Diagnostic Corner: Identifying Power Window Regulator Issues

Road trips are great.


You’re out for a long weekend with a few friends, ready to tackle anything that crosses your path.  All of the windows are down, the air is flowing nicely, and the radio is up!  What could go wrong?


Suddenly, out of nowhere, it begins to rain.  Hey, no worries, right?  A little rain never hurt anyone.


So, everyone begins closing their windows…but yours isn’t budging.  Better act quickly, or the interior will be drenched!  You pull over, attach some plastic to cover the window, and turn your attention to the culprit.


Is it a bad power window switch?  Did the window motor die on you?  Is the regulator shot?


The game is afoot…


What Does the Power Window Regulator Mean to Your Vehicle?


Well, to your driving experience, it’s pretty dang important!


The power window regulator is the assembly that raises and lowers your windows at the touch of a button.  Do not confuse the component with the “switch”, as this is just the button we push to MOVE the window…


Diagnostic Corner  Window Regulator


The regulator is inside the door frame.  Your window pane mounts to the “rail” of the regulator assembly, and with the help of the window motor, mobility ensues.


Vehicles with manual windows still have a window regulator, but the assembly is unpowered (obviously).


Diagnosing a Damaged Power Window Regulator


If your power window just SUDDENLY stopped working, don’t immediately assume that the regulator is to blame.  A loose wiring connection or damaged window switch could be the issue.  And, if it is, this is usually cheaper (and much easier) to fix than the entire regulator.


But, if the switch and connection seem to be in good shape, it’s time to turn our attention to the regulator and motor.


Here are a few ways you can tell that your power window regulator/motor assembly requires replacement:


(1)    Did you hear a grinding noise shortly before the window stopped moving?


A grinding noise is usually a telltale sign that the power window regulator is nearing the end of its lifespan.  If the windows have been a bit slower to open and close in recent weeks, and a low, almost agonizing rumble seems to be coming from inside the door panel, it means that your motor/regulator is struggling to function properly.


(2)    Can you RAISE and LOWER the window with your hands?


Your window pane is secured to the regulator rail (usually with a couple of bolts or clips).  It SHOULD NOT move when you try to lift or lower it with your hands.  If you pull upward on the window, and it moves, you have probably snapped one of the regulator cables.  In other words, you need a new power window regulator.


(3)    Did you hear a loud POP shortly before the window stopped moving?


When one of the cables on the window regulator breaks, they will sometimes make a loud “pop” sound.  If you hear this sound, and the window immediately stops working, then your regulator has moved onto the Great Parts Store in the Sky…


Repair Prognosis


Repairing a power window regulator can be a bit time consuming.  But, overall, the project is relatively easy, provided you understand a few simple nuances associated with the repair.


Removing the interior door panel is probably the worst part of this type of replacement.  Again, nothing is overly difficult, but instead, just requires a bit of patience.


Once you have the interior door panel off, the window regulator is mounted inside the door frame.  On most vehicles, 4-6 bolts secure the regulator to the door.  First, you’ll want to disconnect the window motor’s wiring harness.  Next, separate the window from the regulator rail (usually two bolts) and raise the window pane to the closed position.  Secure the pane to the top of the window frame using painter’s tape, and you can now loosen the mounting bolts and remove the regulator/motor assembly.


Installation is simply a reversal of the process.  Be sure that the regulator is properly mounted before lowering the window onto the rail, though!


It sounds like a lot, I know, but honestly, these repairs are much easier than they sound when reading the steps…trust us, you can do it!



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