Replacing a seal on a car window

Written by josh baum
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Replacing a seal on a car window
(Photo by Mew Lotova)

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The Purpose of Automotive Window Seals

The black rubber seals found along the bottom edges of auto windows serve an important purpose. While the windows are up, they keep precipitation and other moisture out of the hollow door cavities, helping to prevent corrosion. They also help cut down on draughty winds that can blow through superficial gaps around windows and make driving on chilly days uncomfortable. When you roll a wet window down, these seals also squeegee the moisture off of the windows so that the glass won't drip water down into the interior of the door.

When to Replace a Window Seal

These rubber seals don't last forever. Depending on the climate conditions in the areas where a car has been driven, the seals on that car's windows may begin to fail after just a few years. In temperate climates or in situations where the car has been stored in a garage, they can last for more than 10 years. The best way to tell whether a window seal needs replacing is to examine it closely and feel it. A fresh and healthy window seal will have an even dark colour, no visible cracks and will feel soft and springy to the touch. A window seal that has failed may have light, discoloured spots, visible cracks and will feel hard and brittle.

Finding the Right Window Seal

Finding the right type and size of window seal for a vehicle is just like finding the right size of windshield wiper. Car owners shopping for new seals at retail should be able to find sizing guides available in any auto parts store. By looking up the make, model and year of the vehicle in the guide, one can find all of the specs needed to make the right purchase decision. When buying these replacement parts online, shoppers can usually select their car's make, model and year from a menu and be presented with all of their compatible options.

Removing the Old Seal

To remove an old, decayed seal, you'll need a pair of pliers and a razor cutting tool such as a box cutter. First, you should roll the window all the way down. Then you should slowly and carefully cut away one seal at a time, taking care to cut as closely as possible to the rim of the door. As you make your cuts, use pliers to pull the old seal up and away from the door. Once both the outside and inside seals are removed, use the edge of the razor to cut away any small pieces that might remain.

Installing the New Seal

Replacement window seal kits typically come with a vial of special adhesive designed for this purpose. They typically also include detailed instructions, but all of these seals install the same way. The adhesive should be applied to the rim of the door where the old seal used to be, as well as to the underside of each replacement seal. This adhesive should be allowed to sit for a few minutes until it changes from a purely liquid state to a more stable, tacky consistency. At this point, the outside seal should carefully be set in place and smoothed out with the fingertips. The inside seal should go on next. Because the adhesive is so strong, it won't take long for it to form a tough bond. This means that you must work both quickly and carefully to make sure it is put on straight. After putting it in place, smoothing it onto the door and giving it some time to dry, you can roll the window back up.

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