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“ Repair, Do Not Replace, Your Power Windows! Don’t Be a Schmuck! ”
"Ma'am, I'm gonna have to ask you to step out of the car...!"
Power windows have infected most cars these days; try finding a new car that doesn't have them. Like icemakers in refrigerators, their main function is to justify a higher purchase price by the manufacturer. And with more components that can break, there's money to be made in repairs, too.
Also, power windows are designed to break. Think of it: you don't have to understand or care how your windows work with a manual crank, because it gives you feedback. If you're cranking the window and encounter resistance, you'll feel the pressure in the crank, and stop. A power window will stupidly continue operating until it destroys itself. With more wiring, engineers could measure the current that's being used, like a garage door opener, and know when the window is binding.
Instead, they included breakaway connections, which will sacrifice themselves before something else breaks. The connection came unglued. I've reattached it a couple of times with minimal success, and now it's broken. This is what we'll be replacing today.
Power windows on a Vibe? Balderdash, I say!
And here's the problem. Neither the glass shop nor the GM or Toyota dealers offer replacement parts. Their solution is to purchase a new window, with new breakaway connectors attached. I refuse to pay $200 or so to replace a window that's not broken. So I have to take the extreme steps of removing the entire window from the door, and making my own breakaway connector.
Instead of paying $200, my total cost was about $20.
It's a lemon party!
I had to buy an ultra high molecular weight (UHMW) plastic cutting board and some two-part epoxy.
I had lots of tools at home, especially a table saw and a scroll saw.
If you're still reading, be sure to click the "Show More" thing at the bottom, then read the comments for the conclusion. I'm sure this thing will cut me off.
Removing the window isn't hard. First, remove two screws from the inside door handles, than pry off the panel.
Next, I used a 10 mm socket to remove the two bolts from the breakaway connectors.
I put the window on a workbench. Without a flash on the phony phone camera, it's kind of hard to see. But here, you can see the breakaway connector in the front, which is intact, and nicely glued to the glass.
But the other connector is broken, and there's no replacement available. I've already scraped the old adhesive off the window.
So I cut a rough rectangle shape out of the cutting board with the table saw, then cut a slot in the edge with the scroll saw. If you'd like to see the pictures of that, you'll have to find the sticky-fingered person in or near Cleveland, Ohio who snatched my camera.
I put the new connector on the window without any adhesive, and it fits. But now I need to cut it to a precise shape.
Time to bust out the marker and trace the shape from the old connector. Then I pry it off and fire up the scroll saw.
Ready, set, cut! The thin blade of the scroll saw makes it perfect for making curved cuts. But another problem became apparent...
It turns out the friction from the blade heats the plastic just enough to melt the two pieces back together. So I had to make additional cuts and take it apart in pieces.
So I dry fit the piece to the glass. It's purposely made a little longer than the old, which makes room for more adhesive. But you can see it's missing the bolt hole. Before I attach it, I need to measure the bolt spacing.
The bolt spacing is 18 inches. So I drill a hole, and must make sure the holes are 18 inches apart before the adhesive sets.
I tried the Billy Mays-endorsed Mighty Putty before, and didn't have much luck. Roast in hell, Billy Mays! This time, I got a tube of two-prat epoxy, which has to be squirted into a container and mixed before using.
I used the plastic blister from the package and squirted in some epoxy, then mixed it with a metal scraper. I then smeared it onto the window and the new connector like butter on cornbread.
And there you have it. The epoxy set up quickly, so I reinstalled the window immediately, but waited overnight for the stuff to cure completely before attempting to open the window. It has an ammonia smell that remonds me of a home hair permanent kit, but even more hateful to the nasal passages.
Long story short (TOO LATE!)--the window now goes up and down like it's supposed to. The next cop who stops me will see me open the window immediately, and won't have an excuse to label me as uncooperative and break the window. But what's even better, I outsmarted the manufacturer at his own game. Again, the more you can do for yourself, the easier life gets.