If you drive in urban environments, chances are sooner or later you are going to get a side view mirror broken off by another car getting too close, or a bicycle, or even a parking meter. Luckily, modern cars make replacing the glass of a broken mirror easy. In fact, in many cases you can do it in minutes without any tools at all. Even in the case of a serious incident that knocks the whole mirror clean off, it seldom takes more than a few screws to attach a new one (though you may need to remove a few bits of trim to get to them).
Most cars made in the 21st-century feature mirrors made to breakaway, and pivot in the event of being hit or hitting an obstacle. In order to knock the mirror and its housing off, on most cars, you'd need to get close enough to damage the door it is mounted to as well. This is a feature designed into modern cars to lower the cost of insurance claims by making these very minor repairs less expensive.
Every car is different mechanically, but making minor repairs to the body of them is nearly universal. If you want to improve the looks of your car, check out our how-to articles on fixing a deep scratch, patching rust damage, or pulling dents with a stud welder.
Replacing broken mirror glass is one of the truly simple repairs; in many cases you don't need any tools at all!
1) Pry the broken mirror off - Get behind the mirror with a plastic pry bar. On some cars there is enough room to get your fingers behind it, and you won't need a tool at all, but watch out for broken glass. It should only take moderate effort to get the mirror to pop off the clips.
If you have heated mirrors, or the type with turn signals built in, unplug the wires connected to the mirror.
2) Inspect clips and tabs - With the magic of Photoshop, we can look at all 4 taps and clips in this photo. Number 1 snaps into A, 2 into B, and so on. Every manufacturer uses a slightly different system (this is a Toyota RAV4). Make sure all the tabs or clips on the mounting plate are still in good shape, if not order a new part to replace the broken one from the dealer.
Replacement mirrors are available from many sources, but the mounting plate is likely a dealer only item.