Curbside Tech: Electric Power Mirrors

This week’s post is rather brief, but that’s because things flowed very smoothly, and I didn’t encounter a single hiccup. So it can happen. For those keeping score, it’s happened for me exactly once.

In my initial review of the El Kylemino, I noted the driver’s door had a (mechanical) mirror remote control, and added this comment:

On a side note, the ’86 and ’87 El Camino use the same sport mirror housing as the Camaro and Corvette. “

In this post, you’ll see why that’s important information.

Cable controlled rear view mirror- Effective but affected by outside forces


When I bought the car, the cable style driver’s remote still worked fine, but there was no remote adjustment provision for the passenger side, and like many mirrors using cable controls, momentum tended to move the mirror when you closed the driver door, forcing you to frequently readjust the mirror.

Old style mirror on left, Camaro/Corvette/Fiero style on the right


After some online study, I determined the El Camino never offered electric power mirrors, but in 1985 or ’86 Chevy changed the mirror shape to match the housings used in Corvettes, Camaro/Firebirds, and Fieros, all of which offered an electric mirror option. Each car used a slightly different mount, but the housing shape and mirror mounting points were common to all. With this information in hand, a trip to the junkyard provided me with the needed parts.

Typical GM panel mirror switches


Unfortunately, all of these cars used a panel type power mirror switch, which did not match up to my door panel. To solve this problem, I discovered the switch from an ’89 Caprice fit perfectly in the El Camino’s adjustment knob bezel. As I said, no hiccups.

Needed parts- Note the knob type control switch


This picture shows the parts I gathered to mount the power mirrors – 1 control switch, 2 mirror motor pods, and the harness to tie it all together.

Pretty much every basic power mirror control system out there.


’80s era GMs with optional power mirrors used a stand alone power mirror harness, so I pulled one out of a junkyard A-body. During installation, one wire must connect to power, and the ground lug must bolt to a body ground. Beyond that, the harness was self-contained. Did I mention this was a very simple project?


On a car without power windows or power door locks, Chevy leaves off the rubber wire conduit between the door and the A-pillar. As everyone who mounted door speakers back in high school remembers, you can run wires from the door to the body without these parts. However, I’m a big fan of factory engineering, and the conduit prevents pinched wires, so I grabbed a pair off a G-body hoping my car had the needed openings.

Typical body plug


Sure enough, no worries a all. All openings were present, covered by neat plastic covers. I pried them off, popped in the conduit, and routed the harness into the door.

Red housing- Mounting points — Black housing- Mounting bracket — Brown housing-Mirror actuator


With the parts on hand and the conduit in place, it was time to mount the electric actuators. On both sides, the manually adjusted mirror mounted using three screws. To mount power mirrors a triangular shaped bracket fits here, then the actuator attaches to the bracket.

Actuator on the left, Mirror back on the right


To adjust the mirrors, the actuator contains two motors. To mate to the motors, the back of the mirror contains a 2-axis pivot, and two screw posts to engage the motor.


As the final step, I made sure to tightly mount the harnesses inside the door panels. Since GM never installed power mirrors in the El Camino, the harness did not include the needed tie-downs. I bought a couple of cable clamps from the hardware store, and used them to mount the wiring. This is a very important step- If either window snags the harness while traveling up and down, it may separate the connectors, or even damage the wiring.

With the mirror installed, all the technology gets covered up…


With the harness in place and the actuators mounted in the mirror housings, I snapped the mirrors in place, and the El Kylemino gained power adjustable mirrors on both sides!

By the way, I discovered some exciting news this week (well,exciting for me…). During the second week of October, the National El Camino Owners Club will be celebrating the El Camino’s sixtieth Anniversary in Arlington, Texas. The El Kylemino will be there, and if you’re interested in seeing hundreds of El Caminos in one location here’s the details: The El Camino 60th Anniversary Celebration