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Electric Power Window Repair

"Ha!" somebody said, "what other kind of power window is there besides electric?" I suppose there could be an air one or a hydraulic but the reason I chose that title is because people usually look for one or the other. By using both it makes it easier for people to find when they do searches in search engines.

I recently dragged up an old Cutless Supreme into the garage on a hot day and the windows didn't work. This was annoying since I had to spend some time inside working on the interior. Electric windows are great but they are more prone to failure then manual ones. Fortunatly they aren't that hard to fix as a general rule. In my case I simply had to replace the switch on the drivers door. To trouble shoot I used a switch out of another GM vehicle and plugged it in. I made sure they were the same type of course.

Dealers will charge allot of money for these types of repairs and I had a quote of $150.00 to fix this one. In the end it took me 15 minutes and a $20.00 part

Lets go through the basic steps necessary to fix some of the basic items

Things that can go wrong in order of most common occurance:

1. Switches. Switches get corroded, rusty or just plain carboned up from continual arcing. The question always is, which switch is it? the right rear window may not work anymore but since that switch gets its current from the main switch it could be the right rear switch or the main drivers switch. Most commonly its the drivers switch since that one gets used the most.

2. Motor burn out or failure. Motors have brushes and moving parts that eventually wear out. Many have switches in them as well that can eventually burn out.

3. Wiring fatigue. All the wires go through the door jamb and every time you open the door they flex. copper wire is very soft but every time it bends it gets a little stiffer and a little more brittle. Most of these door jambs areas are made to accomodate the wires with wire loops and such to minimize how much the wire actually has to move. Still they can fatigue and break off inside their insulator. The only way to really find these is with a ohm meter and allot of work digging around under the dash.

4. Mechanical failure of the regulator or geared portions of the electric window. I have even seen a rock jambed in the window guide that has prevented the window from going all the way up.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to fix the problem yourself and save a lot of cash in the process. If you are not a mechanical person knowledgeable in how to use a voltmeter. I would say take a guess and go for the switch replacement. It is the cheapest thing to replace and generally they either pop out or are only held in by a couple of screws. Also you might get lucky and have the parts house guy help you for free.

Step 1 is Diagnosis:
Diagnosis is the hardest part and calls for some electrical knowledge and knowledge of how to use a volt/ohm meter. Since this is a general article and cant cover every make and model of vehicle, you will need a wiring diagram for your car and it should cover your switches. I have done this enough I can sometime fumble through figureing them out and only occasionally blowing fuses and or my meter.

Things to check for:
Does the switch get power? make sure the key is turned on. Do you have a good ground? Does power and ground get transferred to the proper wires when you press the switch in either direction? If yes then its not the switch.. Now you are into more trouble.

Does the motor work? To check this you will have to remove the door panel. Removing the door panel means taking every screw out that you can see and looking for the few you cant see. The armrest and or the pull strap/bar(sometimes one and the same as the arm rest) are sometimes held on by big screws with little caps so you cant see them. Usually a large philips head screw. the rest of the door panel is usually held on by clips. Some doors once you get the bottom pulled away you need to push up on the door panel as it sometimes hooks over the top edge of the door near the window. Now that you have the panel off look for the electrical connector for the motor. If you get lucky the motor will have a pigtail that is long enough to allow easy access. Now hook some jumper wires (about 12/14 gauge) from a 12 volt source directly to the motor. 2 wire motors are usually reverse polarity motors. One way should make the window go up the other way should make the window go down. If nothing happens your motor is probably bad.

Is the regulator working?
This can be tough since a tell tale sign that the regulator might be jambed from wear or foreign object is hearing the motor groaning and making some sort of noise. But it is possible for the motor bearings to be seized too.  If you get noise but nothing happens, try to check for  damage or something stuck in the track. if you can get the motor out try turning the motor after removal if it turns find and the window stays put then its the regulator.


If the switch is bad: then replace it. Sometimes the switches can be cleaned but not often. Sometimes switches are glued together and even if they aren't sometimes they have small springs and stuff that can easily get lost so be careful. use fine steel wool for cleaning contacts. Sandpaper can leave contact surfaces so rough that they arc more, get hotter and eventually burn out again.

If the motor and regulator are bad: then we need to pull them out and repair or replace as needed.
1. Locate and remove the screws holding the regulator assembly to the door. Often these screws are recessed into the panel a little bit. Some may be on the jamb sides

2. Disconnect electrical connections. Look for the correct way to disconnect the glass from the regulator. Often there will be a cutout that you can get the rollers out of or slides, whatever your window has. Get some wide masking tape and tape the window all the way up. Now carefully remove the remove the regulator and motor assembly

3. Find a new regulator motor assembly. You can go to a junkyard if you want to save some serious money. Just realize that you could easily be getting one that's about worn out. It all depends on what your perceived future is with the vehicle and your pocketbook. We sell some direct fit replacements, here at, but they are expensive. You might be able to find some cheaper ones elsewhere online. The old adage, youget what you pay for could easily apply here.

4. Installation of your new regulator or motor is the reverse of installation. It takes a bit of jockeying around generally to get them to go in. Tighten all the screws holding the new assembly and plug the wiring back in. Now reinstall the panel and any plastic moisture barrier. Dont be tempted to get rid of the plastic moisture barrier. If you ripped it up too much then get or make a new one.
You might want to test it before you get the panel completly on.

Of course, follow your car’s repair manual for detailed instructions specific to your vehicle.

This is a general outline meant to show that it is a pretty simple task for any mechanically inclined novice. If youhave a warm sunny afternoon with nothing to do you can probably accomplish this task in a few hours provided you prepare for it before hand. Plus you have the bonus of saving a couple hundred dollars and can say you did it yourself. It is good experiance too.



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