Car's power window won't roll up - bad switch or larger problem?
October 13, 2014 6:50 PM   Subscribe

One of the power windows in my car has stopped rolling up. The windows are controlled by a dual switch in the center console. The driver's side works, and the passenger "down" works, but the passenger "up" switch does not. I tried replacing it with a new switch I ordered online, and was able to get the window 90% up, but then that new switch abruptly stopped working. Is this likely to be a case of a bad part, or is there something wrong with my electrical system? More details below.

- I can plug the old dual switch in and it still works for the driver's window.

- The new switch doesn't work for either window in either direction

- When the new switch stopped working, it smelled faintly of electric and burning - like something shorted out.

If I just got a bad part, then fine - I'll order a new one (and possibly take it up with the vendor). If there could be something wrong with my car that's causing these switches to go bad, then I'd like to avoid blowing another 50 bucks on a switch that's immediately going to short out. Any advice from someone who knows cars and electrical systems better than I would be much appreciated.
posted by chrisamiller to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's more possible that something physical is stopping the window from going up and that this is causing the switch to burn out, in my opinion. The fact that it caused two switches to stop working can suggest an electrical feedback/overload from the motor, but that feedback itself could also be caused by something physically stopping the motor from pushing the window up.

My suggestion would be to remove the door panel, disconnect the arm from the window itself and push it up and down by hand in the door to check there are no issues with the window itself and then work to the motor itself and back through the electrical system. With the window disconnected you can try and work the motor with a new switch, for instance. This will tell you if an unloaded motor works fine (which could point towards a mechanical lock as well). If the window slides fine and the physically disconnected motor works fine then connect them back up and watch the mechanism to see if it binds up or twists in a way that causes the motor to overwork.

Of course, a year, make and model would be very helpful and googling 'window switch problem' with that year and model may produce some similar results, too.
posted by Brockles at 7:10 PM on October 13, 2014

Response by poster: Most of this probably should have been in the question:

- It's a 1999 Chevy Cavalier, and I've had trouble finding anyone with the same problem on auto forums and such.

- I've already disassembled the door, and can confirm that there's nothing physically impeding the window.

- The new switch worked long enough to get the window all the way up, back down (as a test), and then 90% back up, before kicking the bucket (I think that suggests it's not the motor that's directly the problem).
posted by chrisamiller at 7:26 PM on October 13, 2014

Best answer: - The new switch worked long enough to get the window all the way up, back down (as a test), and then 90% back up, before kicking the bucket (I think that suggests it's not the motor that's directly the problem).

Quite the opposite. If the motor is somehow backfeeding or drawing significant current through the switch, which then causes it to burn out as it can't handle the electrical load/heat, then it actually points more towards the motor being the issue, I'd have thought.

Is the motor on a relay or direct feed from the switch? If it is direct then I would think you have good evidence that the motor is drawing more power than it should and it is melting the switch internally. So if you have definitely removed any chance of physical load on the window like play in the linkages somehow locking it out at a certain point in the throw of the window) then I suspect the motor is pooched.
posted by Brockles at 7:38 PM on October 13, 2014

Best answer: i'm voting for binding in the window regulator(which is what they call the motor-linkage unit). i dealt with this recently on my partners old car. replaced the switch, then after a similar screw up opened up the door and the thing was HORRIBLY binding up.

there wasn't anything visually making it seem like it was being impeded, just the mechanism itself had a ton of tension and resistance in it. did you actually check for that? depending on how sealed it is, can you rotate where the motor connects to the gear linkage? if you remove the motor, how easy is it to turn the remaining gears? if it's a cable-actuated system, the pulleys the cable runs on or the main pulley in the gearbox may have ate it and started to completely chew in to the cable and jam, also.

the way this seems to happen is that in some cars there's a mechanism to turn off the motor when it encounters resistance and that's how it decides it's closed(and keeps from say, squishing your dog). on others, it's simply a position sensor somewhere in the mechanism that shuts it off when it's "up". on those ones, the motor can continue to try and run under too much load and you get... crap like this.
posted by emptythought at 11:58 PM on October 13, 2014

Response by poster: Well, as it turns out, we ended up getting a new car (for unrelated reasons), and I'm just going to end up selling this one as-is. Thanks for the advice, though!
posted by chrisamiller at 8:53 PM on November 13, 2014

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