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Breakaway mirrors put to test

Team FIN members give tractor mirrors high marks for their lack of vibration and improved visibility.

We asked Team FIN farmers to test Breakaway Tractor Mirrors during their busiest and most dangerous time of year - harvest.

The replaceable, slightly convex mirrors, from Tractor Mirrors, telescope from 7 to 14 ft. and are designed to provide greater visibility, without requiring adjustment. They are also designed for greater safety: Because the mirrors are positioned ahead of the driver, he or she does not have to turn completely to the side to see the image in the mirrors.

The mirrors are constructed of heavy 3/16-in. square steel, weighing about 90 lbs. According to Tractor Mirrors owner Steve Brownlee, they fit most tractors, and installation on most cabs does not require drilling. A patented breakaway hinge protects the tractor cab and the mirrors. The mirrors fold back for easy storage.

Brownlee says the mirrors' primary advantage is that they allow the driver to see traffic approaching from behind when making left-hand turns. He says "slow-moving vehicle" signs and flashing lights are effective, but in the end, it's truly the farmer's responsibility to watch the traffic, which the mirrors better allow him or her to do.

The mirrors are most applicable to older-model tractors (made after 1974) because some newer models now come equipped with similar mirrors.

Team FIN conclusions. Team FIN member Steve Webb of Needham, IN, who installed the mirrors on his Allis 8070, was concerned about the mirrors' weight. He questioned whether the cab roofs would be able to withstand the pressure without damage.

Jack and Gary Appleby of Atwood, IL, also ran into this problem. The Applebys reinforced the cab on their International 1086 for fear that the mirrors would damage it.

Brownlee says that because the mirrors hang far in front of that specific cab, they give the illusion that the mirrors do not have enough support and adds that he has never had a report or complaint of damage. And he claims that test after test has shown that the mirrors are firmly mounted and do not need more support.

Easy assembly. The farmers found assembling the mirrors to be a fairly simple process. Brownlee claims it should take less than an hour to assemble and mount the mirrors, depending on the tractor model.

Scott McPheeters of Gothenberg, NE, says it took him about 2 hrs. to assemble and mount the mirrors on his Magnum 7240. Rolland Schnell of Sully, IA, says that he and an employee spent only 30 min. installing them on his John Deere 4430. The farmers also found the directions easy to follow.

Breaking away. The force required to push the mirrors back was considerable, according to most Team FIN members. The manufacturer claims that when the mirrors break away, they come near the tractor and stop in a notch. But McPheeters claims the notch isn't deep enough. Brownlee says this problem can be eliminated by loosening the springs on the mirrors. The force McPheeters encountered was strong enough to push the mirror past the secondary notch, which would have prevented the mirror from hitting the cab, Brownlee says.

The Applebys say they did not encounter a situation requiring the breakaway option, but they suspect that the mirrors' glass would break in a breakaway situation. The farmers were pleased with the lack of vibration on the highway and in the field from the mirrors. Brownlee says the mirrors' heaviness eliminates vibration.

Visibility fares well. Most of the farmers cited improved visibility as the mirrors' biggest advantage.

The Applebys say that the mirrors mounted on their tractor gave such good visibility that when the tractor was hauling a 750-bu. auger wagon, they could see behind the wagon. They also say the mirrors allowed them to see over the top of a wagon to see how it was filling. They chose to invest in the mirrors.

"I'd hate to do without them now," Jack Appleby says.

John Engelland of Sterling, KS, invested in the mirrors for the same reason. He says the improved visibility makes road traveling much safer and gives a good view behind grain carts.

Schnell was also pleased with the visibility. He says the mirrors worked well for filling semis. However, Schnell decided against buying the mirrors. Although he was pleased with their quality, he says that he would only use the mirrors with grain carts and that most new tractors come equipped with similar mirrors.

Webb did not give high marks to the convex mirrors. He claims they distort the driver's perspective and ability to judge the distance of objects behind the tractor. "This was especially bad at night when you would see headlights in the mirrors behind you and you would think they were about a quarter mile back, and they would pass you about three seconds later," he says.

Webb also decided against buying the mirrors, but he says the idea behind them - to provide safety - is valuable and something more farmers should consider. McPheeters says that he chose not to buy the mirrors because he does not do much road traveling.

A full set of mirrors sells for ¤369; the left-side mirror alone sells for ¤282; replacement mirrors, flat or convex, are ¤17. Several additional options are available, including 8-in. round mirrors for ¤26, designed to allow the driver to watch the topping off of truck and wagon loads. A light kit that can be installed with the mirrors sells for ¤84, and a strobe light sells for ¤69. Contact Tractor Mirrors Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 223, Amboy, IL, 61310, 800/697-2233.

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