Window Regulator Buyer's Guide
- The window regulator is the mechanical assembly that is responsible for moving your car windows up or down. It is also the mechanism that holds the window glass in place.
- Each vehicle door has one window regulator. Window regulators are mounted inside the vehicle door panel using rivets that hold them in place.
- The mechanism regulates the up and down movement of your car door windows along a guided track.
- There are two types of window regulators according to mechanism: Mechanical/manual and Electrical/power window regulators.
- There are two types of window regulators based on shape and design: Scissor-type and Cable-type window regulators.
- The symptoms of a faulty window regulator include jammed windows, window movement speed that feels off, clicking sounds when the window assembly is activated, and windows that won't lock into position.
- A window regulator replacement is crucial to stay in control of the passenger cabin's conditions and enhance the safety of your vehicle.
- When buying a replacement window regulator, consider the type of regulator you need as well as its fit and brand.
- The cost of a window regulator will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement window regulators are typically priced between $1 (without a motor) to $1,060 (with a motor). They are sold individually, in sets of two to five, or as part of a kit.
- Window regulator repair typically involves replacing the entire unit. Adjustment and maintenance of this part are almost never done.
The window regulator is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when checking the roadworthiness of a vehicle. This mechanism is often left ignored until it malfunctions, and you’re left with windows that won’t roll up or down. To prevent any window mishaps on the road, let’s go over how this device works and why it’s important to keep it in good condition.
What is a window regulator?
The window regulator is the mechanical assembly responsible for moving your car windows up or down. It is also the mechanism that holds the window glass in place. It is either powered by an electric motor or a manual window crank. Window regulators are mounted inside the vehicle door panel using rivets that hold them in place while your vehicle is moving.
What does a window regulator do?
As its name suggests, the window regulator is the mechanism that regulates the up and down movement of your car door windows along a guided track. Each vehicle door has one window regulator. In some models, the window motor comes in the same unit as the window regulator.
What are the types of window regulators?
There are two types of window regulators according to mechanism: Mechanical/manual regulator and Electrical/power window regulator.
Mechanical or Manual window regulators
Before the 20th century, vehicles prominently featured a mechanical or manual window regulator. This mechanism is operated by a crank that the driver or passengers must wind manually to move the window up or down. The glass is lowered as the gear connected to the regulator retracts and is raised as it expands.
Electrical or Power window regulators
Most modern vehicles today come with power windows as standard. Popularized in the mid-70s, this type of window assembly controls the movement of the door glass using a compact electric motor and regulator that is activated by simply pressing a switch/button.
There are two types of window regulators based on shape and design: Scissor-type and Cable-type window regulators.
Scissor-type window regulators
This type of window regulator is designed like a pair of scissors. It has a metal arm that is connected to the window tray on one side and a large plate with gear teeth on the other side.
It is hinged at the center to a smaller metal arm that is also connected to the window tray. Both arms have small wheels that glide across the bottom of the tray as the mechanism expands to raise the window and contracts to lower it.
Cable-type window regulators
A cable-driven window regulator features a metal track that is mounted vertically. Some regulators will have a single metal track inside the door panel, while some setups will have a track on each side of the window glass. A series of pulleys and cables connected to the window tray allow it to move up and down.
This mechanism is generally lighter and takes up less space than a scissor-type design. Despite how simple they look; this type is made up of more parts and has a complex mechanism.
How do I know if my window regulator is bad?
Window regulator repair typically involves replacing the entire unit. Adjustment and maintenance of this part are almost never done. To diagnose a failing car window regulator, here are the signs you should watch out for:
Window jams and won’t move all the way
If the window motor is running but the glass wouldn’t move up or down all the way, there could be an issue with the window regulator. A broken gear or a damaged connection to the glass may be stopping the movement of the assembly.
The speed of window movement feels off
An electrical issue may cause the window motor and regulator to roll the windows at a slower or faster speed than it should. This increases the risk of the glass breaking while operating the assembly.
Clicking sounds when the window assembly is activated
Small rocks and other road debris can find their way between the window and motor assembly, causing clicking noises when you activate the window switch. If left unchecked, the window can get jammed on its rails and the regulator can break from being overworked.
Window won’t lock into position
A window that won’t stay up and falls into the door panel is a clear sign of a broken car window regulator. Improper installation of the glass on the regulator may also cause it to appear crooked and slip down as it is raised.
Why is window regulator replacement important?
Rolling your vehicle windows up and down gives you full control of the conditions inside the passenger cabin. During winter, having your windows up while the heater is on will keep you warm and cozy. You’ll also be protected from rain, snow, or sleet while driving. During summer, rolled up windows keep road debris like sand or rocks from flying into your vehicle. At the same time, you can roll your windows down to soak in the view or enjoy the cool evening breeze.
Aside from comfort, a more practical reason to ensure that your windows are moving properly is that it contributes to the safety of your vehicle. A window that won’t close completely puts you at risk of theft. A jammed window can also make it more difficult to escape from your vehicle in case of an emergency.
What to consider when choosing a window regulator?
A worn-out or broken window regulator must be immediately replaced, unless you're fine with having a stuck window. The first thing you have to consider is the type of regulator that you need.
As said earlier, your car's windows could either be manual or electric. Each type requires a different kind of window regulator.
You then have to consider the fit. Different car makes and models may have differently designed regulators. We recommend that you get a regulator that is made specifically for your vehicle.
Consider regulators that are made by trusted and established brands. You can always find a good deal for a product from some of the top brands in the world. This will ensure that you get a good and reliable regulator.
Of course, there are always cheaper alternatives to some of the more popular brands. You just have to make sure that they can provide you with the same performance and quality. One way to do that is by looking at product reviews and finding the regulator that can give you the best value for your money.
Finally, it is recommended that you get a window regulator that comes with a complete set of instructions. You can have a mechanic change the regulator for you, but doing it yourself would be so much more economical.
How much does a window regulator cost?
The cost of a window regulator will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement window regulators are typically priced between $1 (without a motor) to $1,060 (with a motor). They are sold individually, in sets of two to five, or as part of a kit.
While it’s possible to work on this part on your own, its location inside the door panel may make it difficult to access. Consulting a licensed mechanic for installation is highly recommended to ensure proper fitting.
How to install your window regulator replacement
Your window regulator is the part that's directly responsible for raising and lowering your car's window glass as you please. It is connected either to a crank or an electric motor. Because of its mechanical nature, the regulator is prone to wearing out over time. Any broken or worn-out window regulator must be replaced as soon as possible.
Here are the tools you need to use and the steps you need to follow to easily replace your old window regulator.
Tools and other materials you will need:
- Socket wrench
- Needle nose pliers
- Philips head screwdriver
- Flat head screwdriver
- Masking tape
You will remove several screws for this project. Set them aside in a safe place and in an organized manner. You don't want to lose any of them.
Steps described below are for the replacement of a power window regulator. Steps for replacing a manual window regulator are pretty similar. Adjust accordingly.
Step 1: Make sure the window glass is raised completely. Disconnect the battery terminals to prevent any accidents while working with electric components.
Step 2: Using the flat head screwdriver, pry open the access panels on the door panel. Use the same screwdriver to lift the window switch plate off of the door panel. Unplug the electrical connector behind the switch plate and set it aside for now.
Step 3: Find all of the screws that hold the door panel in place. Loosen all of them. Once you're sure that you have removed all screws, pry open the door panel and slowly pull it away.
Step 4: Pull back the plastic insulator inside the door. Use masking tape to keep the window glass in its place while you work on the regulator. Disconnect the electrical connector on the power window motor and use a socket wrench to unfasten the bolts that secure the regulator and motor to the door frame.
Step 5: Detach the old regulator from the motor then pull the regulator away.
Step 6: Connect the new regulator to the motor and put the assembly back in place in the door frame. Use masking tape to reattach the plastic liner.
Step 7: Carefully reconnect all electrical connections. Screw everything back into place. Once all pieces are back in place, re-install the door panel cover and secure with screws. Put the reconnected window switch back in place.
Step 8: Reconnect battery, start the car, and test your windows.
The entire process should take you about an hour or two. If you are not confident installing your window regulator replacement on your own, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your trusted mechanic.