How to Choose a Window Regulator

A window regulator helps you open and close car windows. When it breaks down, you need to install a new one or your windows will not work. One of the worries when selecting a car window regulator is finding the right type for your vehicle. There are usually many versions, which makes the process complicated. If looking to buy a window mechanism, this article will help you make the best decisions. Find out the factors to consider, the options on the market, and a lot more.

What does a Window Regulator do?

The window regulator “regulates” the opening and closing of vehicle windows. It contains parts that move the window up and down and is normally mounted inside the door. To prevent it from moving about, the window regulator assembly is secured to the door using rivets, screws or other fasteners. Most window mechanisms today are button operated. In some vehicles, you have to rotate a handle or hand crank to raise and lower the window.

The window regulator in your car serves several purposes. The most important function is to close the windows and secure your car from intruders and flying debris. During adverse weather, a working window mechanism helps shut off cold or rain and dust for a comfortable car cabin. A functional regulator is also helpful in emergencies by allowing exit through the window. As you can see, a window regulator is such an essential part in your car.

Window Regulator Types

Car window regulators today are 4 main types. Their classification is based on, one, the method of operation and, two, design. The type on your car depends on several factors such as type, if the car is an older or newer model, and more. Starting with the method of operation, we have the following types: manual/mechanical and power/electric window regulator mechanism.

Manual/mechanical Window Regulator

Manual window regulators use a hand-operated handle to raise and lower the window. They are mostly found in older vehicles although some budget cars will also have them. See the manual mechanism in the image below and how it works in this short video.

manual window regulators connect to a hand operated crank

Despite being simple to maintain, mechanical window regulators are not convenient enough. The person using them has to be near the crank, which means limited control of the windows by the driver. A manual mechanism also requires effort to operate and may not be ideal for some people.

Electric/ Power Window Regulator

A power window regulator, also called electric window regulator, uses a small motor to work. The motor is either an integral part of the mechanism and not replaceable, or separate. Check out the image below of a power window mechanism. The power window motor is clearly visible on the vertical stand or track

electric window regulator with motor attached

This type of window mechanism is commonly used in modern cars. It’s has many advantages, such as central electronic controls, effortless activation using a button, and convenience. Because of the many electronic parts, power window regulators are difficult and more costly to maintain.

As mentioned before, window regulator can be grouped by their design. The versions on the market are either scissor type or cable type. Here is a look at each of these window regulator types in detail.

Scissor Type Window Regulator

This type of window regulator uses of a mechanism that looks like a pair of scissors, hence its name. The mechanism basically consists of two hinged arms, one of them large and the other small. The end of the larger arm is a plate with gear teeth as shown in the image below.

Scissor type window mechanism showing the shapes that gives it its name

Scissor type window mechanisms expand to raise the window and collapse to lower it. They are usually robust and durable, given the metal parts that do not break easily. These regulator types are also available as both manual and powered. Watch the operation of the electric version here.

Cable type Window Regulator

The cable type of window regulator is a modern design. It comprises cables running on rollers or pulleys and a vertical metal track or tracks for the up and down movement of the window. The construction of the cable based window regulator mechanism is show below.

the cable window regulator showing the cables and tracks that move the window up and down

Cable type window regulators are mostly used in newer cars. They are compact and generally lightweight, which makes them more preferable in many cars. Cable based window regulators are more prone to damage, though. The cables wear out easily and break from repeated use.

Window regulators are also grouped by the door they are mounted to. This helps to identify the kind of the mechanism to buy. In line of that, we have the following types based on the specific window.

Front window regulator– installed in the front of the vehicle. It can be a front driver side or passenger window regulator. These are usually made studier to be able to support the larger front window. The driver side window regulator often wears first and requires replacing earlier than the others.

Rear window regulator– mounted in the rear door to operate the rear window. Can be a left rear or right rear window regulator. Usually not frequently used, rear regulators take longer to go bad or fail.

Window regulators contain moving parts that wear out and cause the mechanism to break down. If you have a power window regulator, the number of parts that can fail is higher. These parts include the power window motor, wires, and electric components such as fuses and relays. There’s also the power window regulator switch which, when broken, can cause the window to stop working.

Mechanical parts that often break include the window regulator cable, gears, pulleys or rollers, and clips, among others. You know it’s time to replace window regulator mechanisms if you notice any of these signs.

  • Window not working or opening and closing abnormally
  • Window mechanism noise to indicate worn motor or window mechanism parts
  • Slow power window regulator speed
  • Window mechanism falling into the door in severe cases
Your new window regulator assembly should match the one being replaced

How do you choose a Window Regulator?

When it comes to buying a car window regulator, you need to know what to look for. Otherwise, you may purchase the wrong type of the component or one with inferior features. Selecting the right and quality model is essential to ensure working windows-and for a long time. So, how do you choose a window regulator? Here are the factors to take into account.

Mechanism Type

What type of window mechanism do you need for your car? As we have already seen, it can be a manual or power window regulator and scissor or cable based. Determine the type that you need. After that, you can consider the other factors or features. You will also need to understand the advantages and disadvantages each regulator type.

Manual window regulators, for example, are easy to install and even easier to maintain or repair. But they come with their downsides. They’re not user-friendly, especially for the elderly, handicapped, or kids. You need to use your effort to rotate the crank which takes away the comfort to operate them.

Power windows are more convenient and almost effortless to work with; you only need to press a button. However, they are more costly to maintain owing to the many parts that may go bad. These parts include the window regulator motor, fuse and relay or even wires and connectors. When broken, the DIY options to repair an electric window mechanism are fewer.

Cable types of window regulators leave enough space to install other parts in the door space. They are also lightweight. Be prepared to change them sooner than the scissor type, though. That’s because the cables tends to wear too quickly and snap.

You will also need to determine if you need a window regulator and motor or one of the two. That’s because some types of the mechanism come with the motor built in and others as a separate part. Sometimes, only the motor or mechanism needs replacing. Both are available.


Another important consideration is the window regulator compatibility. Every mechanism is designed to be used on specific vehicle types and models. That’s unless it’s a universal type and meant to fit a wide range of vehicles. Here is when details about your car make and year of manufacture comes in.

If you’re buying the window regulator online, you will notice that manufacturers and suppliers offer a way to find the right type using that information. If purchasing the part at a physical store, you will also need the same vehicle details to find the specific part for your type of car.

While still on the issue of compatibility, it’s also important to understand that different mechanisms are made for different windows. Have that in mind when selecting the regulator. A front or driver side window regulator, for example, is meant for just that window. The same applies to the passenger window regulator and those of other windows.


Make sure that the window regulator is a brand whose quality you can trust. There are the top brands whose products are popular, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones. What matters is the brand reputation. You could go online for reviews by previous customers or research the features of the particular window regulator.

Going for less known but trusted brand often saves you money. You want to consider that when selecting your car window regulator mechanism. That’s because popular brands are usually overpriced. Research, also, the current market prices so you can wisely decide the range to go for based on your budget.

OEM or Aftermarket?

This is another important consideration when choosing your window regulator. OEM versions are made to fit the specific cars and are ideal in some situations. However, they limit you in terms of features that offer superior qualities when compared to aftermarket types. Plus, OEM regulators are generally costly and not often budget friendly.

Aftermarket options are available that offer perfect choices of the window regulator mechanism and at fair prices. They are also available as universal versions. A manual universal window regulator could be a good choice when you have a classic car. There are also options for a universal power window regulator for newer cars.

In essence, you will need to make the tough decision between an OEM and aftermarket window regulator. Choose the first option if looking for guaranteed fit and cost is not an issue, the second option if looking for an affordable car window mechanism and flexibility with the features.


Choosing the best window regulator for your car may not be easy. But with knowledge about what to consider, the process becomes easier. Also, if you understand the different types of the device out there and the up and downsides of each. The right window regulator for your car prevents compatibility issues during installation. It also means a quality regulator that you will use for a long time and reduced costs in the long run.

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