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  • Window regulators lift and lower your car’s window panels using a mechanism that consists of brackets, gears, and cables.
  • Symptoms of a bad window regulator include the regulator making creaking noises, the glass panel refusing to go up or down, and the window not staying up.
  • Other symptoms include the glass panel being crooked, sluggish or quick power window operation, and the glass panel separating from the window regulator.
  • Malfunctioning power windows can be a safety issue, so it’s best to have them repaired as soon as possible.

Window regulators lift and lower your car’s window panels using a mechanism that consists of brackets, gears, and cables. Most modern vehicles have electric motors that operate the window regulator. However, older vehicles utilize a hand crank to move the glass panel up or down.

When diagnosing window problems, it’s essential to differentiate between a faulty window regulator vs. a malfunctioning motor. Sometimes, you might only need to replace the window regulator. While other times, it’s the motor that needs to be replaced. Most times, the motor comes with the window regulator. So, if you’re replacing one, you might need to replace both.

Usually, when the regulator fails, it will not even lift the window, especially if the cable is damaged.

Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Symptoms of a Bad Window Regulator

The window regulator may go bad over time due to regular wear and tear. When this happens, it might show the following symptoms:

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inside a car door showing window regulator and motor
The window regulators lift and lower your car’s window panels using a mechanism that consists of brackets, gears, and cables.

Window Regulator Makes Creaking Noises

A tell-tale sign of a failing window regulator is creaking noises coming from its cables, gears, and brackets. These noises can be caused by dirt or debris getting into the mechanism. Sometimes, it can even be caused by items like toys getting lodged in the window regulator.

The cables of some window regulator systems can also fray. When this happens, you might hear clicking or grinding noises when you open and close your windows.

Glass Panel Refuses to Go Up or Down

If your window panel refuses to move, it’s likely that the regulator has completely seized or jammed. This could also be caused by a faulty motor, but you can rule that out by listening to the motor.

Window Won’t Stay Up

There are times when the glass panel can keep falling back into the door. If this occurs, the window regulator is certainly broken and needs to be replaced. However, this is rare because a faulty window regulator typically won’t lift the glass panel at all. Remember that having a door glass panel that refuses to stay up can allow intruders or thieves to gain access to your vehicle. This is why it’s imperative to replace your window regulator if your vehicle has this issue.

The Glass Panel Is Crooked

A crooked glass panel is another tell-tale sign of a bad window regulator that needs to be replaced. This can escalate and into a safety issue if the door glass fails to close completely. Additionally, a door glass that doesn’t close completely can expose your vehicle to rain, snow, or dust from the outdoors.

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Sluggish or Quick Power Window Operation

If you notice that the window rolls up slower or faster than usual, this could mean that the motor has a problem. An old window regulator can also create resistance that might slow down the window’s operation. Power window systems are calibrated to operate at a specific speed so that their operation is consistent and reliable.

Glass Panel Separating from Window Regulator

In cold weather, the glass panel can freeze and get stuck in its closed position. If the window switch is depressed, the glass panel can separate from the window regulator.

If this occurs in certain vehicles, the window can be re-secured without the need for replacement parts. However, the window regulator of some vehicles might need to be replaced.

Why You Should Fix Faulty Power Windows Immediately

Remember that malfunctioning power windows can be a safety issue since they might allow intruders to easily access your vehicle. Several automakers have issued recalls to resolve issues with the power window mechanism. The NHTSA website can be used to see whether a vehicle has any outstanding recalls.

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If you need to replace your vehicle’s window regulator, keep in mind that some vehicles have window regulator assemblies that come with the motor. In these vehicles, a faulty window regulator might require the entire assembly to be replaced.

If your car window mechanism has issues, then it should be fixed as quickly as possible to avoid further damage to the motor or glass panel. Aside from that, you should get the issue resolved to ensure your safety and that of your passengers.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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