12/26/2006: Restoring the Rear-View Mirror

Back in June, while rear view mirror’s chrome frame was out to be restored, I went ahead and disassembled the rest of the mirror for cleaning and restoration. Over the last few months I’ve taken care of the various parts of it:

Aluminum Base

This piece had some oxidation on it, so I sanded it lightly with several grits of sandpaper. I then used a buffing wheel on my bench grinder with tripoli and white rouge to give it some shine. I may go back and polish it a little better at a later date to a better finish. I doubt these were ever particularly shiny from the factory though.

Outer shell

The black portion of the mirror shell really didn’t look that bad, but after cleaning it, I found little spots of rust starting to show through the paint. I considered trying to just topcoat it with some satin black spraypaint to cover them up, but ultimately decided to repaint it instead.

The original finish is a black “wrinkle paint”, so I did a little research into which brand was best. This type of paint is made by most paint manufacturers, including VHT, Krylon, Plasti-Kote, and Eastwood. I found plenty of recommendations for one or the other, and ultimately concluded that all the brands were probably good enough for this mirror, since it’s a small area so any unevenness in the finish wouldn’t be noticible. I decided to buy the first one I found, which turned out to be Krylon 3370 (Black Wrinkle Finish), available at my local NAPA.

I used regular “aircraft stripper” to remove the paint, then a wire wheel to remove the trace rust that was underneath it. I then used the dremel tool and polishing compound to shine up the brass rivets. I masked them with circles I punched out of masking tape and wrapped the swivel in tape, then painted the rest with wrinkle paint, following the directions closely. I also preheated the part in a 150 degree oven for a few minutes prior to the first coat, then cured the paint in the oven after the third coat. This causes the wrinkles to appear.

The result is not too bad. I got a a bit of a run in one area, but I don’t think it will show. Also, the texture is rougher than the original paint was. I don’t think it will be noticible to most people though, unless I give them a side by side picture like this:


The original mirror coating was flaking off, so I had two choices. I could have it resilvered, or I could have a replacement cut. Having a new mirror cut seemed like the most straightforward thing to do.

However, much like Tom, I found that the thin glass used in these older mirrors is hard to find. Several glass shops I visited said that they could no longer get it from their suppliers.

Finally though, someone at a local shop (J. A. White Glass Co.) suggested that I try a craft store. Sure enough, Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts carried 10 inch circles of glass in exactly the right thickness, for something like $6. White Glass then cut and beveled the edge of the mirror to match my original perfectly, for another $10 or so.


Everything fit back together fine. I used a little lithium grease on the moving parts.

Here’s the finished result!