Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Repair power window regulator

Replace a power window regulator

Most late model cars have failing power window regulators. Here’s how to repair power window regulator.

Manufacturers have redesigned power window mechanisms and you’re paying the price for it. The new mechanisms, known as window regulators, are lightweight and flimsy. They raise and lower the window with cables that often bind or break. If the window channels aren’t lubricated (use silicone or dry Teflon spray), the friction overloads the motors and they burn out or strip the “spool” that winds the cables.

Rather than pay a shop $350 to replace the regulator, do it yourself. Knowing where the hidden fasteners are will save a LOT of wasted time and frustration. (Be a sport and buy a subscription to either the manufacturer’s online manual or Alldata—after all, you’re saving several hundred dollars by doing it yourself).

Next, go to www.rockauto.com. There are a few other companies making aftermarket window regulators. I have no experience with those other companies, so I can’t vouch for their quality.

The only special tool you’ll need is a trim panel remover tool (about $5 at any auto parts store). Start by removing the visible screws. Then pop off any plastic “vanity” caps that appear to serve no useful purpose. You’ll find they’re covering screws. Almost every car I’ve ever worked on has screws or bolts holding the arm rest to a bracket. Once again, look for plastic “vanity” covers if you can’t find those fasteners. (See the photo)

Once the screws are out, start at the lower portion of the trim panel and begin popping out the plastic “Christmas tree” fasteners. power window regulator, window regulator, power window motor, replace window regulator, replace power window motorThey’re usually located along the perimeter of the door. (See photo)

Lift the trim panel up and off the door.
Then disconnect the electrical connectors
to the window and door lock switches. (See photo) With the trim panel now removed, peel off the vapor barrier. (It has to go back on, so be careful while removing it)

Take a look at the photo of the window regulator I shot from the outside (Yes, I DID cut a hole in a door just so you can see what you’re dealing with.
It was a junkyard door so don’t freak out 3on me. That’s also why it’s so dirty. If you want me to shoot pictures of clean doors, simply mail me a check for $145 and I’ll spray some Windex on it next time. In the meantime, you’re getting this for free, so quit complaining)

Power window
You can see that the regulator is really a very simple mechanism. The window sill gets pulled up and down by the cable. Your next step is to remove the window glass. To do that, you’ll need to move the sill down so you can reach it with your sockets. Remember, you’re doing this from the inside (unless you too want to cut a hole in your door). Can’t get the window into position power window regulator, window regulator, power window motor, replace window regulator, replace power window motorso you can remove the glass? Reach around the regulator track from the inside and cut one of the cables with a wire cutter. BUT MAKE SURE you’ve got someone holding the glass! Then lower the glass, remove the bolts and pull the glass up and out. The glass pulls out by tilting it towards the outside of the door.

Next, disconnect the electrical connector from the motor. Then you can remove the fasteners holding the regulator in place. Tip the regulator and feed it out through a hole in the door panel. If you can’t get it out and you haven’t already snipped a cable, do that now. That will allow you to move the sill up or down.

Here’s a tip: The inside of your door contains spower window regulator, window regulator, power window motor, replace window regulator, replace power window motorharp metal edges. WEAR LEATHER GLOVES!

All these instructions are for cable regulators. If you have an older vehicle with a scissors style regulator, you can fix those too. BUT heed this warning. Scissors style regulators usually have a coiled assist spring—like a clockspring. You must secure this spring before you remove the motor. Skip this step and your next move may be to the ER for a broken finger! The easiest way to secure the spring is to drill a hold in the regulator and insert a nut and bolt through the spring to clamp it down.

Dorman sells power window regulator, window regulator, power window motor, replace window regulator, replace power window motorreplacement motors. But if you have a cable regulator, you may find that the old motor is riveted in place. If you want to spend the time to drill out those rivets, be my guest. But once you remove the motor, you may find a stripped cable spool. That’s why I recommend replacing the entire regulator. That, plus the fact that Dorman has fixed the problems that plague the OEM models.

Reverse the entire procedure to reinstall.

Not sure if the problem is in the regulator? Here’s how to check. Window motors only have two wires going to them. The window power window regulator, window regulator, power window motor, replace window regulator, replace power window motorswitch alternates the power and ground connections to power the motor up and down. So, attach the positive and negative probes of your digital volt meter to the electrical connector going to the motor. Then flip the window switch in both directions. You should see the voltage change from +12 volts to -12 volts. If you see that, it means the motor is getting power from the switches. Switches good. Motor bad.

Hope this saves you hundreds of dollars. Good luck!


Do NOT under any circumstances insert a l8arger fuse–unless you like your vehicle on the well done side. That’s a great way to start a fire! If the motor is drawing too much power, it would have already blown the existing fuse. (Don’t ever let your friend do any electrical work on your house, car, or tree house)

If the new regulator isn’t operating smoothly, either there’s an obstruction in the track, or the regulator is not aligned properly. To eliminate the track as a possibility, run a flat blade screwdriver down each side channel to clear out any debris. Then spray each channel with either spray silicone or dry teflon lube (it’s actually a spray that dries).

Has the window glass ever been broken? If so, small glass shards get stuck in the channels and screw up the movement.

Once you’re convinced that the channels are clean and lubricated, you’ll have to try a few adjustments on the regulator. GM leaves some play in the mounting holes. So try tilting the entire regulator assembly forward or backwards a bit to see if it helps.

Just for everyone’s benefit, the window regulator is a HUGE problem (and I mean HUGE) on GM and Chrysler vehicles. In fact, this article on regulator replacement is the most popular on this entire blog. I get more mail on this topic than any other.

I went to the APEX/SEMA show (Automotive Parts Exposition) in Las Vegas in ’97 and counted at least 10 companies offering aftermarket window regulators. When you see that many companies jumping into the regulator business, it’s an indication that it’s a huge market.

The older gear driven regulators rarely failed. Sure, the motors would burn out, but the mechanism was solid. Then Chrysler came up with their brilliant plastic “window tape,” that had sprockets like 8mm movie film. The motor gear engaged the sprockets and pushed the tape up or down a channel that was attached to the glass. Needless to say, the window tape was a disaster. Now we’ve got the cable driven systems and they’re even worse.

Bottom line: The OEM cable driven assemblies are poorly designed and poorly built.


© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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