Difficulty Level: 4 Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten
This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
Are you tired of having to open your door and get out at the drive-through restaurant to retrieve your burger? Does your window constantly reverse itself when you’re trying to raise it? Perhaps it’s time to replace or clean your window regulator, or install a new power window motor. The difficulty of this project varies depending upon which year car you have, but the results are immediate and quite rewarding. Not much is better than driving in your BMW with the sunroof open and the windows down on a nice, sunny day. Having a broken window regulator can surely put a damper on that. Or worse—if you own a convertible, a broken window regulator will keep you from putting the top down.
The first step in replacing either the regulator or the power window motor is to remove the door panel. Make sure you eliminate the power window switch as a potential problem, however, before you start tearing into your door. Double-check all the fuses that control the power windows, and swap out the relays to make sure there isn’t a problem with one of them. If one window works and the other doesn’t, chances are it’s the window motor or the window switch. The switches themselves are often faulty, which can sometimes make this an easy fix. Test the switch by removing it from the center console, and swap it with one that is working. If there is any noise coming from the door (such as clicks or whines) but the window isn’t moving, then it’s quite obvious the motor is fine, but the regulator needs to be repaired.
For details on removing the door panel, see Project 67. When you have the door panel removed, you can access the regulator. With your fingers clearly out of the way, roll down the window until it’s about 75 percent of the way down. Take a look at the white, square plastic sliders that attach the bottom of the regulator to the window. If they are worn (and they’re almost always worn), replace them using the procedure documented in Photo 3.
If your window doesn’t respond at all and you’ve eliminated the possibility that it might be a broken window switch, then you’ll need to remove the window regulator. Unfortunately, the window regulator is attached to the door frame with rivets. You will need to drill out these rivets in order to remove the regulator from the door. (See Photos 2 and 3 for details on removing the regulator.)
With the regulator detached from the door frame and the window, you should test the motor prior to disconnecting the electrical connection. With your hands out of the way of the regulator, carefully press lightly on the window switch and see if the regulator moves. If the window was stuck previously, but now it moves, it means that the tracks of the regulator and the window are sticky and need lubrication. Photo 4 and Photo 5 show the process for greasing the regulator tracks prior to reinstallation. If the motor doesn’t move at all, it is probably worn out (assuming you’ve checked the window switch).
Before you reinstall the regulator, I recommend you inspect and replace the front window channel guide too, if it’s worn. This is the channel that guides the front of the window as it is raised and lowered by the regulator. Also worth replacing are the window slot seals. These inner and outer window scrapers keep water from dripping down into the recesses of the door. You should grease each and every moving part of the regulator: the slides, the motor, the gears, and the large-toothed section of the regulator.
Before you close everything up inside your door, it’s a wise idea to test the proper operation of the window. Hook up the power connections to the window motor, and try to raise and lower the window. Also verify the stop positions of the window once you have reinstalled the regulator. There are screws located inside the door that control these stop positions. Once you’re satisfied everything is running smoothly, reseal the door panels and you’re on your way again.
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Before you start tearing apart your door to fix your window, check the window switch first. Pull up on the trim around the switch, and the assembly should pull out of the center console. Swap around connectors and test the nonfunctional window with another switch to see if the problem lies with a faulty switch.
This photo shows the sequence for removing the window regulator. A: The regulator is riveted to the door frame; the rivets must be drilled out by a large drill bit. B: An Allen bolt at the rear of the door holds the regulator in place. I’ve seen several different mounting places for this bolt over the range of model years. C: With the rivets gone and the Allen bolt removed, the regulator should be loose from the door frame. D: Disconnect the wires to the motor assembly, and you should be able to remove the regulator from the car.
This photo sequence shows the detachment of the window regulator from the bottom window channels. A: The window regulator is attached to the metal rails at the bottom of the window by small, square, plastic sliders, which are held in by small spring clips (part number 51-32-1-938-884). B: Using a pair of pliers, pull on the clips and remove them from the plastic sliders. C: These sliders are the most common failure point in the window regulator. The grease in the window channel becomes gooey and doesn’t allow the sliders to move easily in the channel. They often deteriorate and break after many years of service. Tip for installing new sliders: Insert the slider into the channel with the metal retaining clip already installed into its final resting place, then press on and snap in the ends of the regulator. D: The channels the sliders ride in also become caked with dried-out grease. These channels need to be fully cleaned prior to installing the new sliders.
The rear of the window rides in a metal channel that runs up and down, inside of the door. Often, the original grease installed at the factory becomes gooey and impedes the window’s sliding action. I recommend spraying WD-40 into this channel (with the window raised). The WD-40 will help clean out some of the old grease, while lubricating the channel. When you install the new plastic regulator sliders (inset), liberally coat them with white lithium grease. Also, lubricate the aluminum channel the sliders ride in.
Shown here is a photo of the regulator removed from the car. The entire regulator is available as an assembly without the motor. The upper left shows the small black plastic bushing that centers the motor in the regulator. This bushing can sometimes wear out, preventing the gear from fully engaging the teeth on the regulator. The center photo shows the motor assembly. This assembly has a built-in motion sensor that prevents the window from rolling up if it encounters resistance (say, if someone’s arm is stuck in the window). As the assembly ages, this sensor can malfunction, causing the window to occasionally stop and back up in the middle of rolling it up. In the upper right is shown the center channel for the window regulator. This channel needs to be lubricated liberally with grease prior to reinstallation.
Comments: Just picked up a 1988 325 and one of the rear windows doesnt budge at all no noise from the motor either and the other rear window will go down, problem - getting it back up is the impossible part.
Any thoughts on whether these are switch/motor/regulator issues? Much obliged. Sean
May 10, 2013
Comments: How do I remove just the glass from the front door of my '89 325i?
April 13, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Remove door panel, remove window trim along top of door (window channel), then peel vapor barrier away from door. Then remove fasteners are calmp for window glass. Slide window glass up and out of door. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: Rre: 1995 e36 325tds. Following upon my query about my stuck front glass. I was finally able to lower the glass using WD-40. Now I want to fix the 2 aluminium attachments
to the bottom on the glass . Do I have to use some strong adhesive to stop the attachments from falling loose . The little metal clips in the attachments appear to slip. What adhesive should I use ? Thanks for all suggestions.
January 8, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will have to replace the attachment points for the window glass. An adhesive will not help the situation. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: My bmw is a 325tds 1995. I have just fitted a new front regulator with the glass scotched in up position and the motor works fine. I want to lower the glass to connect the plastic sliders to the two moving arms . Now the glass will not move down more than 2 inches. I'm afraid to use excessive force . Is something preventing the glass from sliding down ? What do I check ?
January 6, 2013
Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the glass will not move when it is not connected to the regulator; the window seals and guides may be worn. Inspect them, they should have a fabric feel when touched. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: I have a 87' 325is and the passenger window will not go up without assistance by pulling up on the glass. The switch works and the motor operates - I don't know. Could the track be gimped up and require a good cleaning and relube?
November 17, 2012
Comments: I need the parts to connect the window back to the rails on a 87 325es its not the scissor type set up
November 7, 2012
Comments: Are e46 front window motors interchangeable? As in would the drivers side motor work on the passengers side?
October 13, 2012
Comments: Some ass broke my drivers side window out as well. I have purchased a used window and was wondering where I might find directions on how to install this window and save myself $80!
Any suggestions of where I can find this information?
Comments: My 1997 325i had the driver side window shattered. I found glass out of a 1989 325i, but the track attachment points on the bottom of the glass are different. So, I cleaned out the broken glass from the 87' brackets and attached them to the 89' glass -leaving the 89's original brackets in place. The window will go up and down, but the front front guide is not level with the rear guide so the window is crooked. How does one even the two up so that the window will fully close?
July 10, 2012
Followup from the Pelican Staff: You're going to have to get the correct piece of glass for your vehicle. Glass from an early 3 Series does not fit into a later model. - Nick at Pelican Parts
Comments: george i had teh same problem try jumping it with direct power form the battery terminal
July 8, 2012
Comments: are the REAR regulators in the BMW 1993 E36 interchangeable or are they unique to the respective sides
June 19, 2012
Comments: Windows roll down by themselves in my 1998 318is Sedan. This problem only occurs when it's cold. During the warm weather it's fine. But as soon as it gets cold the problem occurs. When I start the car the windows randomly - either the drivers or passengers window rolls down by itself. The window controls do NOT work. After the car warms up a bit - the window controls work. Then as I'm diving along one of the windows will roll down and agin the controller won't work. After about 15 minutes the window controller will work and I can get the window back up. I have also had the windows roll down after I have turned the car OFF. Car is OFF, window rolls down. Turn care on - can get window up. Turn car off - window goes down.
Can anyone tell me what parts need to be replaced? I live in a rural area - the nearest BMW retailer is a 5 hour drive away.
April 27, 2012
Comments: Looking for some help on my 318ic 1995, thing is that glass window got disconnected from the Regulator, luckily got stuck at the top,
How can I hook upconnect window back to its regulator?
Seem like I have to replace the square plastic sliders, thanks in advance.
March 26, 2012
Comments: I am having the same problem as Mike8668. I just replaced my front door regulator and I am still getting the grinding sound, and I believe this window is responsible for a dead battery in the morning. Any ideas? I think maybe a new window track would help it? It seems to be struggling to roll-up all the way. 325I 2002
February 3, 2012
Comments: Wayne/staff, I replaced the drivers door regulator on my 328i with a new unit, matched the bushing type to the old one, but it still grinds and skips on the way up...any ideas what to look for?
December 3, 2011
Comments: My 2001 X5 4.4 driver window came off the "trolleys" that go up and down the rails. how can I get them to stay on? There is a hole in the glass that goes over a plastic nut, but the glass dosent want to stay on. the one nearest the rear of the car also is off the inner cable...HELP!!!!
October 20, 2011
Comments: Hi there,
I have a 97 316i coupe, auto, window goes up ok but when hits the top it makes awful grinding noise, i bought a used regulator with motor and replaced the motor but new motor wont turn nor the old one any more, i can hear the relay clicking with both motors plugged in,any suggestions?
October 13, 2011
Comments: I have a 1999 323i convertible, and my drivers side REAR window stopped working, only emitting a grinding noise when the button is pressed. Do you know any way to get to the window regulator for the rear side window? Since it obviously doesn't have rear doors, I don't know how I would get into the relevant area of the car. Thanks in advance.
August 15, 2011
Comments: I have a 92 325 coupe, my driver side window won't work but my passengers and sunroof work fine. how many relay in this circuit? there's no power coming to the switch or motor? THX!
May 22, 2011
Comments: I have repaired the passenger's side power window motor and am trying to reinstall it. It goes only so far and now refuses to go into the black housing any further. Is there a trick to this?
May 5, 2011
Comments: Window Switches, i have been able to open the switch and sand the corrosive contacts till they are shiny and clean. put the switch back together and it will work like new. 1989 325
March 30, 2011
Comments: Couple of notes. First thanks for this writeup, it was extremely helpful.
Second the white clips, sometimes the control arm pops out of your new clips when you test the window for the first time. The control arm touches the circular face of the white slider. If you can get a regular screwdriver tip in, you haven't popped them in far enough. You may need some grips to pop them in fully.
Second check the window runs the right way before fitting the regulator. If up/down are reversed, undo the four T20 Torx screws on the aluminium box shaped part of the window motor and rotate the aluminium armature housing 180deg. I found my part number needed to be facing the glass to make the window run correctly, and "inch" down correctly when opening the door coupe/convertible.
March 13, 2011
Comments: I found my window regulator's internal plastic gear stripped. I has part number 3563815701. Where would I find that part?
January 31, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I've been trying to get just this part for years. Unfortunately, you have to purchase a whole new regulator, just to get the gear. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: I have a 95 325 and a 93 318i. Some asshole busted the drivers side windows out of my 318 doors front and rear and i'm wondering if the 325's windows will fit. Thanks from the Great White North....eh
January 27, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not 100% sure, but I think that the windows from each body style are indeed interchangeable. I.E. if the 325 is a coupe and the 318 is also a coupe, then I think that the windows should be interchangeable. I'm pretty sure the window regulator and the internal parts of the door are the same through those years. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: What do you replace the rivets with?
January 17, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I just used some standard metric hardware that fits into the holes. Probably M8 would do the trick. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: My rear passenger window will go down but not up. I have removed the electrical connection to the motor, and when testing it with the voltmeter, both the up and the down of the switch put out the same volts. does that mean it is not the switch, but rather the motor? Thank you! Sebastian
January 12, 2011
Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, that does sound like it's the motor not the switch. Another good test is to take one of your known good switches and swap it with the one you're testing. That's very easy to do - they simply pop out and can be easily unplugged. - Wayne at Pelican Parts
Comments: I have a 92 model 325iS coupe and the window motor wont stop when the button is depressed to the AUTO click. Also, the window fails to drop that couple of mm when the door opens which means when it shuts it's not sealing properly. what could be the cause of this? I really hope I can get some help here I dont know where else to go!
February 21, 2010
Comments: I have a 93 328 and no windows or the roof make any attempt to open. Where should I start??
December 27, 2009
Comments: I have a 328 is 1998 that seems to have a short. The windows don't always work. Sometimes it is the passenger side and sometimes it is the driver's side. I hope that Pelican Parts can help me with this problem.
October 24, 2009
Followup from the Pelican Staff: If this were my car, I would start by replacing the window switches - these seem to fail quite often and are an easy replacement. - Wayne at Pelican Parts