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My Car Window Fell Down - What Do I Do?

This is a bit of a messy situation for sure. It's just started pelting down rain, the kids are in the back of the car screaming and catching their death and, all of a sudden, a perfectly good window is either refusing to go up or has just fallen into the ether never to be seen again.

What does this mean for you? And, better yet, how can you stop the pain from happening?

Well, there's a couple of things going on here and all of the outcomes are probably going to be a little disappointing (given your current situation).

See, car windows are one of those things we take for granted. Not only do they stop the rain and noise from coming into the car, but they also secure the car from potential thieves and other assorted animals who might creep their way in during the night.

If you've read any of our blog posts up until now, you're probably expecting us to jump into some rant about how the first car with power windows was the Packard 180 in 1940 and then not actually answer the question at all. But that's not going to stop the children from screaming in the back.

So how does a car window work?

Believe it or not, power windows for cars are actually a really a really fascinating system. A system that consists of four main components. A switch, a motor, a regulator and a set of tracks.

Let's jump into it. While we're all familiar with the window switch, we don't really know what it does. In a modern car, the window switch is a little printed circuit board that sends a signal to a main computer. This computer processes the input and sends a power transmission our to a window motor. The rotation of this motor winds a window up or down and essentially replaces winder handle that was around "back in the day".

The window motor turns a set of gears or wires and raises the window and the tracks make sure that it's going up in a mostly straight fashion.

In early versions of power windows, this was literally just a power signal and it was on the driver to stop the window. But with the introduction of computers, a couple of additional functions were added including auto down, auto up, and even anti-pinch.

The most interesting feature is (surprisingly) anti-pinch as it reads the window motor's power consumption and reverses the motor if it detects a blockage to the window.

So what has causes you to be stuck with your window down on the side of the road? And why can't your kids be a little more sympathetic to the sticky situation you're in?

More often than not, the first place that we're looking as mechanics is the window regulator. It's the part of the window that has the most moving parts and is (more often than not) made out of plastic, wire and the tears of the workers that put it together.

In fact, out starting test for all of this is really simple. When using the window switch, we listen for the motor to wind up or down and if we hear the sounds of electric wizardry going on inside the door, we know that we're probably looking at the regulator or tracks. Seeing as the tracks are incredibly simple, a lot of the time it ends up being the regulator.

If we don't hear a winding noise, things become a little more difficult. The best way to start is with a scan tool or a multimeter and confirm if the switch is sending the signal or if the motor is getting power. Additionally, if the left rear window is not working, you can see if you can put it up from its own switch or from the driver's switch to rule them out. All of these are a little advanced unless you're really keen on cars (or electrics).

Now, none of this really helps in your situation besides giving you the "comfort" of knowing that your car actually needs fixing.

So is there anything you can do to fix the window straight away?

Kind of. If the regulator is broken and a bit of the window is still sticking out above the door, you can sometimes lift it and tape it in place by wrapping tape over the top of the door frame. Unless you have a Subaru with frameless doors.

If you are going to try this method, make sure you only use masking tape as it doesn't tend to damage the paint and make sure to take it off after 1-2 days.

If you can't get it up yourself, the best bet is to book it in with a mechanic as soon as possible to get it all sorted. In the meantime, make sure that all your valuables are out of the car and the keys are locked away safely.

Does this explanation kind of suck? Yes. We'd really like to be able to give you a silver bullet to stop the problem straight away but, sometimes, things are just broken.


If you have any questions about this blog post, would like a second opinion from a mechanic or would like to find an honest mechanic in Brisbane, check out Kashy here.

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