A couple months ago, a 2005 Toyota 4Runner came in as a trade toward a new Mazda at the dealership where I work. When parking the car out back, I learned very quickly that this 4Runner has more mirrors than other vehicles! Like normal, there are two mirrors on each front door and one at the top of the windshield — these you are no doubt familiar with. Then I came across two more, in a place where I didn’t expect to find any mirrors. That’s because they’re mounted inside the car, on the "D" pillar. If you’re thinking "that’s not a normal place for mirrors!" you’d be right. That was the first thing that went through my mind, too.
My second thought was, "What the heck are those for?" At first, I wondered if they were to watch into the cargo area. I’m pretty sure the number of 4Runners with dogs far, far outweighs those without — so, maybe they’re designed to keep an eye on your black lab laying down in the back? Although, the view in the mirrors wasn’t right for that, so I gave up. As I reversed it into place, the mirrors again caught my eye. In that moment, I figured out their function: they’re to look behind the car.
Whoop-de-do, you might now be thinking. Not so fast. While backup cameras may be a federal requirement as of 2019, in 2005 they were very uncommon. In this car, there are two mirrors — one on each of the "D" pillars. Their placement and angle allow the driver to see out the rear window — keeping an eye on the rear bumper, a couple feet directly behind the car, and whatever might be parked next to you. This is a great solution to a problem that few had addressed at that point.
The positives to this setup up are obvious. As a non-electronic device, it’s unlikely to break unless your Pug hates his own reflection and eats the mirror. It’s not going to get dirty after approximately 12 seconds of driving in the winter … or in the rain … or on a dirt road. It’ll also work regardless of whether the car is on, in reverse, in drive — or even if it’s rolled over onto its roof.
With that said, I’m guessing there are some negatives as well. For instance, I would imagine that, without a spotlight, it would be much less effective at night. Also, while the mirrors themselves won’t get dirty, the same I’m sure can’t be said for the rear window … so, their usefulness is still tied to your driving conditions. It’s okay though: in the 4Runner, you can just roll down the rear window!
The other problem is that the number of cars this setup would work with is dwindling rapidly. As an example, from a similar vantage point in the back of my wife’s Mazda CX-5, the bumper is no longer visible due to the rake of the rear pillar — which would make it useless to put mirrors there. This means that pretty much anything that doesn’t have a flat rear wouldn’t benefit from mirrors on its "D" pillars.
Anyway, finding those mirrors was a nice little surprise that I thought you might find interesting if you geek out on quirky features. It may be cheap, it may be simple, but it’s also nearly as effective as a backup camera. At least, until backup cameras that have washers or retract when they’re not needed become much more widely used! Find a Toyota 4Runner for sale