Automobile Power Window Problems

Power window motorPower window problems on cars and trucks could be considered one of the most annoying problems you could have on an automobile. This page will discuss diagnosis and how to solve common problems. Sometimes issues can be solved without replacing parts and this is covered as well. If you do need parts shop around because the mark up can be extreme. Some examples of inexpensive replacement parts are available at the bottom of this page. Stop the madness of getting out of the car at the local drive-through restaurant or when paying a toll.

Many times electric window operation can become intermittent. This is even more frustrating than if it stopped working altogether. When you have intermittent operation the tendency is to put off repair until either the problem gets worse or the Windows stops working all the time. From a safety point of view you really shouldn’t put off repairs because you never know when rolling up or down that window will be important for safety reasons.

Power Window Systems

image of power window parts

Power Window Parts

The power window system happens to be one accessory that really doesn’t vary that much between vehicle manufacturers or car models. The major components of an average system would be the master switch, the window lift motor, circuit breakers and relays, and the wiring that ties those items together. Oh I forgot the glass itself.

Often when the window stops working people ask me where the fuse is. Most modern power window systems do not actually have a fuse. It is more common to find a circuit breaker protecting the wiring and electrical components. A circuit breaker will automatically reset if the system overheats or pulls too much amperage.

In addition to the main circuit breaker usually there is an internal circuit breaker to protect each individual lift motor. If one of the window switches is held too long or the window is obstructed the circuit breaker will automatically open to prevent damage to the motor.

Common Problems with Power Windows

image of master window switch

Master Switch

I diagnose a lot of these power window systems. The two most common problems that I find is either a defective window lift motor or a problem with the master switch. To break it down even further it is the driver side window motor that I see fail most often.

The simple fact is that the drivers side front door window is operated much more than any of the other Windows on most vehicles. This is also true with the master switch that is usually mounted on the drivers side door panel. The master switch gets more use than the other switches in the vehicle.

On my own personal vehicle the master switch is mounted flat on the driver side armrest on the door panel. I have had problems with the master switch because of its location. Water from the roof drips right onto the switch when the window is down or even partially opens. This poor design led to heavy corrosion built-up inside the switch.

I was able to save myself from replacing the switch by removing and disassembling it. I got myself some electrical contact cleaner and was able to remove all of the corrosion. I have to perform this procedure about once every two years because of this master switches poor location.

Diagnosing Electric Windows

2 button master switchJust because the driver side master switch and the driver side window lift motor are the most common failures this doesn’t mean you will have those exact problems. Many other parts of the system are capable of failing.

When you’re starting your diagnosis of a power window system it is best to determine if the whole system is not working or maybe it’s just one window from one switch. If nothing works in the system the place to start would be with the master control switch or the main system circuit breaker.

If only some of the Windows don’t work and others do you would want to check parts that are common to the windows that are not working. From an electrical point of view you may need a wiring diagram for your specific automobile to determine what electrical parts are in common.

As an example let’s say that the right rear window is the only window not working. It does not work from the master switch or the switch on the right rear door panel. In this case it would be time to remove the door panel and inspect the power window motor that runs that window. Again an online auto repair manual will provide step-by-step diagnostic instructions to determine what the failure is.

44 thoughts on “Automobile Power Window Problems

  1. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Alex : It’s sounds like your on the right track. Someone will have to verify the motor problem by removing the door panel and testing for 12 volts and a good ground at the motor connector when the switch is activated. Sometimes you can tap on the motor housing and it will start working for a short time.

  2. Alex

    My name is Alex I have a 2002 Lincoln Town car everything was working properly until yesterday my rear driver side window didn’t go down my son was playing with the switch and the window didnt go down after that I figure it would had been the switch but I tried the master and all the windows went down except the rear window so I removed the switch from each door and tried it on the apposite side the switch work on the good side so its not the switch so my next hypothesis is that the motor is not working can you please let me know if it makes sense and if you think is the motor. Thank you

  3. Mark Gittelman Post author

    David: Sounds like the front and rear windows are having different kinds of problems unrelated to each other. Where to start is with removal of the door panels for inspection and diagnosis. The driver rear glass sounds like a regulator issue or maybe the glass came loose from the track? Checking for 12 volts and ground at the d/side front motor would be a good starting point up there.

  4. David Cardone

    Mark, Seems like you really know your stuff with windows and parts… My Scenario is that both driver side windows are not working in my 02 Mercury Mountaineer. The rear driver side window has the droop problem and is free to move up and down manually but will fall on its own after a short time. The front window just doesn’t respond to the master switch but luckily is stuck up and not down. I am a pretty successful DYI’er but would like to know where I should begin to start so I can troubleshoot one thing at a time.

  5. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Spencer: Intermittent problems are the hardest to nail down as diagnosis can only happen when the fault is evident. Considering the year and model the window motor does seem the likely candidate, but it should be verified. As for the play, the window was designed to float in the tracks and often exhibits lots of movement, so this sounds normal. You can check it against another vehicle of the same model to verify this.

  6. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Debra: we mechanics had a trick for those without the funds to fix their power window, but needed it to stay up. You can detach the glass from the motor and cut a 2 x 4 to the proper length to hold it up from the inside. This is not recommended for driving around as the window won’t go down in an emergency, but it does keep the rain out while sitting in the driveway.

  7. Spencer

    1995 GMC K1500, Intermittent operation drivers window. I’ve replaced the switch and it seemed to have fixed it. The problem is back. Switch is good, checked repeatedly with a test light. Jumped 12 V to motor and it worked, yet on one attempt no. The problem here is you’re never sure how good of contact you make with the jumpers. My question is the rollers seem to have a lot of play, rock to the side, and am curious, what is normal?.

  8. Debra

    Recently my two (front and rear) drivers side windows quit working. Unfortunately the drivers window was in the down position at the time. I had someone try to get it to work by banging on the motor to see if it was stuck. I really really need to use my car and it is hard to do when I have to drive with the window open. I am on a very very limited fixed income and am disabled. Anything I my self can to to try and diagnosis the problem. I am unable to have the motor fixed due to resources or lack there of. Any information would be appreciated.

  9. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Blue Grass: Power window motors run through a circuit breaker instead of a fuse. This is why it resets by itself. Either the window, regulator, linkage or tracks are binding causing an overheat and high current draw or the window motor is defective and drawing too much power. The circuit breaker could also be defective, but this would be the least likely.

  10. bluegrassbandit42

    Hello, I truly like the article – it is extremely informative. Also, I appreciate you taking the time to answer readers’ questions. This is my problem/question: I have a 2dr, 1999 Suzuki Vitara with power windows. The passenger side works fine from either side of the Vitara. However, the driver side only goes up approx an inch at a time, sometimes more, sometimes less. There’s really no way how it’s going to act between each attempt to roll it up completely.

    In order to get the driver window completely up, I just push the up switch til it stops, the wait 5-10 min, press the up button again, then again, wait 5-10 min, repeating this process until the window is fully closed. I just replaced the master switch, so I’m certain it isn’t a switch problem. I’ve also removed the driver side door panel, and used WD-40, and 3-in-1 oil on the cables and linkages for the window. Any suggestions on what to try now?

  11. leigh ann

    Hi Mark: I have a 97 Buick LeSabre. Yesterday when I tried my power windows they would not work (none of the windows), but today on my way to work I tried them again and they all worked ! Then when I pulled in the parking lot at work, they didn’t work again. Is this a wire loose or something? Any ideas? Thanks for any info.

  12. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Most common would be an intermittent problem in either the master switch or door panel switch on the effected window. Unfortunately it could also be an intermittent short in the down signal wire and that would be hard to find.

  13. lakisha

    I have a 2004 avalanche and. I am having trouble with the rear passenger window. Periodically the window goes down by itself and will not let up for hours and then at some point when I try it it will go up again. In between times it does work from the master switch and the door switch itself. Please advise.

  14. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Sherry: Two things come to mind. One is with heavy glass they have a coiled return spring wound on the window regulator to assist with lifting the glass. Maybe a new regulator would get you more time from each motor. The second thing is the quality of the replacement parts. If you keep getting the motor from the same supplier and having the same results it’s time to try someone else. Sometimes the parts we get are not what they seem.

  15. Sherry

    I am having to replace my driver side power window motor for the 5th time in 6 years. I have had the certified Pontiac mechanic check for any issues outside of the motor that could be causing the problem but nothing. They have taken the door apart and have checked for rust, water leakage, wiring, etc. I know the glass is heavy so if that were the problem, I would be coming up with others having this issue during my searches. I have been dealing with this problem for years now and it’s a bit disconcerting that Pontiac & it’s mechanic’s don’t have a clue either! So I am reaching out to you in the hopes that someone, somewhere may have or know someone who has an answer. This is not a cheap fix either. It costs around $500+ each time. My car is a 2001 Pontiac Trans Am WS6/LS1. Thanks, Sherry

  16. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Tamara : I would need to study the wiring diagram for your model to see if individual door switches are powered before or after the master switch. BUT overall it sounds like a master switch will not solve the problem? The way you describe the issue it would be more likely that the main power or ground has a poor or intermittent connection or maybe even a circuit beaker problem. Finally if you try a master switch maybe you can get one from a junk yard to save a little?

  17. Tamara

    Hi there, Mark, Thank you for taking the time to respond to these. I’m pretty sure a master switch will fix my problem, but before I pay the $190 for it, I had one question. Car is a 2000 Civic. All windows work intermittently. I thought that if the problem were the master switch, each of the windows would work if you used them on the door itself, rather than from the master switch. That isn’t the case. They all work intermittently, whether operating from the master or the door itself. I don’t have a ton of knowledge working on cars, just enough to be dangerous! Thank you!

  18. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Steve: Your guess at the regulator being the problem is a good one. The other possibility is the glass is bonded (glue) to the regulator track. This may have broken loose. Therefore I would recommend pulling the door panel before going to the junk yard to verify whats broken.

  19. Steve

    I have a 1991 Mercury Cougar LS. I hear the motor going, so the switch is working. But, window will not go up or down. I have to manually pull it up to a closed position by taking a shoe off, operating the switch with my big toe, grab window on both interior and exterior sides and slide it to full closed ( I only do this when it’s time for a car wash ) So, I hear the motor engage AND the switch activate. The guides seems to be ok. As it never jumps position and stays level. Since this is a 24 yr old car ( with only 86,000 miles ) parts are impossible to find. I was thinking the regulator that lifts the window is bad. Seeing that taking the panel off a cougar is a major chore. I was hoping for a real clue to the issue, before I head to a junk yard to get a part ( I really don’t want to pull a whole assembly )

  20. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Hey Jennifer: As outlined in the article the most common problems are with the master switch and lift motor. It could also be the wiring or circuit breaker but this is less common yet possible. If the motor runs but the window doesn’t move then your talking about the regulator. In the end this will need some diagnosis.

  21. jennifer

    I have a 98 Honda Accord the driver side window has stopped working. It wont go up or down its stuck open the other windows work fine and there wasn’t any signs that something was wrong with the window it just stopped working the other day all together.. any ideas . Could it be the master control panel?

  22. Mark Gittelman Post author

    Kali: Never seen spilled soda take out a window motor but I guess it’s possible? The way to test it is to disconnect the motor and check for power and ground when the switch is operated on the connector side. If you have good power and ground at the motor and it doesn’t run it’s probably defective.

  23. Kali

    the other day some coke was spilled on the exterior of my car and before i could get a car wash a friend of mine rolled the window down all the way, and now it wont roll back up, its the passenger window and its the only window not working. It doesn’t work from the master switch or the switch on the passenger door panel. I have removed the door panel and inspect the power window motor that runs that window. I’m thinking its the motor, yet I don’t know. I cant find the auto repair manual will provide step-by-step diagnostic instructions to determine what the failure is. help?

  24. Mark Post author

    Trey: Don’t think I can help much with this problem. If the breaker overheats and the windows are inoperative from the master switch this Could indicate a short between the breaker and the master switch. Accessing the wiring diagram from Mitchell 1 can provide wire and connector locations but if you are not comfortable with tracing wires and diagnosing complex electrical problems you might be best served to pay a couple of hours of labor for professional diagnosis.

  25. Trey

    I have a ’97 Yukon; shortly after the car has power the circuit breaker for the windows overheats. None of the windows work from any switch. When the C/B is plugged in the fuse box and you move it, it makes a popping sound and has a small arc. Ive already replaced the master switch and the C/B. Is there a possible short or another faulty component? I always rather do it myself than pay someone to do it, but electrical work is not a good area with me. Can you help?

  26. Mark Post author

    Reggie: If the sunroof switch is located in the Master switch then yes it could be caused by the master switch. But other things like fuses, relay’s, wiring problems and burned fuse-able links can also cause this. Hard to find manuals can usually be ordered from Amazon or other internet retailers. I would either hold out for a diagnostic chart to follow or take it to a dealer for initial diagnosis as opposed to throwing expensive new parts at the problem.

  27. Reggie

    I have a 1999 Mitsubishi Diamante and all of the windows stopped working along with the power sunroof. I cannot find a Haynes repair manual in any of the parts stores in my city. Could this be caused by a faulty master switch?

  28. Ryan

    Mark,
    I just stopped by a local shop that specializes in used parts. They let me try a rebuilt master switch that they had fully tested. I installed it and still had the same issue. So at this point I am ruling out the master switch as the problem.
    Is it possible that there is a single broken wire somewhere? Like I said, I looked at the fuses, and swapped out the relay for another, and that all seems to be fine….unless I missed something. I will re-check the fuses and relay, but I have zero experience testing electrical connections, so if not a relay or fuse I will probably have to hire someone to track the problem down. Any recommendations as to who to take it to in the St. Petersburg Florida area?

  29. Davad

    Mark,
    I am having issues with the front passenger window of my ’04 Lincoln LS. The window rolls up but not down with the switch on both doors. Yet the autoreverse function still works so that I can crack the window by holding up on either switch. What would you guess is the issue?

  30. Mark Post author

    Ryan: Your mechanic does have a valid point that the e-bay switch could be bad. Although I have never held an Isuzu master switch in my hand ( so I could be wrong) I have never seen a window switch that could not be tested. Using the wiring diagram for the circuit you should be able to test for power coming out of the switch to the individual windows. Also since you have an extra bad switch, maybe your mechanic could take apart the old switch and look for a repairable problem ( Like corroded contacts).

  31. Ryan

    Mark,
    I have a question for you. I have a 2001 Isuzu Trooper and am having an issue with the windows. The driver side works fine, but the other windows will only operate using the switches on their respective doors. The 3 non driver windows will not work from the master switch, only the driver side. (The lock button on the passenger door doesn’t work either, but might be unrelated) At first I thought it was the master switch, so I ordered one off ebay (used) and installed it, but there was no change. So then I figured it was a wiring issue and had my local mechanic test the circuits. He said everything seemed fine and that he thought it was the master switch. I told him I had already tried replacing it and he said “perhaps the replacement switch had the same issue?” Well, I guess that is possible, but I really don’t have $350 to spend on a new switch, so I kept digging for other causes. Haven’t found any, but have found out the power window relay is fine, and so are all the fuses. Any ideas? Do you think it is the master switch? Any help would be greatly appreciated! (And might save me from driving off the road while trying to lower my passenger window!)

    Ryan

  32. Dave Wray

    Mark,
    My 2000 Ford Ranger XLT recently developed a problem with the driver’s power window. The window lowers normally, but when raised, the motor no longer stops automatically when the window is fully raised — it keeps turning as long as the switch is held up. The window also appears to be slightly loose when closed.

  33. Daniel

    I would like some help with my 2007 Honda Civic. The windows do work however the automatic mode on the drivers door is causing me some trouble. When I pull the switch to the 2nd stage (auto) the window should go all the way up until closed however once the window hit the top it comes down about 5cm so I have to hold the switch up (manual mode) till the window is closed. I’ve been told this is a resistance problem but have no idea how to fix it ! Any help would be welcome- Cheers

  34. Mark Post author

    BmW: You are not supposed to close the window permanently for safety reasons. It sounds like the window is off track or has a regulator problem. I recommend professional repair. Temporarily you can remove the door panel and push the glass up from the bottom. If the regulator is very messed up you may have to remove the attaching bolts. You can then custom cut a 2 x 4 and use it to jam the window in the closed position temporarily.

  35. BmW

    1991 Accord, rear power window goes up partway then stops and will not go back down but a few inches, just stuck in limbo midway. Can advance it up or down, well…slightly, from either switch. How can I pull it up so I can have the window closed even if it is forever?

  36. Mark Post author

    Ed: Not uncommon for cooler temps to cause intermittent electrical problems. In a perfect world I would leave the door panel off to see whats wrong when you come out from work and do some testing. If you tap on the lift motor housing and it starts working then the motor should be replaced.

  37. Ed Luciano

    I work the 2nd shift and park my car outside in a parking lot. The last 3 nights when I start the car to go home the driver’s side power window won’t go down. After I get home and put the car in my garage for an hour or two the window works normally again. It seems this is a weather related problem but not related to below freezing temps. Any idea what might be causing the problem? (2006 chrysler sebring touring sedan.)—– Thanks, Ed

  38. Mark Post author

    Julie: I have seen plenty of bad power window motors on the early 2000 Dodge Caravans and Chrysler mini vans. I have also seen a few broken regulator tapes. Short answer is the door panel has to come off to see whats wrong and do some testing. Note: That sometimes if you hold the switch in the down position (key on) and bang on the door panel (or kick it) the window sometimes starts to work. If it does this would indicate a failing window motor.

  39. Julie

    I have a 2002 Chrysler Voyager. The driver side window control has both the driver and passenger controls. The control will roll up and down the passenger side, but the driver side will not go up or down anymore. Any clue, I’m car stupid!?

  40. Frank Misco

    1996 Lincoln Town Car: Right rear window Won’t go up. Goes down. Motor is working from either switch. Can press up with palm of hand while activating ‘up’ on motor but after some driving window drops about an inch.

  41. joe hall

    Having problem with driver side power window will not operate at all it is in 2000 s10

  42. Mark Post author

    Richard: Without knowing year make and model hard to say. BUT I can tell you most often in this situation I find a broken regulator tape (mostly on Chrysler models) or sometimes the track breaks loose from the glass and needs to be re bonded. And sometimes it’s an internal or striped gear inside the power window motor itself.

  43. Richard McCarty

    The motor in the left rear window runs, but the glass does not go up or down.

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