Nothing’s more annoying than getting into your car on a scorching hot day, hitting the button, and realizing your power windows won’t go down. Or even worse, it’s raining and you can’t get the windows to go back up!
Before you resort to additional mashing of the unresponsive buttons or forcefully muscling the window manually and potentially damaging the gears, read this first. We go over the 10 most common reasons your power windows fail and whether there’s a quick DIY fix or it’s time to go see a mechanic.
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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 Enabled
One of the simplest reasons your power windows aren’t working is that the window lock button is enabled. This safety feature disables all passenger windows from working, preventing children from playing with them.
Check to see if the lock switch is pushed in on the driver’s door. This button may have accidentally been knocked to the locked setting without you realizing it.
How to Fix: Resolving this takes only seconds – just push in the window lock button on your driver’s door to unlock the setting. Give your power windows another try and they should now work properly again. Doing regular lock button checks can prevent future power window issues.
2) Bad Window Regulator
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. Excessive wear and tear can cause components of the regulator like plastic gears to slowly crack and break over time or the regulator could become misaligned.
How to Fix: Replacing any worn-out window regulators. While regulators can be repaired by a mechanic, the cost of a professional fix may equal or exceed replacing it.
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.
How to Fix: Check the owner’s manual to see which fuse supplies power to the windows, then replace it.
4) Bad Window Motor
Power windows require a motor to provide electrical energy to move the window up and down. At the end of the window motor is a gear that connects to the window regulator mechanism.
When you press the up/down buttons on your door, it activates the motor. This powers the regulator so it can move the window. If the motor is bad, the regulator won’t have power to move.
You may get warning that the motor is starting to fail if the window occasionally moves slower than normal when going up. This gradual change in performance can precede complete failure of the motor.
How to Fix: The solution for a bad power window motor involves either repairing it or installing an entire replacement unit. Repairing involves taking the motor apart to service internal components, which takes some expertise. Replacing the motor completely is an easier fix and a fairly easy DIY task.
5) Snow and Ice
If you live in an area with frequent snowy and icy weather, this can impact the functionality of power windows. Windows can freeze shut as ice forms between the glass and window frame.
The regulators may not have enough strength to force the window open if frozen solid. Even if able to initially force it open, over time the regulator will wear out faster from the strain. Repeated cycles of the glass freezing and needing to be forced open puts more stress on the power window components.
How to Fix: Avoid forcing frozen power windows open or shut. Instead, use a hair dryer or other warming device to gently melt the ice around the edges first.
Check for any remaining clumps of snow or ice jammed into the window seals that may still obstruct movement. Clear these out by hand, using a plastic tool if possible to avoid scratching. Apply lubricant to re-enable smooth operation. Keeping window seals clean and lubricated will help prevent snow and ice buildup.
6) Torn, Loose, or Dirty Window Gasket
The window gasket seals out wind and rain while helping to align the window properly. If the gasket becomes sticky from debris buildup or shifts out of position, it can create extra friction against the window. The regulator motor may struggle to overcome this and move the window.
It’s important to clean, lubricate, and replace window gaskets when needed. If gasket issues are ignored, water can leak into the car’s interior. Maintaining the gaskets and seals will allow the power windows to function optimally and prevent damage from water exposure inside the doors.
How to Fix: Carefully inspect window gaskets for any cracking, missing pieces, loosening areas or signs of leaking. Replace any visibly deteriorated sections right away so the damage doesn’t spread. Make sure gaskets sit securely flush in their frames.
Clean dirty window and door seals using a gentle cleaner and microfiber cloth to prevent buildup. Lubricate gaskets and tracks periodically to avoid sticking issues.
7) Bad Power Window Switch
The power window switch on the door can fail over time. Each time you use the switch to raise or lower the window, it wears out a bit more. Frequent use or aggressively pressing the switch accelerates wear.
Eventually, the switch may stop working properly. This is the best case scenario for power window issues, since replacing a window switch is quite inexpensive compared to fixing other potential problems.
Troubleshooting is straightforward too. Compare the window response when using the individual door’s switch versus the master switch on the driver’s door (making sure the child lock is not on).
If only one switch fails to work, either that switch is defective or there may be a wiring fault between the switches.
How to Fix: Remove the panel covering the switch and inspect connections for loose plugs or damage. Clean any dirt, corrosion, or foreign material present. If the power window switch terminals look functional, replace the entire switch assembly. Install an identical new OEM factory switch to restore window control functionality from that location.
8) Wiring Issues
A set of wires connects the window switch to the motor. While uncommon, wiring issues in the door can occur.
For example, if power window components were recently repaired, a mechanic may have inadvertently damaged the wires. In that case, make another trip for the mechanic to fix it.
You can also open the door panel and follow the wires from the fuse box to the switch, checking for loose or corroded wires.
Before touching any wiring, always disconnect the battery first to prevent a shock. Inspecting the condition of the wires and connections along the path to the switch is wise to check for potential wiring faults impacting the power windows.
How to Fix: This is usually best left to the pros. But if you’re feeling confident in your abilities:
Use a wiring diagram to methodically check every inch of wiring between switches, fuses, regulators and motors. Look for rubbing, bare wires, corrosion, breaks, melted areas indicating shorts, or other physical damage that could cause disruption.
Check connectors and terminals for looseness or resistance using a multimeter. Any suspect wires will need splicing or complete replacement. Properly reconnect wires and replace damaged insulation like electrical tape. Test window function before sealing everything back up.
9) Damaged Door
For the power window to function properly, the window track alignment must be correct. Damage to the door from a collision or a loose bolt can throw off the alignment, causing issues like the window getting stuck or the door failing to fully close.
Maintaining proper alignment of the track allows the window regulator to smoothly raise and lower the glass. But if the track position shifts due to door damage or loose mounting hardware, the regulator will struggle to move the window, leading to sticking or failure to seal the door completely.
How to Fix: Thoroughly inspect impacted doors and surrounding areas for any visible damage interfering with smooth window movement. Check the window glass for smooth up and down operation without any catching at the edges.
For minor alignment issues, adjust regulator and motor mounts to prevent binding and friction. Lubricate restricted areas. If warping prevents electrical or mechanical operation, door or frame replacement may be needed. A body shop can best assess and remedy this type of heavy damage for functioning windows.
10) Dirty Window Tracks
The power window glass slides along metal rails inside the door. These rails can become dirty over time from mud and road debris, or the lubricant keeping the window movement smooth may dry out.
How to Fix: Carefully clean all window tracks, seals and window glass with a mild soap and microfiber cloth. Use a vacuum crevice tool to extract debris packed into hard-to-reach back portions of the window track.
Compressed air can also help dislodge built-up sediment. Lubricate now-clean track surfaces using silicone lube, graphite powder or other designated lubricants to prevent recurrence. Be careful not to get silicone on the car’s painted surfaces. Wipe any off immediately to prevent damage.