NHTSA. If there truly is a high incidence of these mirrors self-destructing, that’s the agency that will compile the data and, if it deems it to be safety-related, act on it.

Then get it fixed and move on. It isn’t worth obsessing over.

Lexus sold over 95,000 RX-350s in the U.S. alone, just in the year 2010, over 93,000 in 2009, over 84,000 in 2008, and over 103,000 in 2007. While the number of incidents you found on the internet may seem high, it may not be as high as it seems when put into context.

And that’s not including the millions of other car sold with self dimming mirrors since around 2000 or so ( Audi, BMW, Mercedes, infinity, GM,) more then I can name. Like I said previously the percentage of failures of this sort (probably less than .001%) is not even on the mirrors’ manufacters radar much less the auto dealers.

As TSM said if it makes you feel better report it to the NHTSB and/or go up the Lexus chain with it. Then go to your local auto recycler and pick up the replacement glass for less than $50. I picked up 4 interior self-dimming mirrors with compass and temperature at mine for $60. I just wish I could find the exterior ones for my 02 Camry but it looks like they just are not made.

I appreciate all of your comments and perspectives and I have already done all of the above. As many folks pointed out to me, independently, what if someone is sitting in the seat with the window down when these types of explosions occur? Depending upon the severity of the explosion - shattered pieces of glass/mirror as well as other bits and pieces (as has been reported) could hit their face and cause significant injury.
Technology is a wonderful thing but issues do arise. I hope this forum has brought some awareness to this particular one. Thanks again. Cheers.