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DIY Garage: How to fix window regulators

The basic concept involved in replacing these is common to most vehicles, though variations even within a model line (power/manual, etc.) mean that the specific repair shown is intended as an example only.

  • Window_Regulator-BE01

Power window motors and window regulators lead a tough life. The regulators in the majority of newer cars use cables to operate. The wear from raising and lowering a window thousands of times in the lifetime of a vehicle would be enough, but the additional stresses when each end of the window’s travel is reached or the switch is operated and the glass is frozen closed really take their toll. Cables break or bind, and motors fail.

The basic concept involved in replacing these is common to most vehicles, though variations even within a model line (power/manual, etc.) mean that the specific repair shown is intended as an example only.

The vehicle we’re working on today is a 2001 GMC Sierra pickup with manual windows, locks, and mirrors, a configuration that’s increasingly uncommon. The owner’s complaint is that the driver’s window will intermittently jam, and it has developed an unusual noise when operated. These trucks are well known for regulator issues, though cable operated regulators in general can be problematic. Due to the popularity of this vehicle, complete replacements are readily available from both the OEM and aftermarket suppliers. Fortunately, this is one of the easier vehicles to change a regulator in. The previous generation model was far less accommodating.

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Exposed trim fasteners are pretty much unheard of these days, even in a basic work truck. Access to service information or a few minutes spent with Google will help you find hidden screws like this one, revealed by popping out the lock knob. This truck has two more — one on the bottom edge of the door pad, and another on the underside of the armrest; however, they’re both concealed only by being out of the line of sight. Nearly every vehicle I’ve encountered has some form of screw fastener holding the inside door pull handle to the door.

There is an actual tool for removing the clip on the window crank handle. As demonstrated here, a rag can also be used, slotted between the base of the crank and the door pad, then firmly pulled back and forth to catch and pull the ends of the metal clip. Be careful not to lose the clip. The clip is spring-loaded and will try to launch itself into a parallel dimension and out of sight. During installation, snap the clip back into the crank handle and it will simply press back onto the regulator’s shaft.

There are several ways that door pads can be retained. Clips are most common, but this design uses hooks and is removed by tugging it upwards once the side-view mirror trim cover is pulled off. If this vehicle had power options, we’d have to be careful of the wiring to the switches, disconnecting them once the pad had been moved sufficiently away from the door. Already peeled back in this photo, the plastic inner liner in this truck is trapped by the door handle, so it’s been held out of the way. We can now see the bolts for the regulator and glass*.

Prior to undoing the bolts (or clips, as in some vehicles) that attach the glass to the regulator, you’ll need to secure the glass to prevent it from falling into the door. This commercially available suction device is made for the job, but you can also use tape over the top of the window frame — just beware of any potential damage from adhesive residue on paint or trim. The tempered glass used in vehicle side windows is funny stuff, hard to break yet easily shattered, so a good deal of care should be exercised around it. It’s safest in its fully raised position, if it can be left there.

Note the regulator’s orientation before removal. The regulators in these trucks fold up and remove and install easily through the large slot in the inside of the door. A note of caution: the edges of the holes in the door’s sheet metal can be razor sharp. The regulator itself may have edges that are just as sharp. Gloves are a good idea. Installation is basically reversing these steps. Don’t forget to stick the plastic liner back in place to prevent drafts.

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