How to change a window regulator

Written by don bowman
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Changing a window regulator is very much the same for most vehicles, although the regulators may be different in design. For the front doors (on all cars) there is a two-post design that operates with the use of a cable and a detached window motor, a scissors type mechanism with a large spring to aid in the lifting of the window and an attached motor. There is also a single-post design, cable-operated with a detached motor. One more type that is used on occasion is the single arm with attached motor. All of these are removed in a similar manner where the regulator and motor are bolted to the door and the window will be attached to a horizontal channel for the lifting.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Set of ¼-inch drive sockets
  • ¼-inch drive ratchet
  • Set of hex heads
  • Set of wire cutters

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove the Phillips head screws from the door panel. There are almost always two screws in the armrest or under it securing the centre of the panel. Search the outside circumference of the door for additional screws. Look at the door handle for screws. Remove the plastic covering the inside-mounting surface of the outside mirror if it is not part of the door panel. Remove the door panel by inserting a common screwdriver in between the door panel and the door and pry the snaps out around the outside of the door.

    If it is a late model Ford, it is highly possible that it has hooks rather than snaps holding the door panel on. Grab the bottom of the door panel and lift up. If there are hooks, the door panel will simply come loose as the hooks are removed from the holes in the bottom of the door.

  2. 2

    Remove the rods running to the door handle, if the handle comes off with the door panel, by unhooking the little plastic retainers on the backside of the door handle that are holding the rods secure. Lift the rods out of the door handle. Disconnect all electrical connectors and the backside of the door panel and then remove the panel.

    If the window regulator failed and the window is stuck in the up position, it must be lowered to remove the regulator from the window. If it is a cable driven regulator, cut the cable and pull the window down to where the bottom bolts holding the window to the regulator can be accessed. If it is a scissors type, caution must be observed, because there is a big spring used to assist the lifting of the window. You want to keep your fingers out of the scissors mechanism.

  3. 3

    Put a block of wood in the access panel to hold the window from coming down, and then remove the bolts holding the window motor to the regulator, keeping the fingers free of the regulator. Once the motor is removed, use a hand under the window to lower it down, and then it is safe to handle.

  4. 4

    Install the common screwdriver as a wedge in between the window and the inside window felt to hold the window up when the regulator is removed. Remove the bolts holding the window to the regulator. Remove the electrical connector to the window motor, and remove the bolts holding the motor to the door.

  5. 5

    Remove the nuts holding the regulator to the door. There should be nuts on the studs of the regulator at the top and bottom of the door. On scissor type regulators, there is also a guide channel in the middle of the door that has to be removed. Remove the whole regulator mechanism from the door.

  6. 6

    Replace the regulator the same way it came out, but to make it much easier to attach the window to the regulator, hold the door panel or the window switch close enough to the door to hook up the switch. Make sure that the window motor is plugged in. Turn the key on and hit the switch to bring the regulator in the middle of the access panel where it is easy to install the bolts through the horizontal channel and the holes in the bottom of the window.

Tips and warnings

  • A few of the older GM and Ford vehicles have a C-shaped clamp on the horizontal channel and the window was actually glued with a special glue to these clamps. They were not very common but if one of these is encountered, remove the regulator, leaving the channel with the clamps on the bottom of the window. To get the regulator wheels out of the channel, use a pliers and just bend the end of the channel up so the wheels will slide out.
  • Volkswagens have double post channels although there is no access to the regulator. When the door panel is removed, there will be a large cover on the whole door that must be removed, and the regulator will come with the panel. It is then removed the same way as the rest.
  • With a Saturn, the only way to get to the regulator is to remove the front door skin. A plastic pin must be removed from the outside door handle, which allows removal, and then the hex screws around the inside frame of the door must be removed followed by the outside door skin.

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