How to Replace an Auto Window Switch

January 27, 2012

When your car's power window grinds to a halt, knowing how to replace an auto window switch can save you valuable time and money. Different factors cause failure. Contacts inside the switch wear out with repeated use, or you may accidentally leave a window down and return to find rain has soaked the interior door panel, damaging sensitive electronics. If you've diagnosed the problem as the window switch, follow the below steps to replace the defective device:

Because of the tight spaces these parts reside in and the manual dexterity required, work carefully and try not to drop screws and fasteners into the wells of the door. Have a variety of sizes of pliers and screwdrivers on hand to use. Tools that may help include long nose pliers, Phillips head screwdrivers, "snub-nosed" screwdrivers and knives. Consulting a car repair manual such as Haynes or Chilton's will help a great deal.

The first step is to get access to the switch. Some manuals suggest disconnecting the negative battery terminal to prevent short circuit damage. Some switches can be removed with just a couple steps. For example, the 1990 Honda Accord LX auto door switch on the front passenger side is embedded in the interior door handle. That location affords easy access to remove the screw on the bottom of the door handle with a Phillips head screwdriver, then lift the switch out.

Other times, you'll need to remove the door panel. Steps from the Haynes Manual for a 1990 Honda Accord LX, for example, include taking out the door latch linkage from the door handle and the linkage to the door lock. Save clips that hold parts together. You may need to disconnect other electronics to get access. Stereo speakers and switches for the door lock and power mirror may be built into the driver seat door. These have wire harnesses that plug into their respective switches. Over time, heat and moisture may bind the harness and switch together. Spray a loosening solvent like WD-40 as needed to free up hardened connections. Use needle-nose pliers to assist in pulling the two parts apart.

After removing any screws holding the auto window switch into the door molding, pull the switch out of the harness. Next, gently insert the new switch into the holes of the harness. Before putting all the parts together again turn the ignition on and test the new window switch to verify it successfully moves the window up and down. You don't want to reassemble everything, just to discover the problem still exists.

Then work backwards from the removal sequence. Make sure to reconnect all the switches and latches. Because the panels and plastic become warped over time, the reassembly process may require applying gentle pressure with pliers and other tools to prod the surfaces to fit back together. You can buy new "push in retainers" for the inner door trim if the old ones break.

Replacing an auto window switch brings great satisfaction and relief to have the window moving again. Keeping patient and careful will pay off by minimizing lost pieces or broken brittle plastic moldings. By following these instructions, you'll soon again enjoy the luxury of sliding your windows up and down with the tip of your finger.

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