If you’ve ever tried to assemble a piece of off-brand cheap prefab furniture, then perhaps you may also have unfortunately experienced the gut-punch realization halfway into that job that somewhere along the line the job went south and you needed to tear it all apart and start over. The particle board parts didn’t fit together correctly. The hardware was missing. The dog ate the instructions, which would have mattered if those instructions were actually useful. Whatever the reason, you’ve got a do-over on your hands and you’re not getting that hour of your life back.
It’s in that moment of frustration you were reminded of the importance of three things:
- Price does not equal cost. Paying good money for badly made products is never a smart idea.
- Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a professional, time is money.
- Manufacturers who make the good stuff pay attention to the details.
So it is with power window regulator and motor assemblies, a deceptively complicated mechanism whose main mission in life is to raise and lower the windows in a vehicle. And although that sounds like a pretty straightforward task, here’s the catch: Producing an aftermarket window regulator that installs predictably, functions reliably, and lifts and lowers consistently without turning into a finger guillotine with a tempered glass blade requires a serious commitment to engineering and manufacturing excellence.
Power window regulators have come a long way since the day of those simple chrome-plated toggle switches in your granddad’s Buick.
Scissor-style window regulators, prevalent in vehicles produced in the 1990s, were robust and reliable, but engineered for the heavier windows used in vehicles of that era. Consumer demand and government mandates for more fuel-efficient vehicles led to the replacement of the scissor-style mechanism with a lighter but more failure-prone design that utilized a single cable along plastic guides. Dual rail cable designs were introduced for heavier windows but like the single-cable assembly, poor quality cable guides and sheathing led to failures.
A fourth design, known as the “Goldie” for its inventor and patent holder Bertram Goldsmith, followed these three designs but original equipment manufacturers stopped using them in 2010 because of unacceptably high failure rates.
The fifth design – and the one that’s most prevalent in late-model vehicles – uses a panel-mounted scissor or cable regulator mechanism.
But Wait, There’s More
The most advanced type of window regulator, called an integrated window control assembly, incorporates a circuit board-controlled “smart motor” that will sense an obstruction and reverse the window direction to safely avoid a pinch. This type of window regulator has inherent safety features, along with the ability to control other convenient window functions, such as one-touch up-and-down and global opening. Those features must meet U.S Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 118 for “power-operated window, partition, and roof panel systems.”
Compliance with that FMVSS 118 standard is what separates the serious aftermarket window regulator manufacturers from the wannabes. That’s exactly as it should be, considering the grave injuries that can result to a vehicle occupant or pet that gets caught in a window that doesn’t reverse when required, due to cheap construction or poor design. FMVSS compliance requires sophisticated and rigorous testing of aftermarket regulators. By extension, that also means every time an aftermarket manufacturer wants to mimic or upgrade one of the thousands of the OEM smart motor-equipped window regulator designs, extensive research and development on the OE assembly and the intended upgrades is a must.
There are a mere handful of aftermarket manufacturers in the world that have made the necessary investment in testing and R&D, especially for complete regulator assemblies. Those that haven’t are producing regulators that at best are functional but untested, and at worst downright dangerous.
Insist On These 4 Things When Buying a Replacement Window Regulator
Like cheap build-it-yourself furniture, poorly constructed aftermarket window regulators are as easy to find as they are predictably lacking in fit, performance and durability. The good ones boast these four must-have characteristics:
- FMVSS Compliance
FMVSS 118 provides very specific engineering and testing standards to prevent serious injury. If a regulator doesn’t proudly proclaim that compliance and the investment its maker ponied up for it, look elsewhere.
- Testing, Testing, Testing
It can be tough to diagnose whether a window isn’t opening or closing properly or completely because of a failed regulator mechanism, motor or both. Experienced service technicians and dedicated DIYers know all too well how frustrating it is to have to perform the same repair twice, particularly when it requires multiple assembly and disassembly steps. Choose a window regulator manufactured by a company that’s rigorously tested for vehicle fit and eliminate that potential aggravation.
Same applies to testing for reliability. Top-shelf manufacturers of aftermarket window regulators use specialized testing apparatus that replicate more than eight years of regular use. That’s roughly 10,000 cycles. Only highly engineered window regulators survive that kind of purposeful abuse, and the reason they do is because they’re built from better components that are themselves first individually tested for tensile strength, hardness and precision.
- Seamless Installation
Buying a quality regulator will ensure a predictable, no-fuss installation and original equipment functionality. But only manufacturers with substantial investments and expertise in circuit board design and embedded technology can promise that seamless installation process, especially when replacing integrated window regulator assemblies.
Simply reverse-engineering an integrated OE regulator assembly doesn’t guarantee a replication of the technology required to restore all of its advanced features, and substandard window regulators may require specialized, time-consuming programming of the smart motor. Look instead for a reliable and thoughtfully designed aftermarket replacement with a smart motor that can be programmed simply by putting the window up and down to activate the regulator’s auto-up/auto-down and anti-pinch functions.
- Factory Support and a Solid Warranty
Aftermarket manufacturers that have made the commitment and invested the millions necessary to lead in this replacement part category are also going to be proud to offer easily-accessed customer support and a solid warranty. “Solid” meaning a limited lifetime warranty covering defects in material or workmanship under normal use and service. Choose the right manufacturer and you likely won’t need to use the warranty. But it’s nice to know that when it comes to a replacement part designed first and foremost to protect you and your passengers, it’s there if you need it.
Check out all the window parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on handling when your car window is stuck, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Source: NAPA Know How