Unsplash / Holly Mandarich

Car windows usually operate with electric motors activated by switches controlled by fuses and wires. You can repair a window that is stuck up or down due to a problem with the electrical motor or components.

A word before we start: just because you can repair a broken window motor yourself does not mean you have to! To fix car windows, be sure you have the necessary tools, time and confidence. If not, consult a professional. There are companies that provide full window glass and motor repair services. Safelite Repair is one such company.

Getting ready

Car window repairs require preparation. Here’s a list of some items you might need to make window repair easier and safer:

1. Container to hold small parts

2. Needle-nosed pliers

3. Small brush or vacuum cleaner

4. Set of screwdrivers or universal screwdriver

5. Set of ratchets or adjustable wrench

6. Automotive electrical test light

7. Masking tape

8. Telephone number for auto parts store or dealership

Window motor repairs one step at a time

Step 1: Blown fuse?

Find your vehicle’s fuse box, which is often located under the dash near the steering wheel. Remove the cover and check to see if any fuses are blown. There may be a guide to the fuses on or under the lid. You’ll know a fuse is blown if the metal strip going through the center of the fuse is broken. Replace a blown fuse with the same type of fuse using needle-nosed pliers gently. Fuses can be purchased at auto parts stores, and many hardware stores. Try the window again.

Step 2: Loose wires around fuse box

Look at the wires going into and out of the fuse box.  If any wires are disconnected or seem loose, tighten them with the appropriate screwdriver. Try the window again.

Step 3: Remove any dirt

Sometimes dirt will accumulate around or under the window switch. Use a small brush or vacuum cleaner to clear away dust, grit or dirt that has built up. Try the window again.

Step 4: Remove switch mechanism

The switch mechanism is set into the armrest or door panel. It may be attached with screws or just be set snugly into a housing. Remove any screws with the appropriate screwdriver, or gently pry out the mechanism. Tighten any loose or disconnected wires, and try the window again. If it’s still not working and you’re up for more intensive investigations and steps, release the safety connector attaching the wires to the mechanism and disconnect it.

The next steps involve opening up the door to find and assess what is inside. It will take time, patience and tools. Be sure you have all of them before proceeding. If you’re not sure, consider consulting a professional.

Step 5: Remove the door panels

Plastic panels on the door are likely attached with screws that may be covered with plastic caps. Remove the caps and screws. Examine any exposed wires. Tighten or connect any that are loose or disconnected. Try the window again. If it’s still not working, continue removing screws until the inside of the door is fully exposed. It may be covered by a blanket of insulation. Gently remove or pull aside the insulation to expose the motor and mechanism.

Step 6: Test the wiring

Use an automotive electrical test light to check that the electrical wiring in the door is working properly. Ground the test light first. The test light will help identify faults in the electrical wiring, such as a short. If faults are revealed, the wiring may need to be replaced.

Step 7: Prepare to work with window motor and regulator

The next step involves removing the window motor and regulator. Once you remove the regulator, the glass in the window may slide down into the void inside the door. To prevent that from happening, use masking tape to hold the glass in the window frame first. Tape the perimeter of the glass onto the door frame and the top of the armrest.

Step 8: Remove and replace window motor and/or regulator

The regulator that physically moves the window pane up and down and the motor that drives that regulator are attached by bolts or screws. Remove those bolts or screws with the proper size of ratchet or adjustable wrench. Before removing them, you may want to ensure you have access to identical replacement parts. Call an automotive parts store or auto dealership with the make, model and year of your car. Once you have replacement parts in hand, remove the original parts carefully. Replace them with parts intended for your vehicle. Tighten all screws or bolts. Try the window again.

Step 9: Put everything back

Once the motor and regulator have been replaced, put the switch mechanism and door back together as you found it. Remove the masking tape so that, if all is well, the window will slide freely. Try the window again.

Knowing your car

Somewhere – probably in the glove compartment – is a basic user manual for your vehicle. It explains the basic systems that make up your vehicle. But that might not be enough information for you to decide you’re ready to give repairs a shot. There are many publishers that produce detailed and comprehensive car repair guides. They’ll give you step-by-step and part-by-part information about your vehicle and many repairs.  They are available in print and online. On Auto Review, you’ll find guides to those guides themselves.