Why Is My Car Window Stuck? Window Regulator Styles, Common Issues and Solutions

Most people never think about what makes their windows go up and down until it stops going up and down. With so many shops out there, parts available online, youtube videos and DIY kits, how do you know what option is best for your vehicle and your wallet? What kind of parts are in your door? Why do they break? I’m going to help answer these questions and hopefully educate you so that you’ll be better prepared to make that financial commitment.

Isn’t My Window Just Off Track?

This is the number one question that we get in the automotive window business. A lot of people believe there is a track and sometimes the window just comes off the track and just needs to be put back on. This is a common misconception and it’s completely incorrect. The window is attached to a window regulator and there is not a track that the glass can simply be put back onto. The entire regulator must be replaced in most cases. This is labor intensive and is not just a simple fix.

What Is A Window Regulator?

A window regulator is the device that your window is attached to. The regulator is responsible for supporting the weight of the glass and raising and lowering the glass. The regulator is driven by a window motor which provides power for the regulator to raise and lower the glass. Each door has a window regulator and a motor. Below is an image of a cable style regulator.

Are There Different Types of Power Window Regulators?

There are many different types of window regulators. The two most common are the cable style and the scissor action style. There are more types, but we’ll just stick to the most common types for this thread. Each vehicle is different, so a regulator replacement on a Toyota may be much more expensive and labor intensive than a repair on a Chevrolet. Below are images depicting the differences between cable and scissor regulators.

Cable Style Regulator

Scissor Style Regulator

What Is It That Breaks On A Power Window Regulator?

Since we now know that each regulator is different we can reason that each regulator will break in a different way. A Cable style regulator is held together and tensioned with plastic parts that tend to break do to extreme heat and cold and general wear and tear. Believe it or not, most manufacturers design these to put the heaviest load on the weakest points on purpose. You guessed it, these parts are designed to break. How do you think the manufacturers stay in business? Most commonly on a Cable style regulator the pulley wheels, spring tensioners and even the cable itself will break. A lot of times the metal cables will just rip right out of the plastic casings. On a Scissor style regulator there aren’t a lot of areas prone to breaking because there are mostly metal parts holding everything together. A scissor regulator is a few metal bars welded together that raise and lower the window in a scissor like motion thus the name “Scissor” regulator. On a Scissor action regulator the most common breaks are welded pivot points, rollers falling apart and glass carriers becoming detached from the glass. And since a scissor style regulator is less likely to break because it’s made from more metal, we find that dead window motors are most commonly the cause of window failure for these parts. Most of the time we can repair these regulators in our machine shop without having to purchase a replacement part. Below are depictions of broken window regulators.

Broken scissor action rollers

Cable snapped out of carrier