Power Window Switch Cleaning

Keeping your electric windows on the move
on

Back in the early days of the automobile, things got started by hand-turning a crank. A large crank was inserted into the front, or side of the car, and spun around by the soon-to-be driver. If all went as planned, the engine would kick over. These early starting systems were not the most reliable ways of getting things moving. In fact, the cranks were downright dangerous and often caused serious injuries. With safety and better living in mind, an electric starter activated by a switch inside the automobile supplanted the crank. With electricity now on tap, this miraculous level of engineering took charge, and all manner of electric conveniences were soon commonplace inside the modern automobile.

Soon even crank windows whirred open and shut by way of an electric motor. The first vehicle to feature electrically operated or power windows was manufactured in 1948 by Daimler long before it was DaimlerChrysler. Instant insulation from noise, wind, rain, and sleet was available immediately and effortlessly with the mere flick of a switch. The power window has since worked its way up and down into automotive history and today, in fact, is so mundane that one hardly ever thinks about this modern convenience-until it suddenly stops working.

Ups and Downs

Between the outer steel of the door itself and the deluxe material that comprises the inner door panel is the secret to the power window. At the core of the system is an electric motor connected to a small gear. This motor and gear combination does the work that your arm and crank would do if there were still such a crank where the switch for the power window is. The small gear turns against a larger gear, which is connected to an arm. The end of the arm is connected to a track attached to the bottom of the window glass. As the arm slides along to and fro in the track, the window goes up and down. The outer edges of the window glass slide up and down in their own tracks. If everything stays on track, up and down the window will go. There are of course other and more complex power window arrangements, but they all more or less work the same way.

When the power window suddenly stops working, the inner workings of all these tracks, gears and gizmos immediately come to mind. The next thing that rears its ugly head is how much it's going to cost to fix it. Unlike a fussy vanity mirror or sticky glovebox latch, a malfunctioning power window is something one wants to fix as soon as possible. Paying tolls, ordering cheeseburgers, or staying dry in a sudden summer squall are all things taken for granted until the power window stops working.

Fuzz Bomb

Before panic and financial anxiety set in at the mere thought of removing the door panel, replacing the jumped tracks, and scaring the neighbors half to death with your swearing as you attempt to disassemble and reassemble the power window, investigate the obvious. Consult the owner's or service manual and find the fuse box. Check the fuse for the power windows. Good? Move on to step two, and suspect the inexorable march of time. Every time the switch activates, a small amount of carbon can build up. Over time, this can add up to poor contact. Also suspect ketchup, frothy coffee foam, and God knows what all from your fingers or fast food meals of commutes past that may have navigated into the nooks and crannies of the power window switch.

If the vehicle is used and was previously owned by talking dogs, or the Bigfoot clan, errant hair could be the culprit. Corrosion can also play a role if the vehicle has been around for a few presidents. Since the switch completes the circuit to make the power windows operate, anything that gets in the way of the contacts will stop things up, and the circuit, or your window, will stay open. Either way you have nothing to lose but an hour or so by removing the switch and cleaning it out. If you find and remove corroded, carbonized, or gunked up contacts, then chances are you'll have solved the problem. If all goes well, your power window will be back on track in no time.

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