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-   -   Front window regulator DIY (http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=356847)

elbee 04-14-2006 01:25 PM

Front window regulator DIY
This write up is basically tommiexboi's write up and all the people that contributed to tommiexboi's write up, but with a few more pictures. This is a very doable DIY. It is not a quick DIY, but it is not a hard DIY. I am a female who has never worked on a car before (I have never changed a light bulb) and I have now done two of these repairs (driver's side window and front passenger's side window). There are so many reasons why you should do this repair yourself. First, is the cost. A repair shop will charge you anywhere from $250 to $400. Second, if you read through all the window regulator posts you will read enough horror stories that should convince you to do this yourself. Things do not get reconnected properly, vapor barriers are carelessly torn, etc. Having said all this, let me also say that if you follow this DIY and mess something up, I cannot be held responsible.

Let me start by saying, don't run out and buy a new regulator. Save yourself the $75. The first time I did the driver's side window, I bought the new part and then I came across this website and realized that I didn't need to. A simple zip tie modification would have made my old regulator as good as new:


The caveat to this is that the zip tie modification is not going to work for everyone and the problem is that you will not know if it will work for you until you open up the door, pull out the regulator and look at it. On the regulator there is a small metal cylinder that is connected to metal wire. This cylinder sits in a metal and plastic bracket. Over time, the plastic starts to chip away and the cylinder will pop out. Once this happens, your window will either move up or down very slowly or not move at all. In addition to the slow moving window, you will hear very scary grinding and clicking. There are several places where the regulator can fail. But, if I had to guess, I would say the most of regulators fail around the small metal cylinder. In my situation, both my regulators were failing in this spot. If the failure occurs around the small metal cylinder, then the zip tie modification will work for you. Here is what one of my metal and plastic brackets looked like. The cylinder sits in the space that I labeled "cylinder". You can see where the plastic broke off exposing the metal underneath:

Now onto the actual repair. Before you start this is what you will need. Do not attempt to start this repair without having these tools:

  • 1/4" drive ratchet
  • 1/4" drive ratchet extension (there is one step where you will need a very narrow 8mm socket. A 3/8" drive size will not allow the 8mm socket to fit through the hole.)
  • Torx t-20
  • Torx t-30
  • 8mm socket
  • 10mm socket
  • Screwdriver
  • At least one ziptie, possibly more

  • Now let's begin:

    1. If you can, roll down the window half way. If the window doesn't move at all don't worry about it. No matter where it is, it will inevitably need to be moved later on.

    2. Use your 10mm socket to disconnect the negative battery terminal. On my car the battery is in the trunk on the right side:

    3. Use a screw driver to gently pry away the wood trim. Put the trim in a safe spot:

    4. Underneath the armrest are 2 plastic caps. Pull them out and put them in a safe spot:

    5. On the armrest you will either have a window control, a side mirror control, or a blank plug. (On my passenger side I have a blank plug). This will need to be removed. On the driver's side I was able to use a screwdriver with a very thin tip to remove it without any problems. On the passenger side, this blank plug was very deep in the hole and the screwdriver was not working. I could see that if I really forced the screwdriver in there it would have damaged the leather. Not really knowing what to do, I started looking around the house for something I could use to get this plug out. I tried this Wustoff carrot peeler and it worked great! No damage to the leather. I think any peeler in this basic shape should do the trick. You might also want to try removing the plug at the other end if you are having trouble. Sometimes removing the plug on the side that is higher up the arm is a little easier. If you have a window control or a mirror control in this spot, once you get it out disconnect the wires that are attached to it. Put the control in a safe spot:

    6. Remove the 5 torx t-20 screws that are circled in red:

    7. You are now ready to pry off the door panel. There are these white plastic protrusions on the door panel that snap into the door. You can't see them at this point, but these protrusions are holding the door panel to the door. They are spaced all around the door panel except for the top of the door. There are also a few around the large speaker. The best place to start prying is where the screwdriver is pictured. Gently wedge your fingers or a screwdriver into this spot and gently pry that corner of the door panel away from the door. If you can use your fingers it will be better than using a screwdriver because it is less likely that you will damage the leather. Once you hear the first pop, stop prying so that you can readjust your fingers. If you used a screwdriver to start prying off the door panel, put it down, you will not need it anymore. At this point you have created enough space for your fingers to pry the rest of the door off. I found the best way to finish prying the door panel off the door is to move clockwise down the door:

    8. Once you get the door panel off, hold onto it and keep it relatively close to the door. Don't let it drop to the floor. There are wires and things attached to the door panel that you will need to disconnect. You will need to disconnect the 3 items circled below. The white piece that is circled is already disconnected in the picture. It is part of door handle and needs to be unhooked. The other two circled items are speaker wires that need to be unplugged. The arrows point to these small plastic pieces that hold the wires and plug into the door panel. Gently pull them out to free the wires from the door panel. Once everything is unplugged, let the wires hang and put the door panel in a clean safe spot:

    9. It's now time to remove the airbag. Use the 10mm socket to remove the 3 bolts:

    10. Hang the airbag up and out of the way. The best thing to use is a ziptie, but I didn't have one that was long enough, so I just used some strong twine:

    elbee 04-14-2006 01:26 PM

    11. Remove this object (not sure what it is). It is connected with 2 torx t-20 screws. Let it hang:

    12. Now for the really fun part. Removing the vapor barrier. Just do it gently and slowly so that it doesn't rip. I found it helpful to use scissors to help cut through the sticky stuff. Only do this if you are careful not to cut the vapor barrier. The first time I did this I removed the whole barrier the second time I did this I left part of the barrier attached to the door- the part on the left side of the door (see picture).

    13. Disconnect the window regulator motor. It is held by 3 torx t-30 screws. Once the screws are removed you will need to twist out the motor to remove it. Let it hang:

    14. The glass window sits in red colored brackets. These brackets are bolted to the regulator. You need to loosen these bolts. In order to loosen the bolts you need to see them and you will only be able to see them when the window is at the right level. Hopefully when you lowered the window in the beginning you were close. You will need to push the window so that it is at the right level for you to access the bolts. There are holes in the arms of the regulator and holes in the door. All of these holes need to be aligned for you to access the bolts. On the left side it will look like this:

    And on the right side it will look like this:

    Before you loosen the bolts you might want to have someone hold onto the window if you are worried about it falling. I didn't have anyone help me. As I loosened each bolt I kept one hand on the bottom of the window to make sure it didn't fall. Even with the bolts loosened my window didn't move that easily, and in fact I really had to push on it to get it to move. But that could be particular to my car. You might not have the same experience. I know other people have had the experience where the window fell down into the door when they were attempting this step. Use a 8mm socket with your socket extension to loosen the bolts.

    15. Lift the glass all the way up and tape it. If you are worried that the tape is not enough, have an assistant hold onto it to make sure that it stays up:

    16. Remove the 5 bolts that hold the regulator to the door. You will either need a 10mm socket or an 8mm socket to do this:

    There is a ziptie that holds one of the window regulator wires to the door. Cut this ziptie with a razor blade. But use a razor blade with a safety edge. Don't use a razor like the one in the picture. It is not very safe:

    17. You can now pull out the regulator. Just pull it out one arm at a time. It should be pretty intuitive. If you are putting in a new regulator, transfer this plastic clip from your old regulator to your new one:

    18. At this point either modify your old regulator and put it back in or put in your new regulator. After you put the regulator back into the door you should ziptie that wire on the regulator back to the door.

    19. At this point instead of working backwards to put everything back together I did something a little different. I could not reassemble everything without testing it first. I would hate to do all that work only to find out that there was something still wrong with the regulator. And after all that work I wanted to be certain that everything was perfect.

    20. With the regulator back in the door, I lowered the window back into the bracket and tighten the bolts. I reattached the window regulator motor. I then reattached the airbag. I did this because I didn't want to leave the airbag hanging while I was doing my testing. I then connected the negative terminal of the battery and powered the window up and down a few times just to make sure it was moving properly. Once I felt comfortable that everything was ok, I disconnected the negative terminal again. I waited 10 minutes or so and removed the airbag and tied it back up. Some people might express concern that this was unsafe to do, but I really didn't feel that the airbag was going to explode and it didn't.

    21. At this point you can work backwards to put everything back together. Put the vapor barrier back on the door. Someone in tommiexboi's thread recommended using a hair dryer to heat up the sticky stuff that holds the vapor barrier to the door. I found this to be helpful. Reattach the object on the lower left side of the door. Reattach the airbag. Reattach the speaker wires and the door handle clip. Snap the wires back into the door panel. Also, reattach the window control wires to the switch. Snap the door panel back onto the door. Secure the door panel with the 5 torx-t20 screws. Push the window control, side mirror control, or blank plug back into the armrest. Push in the 2 plastic caps that go under the armrest. Pop in the wood trim. Reconnect your negative battery terminal. Done!

    GUNIT 04-14-2006 01:41 PM

    Very Helpful. I need to replace my regulator too, too bad I already bought the damn thing, or else I would've used the zip tie method. Thanks

    GUNIT 04-14-2006 01:42 PM

    Very Helpful. I need to replace my regulator too, too bad I already bought the damn thing, or else I would've used the zip tie method. Thanks

    Surk 04-15-2006 09:13 PM

    I love it when women who aren't afraid to break a nail post a excellent DIY :bow:

    deafboy 04-16-2006 12:00 AM

    Great right up...wow.


    manydubs 04-17-2006 10:38 AM

    Great write up. I did my passenger front window this past weekend, it was easy greasy! :)

    HamannE53 04-30-2006 06:27 PM

    i just did my front passenger, wish i knew about the ziptie method before, anyways....my "one touch-button" feature doesnt work anymore when the window goes up, but it goes down on the one touch....also...my powerlock on that side stopped working, could it be a fuse....need to reprogram something...or did i just break it =\

    RichieE46 05-02-2006 02:00 AM

    Thanks elbee, I just finished fixing it using the ziptie method, had a some troubles aligning the window when i was putting everything back together but everything works great for now. =)

    BTW: to have less hassle, instead of hanging everything I just unplugged them and placed them on the ground, like the airbag and the motor

    Airbag is on a yellow plug which you can get unplugged using a small flathead
    Motor is just using a plain clip-on plug


    eth700 05-02-2006 02:36 AM

    2 Attachment(s)
    So I decided to remove my front passenger regulator tonight. I've been putting up with the cracking for some time now...I was hoping it was just the broken clips which could be fixed with the zipties but it appears the clips are still in tact. What do you guys think? If it's not the broken clips, what's making the cracking noise? Tomorrow I'm going to the stealership to pick up a new regulator. Also, could someone clarify just how to attatch the zipties to the cable? How do you secure them? THANKS.

    tommiexboi 05-03-2006 02:18 AM

    nice! great write up! the pictures are 10x better than mine hahaha

    paulney 05-07-2006 07:09 PM

    Thanks for a great DIY! Worked like a charm.

    One of the plates had clips broken off. The other was still holding up, but I applied zipties to it for the future. $250 saved! yay!

    elbee 05-08-2006 10:59 AM


    Originally Posted by eth700
    So I decided to remove my front passenger regulator tonight. I've been putting up with the cracking for some time now...I was hoping it was just the broken clips which could be fixed with the zipties but it appears the clips are still in tact. What do you guys think? If it's not the broken clips, what's making the cracking noise? Tomorrow I'm going to the stealership to pick up a new regulator. Also, could someone clarify just how to attatch the zipties to the cable? How do you secure them? THANKS.

    eth700, I agree, these look good to me. Since I can't see the rest of the regulator, I don't really know where it is failing. But, I think you are right to buy a new regulator. If it was me, I would ziptie your new regulator just for added reinforcement. When you use the zipties, you basically thread them through the existing holes on either side of the cylinder to secure the wires so that that little cylinder has no way of popping out. I just really studied the pictures on this website and was able to figure it out:


    eth700 05-08-2006 07:07 PM


    Thanks for the awesome write-up. It's written very well - easy to understand. I've looked at about three or four "regulator DIYs" and yours is by far the best, and I like the vote of condidence in your opening statements. Your saving everyone a lot of money. Thanks again.

    elbee 05-09-2006 10:37 AM

    Thanks eth700!

    Lobo 05-12-2006 09:17 PM

    Air Bag Question
    Great DIY!

    I have one problem, though. Now the air bag light is on! I had disconnected the air bag when removing everything, but I have reconnected it and the wiring looks right. Is there something I could be overlooking?


    Lobo 05-12-2006 10:22 PM

    Now I know I that disconnectingn the airbag causes the SRS computer to register a fault, and I need a reset tool to clear it!

    The Peake SRS reset tool is more money than I would like to pay. Does anyone living near Thousand Oaks have one? I am willing to pay a reasonable amount to have this reset.


    elbee 05-13-2006 05:28 PM

    Hi Jim,
    I am sorry this happened. I never disconnected the airbag so I didn't have the same experience. Did this happen even though the battery was unplugged? In other words, was there anytime the airbag was unplugged and the battery was connected. I am just curious, because Ritchie unplugged his airbag and didn't seem to have a problem. I have seen threads where people have talked about the reset tool. You should be able to find one.

    russ330 05-13-2006 06:56 PM

    Fantastic DIY, I'm definitely gonna give this one a whirl and see what happens. :thumbup: Stickied :)

    FYI I think one can just go to AutoZone or somewhere similar to have the codes reset.

    Lobo 05-18-2006 07:16 PM

    Yes, I powered the car back up to test the window, but hadn't reconnected the airbag. That has to be why the SRS sensed a problem.

    The regulator was a fun project, though. On mine, the cable was all knotted up round the pulley at the motor, meaning the pulley had broken down. I bought a new regulator, and it went in without any problems.

    Another consequence of disconnecting the battery was that I had to figure out how to reset the clock! What a pain that would have been without some help here. This forum is awsome.

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