Getting Windows Back on Track
Or, when they've fallen down and can't get up
We take windows for granted when they work properly. Once they come off their rollers and derail from their tracks, though, our tunes change. Bad weather and bad guys looking to get into your vehicle are just two reasons to repair non-rolling windows.
Bad weather and bad guys looking to get into your vehicle are just two reasons to repair non-rolling windows. The good news is that most of us possess the intelligence and talent to return windows to their original up-and-down standing—no more fishing down the door gap for the window frame with channel-locks.
The fix-it procedures are similar for front and rear windows, power and manual. First, do some homework to save time during the actual job: Obtain exploded-parts diagrams of your vehicle's interior panels and window mechanism. This'll help locate hard-to-find screws in armrest and other places. The actual job involves removing the door or body panel, diagnosing the problem, replacing the offending parts (usually the plastic rollers, but sometimes the window-regulator mechanism) and buttoning everything up.
More specifically, once the interior panel is removed and the window regulator is visible, the problem can be troubleshot. Typically, the plastic window rollers wear through their lubricants over time. Moisture then causes corrosion. When pressure is applied to the window regulator, either manually with the crank or with the power motor, something has to give.
Thankfully, the plastic rollers are the system's weak links. Sometimes they come unclipped from the regulator's arms, and other times they break. Regardless, the fix entails sliding the rollers into the slider channels and cranking the regulator until its studs are aligned with the rollers. Make sure that the clips snap into the rollers' grooves and that the rollers are in the tracks by rolling the window up and down before replacing the interior panel.
There's also a worst-case scenario. Sometimes we he-men unknowingly bend or break the window regulator as we keep trying to roll the window crank or stick tools down the window gap to try to retrieve the glass. Repair involves unbolting the regulator from the door's interior skin and shimmying it out through the access opening. If the regulator is misaligned with the slider tracks, its arms can often be carefully rebent to their original posture. Damage beyond this usually requires replacing the regulator. (Diagnosing and fixing electrical problems in power windows is best left to a professional.)
In all, non-rolling windows can usually be fixed at home with ordinary hand tools. In some cases, the job can actually be done in less time than it would take to drop off and pick up the vehicle at a shop. Many people also choose to repair or replace the interior panels and window-channel fuzz at the same time, so these rehab procedures make for a worthwhile weekend project.
A little homework up front can save time later. We went to the library and copied exploded-parts diagrams for our interior panels and window mechanism from a repair manual.
On this '66 Mustang convertible, we removed the rear seat and door-sill molding for easier access to the body panel. Begin removing the interior panel by unscrewing the window cranks, armrests and any other appendages.
The service-manual diagrams provide clues on where to locate hard-to-find fasteners so that the panel can be removed elegantly.
Carefully remove the watershield. If untorn, it can be reused.
The problem can now be diagnosed. This top view through the window channel shows that both rollers (arrows) have jumped their tracks. The regulator functions properly. Otherwise, we'd unbolt it from the body and jockey the assembly through the lower hole to repair or replace it.
Replacement rollers are usually dealership items or sourced through an aftermarket specialty business. (This new roller can from an early Mustang supplier.) Based on its damage, the old roller on the right apparently tore out of its track.
Lack of lube is commonly the broken-roller perpetrator. To avoid having to redo the job in the foreseeable future, we cleaned all dirt and debris out of the window cavity and lubed all moving parts--including the new roller--with white lithium grease.
The dirty work concludes by sliding the rollers into the tracks, cranking the regulator down, putting the arms' studs through the rollers, then sliding on the retaining clips. Interior panels reinstall in the reverse order of disassembly.
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