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Old 12-24-2012, 01:47 AM   #1
Nas Escobar
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How To: Retrofit an autodimming rear view mirror with compass and temperature readout

In this how to, I will show you how to turn your plain Donnelly rear view mirror that looks like this:



and turn in into a better looking rear view mirror that actually has features that you can use.

I will split this post as apparently, there's a 10,000 character limit. This is not post whoring, I just want to be as clear and concise as possible.

Things you will need:
  • A Gentex branded mirror from a donor car
  • The mirror wiring harness from the donor car that gave you the mirror
  • Ambient Temperature Sensor from a donor car or new from your local auto parts store
  • The wiring harness for the temperature sensor from the same donor car that you got the mirror from
  • 5-10 feet of red wire
  • 5-10 feet of black wire
  • Wire strippers
  • A way to connect wires together (heat shrink, solder, etc)
  • Electrical Tape
  • Wire Loom
  • Velcro or a Drill
  • T20 Torx Screwdriver
  • 3/8 Ratchet and socket set

Before you start:

You may feel some of the things on this list are a bit odd. The reason you will want a drill is if you get the bracket from the donor car that holds the ambient temperature sensor and want to drill it in to the body. Usually, you want the sensor away from any engine heat and away from any outside exposure. The best place for this would be in front of the radiator or on the headlight panel. As you may see, you have no holes for the bracket. You have to make your own. You can also take off one of the 10MM bolts that hold the headlight panel in and bolt it there. It should be protected by the bumper. The donor car will have a 10MM bolt that holds the bracket in, so it is a pretty simple add on.

Also, it should be noted before ANYONE asks, there is NO known Gentex mirror that has the auto dimming feature, the compass, the temperature AND map lights.

Well... actually, there is a mirror; but it is a rare model of mirror. The Oldsmobile Intrigue GLX has it, but it is a very rare mirror. Any ebay search will show that these mirrors have a high demand to supply ratio. In other words, if you want to spend $50 for LED lights that were made to look like they were incandescent bulbs and deal with the headache that this mirror MIGHT be wired into the BCM (some sources have stated that the Intrigue's mirror is wired in differently from other normal Gentex mirrors), then go ahead. I personally would have done it if I found an Intrigue GLX at the junkyard but after a year of searching, none was found and ultimately gave up.

The Onstar ones MAY have all the nifty features that one may want on a rear view mirror, but why would you want an Onstar mirror on a car that never came equipped with Onstar? You would have many buttons that you wouldn't be able to use.

The best mirror to use for this mod is the Gentex 177. These are distinct from other Gentex mirrors in that instead of the very common "compass" and "mirror" buttons found on non temperature mirrors, you will find that they have "compass" and "temp" on the 2 buttons below the mirror. There is a Gentex 202 that came in the Escalade and Denali that has temperature, compass, and a headlight delay button, but the button would be no use to us unless we can figure out how the Escalade/Denali auto headlight feature worked so we can rig our car's auto headlight to actually delay. It's something to look into for anyone that's bored (more than likely I'll attempt that mod later)

The Gentex 177 is usually found in the GM trucks. Some fords may have it, but it is not a safe bet. The safest bet is to look in a Tahoe/Suburban, Escalade, Yukon, Silverado/Sierra, and MAYBE the C/K series.

I will try to compile a list that have the mirror as I go along, but the safest bet is the GM trucks.

Most American cars had only the compass as they had an overhead console or electronic interior temperature control panel that had the temperature readout, thus making the temperature feature in the rear view mirror irrelevant.

One more thing to note, most/all American cars have a wedge placed on the windshield that holds the rear view mirror and most/all imports have a "cam-lock" style mechanism that hold the rear view mirror in place. In other words, DO NOT get a rear view mirror from a Japanese or European car and expect it to slide through the wedge that the Grand Am/Alero/Malibu has on its windshield. You CAN however get a rear view mirror from a Ford or a Chrysler built car and it WILL fit the N body/GM car as they all use the same style of wedge to place the rear view mirror in place onto the windshield.

PRELIMINARY STEPS:

STEP ONE: Go to the junkyard and look for a GM SUV/Truck. You can try your luck with a Ford truck or any other American built car. To make it real easy, just look for a Tahoe/Yukon.

STEP TWO: Take your T20 screwdriver and unscrew the torx screw that holds the rear view mirror on to the windshield wedge.

STEP THREE: Slide the rear view mirror up so it detaches from the windshield.

STEP FOUR: Cut as much wire from the car as you can that lead to the connector in the back of the mirror.

STEP FIVE: Look in front of the donor car (more than likely a Tahoe/Yukon) and look for the ambient temperature sensor. It is a very small piece of plastic that will be bolted on either at the center of the car near the hood release latch or near the driver's headlight.

STEP SIX: Unbolt the 10MM bolt that holds the bracket in place. The bracket will come loose and with it you will get the ambient temperature sensor. KEEP THE BRACKET or else you will have to velcro on the ambient sensor or be extremely "innovative" and roll tape around it to keep it in place.

STEP SEVEN: Cut as much wire from the connector for the temperature sensor as you can.

Now that you have your rear view mirror, and temperature sensor, your setup should look something like this:



The bracket isn't pictured but it isn't necessary. Only recommended. As I said, velcro or tape works fine. It just depends how deep you want to involve yourself in this.

NOW: Time to actually get this mod done!!
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:51 AM   #2
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STEP ONE: Disconnect the battery. You will be working with electricity. If your car is a 2003-2005, you already know where this is headed. You had to do the same thing with the radio. Well, I did...

*SPOILER ALERT*:
You will be wiring the positive wire to the ignition wire behind the radio. You can tap into another fused source that turns on when the car is in "ACC" mode, such as the cigarette lighter (although my car's lighter seems to be on constantly. Not sure if it just my car or the N body all together)

It is up to you where you get your 12+ constant from.

STEP TWO: Take your T20 screwdriver and unscrew the torx screw that holds the rear view mirror on to the windshield wedge.

STEP THREE: Slide the rear view mirror up so it detaches from the windshield.

You now have no rear view mirror in your car. If your car came equipped with map lights, disconnect the harness from the mirror. You MAY be able to use the positive and negative wires from that harness, but I believe it may keep the mirror on when the key is out. This is a "don't quote me" situation.

STEP FOUR: Look at your wiring harness. From center of the mirror, you will see pin 1. pin 7 will be the one that is closest to the driver's door. Each car has different colored wiring, so I cannot tell you what color goes to which. To be clear, you will be using pins 1, 2, 6, and 7. Pin 1 is 12+, Pin 2 is ground, Pin 6 is 12+ for the ambient temperature, and pin 7 is the ground.

IF You want the mirror to not be dim when your car is in reverse, you have to tap into your reverse lights. There should be a fuse under the hood that is for the reverse lights. If it's not there, then it's in the driver's side dash fuse panel. If not, it is recommended that you ground that wire. It will prevent the circuit from being open. The wire in question is pin 3.

For your curiousity, pins 4 and 5 are for your side view mirrors. Some cars also had auto dimming side view mirrors. We will be able to use that if we ever get someone to make us an autodimming mirror with turn signals. Until that day happens, it is a loss.

STEP FIVE: Start running wire to the wiring harness. It should be about 5 feet to get from the rear view mirror to the center console. You can ground where ever you want so long it's metal. I grounded near the kick panel to keep my ground as short as possible. Here is where the red and black wire will be handy. The red will be your positive, the black will be ground. Run all black wires like I did and you'll have to trace each wire every time you need to modify something. Also, if you have a loom or some other way to hide your wiring, right now is the time to utilize that method of hiding/protecting the wire.

It should be about 6 to 8 feet from the front of the car to the inside of the car. There is also a rubber grommet near the brake booster where you can run your wires into the cabin from inside of the hood. You will need to do this so you don't run the wires through the door jamb. Remember that you have to wire in the temperature sensor too. The good news is that you don't have to add it to a switched source.

STEP SIX: Remove your "A" pillar plastic cover. If you don't know what an "A" Pillar is, it is the metal between the door opening and the windshield. Inside the car, there is usually a piece of plastic that runs down diagonally that covers up the metal. A pull from the top will dislodge it from the car.

STEP SEVEN: Start tucking the wire in the "A" pillar from each direction, in other words, put the freshly wired harness on the back of the mirror and then put your fingers to lift down the cardboard that holds the headliner just enough to fit the wire and not have it exposed. This wire will lead to the "A" Pillar.

At the same time you will also have to tuck the ambient sensor in the kick panel and behind the dash as it goes up. The same will hold true for the 12+ wire, except you will run it down instead of up. When you run the 12+, you will want to tuck it under the crevice of the dash to get to the center console. If you're tapping into the fusebox in the dash, you're basically done.

STEP EIGHT: Remove radio by removing the ring around the ignition, and the trim around the radio and HVAC controls. They come off when you pry on them or put a screwdriver around the edges to pop off.

The radio has 3 8MM bolts that hold it into place. Take them off and the radio slides out.

STEP NINE: Locate the thick brown looking wire near the mess of wires in the dash. Mine personally was brown, but it can be another color in your car. It should be the thickest wire of all. Use a razor blade to peel off the plastic and expose some copper.

Afterwards, wrap or solder the positive from the mirror into that wire. It should be your ignition wire. Then seal it off and make sure there is no way it will make any contact with anything else.

STEP TEN: Reverse everything you did. This should be common sense and you should be reversing steps as you no longer work in the area. For example, you should put the "A" pillar plastic back when all the wires are nicely tucked. You should put the screw on the mirror when you will no longer be pulling it out of its wedge, etc.

Assuming you did the installation right, you should now be able to reconnect the battery, and place the car in the "ACC" position. This will now turn on your mirror as well. IF YOU HAVE A GRAND AM, THE MIRROR WILL NOT MATCH THE RED INTERIOR LIGHTS. This is AleroMod though, so for all the Alero guys, you're lucky to have green interior lights. It will match the STOCK radio read out and the gauge cluster.

There will be two buttons towards the center of the bottom of the mirror. One reads "COMP" and the other reads "TEMP". These are your compass and temperature buttons. When you press it, you will have a readout of your location and your local outside temperature respectively.

The temperature should be about 1 or 2 degrees off to what is being reported in your area. It's normal. It's not a wrong read out, but temperature readouts have numerous variables. The most important variable is location of the temperature sensor. On buildings that have the sign that read it out, more than likely it is somewhere where it gets a lot of wind. That will make it read differently. Likewise the heat of your car's surrounding will throw it off by a degree or 2.

BEFORE YOU GO OFF BRAGGING, THERE'S ONE MORE STEP!!!

Calibrating the compass:

These mirrors will more than likely be out of calibration. To understand that, you have to understand these mirrors work by programming them to a certain compass variance zone. They're preset from factory to be with zone 8. Most of us don't live in zone 8. I'm in DC so I live in zone 10.

Using my locality as an example, this is how you calibrate the compass...

STEP ONE: In an open parking lot, with the car on and started, press and hold the "comp" button until you see a number , usually "8" on the display.

STEP TWO: Using the map that will be linked below, look for your state. I live in Washington, DC so the zone is zone 10. I will press the "COMP" button until I see the number "10". If your state is split in 2 zones, choose the zone you are closest to.



For example, if you live in the state of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC will be in zone 9 but Raleigh, NC will be in zone 10.

STEP THREE: You now have to calibrate your mirror. Press the "COMP" button until the letter "C" shows up. You will more than likely see a number first, but if you keep holding it, the letter "C" will show up.

STEP FOUR: In the open parking lot, drive in small, tight circles, going no more than 5mph. The easiest and safest way to do this is to circle around a block of 4 parking spaces.

You will want to drive in circles 3 times.

Your mirror should now show the correct direction your car is pointed at.

Auto dimming will be a feature that will turn on on its own when obnoxious drivers are behind you. You should see the mirror turn green as a big SUV or a car with blinding lights approaches your rear end!

Last edited by Nas Escobar : 12-24-2012 at 01:54 AM.
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Old 12-24-2012, 02:55 AM   #3
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Awesome post man!!! Repped
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Old 12-24-2012, 03:50 AM   #4
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AWESOME write up man....DEF doing this next. Always loved the auto dim mirrors with a compass AND temp!? heck yeaaaa! lol. Gonna buy one off ebay with the harness and temp sensor included. Thanks!
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:22 AM   #5
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this needs to be sticked
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Old 12-24-2012, 11:17 AM   #6
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Great write-up and it is stickied.
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:58 PM   #7
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Cant wait to do this thanks!
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:36 PM   #8
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Awsome write up! Definitely doin this one. I gotta find one with the map lights, I use my map lights to Mich to want to get rid of them.
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Old 12-24-2012, 02:43 PM   #9
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I think I might do it too, we'll see. Good job.
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Old 12-24-2012, 05:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 04PONTIACGA View Post
Awsome write up! Definitely doin this one. I gotta find one with the map lights, I use my map lights to Mich to want to get rid of them.

How much are the lights worth to you?

They sell a mirror with all features you want but it's $200.

I want map lights on mine too, and honestly, I'm going to try and figure out how to get them. Maybe I can switch housings or something.

Might be my next project...
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Old 12-24-2012, 05:48 PM   #11
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all the gooddies $176. http://www.amazon.com/CIPA-36500-Dim.../dp/B00029WSX6

heres some info that possible opens up the possibilities of having all three options:
http://www.gm-trucks.com/forums/inde...c=135631&st=15
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Old 12-24-2012, 05:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nas Escobar View Post
How much are the lights worth to you?

They sell a mirror with all features you want but it's $200.

I want map lights on mine too, and honestly, I'm going to try and figure out how to get them. Maybe I can switch housings or something.

Might be my next project...

I found one on eBay for $70. There's a couple of them they're all around $60-$70.Q

http://item.mobileweb.ebay.com/viewitem?itemId=321042163760&index=0&nav=SEARCH&ni d=59534946745

Last edited by 04PONTIACGA : 12-24-2012 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 12-24-2012, 06:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a.graham52 View Post
all the gooddies $176. http://www.amazon.com/CIPA-36500-Dim.../dp/B00029WSX6

heres some info that possible opens up the possibilities of having all three options:
http://www.gm-trucks.com/forums/inde...c=135631&st=15

Ive thought about that. Taking an Onstar mirror or a Donnelly mirror with the map lights and retrofitting the Gentex mirror stuff in it.

As far as I know, the only car that has all 3 is the Oldsmobile Intrigue GLX. The normal intrigue only had map lights, from Donnelly but the GLX had the Gentex with LED lights fitted on the bottom.

I have a busted Gentex I pulled from a Cadillac Escalade. I'm going to see if I can pop it open and see how the stuff in there is placed. I may be able to hack the lights in or at least try to use a similarly shaped Donnelly and put the Gentex front on it. The only problem would be the compass stuff. There's a hole in the back that picks up the magnetic waves that translates it into location.

Edit: I may have found an easier solution... GENTEX 221. It's a mirror that's found in the Lincoln Continental. It might be a good solution. I'll try to look for the Lincoln at the junkyard one day.

Last edited by Nas Escobar : 12-24-2012 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:06 PM   #14
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in that link i posted somone said that they thought the equinoxs and denalis came with the mirrors with all three features.
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Old 12-25-2012, 04:12 PM   #15
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I saw. I think those mirrors have onstar though. Plus, there's no Equinoxs or Denalis at the junkers yet. O.o
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:42 PM   #16
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so for the most part if I can get a mirror with lights and garage door opener on it the wire up should be pretty much the same right?
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Old 12-31-2012, 01:32 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nas Escobar View Post
...As far as I know, the only car that has all 3 is the Oldsmobile Intrigue GLX. The normal intrigue only had map lights, from Donnelly but the GLX had the Gentex with LED lights fitted on the bottom. ...

I have one of the GNTX-221 mirrors from an Intrigue. IIRC, I pulled it out of a '98. It has auto-dim, compass, and map lights - but no temp display.

One 'feature' of it that may dissuade folks from using it is the way it mounts to the windshield button. It slips on the same button as a normal GM mirror, but there is no Torx screw. It just locks in place on its own. To remove it, a special tool must be slid in to lift the tang and allow it to slide off the button. (If you try to jam screwdrivers in to lift the tang, you will likely break the windshield.)

Since my Alero is a sunroof car, the mirror already has map lights. I have been thinking of installing the Intrigue mirror in its place. But there are other options too. Some new aftermarket mirrors actually have full GPS units built in...
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2004 Alero GLS (and a few others)
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Old 12-31-2012, 03:08 PM   #18
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A few more comments:

First, sunroof cars already have a map light. So +12v, switched ground (to allow the BCM to turn the map lights on when a door is opened), and ground are already available. For cars that don't have this, the same wires are available at the dome light. This then leaves the temp sensor wire (for mirrors with temp display) and reverse signal (for mirrors with auto-dim) to run down the A pillar.

Looking at the wiring diagram in the Haynes #38026 manual, page 12-37, there is a mistake or two. It only shows two connections to the mirror - +12v and ground. In my '04 at least, the mirror is also connected to the switched ground - as the dome light is. Is this a change from earlier cars?

As an aside, I also note that the wiring diagram also shows a right (passenger) vanity mirror light. My car does not have one - even though it is a 'loaded' GLS. It only has a non-lit drivers side vanity mirror. Was that also a change from earlier cars? (Or perhaps a Malibu or Cutlass had it?)
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Old 01-01-2013, 05:00 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papa Rad17 View Post
so for the most part if I can get a mirror with lights and garage door opener on it the wire up should be pretty much the same right?

It should be more or less the same. I would asssume the garage opener would get its power from the same 12+ switched source it gets the power to display compass and autodim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wws944 View Post
A few more comments:

First, sunroof cars already have a map light. So +12v, switched ground (to allow the BCM to turn the map lights on when a door is opened), and ground are already available. For cars that don't have this, the same wires are available at the dome light. This then leaves the temp sensor wire (for mirrors with temp display) and reverse signal (for mirrors with auto-dim) to run down the A pillar.

Looking at the wiring diagram in the Haynes #38026 manual, page 12-37, there is a mistake or two. It only shows two connections to the mirror - +12v and ground. In my '04 at least, the mirror is also connected to the switched ground - as the dome light is. Is this a change from earlier cars?

As an aside, I also note that the wiring diagram also shows a right (passenger) vanity mirror light. My car does not have one - even though it is a 'loaded' GLS. It only has a non-lit drivers side vanity mirror. Was that also a change from earlier cars? (Or perhaps a Malibu or Cutlass had it?)

My car had the standard Donnelly without the map lights. I would also assume those lights aren't switched off. The point of wiring them up to "ACC" is so the mirror doesn't drain battery. In my car, the dome light is not switched, meaning the light will stay on even though there's no key in the ignition. You don't want that because it will be a drain on the battery, especially if you leave the car off for a long time.

You're more than welcome to try wiring them up to the map lights. If your theory is right (that it's a switched accessory) then I will add that to the how to. If not, you have to run it down to the radio so when the key is off, the mirror is off too.

I can't answer your question about the switched ground. I have an 03 and as I said, the dome lights are readily available even though there's no key in the ignition.

Also, the Malibu DID have lighted mirrors in the visor. It's another mod I've been trying to do but the Malibu's visor looks longer and I can never find a color to match my headliner. As far as I know, no Alero/Grand Am has lighted mirrors in the visor.
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Old 01-02-2013, 11:42 AM   #20
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In a sunroof car, at least mine, the map lights are in the mirror. So there is a wire already provided for the connection. It is a 7-pin plug with three wires hooked up - +12v, switched ground, and ground. These same three wires also go to the dome light. Which is why I suggested that taking power from the dome light wires might be easier than running more wires down the A pillar.

Actually the +12v is also switched. According to the schematic, it comes from the BCM on a "inadvertant power control" line. So this would presumably shut off a left-on map light after a few minutes. (I haven't tested it yet.)

Noting that my GNTX-221 mirror has the exact same 7-pin plug, with the wiring seeming to be compatible, I tried plugging it in to the Alero yesterday. The map lights work just fine - both by opening doors and by using the switches. However the compass display didn't light up. I know I had the compass working on my bench a while ago, so not sure whats up...

And thanks for confirming that the Malibu had the lighted vanity mirror(s). I will keep an eye out for them.
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2004 Alero GLS (and a few others)

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