It’s a nice day out, so you decide to roll down your car’s windows to enjoy some fresh air. But then you get on the freeway, and you press the switch to close the windows—only now, one of them is stuck. And you have no idea what to do.
Obviously, leaving your window rolled down isn’t really an option. Not only does it make your car vulnerable to theft, but it will also leave the vehicle cabin exposed to the elements.
Components that Can Cause a Window to Get Stuck
The window regulator is the mechanism by which the window motor raises and lowers the window. For decades, scissor-and-gear type regulators were common, and on those, motor failure is the most common cause of malfunction. Seized or worn regulator joints may also cause a similar issue.
Power window motors are reversible DC motors mounted in the doors and connected to the window regulator mechanism, which is usually driven by just two wires. Reversing the polarity to the window motor causes it to reverse direction. Some power window motors (such as the One-Touch-Down and One-Touch-Up motors) are “smart motors” that must be “initialized” whenever they are replaced.
The power window switch is a polarity reversal device that delivers power and ground to the center common terminals. When the switch is operated in one direction, power and ground feed the motor one way, and when the switch is operated in the other direction, the polarity to the motor is reversed. Unfortunately, when it rains while the windows are left down, the switches are usually the first recipient of rainwater, which can collect in the switches and ruin them.
Power window wiring is specialized because the master switch is wired in series with all the other switches. When all the switches are at rest, both sides of the power window motor are grounded. But usually, the ground that feeds all the other switches (on the other doors) is fed to those switches through the master switch. In rare cases, the ground may be fed through the passenger front door switch.
Important Note: Understanding how your power windows are wired makes all the difference if there is a wiring fault preventing window operation. For example, you may see a passenger side power window that will work just fine with the master switch but won’t work with the passenger side switch regardless of “Window Lock” switch position. This can be a problem with the master switch not feeding a ground to the passenger side switch. It can also be caused by a bad passenger side switch. Either one is possible.
How to Roll Up a Car Window with a Broken Motor
One possible cause of an inoperative power window is a faulty motor. Sometimes DC motors have problems with the brushes, so they won’t respond when power and ground are applied. In a case like that, the motor ultimately needs replacing.
But as a temporary measure, you can, with the ignition on and the power window switch engaged, open the car door and slam it. If worn brushes have caused the motor not to work, this may get the window up (or down) a time or two, but don’t count on it working more than once or twice. Detailed step-by-step instructions are listed below under “Quick Fixes for a Stuck Power Window.”
Quick Fixes for a Stuck Power Window
Here are two options you can try to quickly (and temporarily) fix a stuck car window:
Quick Fix #1
- Turn the ignition key on.
- Press and hold your window switch in the ‘up’ position.
- While pressing the window switch, open and slam the car door. This may jar the motor and get it to bump into the next contact in the armature. Usually, the window motor will start running again until it reaches the bad contact. This gives you the opportunity to roll up your car window before it starts malfunctioning again.
- If your car window does not roll up, try it a few more times.
Quick Fix #2
If the steps above did not work…
- Locate the power window motor (it’s usually found near the bottom) on the affected car door. If you’re unsure where it is, you may be able to look it up online.
- Hold your window switch in the ‘up’ position. Then, using your fist or a blunt object, strike a spot in the general area where the power window motor is located. Be careful not to damage the door panel—it’s made of fragile plastic.
- If the window finally rolls up, leave it as it is until you can get it fixed. Remember that this is only a temporary fix and these steps may not work the second time.
If your window does not roll up after several attempts, the motor may be too far gone to be revived. It’s also possible that a problem other than the motor is preventing the window from functioning properly.
Note: If you succeed in getting your car window to roll up, do not attempt to roll it down again until the window motor is replaced. There’s no guarantee that a quick fix will work a second time.
Why Won’t My Car Window Roll Down?
Sometimes power windows, particularly the ones in the rear, won’t roll down because they’re stuck in the rubber due to not being used much. If you try to operate the window and it doesn’t work, watch the dome lamp. If the dome lamp dims when you operate the switch, that means power is getting to the motor, and it’s probably not the switch or the wiring.
With the engine running and the slightly higher system voltage provided by alternator output (14.5 volts rather than 12), gently use some silicone spray on the inside and outside of the stuck UP window where the glass meets the flocked run while gently working the switch. It should break loose that way. If it doesn’t, you may need a professional to look at it.
Silicone lubricant (either from the tube or spray) can be used to lubricate the flocked run where the window moves up and down to help the windows operate more smoothly. Technicians do this regularly when working on power windows.
Bad or Loose Window Switch
Another common cause of an inoperative power window is a bad or failing window switch. Over time, these switches, just like the rest of the switches found on your vehicle, can get worn out due to frequent use. These switches can be damaged by rainwater corroding the internal switch contacts. If you notice that the window is not responding even when you press down on the switch several times, the switch may be bad. Again, watch the dome light to see if it dims a bit when the switch is operated. If it does, the switch or wiring probably isn’t the cause of the concern.
If you’re using a passenger-side window switch, try pressing the master window switch located on the driver side. If it works using the master window switch, then your passenger-side window switch is likely the problem. However, as mentioned earlier, the master switch can, if the at-rest contacts for the window in question are compromised, prevent the passenger side switch from working even though the passenger side switch isn’t bad. This can be confusing if you don’t understand that the master switch is wired in series with the passenger side and other switches.
Most of the time, you’re lucky if the switch is the culprit. It is usually cheaper to replace the switch than other components if a switch is available. But be very careful with the plastic trim parts when replacing the switch. Vehicles more than a few years old have out-of-production plastic trim parts, and the switch connectors may be brittle as well.
Snow and Ice
Snow and ice accumulation can also cause your power window to get stuck. Glass windows may stick to their frame and cause stress on the window regulators. If this is the case, a simple solution is to regularly clean your vehicle and de-ice your windows during the winter months.
Severe cold weather may also cause cracks in your window glass.
Replacing Your Window Motor
Even if you get your car window to close using the steps discussed above, you will have to repair it eventually—and it’s advisable to repair it as soon as you can.
If the problem turns out to be the power window motor, there are many quality parts available online, so finding an affordable window motor replacement is quite easy. You can choose to either replace the motor yourself (if you have the know-how) or have a professional tackle the job for you.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.