(Updated on June 27, 2022)
The days of hand-crank windows in automobiles are over. Virtually every new vehicle made today contains power windows, which require electrical power in order to function properly.
It is very convenient to operate a power window because you just need to push a button on your door to open and close it. You don’t need to go through the hassle of rotating a crank handle with your hand.
However, there is one downside to having power windows. If there is ever a problem with the system that takes your input on the window switch and turns it into window glass motion, you will not be able to open and close your window until you get the problem fixed. The window can’t be forced open or closed due to the inner mechanism.
This would never happen with a crank window system because it uses manual human power to open and close it. Thankfully, the ability of a window to open and close is usually not a safety issue and doesn’t affect driving.
If your windows stop working, do some troubleshooting if you’re comfortable with that. Depending on the issue, you may need to take the vehicle to a local mechanic or dealership and have them restore the functionality of your power windows.
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Common Causes of Power Windows Not Working
There are several reasons that your car’s windows might stop working. If you don’t hear or see any movement when you press the button, the problem is likely electrical rather than mechanical.
Here are some of the possible issues to check for in case it happens to you.
1) Window Lock Button is On
The simplest and most obvious (yet easy to overlook) problem is the lock-out button on the driver’s door has been pressed.
This is a safety feature that disables the switches to all other windows in the vehicle until the button is pressed again.
2) Bad Window Regulators
The mechanism that moves a power window up and down is called a window regulator. Each car door with a power window has a window regulator to move it. It’s connected via cables to a power window motor.
If the regulator goes bad, then pushing the up or down button will not make the window move. The crank gears could be worn or broken, or the regulator is out of alignment. You will need to have the window regulator replaced.
3) Bad Fuse
If all four windows are stuck and won’t move, then the fuse for the window regulators is likely the culprit. In this case when you push any of the window switches nothing will happen – you won’t hear a motor at all and the glass won’t tremble like it’s trying hard to move.
Check the owner’s manual to see which fuse supplies power to the windows, then replace it.
4) Bad Window Motor
Every power window requires a window motor to supply the electrical energy. There is a gear at the end of the power window motor which connects with the window regulator.
When you press the up or down button on your door, it activates the window motor which then allows the window regulator to move the window. If you have a bad window motor, then the regulator can’t be powered.
Sometimes you are warned of an impending window motor failure when the overall window movement speed occasionally slows down during ascent.
5) Snow and Ice
If you live in a region with a lot of snowy and icy conditions, this could compromise the functionality of your power windows. The reason is that the glass of the windows will stick to their frames.
Regulators are not always strong enough to force a window away from its frame if they’re frozen together. Even if it can do that, the regulator will get worn out a lot faster.
6) Torn, Loose, or Dirty Window Gasket
The gasket in the window keeps wind and rain out of the car and helps align the window properly. If it’s sticky from debris or out of place, the regulator motor might not be strong enough to overcome the friction and move the window.
Gaskets and seals can be cleaned, lubricated, and replaced if needed.
7) Bad Power Window Switch
The switch on the side of your door may not be functioning properly. Each time you press down on the up or down part of the switch, it wears the switch out just a little bit more.
If you press it too aggressively or use it frequently, there may come a point when the switch stops working properly.
This is the best-case scenario whenever your power windows are not moving. It is very cheap to replace a power window switch in comparison to fixing the other possible problems.
It’s not too hard to troubleshoot, either. Compare the response when pressing the window switch on the door itself vs the switch on the driver’s door (make sure the windows aren’t locked by the child safety lock button).
If one switch works and not the other, the switch could be bad or some wiring connecting them may be faulty.
8) Wiring Issues
There are a series of wires which connect the window switch to the window motor. Although it is uncommon for wiring problems to exist in the door, it is still possible for it to happen.
For instance, if another component in your power window system was repaired recently, the mechanic may have inadvertently damaged or cut one of the wires. In this case, take another trip back to the mechanic to have them fix it.
You can also try opening up the door panel to follow the wires from the fuse box to the door switch itself. Sometimes you’ll see a wire that’s loose or corroded.
It’s always a good idea to disconnect the battery before touching any wiring to avoid an accidental shock.
9) Damaged Door
The window track must be aligned in order for the window to move up and down properly. If the door is damaged from a collision or even just has a loose bolt, the window might get stuck or the door won’t close all the way.
10) Dirty Window Tracks
The glass window slides along metal rails inside the door. Over time, these rails may get dirty from mud and road debris, or the lubrication that keeps the window running smoothly may dry up.
You might try cleaning the window rails and then lubricating them using silicone lubricant. Try not to get any of the silicone spray on your paint. If you do, wash it off as soon as you can.
Power windows are very handy and are usually fairly straightforward to troubleshoot if one or more of them stops working. Depending on the problem, you might even be able to fix it at home.
But always, safety first – if you’re unsure of how the electrical parts work, ask an experienced mechanic for help or just have the work done at an auto shop. Keep your fingers out of places they may get crushed (gears or the top of the window, especially) while the power supply is still connected.