When everything is working the way it's supposed to, your power windows go up and down smoothly and easily. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen that make this no longer a viable option for you. if your power windows are stuck, moving slowly, or only going down but not up again there are some ways that you can raise the window manually without having to rely on just pressing that button.
If you're not sure how your power windows even work, let's take a look at what causes them to go up and down normally, how they can go wrong, and what you can do about it.
How Do Power Windows Work?
Back in the day, windows in cars were hand crank manual parts. It's kind of funny to think that most kids today have never seen this mechanism and likely never will. A power window mechanism actually works almost the exact same way as the manual mechanism. The difference here is that an electric motor works in place of the hand crank handle. Consider the difference between an electric can opener and one of those old hand crank can openers. They both do the exact same job in almost the exact same way, one just works on the power you provide by turning a crank yourself, and the other one has moving electrical parts.
In your car, your power window has a control switch that probably exists in the centre console or the dashboard of your vehicle. There are two circuits that connect it to a motor in each of your doors. So, when you press the switch up the circuit sends a signal to drive the motor up and when you press the switch down, the circuit sends the signal to drive the window down. The same applies to the buttons for the other windows in your car. The switch is wired to your battery and connects through a fuse, relay and circuit breaker somewhere along the line as well.
An electric motor in your car door attaches to a worm gear and some spare years that produce the torque to raise and lower a window in the window channel. Normally these worm gears are what prevent the window from being moved up and down manually. This is a security measure because you obviously don't want someone to be able to walk up to your car and simply Force the window down out of the way. Worm gears have a self-locking feature that allows them to spin in one direction but not the other.
For that reason, moving a power window manually is usually not something you can do. So, when your window is malfunctioning and you need to get it done, it does take a little bit of work to make it happen.
How to Move a Power Window Manually
As we said, you normally don't want your power windows to be able to move manually because it's a clear security risk if your window can be open from the outside. Unfortunately, sometimes the mechanism fails, and your window will not roll up at all or you'll get it stuck partially open. This presents another security risk, and also can be a problem if the weather is bad and you're trying to roll the window up but rain keeps flashing in your face because it's stuck all the way down or partially open.
There are a few steps that you can follow if you want to get your window up manually. As we said it takes a little bit of work, but it's better than leaving your window Partially open all the time.
- You'll need to start by opening the door and securing it somehow. You don't want the door swinging on its hinges for this to happen. Ideally you want to have the latching part of the door against your chest.
- Grip the glass of your window between both palms. Obviously, this won't work if your window is stuck completely in the door, but if you have even an inch or two free, you can get wedged between read your palms both inside and outside the window
- Slowly and firmly move your hands up word while gripping the glass as firmly as you can. This could be a time-consuming process and the glass will likely slip from your grip more than once. As long as you maintain pressure and do it slowly, the years that normally raise your window will continue to turn allowing the window to move upwards.
- Maintain the pace until the window has risen all the way up and you can secure it fully open. Secure the window as best you can in the top seal of the door, and the gears should be maintaining it in place at that point.
This method only works if you have some of the window glass sticking out for you to grab hold of. If your window is fully stuck in the door with nothing coming out, there's also a method that you can use to raise the window. This is a little more complicated but shouldn't be too hard if you're at all comfortable doing any kind of DIY work on your car. You'll need a few tools to pull this one off so have the following handy:
- Flat head screws
This method involves removing the panel from the door of your car, so if you're not comfortable doing that on your own then your only option is to go to a mechanic so they can get it done for you. If you're confident that this will work for you and it's something you can do, then these are the steps you need to follow.
- Start by removing your door panel. There are several screws that you'll have to take off of the front of the panel. Some of these will be hidden under plastic covers and behind the door handle. Make sure you keep the screws safe when you take them out, so they don't run away on you.
- Use a flat head screwdriver to pry the console from your door.
- You should see the plastic wire switches in the door at this point. You can pull the connectors apart using the screwdriver and disconnect the switches.
- At this point you should be able to take the panel completely off the door. You may need to use the screwdriver to pry some parts free but try to be gentle and not break anything. There are a number of plastic snaps that hold it in place so they will click as it pops free. Do your best not to break these as you move along the outer edge of the panel until the full panel is free.
- If your door has not been worked on before, you may have a polyethylene cover under here as well. It should look like a black tarp that is sealed around the inside. You can use a razor blade to loosen the seal to peel it off.
- Now you're free to disconnect the window from the motor. You're going to need something to brace your window at this point. A couple pieces of spare wood that are about 1 foot long should work to brace the window itself, so it doesn't fall. If you don't have any adequately sized wood handy, you can use some masking tape or painter’s tape to hold the window in place. Secure it firmly and then move on.
- The regulator mechanism for your window is held in place with a couple of screws. You can remove those, and the window will no longer be held up. Keep your hand on the window to keep it secure in case the wood or tape you used isn't holding it securely. Test that you've got it securely in place and do some more securing work if you need to.
- With the regulator out of the way you are free to move the window up into place. Take it from below and lift it up evenly and then wedge the wood under it again to hold it in the closed position.
- The motor for your window should be located somewhere in the top right. You can remove the bolts that hold it in place at this point.
- Take the cover from the motor. The nuts can be secured with a piece of tape, so you don't lose them, and be aware that the cover is magnetized.
- You can remove the axle motor at this point. There are spring loaded brushes that pop out when you remove the axle, so this is where the rubber bands come into play. Loop the rubber bands around the wire and secure the brushes in place. You can take the motor axle out now.
- At this point you can start reassembling things. Keeping the window securely in place in the closed position, you can replace the regular mechanism and screw it into place. You should be able to remove the wood or tape that's holding your window at this point
- Ensure that the window is fully in the closed position at this point and then put the motor axle back in place. Turn it clockwise to get it properly in place and keep the brushes aligned. Turn the axle as far as you can, and the window should be fully completely closed at this point. You can release the window and the axle now.
- Replace the motor cover keeping careful not to touch the axle again and watch out for the bolts with the magnetic pull of the cover.
- Re-secure the motor to the frame. There are loose wires still at this point that would connect the motor to the panel on your door that you don't really need to worry about because you haven't repaired the window, you just manually close it. You don't really need to reconnect the wires at this point.
- Secure the parts of the door frame again starting with the polyethylene cover, and then the door panel. The panel can be a little complicated to get back in place because you need to make sure you do it the right order. Get the door handle where it fits and then try getting the top corner of the panel slipped into place in the frame. Continue around the edge of the door to secure the whole thing in place.
Your window should be closed and secure in place at this point. Just remember that it's non-functional, and you're still going to need to have it looked at by a mechanic to figure out exactly what it is that went wrong in the first place. The original problem could have been with any of those mechanical parts like the regulator or the motor itself, or it could be a wiring issue somewhere along the line. It may be as simple as a blown fuse or a busted relay that led to the problem.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of what caused your window to fail in the first place, it's good to know that there is at least a quick or relatively quick fix to get the window back up so you don't have to worry about either rain coming in while you're driving or when you have your car parked, and more importantly you don't need to worry about the security risk that it poses in terms of leaving a window open on your vehicle. The last thing you want to do is invite any potential thieves to ransack your vehicle or steal it because you weren't able to get a power window in place when you needed to.
It can take a little bit of effort to get the window rolled up, but you don't need the window to drive your car. So, getting it repaired is the kind of thing that you can put off for a few days if you need to, especially if you manually secure the window in place anyway. Just remember that if it's an electrical problem, it could be indicative of a larger issue that you may need to get looked at so don't let it go for too long if you're not 100% sure why the window failed in the first place.