Of all the things that you had long feared about your car that could fail, you may never have had any suspicions on those slabs of glass flanking your left and right. Indeed, the modern-day electrically (or sometimes hydraulically) actuated and powered windows can break. Even as they silently work in the backdrop, never to ask much of you. Yet, when they do cease, you scramble in a dash to try and find out all about the power windows repair cost. So, is it really that expensive to repair?
The cost of repairing power windows, as well as replacing the necessary bits and pieces that make it all work, can be quite costly. It might surprise you how complicated the many componentry are underneath it all. Plus, how tedious it is to get them fixed up or replaced altogether. It’s one of the harsh trade-offs that we get in return for panes of glass that wind up and down seamlessly with a button press away. So, let’s talk more about that power windows repair cost, shall we?
What Do You Need To Know About Power Windows?
But first, we should dive deep into what power windows are. This may give us some context as to why power windows repair cost is shockingly pricey at the higher end of the spectrum. Power windows are the replacement for the traditional means of winding your windows up or down, which is actuated by a manual crank handle. Now, we use electric actuators to move the glass, rather than core strength. Although some cars have hydraulically-actuated power windows, these are rare.
Power windows have been around since the 1940s, and over the years, they still generally work the same way. Deep inside, there are two important components that you need to know that forms a core part of the electric power windows – the motor, and the regulator.
Motor – The motor is what produces power to wind your powered windows up or down. The motor is attached to a worm gear, as well as several spur gears to create a large gear reduction. In all, they create torque to lift the windows. One unique feature about power windows is that they can’t be forced open, as a safety and security measure. This is thanks to the gear worm and its self-locking mechanism.
Regulator – While the motor is the “engine” of the power window system, the regulator forms the rest of the assembly that connects it all together. It starts with the buttons that you interact with on the armrest, which then sends the signals to the motor. On the other end, the regulator is what holds and carries the glass in place. The motor sends torque across to the regulator assembly, which duly lifts the window up or down along the track.
The Unique Features Of Modern Power Windows
So then, we’re more well acquainted with the two key parts that are hard at work to keep the power windows working. It’s no wonder then that the motor and regulator are the units that often wear out and break down first. Thanks to them, and the many other wiring looms and relays that go in between, you can enjoy the convenience and effortless operation with your windows. Aside from ease, there are a few other distinct features that have been enabled thanks to its creation.
Automatic Up/Down – It’s a very common feature in many cars. Usually, you’d have to hold down the switch to fully wind the windows to their bottom-most position. With the ‘automatic down’ function, you can instead press and hold it down for just a few seconds, and then lift your finger away from the switch. The system will then automatically wind the windows down as far as they can go. On the flip side, the ‘automatic up’ function for power windows works the other way, winding it up.
The Fancy Nice-To-Haves…
Automatic Stop – This is a safety feature built into some cars. It works by sensing if there’s an obstacle in the way as the windows – with automatic up/down capabilities – are being lifted upwards. If there is something to get in the way, such as one’s neck peering out the window, the risk of injury is very high. Hence why ‘automatic stop’ function has been included in certain cars. They monitor the speed of the windows as it’s being wound up. It can then slow it down when it senses an obstacle in the way.
Courtesy Power On – One integral security aspect of power windows is that they can’t be wound down when the ignition is turned off. However, some cars do include ‘courtesy power-on’, which uses some of the backup power to do this. Let’s say you forgot to roll up your windows as you’re parking your car. Instead of having to go back in, turn the ignition on, and then wind the windows back up, this system does it for you automatically.
Can You Convert Your Car’s Windows To Be Electrically Powered?
An odd question to ask, but we’ve uncovered quite a few while writing up this power windows repair cost guide. Could you feasibly convert your car’s manual, hand-cranked windows to be electrically power operated? Indeed, the answer is ‘YES’… Although it does take a bit of work. You’ll need to add some new wiring to the already existing in-door mechanisms such as the door locks and hinges. You thus require a lot of fresh parts fitted in to make the conversion happen.
In manually operated cars, they too have a regulator assembly. But rather than take in power from an electric motor, it instead takes in torque from the rotational motion of a crank. This will have to be replaced when converting them to be power operated. Nonetheless, it’s not cheap to add a brand new electric motor and regulator assembly, foreshadowing the repair bills later. With all the parts combined, a power window conversion unit will average around $850, not yet counting for labor.
What Are The Symptoms Of Power Window Failure That You Need To Look Out For?
We’ve understood what goes on inside your doors to silently and smoothly bring the power windows up and down. Now, we’ll need to look at how you can tell that something’s amiss. What are the various tell-tale signs of problems arising that have you worrying about power windows repair cost? Well, there are a few symptoms to look into here that would tell you if your power windows need a check-up. Maybe this could help us narrow down and pinpoint the problem more precisely…
1. Pressing The Switch Doesn’t Work, Or It Only Works Sometimes
Let’s say you press the power window switch, and one of these three things happen… 1) all of the power windows stop working entirely; 2) the windows do wind up or down, but only when pressed from the master switch; or 3) the windows wind up and down, but it sometimes doesn’t work, or it might not close properly at times.
If you suffer these symptoms, the underlying cause might not lie too far down. It’s possible that only the electrical system up top has some faults. A blown fuse or a bad relay can cause the power windows to not work at all. Meanwhile, the power window switch itself can break, needing you to press the master switch to activate it. It may even function still, but not properly.
2. Needing To Press The Switch Numerous Times To Make It Wind Up Or Down
In this scenario, the window switch works. However, you now realize that you need to give it several presses for it to actually wind the windows up or down. This may be a continuation of the window switch problem from earlier. It can get stuck due to debris, or break over time. Still, it’s also a good sign that the power window motor or regulator has failed, or are on their way out.
3. Window Wind Up/Down Speed Is Faster Or Slower Than Usual
Your power windows should always wind up or down at a steady pace. Although, you may be able to notice that it’s winding up or down much faster, or slower than it usually does. This points us to the fact that the motor needs replacing. When the motor begins to fail, it might not regulate the speed that it operates sufficiently, leading to it providing far too much (or too little) torque.
4. Clicking Sounds When The Windows Are Rolling Up/Down
Have you ever heard a clicking sound after pressing the power window switch? The windows may still roll up and down without any trouble. However, there’s that clicking noise of something going on inside the power window assembly. In this case, you may have some debris trapped likely between the slab of the glass itself, and the power window regulator assembly or motor.
There are a few consequences to this. It starts with your power window motor and regulator needing to work harder than it needs to. This leads to premature wear and damage. Moreover, the debris – depending on how large or abrasive it is – could jam the window along the rails. This may end up with the glass being dislodged and falling out of the assembly, or shatter completely from the stress.
5. Window Is Crooked Or Stuck
The windows should always lock into a set position once its wound up and are then held in place by the regulator. If there’s something wrong with your power window system, then the glass might sit in a crooked position. It may seem like it’s leaning to one side. Alternatively, your window could get stuck in place, or encounters some friction while it’s rolling up or down.
6. Odd Squeaking, Grinding, Or Clunking Noises
We noted that you should be wary of clicking sounds when the windows are rolled up and down. But this time, you’ll need to listen for any peculiar squeaking, grinding, or clunking noises when you’re using the power windows. This is a sign that a component within the mechanism is broken. You can easily point your finger at two components – a failing regulator, or a faulty motor.
7. Window Drops Back Into The Door
This is a rare case, but it can still happen. Often, this symptom is exhibited when your car has just been in an accident, leading to damage within the power window mechanism. Thus, a faulty motor or regulator assembly might see the glass slab fall out from its rails. The window will then fall all the way down into the doors, which could cause the window to shatter or crack from the impact.
What’s Causing These Power Window Problems In The First Place?
To better get to grips with what we’ll need to tabulate for a complete power windows repair cost, we should of course try to pin down the reason why all these problems are happening in the first place. Once again, the cause of the issues will likely be the power window regulator and motor. Both are frequently used during the operation of rolling up or down the windows at your behest. Hence, it makes sense that they undergo the most amount of strain, as well as wear and tear.
Apart from this, there are a couple of other components within the entire power window system that can break and fail. The power window switch that you toggle each time to wind the windows up or down, as we spoke of before, can have its faults. Debris can get lodged in there. Or, the electrics that connect its inputs back to the motor or regulator, such as a fuse or relay, can fail. Then, we can move on to the cables inside of the power window mechanism, which transmits the motor’s torque.
This torque moves a sliding bar up and down, of which it’s connected to a bracket that holds the glass in place. Therefore, the cable is crucial in actually carrying the motor’s power to be translated into actual force to move the windows. If the cable were to break, it can cause the glass slab to fall out of the assembly. If the cable guides are frayed or worn out, you can also hear some abnormal sounds. The window may also fail to roll up or down accordingly. That said, these faults are rare.
How Much Is The Power Windows Repair Cost That You Need To Pay?
Finally, we can move onto discussing the power windows repair cost that you need to think about. So, how much does replacing or repairing a power window regulator or motor (or both) cost? As we hinted at before, it’s not cheap. In fact, power window faults are one of the more costly fixes that you can have done on your car. In short, replacing both the regulator and motor together can leave you lighter by between $150 to $1,100 on average, accounting for both labor and materials.
Naturally, that’s a very wide margin, and it will vary significantly depending on what needs to be done. How severe are your power window problems? The make and model of your car will have a difference. Some luxury cars, for example, have double pane windows to block out outside noise. Since these are heavier, they need much torque to roll up or down, thus requiring more beefy motors and regulators to prop them up. Plus, we also have to look at where you’re sending your car to.
Are you having your car checked up at a local workshop or specialist, or a dealership? The latter, while they may be able to provide you with original factory OEM parts, will most likely cost more. On top of all this, we need to account for labor costs. If you’re technically minded, you can save a lot by buying up only the raw materials, and spend a few hours to have it installed by your lonesome. So, let’s try to break the power windows repair cost down, bit by bit…
1. Opening Up Your Door Panels, And Diagnosis ($50-$200)
You should more realistically expect a price of around $100 for this, but that might change. This cost involves having the mechanic or technician remove the entire door panel apart to pry into the power window system and see what’s wrong. The price, of course, can increase as more work may need to be done. For instance, you might want to ask them to clean out any dust or debris in there.
They may have been clogging up the windows the entire time, and a quick (and relatively cheap) fix should solve it. From here, the diagnostic fee itself is about $50 (it can rise up to $100) on average, tacked on top for poking around to see what’s broken with your power windows. This is just the starting price, assuming that you don’t know the cause, or fault within your power windows.
2. Replacing Your Power Window Regulator ($125-$600)
Between them, the regulator is usually the cheaper of the two to have replaced. There are two types of power window regulator designs – a scissor, or cable. A ‘scissor’ type regulator works sort of like a scissor lift. Mechanically, it’s simpler in form, and thus has fewer parts that could break. Although, there are those wheels to lift the mechanism up and down, which can wear out over time.
Meanwhile, ‘cable’ type regulators take up far less space as it uses cables to move roll the windows up or down. However, it does have more moving parts that could fail. In any case, a typical window regulator costs anywhere from just $40, all the way up to $300 just for the parts. Rather than go for original OEM parts, compatible aftermarket solutions are generally cheaper.
If you plan on having someone else do this for you, you’ll need to account for 1.5 to 3 hours of labor in total. This includes removing the door panels, detaching the glass, taking apart the old regulator, and then fitting in the new one. On average, labor costs are around $50 to $120 an hour. In total, replacing your power window regulator can cost you $125 to $600 for both the parts and labor.
3. Replacing Your Power Window Motor ($150-$900)
The motor can commonly be found – just the part itself – for around $60 to $550. As with before, you could find compatible third-party aftermarket options for the motor instead of going for OEM, as the latter will cost you more. You could stop the bills there if you’re planning to replace the motor yourself. But if you’re sending it for a professional to do it, the process takes just as long.
That said, we’re looking at another 1.5 to 3 hours to remove the door panels, separate the glass, take out the old motor, and then replace it with the new unit. We’re estimating this using the same $50 to $120 average labor cost as before. Overall, the total cost of a replacement of your power window motor, taking into account both labor and material, is around $150 to $900.
One surprise here is the “core charge“. Most states mandate this, and it may cost you another $20 to $60 out of pocket for replacing the motor. So, what is it? Well, the ‘core charge’ is basically a recycling fee, as the motor has plenty of reusable materials inside of it. Interestingly, it neither has to be paid or refunded, if the old motor is exchanged for a brand new one, thus avoiding waste.
4. Replacing Both The Power Window Motor And Regulator ($175-$1,100+)
Sometimes, it may be wise of you to consider replacing both the motor and regulator, even if only one of them is broken. This is recommended as a preventive measure, as a fault with one could put stress on the other. It could lead to that other part wearing out and then breaking again. If you have plans on replacing both of them, the combined cost of raw materials is around $100 to $850.
Once adding in 1.5 to 3 hours of labor, the total power windows repair cost of having the motor and regulator replaced will land you around $175 to a whopping $1,100 (or more!). But some have wondered why the bottom-end of the estimations could be that cheap, relatively speaking. For that, we should look to the fact that the labor cost is the biggest contributor to the price of any repair.
In this case, the cost of replacing both items is still the same 1.5 to 3 hours, as the process requires removing the motor and regulator. As a result, it doesn’t cost much or any extra in labor fees, since the time and effort it takes compared to replacing only one component is similar. Also, the motor and regulator can sometimes be acquired in bundles, saving you more when buying up the parts.
Power Windows Repair Cost – Conclusion
In all, we’ve learned here that power windows, as little as we think about them, are a surprisingly expensive fix. You can certainly do this yourself at home if you’re confident enough. But for such a delicate task, it may be helpful to have an experienced mechanic do this for you. Besides, the price of a slab of shattered or cracked glass isn’t cheap to replace. In all, just be prepared the moment you’re handed the repair bills for a power windows repair cost.
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