This past Saturday I was busy most of the day with a rather straight forward vehicle repair. The driver side power window motor on my 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan has been broken for over a year now. I finally got around to replacing it with a new one. I watched a few instructional videos on YouTube, one of which was by 1aauto.com. It seemed like a project I could handle so I made sure I had all of the necessary tools and equipment. I also made sure I started the project earlier in the day, as previous experience has taught me that things often don’t go quite as smoothly as they do in the videos. It turned out that I needed that extra time I allowed myself, as the project threw me a few curve balls.
I began by removing the inside door cover, which required removing three screws and then popping lose some clips. After doing this I made sure not to let the door cover drop to the ground because the wiring and plugs were still attached. After disconnecting the plugs from the door cover I removed the inside portion of the windowsill trim, the speaker, and the vapor barrier. I now had everything out of my way and could start on the next phase of the project.
I located the screws that held in the rails that are attached to the window motor and removed them. Next I detached the window from the rail slides and then pulled the window out of the door. Doing this can be tricky as the window is not only curved, but also larger than the window frame in the door. I had to pull it straight up and then dip the front end lower so that the back end could come out first. This made me a bit nervous as I had to be firm, yet gentle, with the glass window. Thankfully, tempered glass is fairly durable and I was able to wiggle it out.
The next step required me to remove the window motor and rails. The motor is only held on by four bolts, but the bolts are used with rubber nuts/gaskets and they were spinning freely with the bolt. I couldn’t get a good grip on the rubber with my pliers and the rubber seemed to have bonded to the bolts. In the end, I decided to wiggle and pull the rubber nuts/gaskets through the whole. This tore up the rubber, but I wasn’t concerned because the new window motor came with metal nuts to replace the rubber ones. After removing the bolts I was able to finagle the rails out of their tight compartments and remove the whole unit. I could now begin installing the new window motor and rails.
Installing the new unit was pretty easy, as I simply did the reverse of what I had just done while removing the old unit. I jimmied the rails into their tight compartments, screwed them in place, and then I bolted the motor into its spot. Inserting the window pane was the next task and it went fairly smoothly. I initially didn’t fit it properly in its track, but I noticed it early on and corrected my mistake. After I got the window pane in the door I clipped it to the rail slides. Next I plugged the power cables into the operating switch and gave it a try. The window moved down very smoothly but it struggled to move up. This is where most of my troubles began.
After checking to make sure the fuse was working and properly installed, I checked to make sure I had attached everything properly. I didn’t find anything amiss, so I went inside and ate some lunch. While inside the house I got on the computer, watched the instructional videos again, and then chatted with a mechanic on 1aauto.com. I then went back outside and followed his advise, checking for obstructions, that the window was in the track, and that the switch was working. Everything seemed good to go, yet the window still struggled to move up. I cannot overstate the value of my next move, I called someone that had more knowledge than me. In this case, that person was my dad.
My dad answered all of my questions and offered suggestions as to what to try next. This was very important not just because he has more experience than me, but also because he thinks differently than I do. We need different perspectives because each of us sees things that someone else does not. In this situation my dad thought more systematically than I did. He advised me to back up a few steps and test things along the way in order to find where the problem was originating from. So, I took out the glass, unplugged the motor, and then plugged in the old motor and tested it. The old motor wouldn’t budge, so I plugged in and tested the new motor, it moved as it was supposed to. I then put the glass back in and tried the new motor once more. Again, the window would move down smoothly but would struggle to move up.
It may not seem like I discovered anything by backing up a few steps and then moving forward and testing after each step. However, it gave me the assurance that the problem wasn’t occurring at those steps. The switch worked, the new motor worked. The problem seemed to be occurring with after I put the glass in. I checked for obstructions once more, convinced I had missed something previously. When I again found that I hadn’t missed an obstruction, I decided to give my dad a call back. During this call he happened to ask how I was powering the motor when I tested it. I mentioned that I was turning the key to the “on”, but not starting the car. At this point he informed me that I may have drained the power while testing and that the power windows will often perform better when the car is running.
Well, he turned out to be 100% correct as I had indeed drained the battery. My van would simply make a ticking sound when I tried to start it. I jumped the van using my wife’s car and tested the window while the van was running. It worked significantly better than it had before, aside from a slight vibrating sound that I still haven’t figured out. Without my dad as a resource I may still be trying to figure out the problem. I cannot say enough how helpful it is to have someone I can talk to that has more experience in car repairs than I do. A mentor is good to have at every stage of life.
That was my experience with replacing the power window motor on my van. What I had hoped would be a straightforward project that lasted an hour or so turned into an all day one. This reaffirmed the idea that it is good to start early and to not plan too much for the day. As you never know how things will go. However, things will certainly go smoother if you have help from those around you. Thank you dad.
P.S. The local garage quoted the job at $300, the new window motor cost me just $42. Plus, I learned a few valuable lessons along the way to getting it installed. A resounding victory in my opinion.