How to remove rivets on a window regulator

Updated July 20, 2017

Auto manufacturers and repair shops use specially designed tools to apply rivets when installing door glass and window regulators. To remove rivets on a window regulator yourself, you must drill or grind them out. Rivets have a striker pin that resembles a long nail and are inserted through the door bracket and regulator holes. A rivet gun pulls the pin through the rivet. The pin spreads, pulls and pinches the rivet on the other side of the regulator hole to ensure a tight mount. Part of the pin snaps off with the gun, and the other part remains.

Disconnect the black negative battery cable from the battery if you are working with power windows. Scissor-type window regulators are counterweighted and use a lot of force. Do not put your hands between the movable parts at any time during this procedure.

Remove any covers and accessories from the door panel with a nut driver or screwdrivers. Slide the panel removal tool under a corner of the door panel and pry the panel loose. Try to position the panel removal tool under the panel clips to avoid damaging them. Pry along the bottom and sides of the panel until all of the panel clips have been loosened from the door.

Remove the door panel. Lift it from the recess on top of the door while manoeuvring it away from the door handle. Disconnect any electrical connectors for power options and door speakers.

Peel back the plastic moisture barrier. This will be sealed across the inside of the door panel with flexible caulking. The plastic barrier can be pressed back into place with the same piece of caulking later. Do not damage the barrier or caulking. If you are replacing a broken window, vacuum up all the broken glass.

Roll the window regulator down until you can access the rivets with a drill or rotary tool. The inside of the door will have large access holes. Remove the speaker if you need more access.

Tap out the striker pin in the centre of the rivet. The pin is steel, and the rivet head is aluminium. Aluminium is softer than steel and easier to drill through.

Brace the regulator by hooking it to the top of the door with a bungee cord. This will prevent a sudden drop when the rivets are released.

Drill the rivet head with an oversized titanium drill bit or grind it with a rotary tool and grinding wheel. Do not let the drill bit overheat when drilling rivets in glass. Ease off and let the bit cool or pour cutting fluid on the drill site. Do not use excessive force when drilling. Use caution and wear safety glasses when working near metal shavings and sparks.

Pry any remaining pieces of the rivet head off or inward. With the head removed, you can now punch through the rivet with a small metal punch and hammer. Avoid unnecessary force to avoid breaking the glass.


Tape foil wrap onto the window to protect it from sparks if you are grinding the rivets.


Always wear safety glasses and gloves when working with glass. Use extreme caution when working with glass, particularly if it is broken. Glass will shatter in extreme heat or cold.

Things You'll Need

  • Nut driver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Door panel removal tool
  • Safety glasses
  • Safety gloves
  • Vacuum cleaner (Optional)
  • Bungee cord
  • Power drill
  • Large titanium drill bit
  • Cutting fluid or machine oil
  • Rotary tool
  • Rotary tool grinding wheel
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Hammer
  • Small punch
  • Shop rag
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About the Author

Perry Kong has been a reporter and photojournalist since 2006. He is published through Sun Media and "Northern News" in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, specializing in food and automotive photography. Kong holds a diploma in graphic design from Northern College, where he also teaches photography and Photoshop.