Stories Told

How to replace the side mirror on a 2003 Toyota Matrix

Backing out of my tiny garage the other day, I took it a little wide. The passenger-side mirror hit the garage door’s frame and – crack! crunch! – quickly and efficiently removed itself. D’oh!


This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. The last time was about ten years ago. I was driving my wife’s car down a narrow road, and clobbered the side mirror against a telephone pole that stepped out into the road just as I passed by. I fixed it myself with a mirror I got off a wrecked car at a junkyard – read that story.

In the modern age there’s eBay, which lets you pick through junkyards from the comfort of your living room. A little searching found this dented doppelgänger of my car sitting around doing nothing in a junkyard in Quebec. Of all places.

The donor car

I don’t speak French, but fortunately the Québécois and I both speak PayPal. $60 later the mirror you see attached to the donor car’s passenger’s door was inside a FedEx jet, on its way Stateside.

Fortunately, replacing a side mirror on a 2003 Toyota Matrix is easy. As a public service to the entire Internet, here’s how it’s done. Tools needed: A standard screwdriver, a socket wrench with a small handle, and a 10 mm socket.

Step 1. Survey the damage. 
  • Try not to weep.
  • Fortunately, Toyota designed the mirror to break off cleanly. Unfortunately, in my case it crumpled a little sheet metal on the way.
Step 2. Remove the speaker cover.
  • Open the door.
  • Stick a standard screwdriver between the speaker cover and the metal window frame and pry it off. It should come off easily.
Step 3. Pull the interior door panel back a little bit.
  • Near the speaker, there’s a small gap between the interior panel and the sheet metal. Place your fingers in the gap and pull slowly.
  • Plastic pins hold the door panel to the sheet metal. You will hear them pop from their sockets. Do not panic.
Step 4. Disconnect the mirror’s electrical connection.
  • Look down between the door frame and the interior panel for two wire harnesses.
  • Carefully insert the screwdriver’s tip until it touches the tab atop the harness farthest from the door’s hinges.
  • Press the tab down and gently tug the wire until the plug comes out.
Step 5. Remove the mirror’s three bolts.
  • Use the socket wrench to remove the exposed lower bolt. You may have to hold the door panel back with one hand while ratcheting the wrench with the other.
  • Snake the socket wrench around the wires and behind the speaker bracket and remove the other lower bolt. Get your curse words ready, because the socket will probably keep slipping off.
  • Pull the speaker bracket away.
  • Use the socket wrench to remove the top bolt.
  • Try not to let the bolts fall down inside the door frame, especially if your replacement mirror is missing one or more of its bolts, as mine was.
Step 6. Remove the broken mirror.
  • Pull it right off.
  • Guide the wire harness through its hole in the sheet metal.
Step 7. Mount the replacement mirror.
  • From the outside, push the mirror’s wire harness through the squarish hole.
  • Insert the mirror’s three threaded posts into the corresponding holes on the door.
  • Thread a bolt onto the top post until it’s finger tight.
  • Pull the door panel back.
  • Insert the wire harness into the receptacle, pressing until you feel the locking tab click. I tested the mirror at this point by turning the car on and using the remote mirror buttons on the dash, to make sure the mirror was electrically connected. It was.
Step 8. Tighten the bolts.
  • Place the speaker bracket onto the lower two posts
  • Thread the bolts onto the lower two posts.
  • Use the socket wrench to tighten all three bolts, and be sure to have your curse words ready as you try to access that lower bolt that hides under the speaker.
Step 9. Reattach the interior door panel to the door.
  • Press the interior door panel back against the door until you feel the pins pop into place.
  • A trim strip attaches to the interior door panel along the windowsill. These little tabs are supposed to bend down inside that trim strip to hold it close. Give up, you’ll never make it happen. Fortunately, it won’t affect anything.
  • Press the speaker cover back on. It has a pin that goes into the only remaining unused hole in the door frame. Press gently until you feel it seat.

That’s it! Now you can bask in the glow of success. That’s a really nice feeling after the embarrassment of having broken the mirror in the first place.

Mission accomplished!

Post script: I wrote this a few days ago and scheduled it to be posted today. Last night, on the way home from work, someone rear-ended me. I’m fine; the car’s bumper will need replaced. But this poor car just can’t catch a break.

I’ve had the worst luck trying to keep this car looking nice. Check out everything else that’s gone wrong.


19 thoughts on “How to replace the side mirror on a 2003 Toyota Matrix

  1. “Try not to weep”. LMAO!!!
    I did just this once, but I was backing INTO the garage. It was a very busy day with the kids, it was 11:30 at night. After retreiving the youngest from a friend’s house, I proceeded to back my convertible into the garage and got too close to the right hand side. The sound of cracking plastic is sickening, isn’t it? We epoxied the plastic back together and held it onto the car with duct tape (car is black, didn’t look too bad actually). My oldest, being in the auto field, happened upon the exact car being scrapped. He was able to obtain the passenger side door mirror from this car and put it on. It’s not exactly perfect, it shakes, but it’s on there.
    Cars take so much abuse! Glad your ok after your fender bender. Yeah, bumpers are a whole other monster! We replaced the one on my son’s SHO Taurus. It took 3 of us and a ton of bolts and nuts later!

    • I actually enjoyed writing this, because for a long time I wrote instructions for a living. I always had to play it straight when I was doing it for pay.

      Yeah, I have no desire to wrangle with my bumper. The impact also messed with the exhaust, as it’s buzzy. So I’ll let a professional handle this.

  2. Oh no! Sounds like this car is a magnet for accidents! At least you are okay. My car’s bumper had to be replaced once…and the thing I was most upset about what that I lost all of my bumper stickers :-)

  3. Lone Primate says:

    All cars in Quebec look like that. OOOOooo! Burn! :)

    Nice design feature that losing your mirror doesn’t relieve you of part of your door at the same time. And a terrific breakdown (pardon the pun) on repairing it. Wrote it up just a like a tech writer or something. :)

    Did you remember to jump out and yell “whiplash!” at least? I saw a passenger do this in a fender-bender in the Distillery District in Toronto a few years ago… as a joke. Funny to everyone but the at-fault driver. :)

    • So back when I was a tech writing manager, if one of my writers had handed this in I would have sent it back for revision. Each step should be a group of directly related substeps; several steps actually contain more than one such group, such as Step 7. But I would have praised for keeping the number of step groups in the 7 +/- 2 range!

  4. DIY Girl says:

    Go figure, I came across your post after breaking my 2003 Matrix side mirror…
    GREAT post! I never wouldve considered doing it myself but this looks very doable.

    Regarding the part about pulling back the door panel a bit to access the mirror electrical plug – how much am I risking cracking the panel doing this? I love the idea of NOT having to take the whole door panel off but want to be sure I don’t have a mishap doing it. Also your Step 5 mentioned holding the door panel so wondering if you had to do it over again would you have taken the whole panel off?
    I know this is an old post but hopefully you can help :)

    • The panel was pretty flexible. The amount you have to pull it back is within its ability to flex. Or at least that was my experience.

      I’d worry that taking the whole panel off would break some of the clips, which would make the panel hard to get back on tight.

  5. Mike Mulcahy says:

    Thanks much for this!

    It works for a 2004 matrix (the speaker is NOT connected to the two lower bolts).

    I made the mistake of pulling too hard on the middle part of the door panel and broke the plastic clip (on the inside of the door panel) connected by a screw to the metal door frame. (The screw is accessible in the inside door handle area, behind a small removable plastic tab).

    I was able to reconnect using a washer on the original screw, which put pressure against the door panel.

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