How to Repair Electric Windows Not Working

A master window control switch is designed to supply power and ground to the various windows in the vehicle. Subsequent window control switches, for example on the passenger and rear doors, are fed through the master window switch. Electric window systems are common technology which is universal throughout the automotive industry. These systems work from a simple polarity change to activate an electric window motor which will rotate the motor in one direction or the other. Usually, for high end vehicles window switches can be bypassed by the BCM (body control module) which are designed with control relays that activate the window motors remotely.

What Goes Wrong?

The master window switch contains electrical contact points which make up the switch. As amperage is pulled through the switch via the window motor it can cause these contacts to overheat and burn out rendering the switch non-operational or semi-operational. Dirt and soda can also contaminate the switch contacts causing high resistance which also stops the switch from functioning.

How Much Does it Cost?

A replacement master window switch can cost between $65.00 and $140.00 US depending on configuration and manufacturer, Amazon offers window switches at a reasonable price, passenger and rear door control switches are less. A shop will charge between .7 and 1.5 hours to change the switch out without testing, which will be an additional charge. If all windows are not working or just one window is not working the switch will need to be tested for power and ground which is covered in this guide.

Before We Begin

There are two types of window switch replacement methods, the first is a simple removal of the window switch bezel which is held in with one or two screws or a snap clip which can be released using a small flat blade screwdriver. The second type is a little more difficult because the door panel will need to be removed before the switch can be accessed and replaced. This guide will walk you through the job, if you need specific panel or switch removal procedures ask our experts to help (free) or check out the AllData DIY site (pay). Testing and replacement is similar for passenger and rear door window switches.

Let's Jump In!

In this example the door panel will need to be removed to access the switch. To tell which type you have, look for a mounting screw near the switch bezel or try to gently pry up on the switch to see if it gives way and pops out, if not the door panel will need to be removed.
door panel

At the rear of the door panel disconnect the wiring harness from the switch or undo the switch bezel mount screws or clips to access the rear of the switch. Then reattach the wiring harness so testing can begin.
remove panel clips

With the ignition key on, use a test light to probe the switch terminals or wiring connectors, one of them should have power. This test shows the window system is powered up and a fuse or relay is not the problem, (test light on). If power is not found, check the fuses in the fuse panel.
test for power

Next, connect the test light lead to power with an extender wire to the positive battery terminal and test the remaining terminals for ground, this wire is usually black or brown. One should light up, if not inspect the wiring and harness for damage and use a wiring schematic to trace the ground circuit and repair. It is common for the wiring to break near the door jam where the wiring harness goes from the door to the vehicle.
test for ground

Insert a sharp metal object such as this scribe into the ground clip of the test light, this will be used to test the switches internal circuitry.
test light ground curciut probe

Using the circuit tester, insert both probe ends into the individual window activation terminals. Working the switch back and forth the test light should illuminate in both directions, this determines if the internal switch connections are working. Do not allow the probes to touch together during the test. If no illumination is detected in one or both directions the master switch has failed. You have just tested the electrical portion of the system much like a trained mechanic would have.

test window switch

Watch the Video!

Window switch test and replacement video, when completed continue down the guide to glean additional information for the repair.

Turn the ignition key off and remove the wiring connector from the switch. Some master window switches are designed with a wiring harness connector attached.
remove wiring connector

Remove any additional wiring connectors attached to the window switch panel such as mirror or lock controls if needed.
removing wiring connector

Remove the window switch plate by releasing the mounting clips which hold the bezel in place.
remove switch bezel

Use a small screwdriver to release the mounting clips to separate the window switch from the bezel, on some switches the bezel is included with the new switch.
remove window switch

The switch will become free from the bezel.
window switch removed

Remove the replacement window switch from the packaging and compare it to the failed switch.
new window switch

Flip the switches over to compare the electrical side terminals, they should match identically.
new switch bottom

Press the replacement switch into the bezel which will be accompanied by a click, some switches are held in place by mounting screws.
new switch installed

After the new switch has been installed, reinsert the bezel plate into the plastic cover plate and reassemble and you are all set.
reinstall bezel

Continue the reassembly until completed, test the job by activating the window and checking the operation of all windows.
tighten door panel screw


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