How to Fix a Stuck Car Window

Windows won't roll up or down? There are ways around that

car window stuck
If your power window is stuck, you may be able to roll it up without any special tools. ‚ÄčLynn Koenig / Moment / Getty

Having your car windows get stuck can be a nightmare, regardless of whether they get stuck up or down. If they get stuck up, you can say goodbye to the conveniences of drive-through coffee and banking, and if they get stuck down, a rainy day can suddenly get a whole lot worse.

Whether you have power windows or manual windows, you can figure out why your windows won't roll up if you follow some easy tips. If you're lucky, you may even be able to get your stuck window to roll up right away without any special tools.

How Do Car Windows Work?

Car windows use a part called a regulator to raise and lower them inside channels. Manual windows have regulators that are physically connected to cranks, and turning the crank is how you raise and lower the window. Electric windows have regulators that are hooked up to motors, but they operate on the same basic principle.

Since manual and electric windows have different components, they also fail for different reasons:

  • Electric windows - Electric car windows typically use a reversible electric motor connected to a regulator to raise and lower the window glass. The switches, wiring and motor can all go bad, and the regulator can also get stuck or fail altogether.
  • Manual windows - Manual car windows use a hand crank and a mechanical regulator to raise and lower the window glass inside the door. The gears in the regulator or crank can strip, the regulator can bend and deform, and the regulator can also get stuck due to friction if the lubricating grease dries out.

Two Ways to Roll Up a Power Window That Stopped Working

Depending on exactly what failed, it is sometimes possible to get a power window to roll up after it has gotten stuck. If the switch is okay, and the motor is bad, then you may be able to get the window to roll up one last time by physically jarring the motor with the switch held in the up or closed position.

Here's how to roll up a stuck electric window without any tools:

  1. Turn the ignition key to the on or accessory position. If the other windows are able to operate and you can turn on the radio, you have it in the right position.
  2. Press and hold the window switch in the closed or up position. It is very important to keep the button depressed, and make sure that you are pushing the side that closes the window.
  3. With the window button depressed, open and then slam the car door. If it doesn't work the first time, you can try it a few more times. If it does work, and you keep the button pushed, the window should roll up.
    1. Important: If the window rolls up, don't roll it back down unless you are ready to actually fix the problem. This temporary fix may not work a second time.
  4. If the window still won't roll up, close the door, and find a place where the door panel looks like it is contact with the sheet metal inside the door.
    1. Hint: If you are unsure how to find the right place, look on the internet for images of your car with the door panel removed.
  5. With the switch depressed, strike this location with your fist or a blunt object. Be careful not to injure your fist or damage your door.
  1. If the window rolls up, leave it there until you are ready to fix the problem. If it still doesn't roll up, you will need to figure out whether you have a bad fuse, switch, or window motor, or take your car to a professional.

If the window makes a grinding sound when you try to roll it up, or you can hear the motor running at all, then there is an issue with the regulator or the window may have come out of its track.

You may be able to get the window rolled up by following this process, if the window isn't all the way down:

  1. Turn the ignition key to the accessory position.
  2. With the door open place your palms together with the window sandwiched between them.
  3. Have a helper push the window switch.
  4. Apply pressure to the window with your palms and attempt to lift it up.
    1. Note: You may need to grip the window from the top to exert enough force. If you need to do this, be aware that the window may suddenly start moving on its own. Be careful not to get your hands stuck in the window as it closes.

If the window is all the way down, and you hear grinding or see the window glass rock back and forth when you try to roll it up, you will be unable to close the window without removing the door panel. If you are able to remove the door panel, you may be able to lift the window up from the inside while pushing the switch.

What Can Cause Electric Windows to Fail?

There are three main things that cause power windows to fail: blown fuses, bad switches, and burned out motors. It's also possible for the window regulator to wear out, bend, or get stuck, although this is less common.

Some of these problems are easy enough to fix, while others require specialized tools and may require help from a professional.

Here are some basic troubleshooting tips to try when your electric windows won't roll up or down:

  1. Check the window safety lock-out switch - If the lockout switch is activated, the windows won't roll up or down. Check this first, because it's easy to accidentally bump these switches without realizing.
  2. Check the fuses - If none of the windows roll up or down, check the fuses. Replace any blown fuses, and try again. If the fuse blows again, look for a short circuit. Do not use a bigger fuse than recommended.
  3. Push the window switch up and down and listen - If you hear a sound from inside the door when you push the switch, that means the switch is working. The electric window motor is probably bad, or the regulator could be stuck.
  4. Push the window switch and watch the dash gauges - This is another easy way to rule out a bad switch. If the volt gauge on your dash moves even the tiniest bit when you push the switch, suspect a bad motor.
  5. Try the other switches - If the passenger side window won't roll up or down, try it with the master switch located on the driver side or the center console. If it works, then the passenger side switch is bad.
  1. Swap switches if possible - In some cars, the window switches are all identical. This allows you to swap one from a window that works to a window that doesn't work. If the window starts working with the new switch, then you have a bad switch.
  2. Check power to the switch - If the switch has power and ground, then suspect the wiring or the motor.
  3. Check power to the motor - If the motor has power and ground, and the window doesn't roll up or down, then the motor is bad.

Easy Power Window Fixes: Check the Lockout Switch

Power window motors and switches can both fail over time, just due to normal wear and tear, but it's best to start any troubleshooting process with the simplest possible issue. In the case of power windows, that's the lockout switch.

power window lockout switch
If the window lockout button gets pushed accidentally, the windows will get stuck.

Most vehicles that have power windows come equipped with a safety lockout switch. This is usually a toggle switch, and it's usually located on or near the master switch panel. Some cars locate this panel on the driver's door, and others have it in the center console.

When the lockout switch is toggled, some or all of the windows become impossible to operate. this is primarily intended as a safety feature to prevent small children and animals from accidentally opening the windows while the vehicle is in motion.

This lockout switch is the first thing you should check when your windows stop rolling up and down, since it's very easy to accidentally bump this switch without noticing. The icon on or near the switch looks a little different from one car to another, but it usually resembles a crossed out window.

After pressing the lockout switch, try to use your windows again. If they work, then your problem has been solved.

Are the Window Motor Fuses Blown?

In most cars, all of the window motors are on the same circuit. That means they all get power from the same fuse, so if that fuse blows, all the windows stop working at once. If that's what happened to you, then simply replacing a blown fuse may allow you to roll your stuck windows back up.

car fuse box with good and blown fuse examples
When all the windows get stuck at once, suspect a fuse.

Fuse boxes are typically located under the dash, in the glove compartment, or in the engine compartment. Some vehicles have multiple fuse boxes. If your owner's manual doesn't show the location of your fuse box, and you can't find it, then you can either contact your local dealer or look for a picture or illustration on the internet.

If you are able to locate your power window fuse, remove it and inspect it visually. Most automotive fuses are semi-transparent, which allows you to see whether or not the fuse is blown.

In some cases, you may not be able to tell if a fuse is blown just by looking at it. In this case, you will need to use a test light or volt meter to check for power on both sides of the fuse. If you don't have this equipment, or you are uncomfortable checking a fuse for power, you will need to take your car to a professional.

If you determine that the fuse is blown, replace it with a new fuse that has the same exact amperage rating. This should allow your windows to work again, but the fuse will blow again if there is a short in the circuit or a problem with your motor that causes it to draw too much amperage.

Important: Do not replace a blown fuse with a larger fuse. If the fuse blows again, replacing it with a larger fuse could cause a fire.

Look For Signs the Window Motor Has Malfunctioned

Diagnosing a car window that won't roll up or down requires some specialized equipment, and you need to remove both the window switch and the door panel to test anything. Before you get that far, there are a couple things you can do to narrow down the problem.

dashboard voltage gauge
If your car has a voltage gauge, use it to see if your window motor is bad.

Some cars have a voltage meter on the dash. When the car is off, it typically shows between 12 and 13 volts, and increases beyond that with the engine running. It isn't precise, but it does give a visual indicator of whether or not the charging system is working.

If your car has a volt meter on the dash, you may be able to use it to rule out a bad window motor switch:

  1. Turn the key to the accessory position, so the dash lights and gauges activate.
  2. Push your window switch.
  3. Look carefully to see if the needle on the voltage meter moves at all.

If the voltage meter budges even a tiny bit when you push your window switch, with the engine off, that indicates that the electric window motor is trying to work. That means your switch is fine, and you probably have a bad window motor.

It's also possible that the regulator may be bent, broken, or seized. The only way to tell for sure is to remove the door panel and perform a visual inspection. If you don't have the tools to accomplish this, you will need to take the car to a professional.

Attempt to Rule Out Bad Window Switches

Some vehicles use identical power window switches for each window. If your vehicle is like that, and you only have one window that doesn't work, you will need to remove the switch from one of the windows that does work.

Temporarily replace the switch for the window that doesn't work with the one that you know works, and try to close your window.

If the window closes, then you know that the problem is the switch, and you can simply replace it. If the window still doesn't close, then you could have a wiring problem or a bad window motor.

How to Check For Power at a Car Window Switch

Beyond this point, further diagnostics require specialized equipment and knowledge. If you don't have tools like a volt meter, and you aren't comfortable working on your own car, it's a better idea to just take the car to a professional.

If you do have a voltmeter, the next step is to check for power and ground at the power window switch. Most of these switches have a single power terminal, two ground terminals, and two terminals that connect to the window motor.

If the switches in your car follow that pattern, then you should find power at one terminal when the switch is in the neutral position. Two of the other terminals should show ground, and the last two should have neither power or ground.

When you push the switch in one direction, one of those last terminals should have power, and the other should have ground. Pushing the switch in the other direction should reverse which terminal has power and which has ground.

If you see different results from your test, then your switch is probably bad. The exception is if the switch itself doesn't have power or ground, then you have a wiring problem. The first place to check is where the wires pass through into the door, since they can become crimped and break.

How to Check For Power at a Car Window Motor

If the switch checks out fine, then the next step is to check for power at the motor. This requires you to remove the door panel. If the panel has never been off before, you will typically also find a protective plastic sheet behind the door, and you may also need to remove a second interior panel to access the motor.

With the door panel off, you will need to use your volt meter to check for power at the motor. With the ignition key in the accessory position, and your volt meter hooked up, activate the window switch.

If you see voltage at the motor, but the motor doesn't operate, then the motor is bad.

Fixing Manual Windows That Won't Roll Up or Down

Manual windows are far simpler than power windows. Since there aren't any electronics involved, there are really only two things that can cause a manual window to stop working: stripped gears in the crank, or a problem with the regulator.

manual window regulator stuck
If the manual window regular is stuck, you may be able to get it working again with fresh grease.

Unlike power windows, there really isn't a quick and easy way to force a stuck manual window up temporarily. You can try to pull the window into position, but doing so may make the problem worse by bending or breaking the regulator.

To figure out why a manual window won't roll up, you need to remove the window crank and door panel and inspect everything visually.

When you turn the window crank, pay attention to how it feels. If the crank freewheels when you turn it, or it feels like it is grinding, then the teeth may be stripped inside the crank. Pull the crank off and perform a visual inspection. If the teeth are stripped, replacing the crank should fix your problem.

If the crank looks good, then you will need to remove the door panel and look at the window and the regulator. Check to make sure the window hasn't popped out of the channel. If it has, then popping it back in may allow you to roll it up.

In some cases, you may find that the regulator has bound up, gotten caught on something, or that the grease has dried out. With problems like these, you may be able to roll your window up by freeing the regulator or applying new grease.