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Chevy Impala driver side power window not going up – THE FIX

You’ve got a Chevy Impala, and the driver-side power window will go down but not up.

The switch looks something like this:

Did I just describe your situation?

The switch probably started getting picky before conking out completely – for a while, you may have had to hold the switch up and then back it off slightly to get the window to go up. In it’s last days, you may have had to bang on the inside of the door while holding the switch up to get it to move.

If I’m describing you, chances are that the contact inside the switch (a tiny metal tab) for the driver side window is burned (and possibly bent).

What causes (caused) this?

Inside the switch, there are 2 tiny metal tabs that pivot when you press the switch up or down. They complete a connection which sends power to the window motor, causing it to go up or down.

The problem is that power windows use a LOT of juice (current), and all that power runs through those tiny little tabs. The tabs heat up (since they’re under-sized), and a spark creates a small burn point every time you hit the switch.

From an engineering standpoint, GM knew about this (it’s been an issue since the power window switch was invented) and had 2 options to deal with it:

  • Run the switches to proper relays so they last nearly forever (adding about $3 to the cost of the car), or;
  • Accept the fact that if you don’t relay it, the switch will burn out sometime after the warranty’s ended, and you’ll get to charge the customer well over $100 for the replacement.

Guess which one GM went with? (hint: the one that makes them money)

The easy Fix:

It’s worth noting that the “easy” solution is to just buy a replacement switch. Expect $140-160 from the dealer, or around $50 for an aftermarket or used option (an Amazon reseller currently carries them – I actually ninja’ed the image above from Amazon’s site, so you may as well support them by searching there first).

The replacement’s dead-easy if you have a torx screwdriver around and are even remotely handy. Set aside 5 minutes of your day – it’s 2 torx screws, you pop the clips to take the switch out, disconnect the electrical connectors, and put the new one in.

If you’re not handy, a trip to the dealer might be in order. Alternately if you get a hold of a new switch, your favorite local mechanic can probably install it within a few minutes.

 

The Self-Fix:

WARNING: DO THIS AS YOUR OWN RISK. IT’S EASY TO BREAK/DAMAGE THE SWITCH, AND IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG WITH THE SWITCH, YOU COULD CREATE A SHORT AND BURN OUT A WIRE OR START AN ELECTRICAL FIRE (PARTICULARLY IF A FUSE DOESN’T BLOW FIRST). IF YOU’RE NOT COMFORTABLE DOING THIS, JUST BUY A NEW SWITCH.

Let’s assume you don’t feel like forking over $50-150 just yet and want to tackle it yourself. It’s a little more time consuming, but very possible. You *could* break something, particularly since the thing isn’t meant to be disassembled, but I’ll roughly walk you through it here anyway, as it’s a procedure I just performed.

Supplies:
-Torx screwdriver (sorry, I don’t remember the size – hopefully you have a set). Optionally, a Hex Key of the right side should fit well enough to work.
-Flat screwdriver (small and sharp, preferably)
-TINY flat screwdriver (about the size you’d use to repair prescription glasses)
-Fine-grit sandpaper (wire brush might work too)
-Electrical contact cleaner spray (optional)

Steps:

  1. Remove the 2 torx screws you see in the “handle”, then pull the section out.
  2. Remove the switch assembly. 3 electrical plugs come out, and you’ll use a flat screwdriver to pry it out from from the tabs in the “handle” piece.
  3. The UP/DOWN (and Window Lock) caps have to come off. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way, and this is the first place you’re likely to break anything. Grip them (get under them a bit) with your fingers and pull hard. I wouldn’t do this if it’s cold out – you’re forcing 2 plastic pieces to come apart that aren’t designed to come off (permanent locking tabs), so your chances are better if it’s warm (and the plastic will be more likely to flex and pop off than to snap).Note that I’ve yanked them off 2 or 3 times and didn’t have any break, but each time I really expected them too. If they do snap, you’ll either end up messing with some glue or buying the replacement anyway.
  4. You should now be left with a black box. It opens up by prying the lip back from the locking tabs (small screwdriver) as you pull it open. Not terribly hard.
  5. With the black box opened, the circuit board and switches should just pull out as 1 piece.
  6. There’s a clear center plastic piece (shaped like an “X”) between the 4 switches. It just lifts out. Once it’s out, note that 1 corner of the “X” is a bit shorter – that side faces the driver switch.
  7. Another clear piece has to be removed. It’s attached to the driver side switch (it’s why the X had a short-side) and seems to be part of the the window “lock”. Use the TINY screwdriver to pop it out of it’s pegs.
  8. Now you’re left looking at the switches. You’ll be opening up the driver-switch. Now you see why you really need the TINY screwdriver. You should be able to see 4 tiny “tabs” locking it together. Use the TINY screwdriver to pry the plastic over the tabs as you pull the switch up (a helper can be beneficial). You should only need to unclip 1 side (2 of the tabs) and it should come up.BE CAREFUL when you pull it off – there’s a spring inside, a white plastic pivot, the 2 metal tabs/contacts, and you DONT want them to fall out and/or get lost. Also kinda helpful to know where they go for later, when you have to put things back together.
  9. Assuming the spring and pivot came out with the switch, you should see 2 metal tabs. 1 of them probably looks REALLY burnt on one side – there’s your problem.
  10. Pull that “burnt” tab out. Use sandpaper to sand away the black burn.
  11. Bend that tab slightly (finger or pliers) – basically, you’re bending that burned side so that it makes contact sooner – it’s probably curved “up” a bit, so you want to make it more horizontal. Don’t bend it too much or you’ll create a short when it’s reinstalled!
  12. The contact point inside is too tough to get at with sandpaper. Your tiny screwdriver is probably fairly sharp, so you can use it to scrape some of the black away. If you happen to have contact-cleaner-spray around, spray some of that in, and it’ll make it easier to scrape it clean.
  13. Put the metal tab back in. Make sure it’s not touching both contacts at the same time (if it is, you bent it too much). You should be able to pivot it to 1 side. For reference, the *opposite* tab will pivot to the *other* side.
  14. Ensure the spring/white-plastic-pivot are both in the upper piece, and carefully put it back into place and snap it in. Once it’s in, press the switch (clear top) up & down to make sure it’s moving and feels right.
  15. Put the rest back together (opposite of removal).

In my case, I also swapped the metal tabs around (think of it as “tire rotation” for the switch) and bent them all slightly to get them all horiontal. I didn’t recommend it above though, as it adds another variable, and the more things you bend, the higher the chance you’ll bend something too much and cause a short.

You should be done. Once you’re at the point where the electrical connectors are plugged back in, you might want to put the key in the car, turn it to ACC, and make sure nothing starts smoking (then make sure the switch works). I recommend doing it before the thing’s completely screwed back into the car because if something’s wrong you’ll be able to disconnect it quickly.

How to keep it from happening again

The good news is that it should work for a few more years now. Other good news is that if/when it eventually does fail again, you should be pretty pro at pulling it apart and getting it working again.

The bad news is that constant heat is just going to make the metal weaker all the time. If it lasted 5 years, it might last 4 more now. Maybe 2-3 after the next repair. Eventually, the metal will be so soft (and worn-out) that you’ll have to spring for a new switch.

In the meantime, things you can do…

  1. Avoid “tapping” the switch over and over when rolling the window up. Multiple 1-second bursts are worse than a single continuous burst, because that means multiple sparks instead of just 1 (and multiple presses of the button also flex the tab multiple times). For most people, this isn’t an issue, but if you’re one of those people in the habit of tapping the switch up/down until the window’s open the “perfect” amount, you’ll just have to learn to stop.
  2. Lubricate the window track periodically. You’ll notice that the metal tab controlling “down” wasn’t burnt – that’s because “down” is easy. You want “up” to be as easy as possible to reduce the duration/amount of current that needs to go through the switch to get the window up.
  3. If you have ice/gunk/etc causing the window to move up more slowly, remove it. If you’re rolling up the window and it gets stuck, don’t just hold the button up – you’ll burn up the switch. Instead, stop, clean out whatever’s blocking it, and try again.
  4. Try to only move the window up/down when the car’s running. The alternator spits out around 14 volts when the car’s running (you only get 12.5 volts from the battery when it’s off). P=IV (power = current x voltage). More voltage means the window either goes up faster (which means less time heating the switch), or goes the same speed but uses less current. (and current is what heats up the switch).
  5. If you’re really hard-core about it, you can install a relay near the power-window-motor. It’s a very time consuming process (and you’ll probably have to run new power wires and probably install 1 relay for “up” and 1 for “down”), but the switch will last decades.
  • Emmanuel Arias

    I wanted to say thank you for your wonderful guide! I was able to fix the switch my self and save$ (I was told it was the window regulator at first….and almost purchased it thinking it was the problem). Thanks again.

  • Jorge B.

    2004 Chevy Impala. Nice article. I was having to fight with my drivers side window every time I wanted it to go up until one day it just wasn’t budging. I was 90% sure the problem was the master switch and that something wasn’t making contact. As I was searching online for a new master switch I came across this info. During my lunch break I went over to my car to try the fix it yourself step-by-step and it took about 20 min. to get it all done. Great step-by-step descriptions. The window works great and saved me the money I was about to throw away.

  • Sari

    You my friend, is what the world needs. I just fixed my power window switch using this tutorial. The instructions could not have been any easier to follow, I did it with no experience with car repairs or engineering. Not only am I happy that I saved the money, but it felt great fixing something in my car for once. I thank you greatly for the time and effort you have put into this.

  • Brittney

    These instructions are awesome! Saved me $$ and it was super easy to fix! Thank you!!

  • Greg

    Thanks! I was able to fix this in about an hour. It took longer because I videotaped myself putting it back together. I hope to get something on youtube so there are pictures of this. Your instructions were very good. There was a ton of black substance underneath the small metal tab. There was some on top also but the gunk underneath was crazy. No wonder the window was slowing down and eventually stopped going up altogether! Thanks a million! No way was I paying $93 to buy the new switch from the store.

  • G Fish

    OMG Thank You!! We were ready to junk the car !!

  • chris

    Thanks this worked great I just switched the guts from the rear window to the front awesome fix…

  • KB

    My switch has been acting up for 2 years or so finally today it rolled down its last time before not going back up. Almost purchased a new switch for $30 off Amazon but found this nice little article. Followed the steps and put everything back together, WORKS! Thank you man!

  • JAS

    hey…i havent even put my switch back in but i have a gut feeling this is going to work i fixed up the other switches as well… i noticed that the driver side switch was a bit greasy and the other werent…should I grease those too…The other three door switches on the master switch stopped working long before the driver side did… is that a possible reason… THANKS A TON…REALLY

    • JAS, a bit of lubricant should help somewhat. I wouldn’t go overboard though. If you have any dielectric grease around, that would probably be the type to use. As for the other switches, I’m surprised they all went before the driver’s side, since they tend to get the *least* amount of use. I wouldn’t expect a lack of grease to be the cause their demise unless the contacts corroded or a drink was spilled in there at some point (causing faster corrosion). Were they corroded, or were they burnt?

      • JAS

        Hey Matt, No they were just burnt, but, I already placed everything in and it worked like a charm. Believe it or not, I probably rolled my surrounding windows down more, I prefer to catch the breeze instead of it hitting me in the face!! Thank you Thank you Thank you…

  • JAS

    KUDOS… ABSOLUTE GENUS…AND…the Lesson on Why This BloodSuckers (Corporations) didn’t fix it in the first place… Made Sense and was Needed…THANKS AGAIN!!!

  • Damagetone

    Perfect, I did the fix it yourself option and it worked perfectly, I just wish I tried this before removing the window motor etc. this fix tool me about 30 minutes from start finish and saved me a good $50, I also cleaned and lubricated all contacts in the switch with deoxit in hopes that it will buy me more time before its needed again. Thanks again fir this post.

  • DK

    Is it possible to use the passenger door switch to roll the driver side window up until I can fix the driver switch?

    • DK: I doubt it. Even if you pulled out both the driver/passenger assemblies and tried to temporarily swap the passenger one in to the driver side, the wiring connectors are undoubtedly different. Technically, it should be possible to pop the driver assembly out and short the appropriate wires together in the harness, but since shorting the wrong wires would probably result in exciting fires, melted wires, and maybe even a burnt out ECU, you’d absolutely need a wiring diagram before going that route.

      Best bet is to hold the driver switch up (or keep flipping it up) while banging against the interior door panel near the switch. If the switch still has the slightest bit of life left in it, you might get that window to go back up one last time with that bit of jarring. Good luck!

  • Koop

    Thanks so much for the step by step process, saved me some $ almost bought one for $60 at a junkyard, a guy at worked said he replaced his for $65 he didn’t I could figure it out since he couldn’t. Well thanks to you I did. I’ll let him know. Thanks again.

  • buddyrandom

    To whom ever wrote this article…. I owe you a case of beer! Big thanks!! Thought I had to replace the window motor.

  • Tanner

    You sir, are a king among men. i cannot thank you enough. been dealing with a “jumpy” window for awhile and only and got desperate when my rear window suddenly konked out completely. both were an easy fix with your excellent guidance.

  • vinny

    To the person who wrote this,BIG BIG BIG thanks.I thought I was going to be out off a couple hundred dollars to repair my window..thank you so much took me an hour to get it fixed switched around the up and down tabs and it works like new..once again thank you and God Bless you.

  • Anonymous

    I feel so accomplished today. I fixed it with your awesome instructions I saved money! Who doesn’t live that. And I’ve had my car for over 10 yrs hope it lasts me another 10.

  • Lynn (58 yrs female)

    I carefully followed your detailed instructions and fixed the window myself. Without breaking anything else either. Glad I had all the proper tools to do this. The window was off the track. Actually it was easy. Thank you so very much.

  • Anonymous

    thank you so much! it was charred, im so happy that I actually commented on it!

  • Anonymous

    My friend whose window wouldn’t go up and I would like to thank you for the great instructions explaining to me how to get the window switch fixed. She said she replaced the whole switch like 5 years ago and I don’t remember what she said that cost. but tonight she came home from getting groceries and said her window wouldn’t go up and said she was going to put a towel in it. I told her I would go do it for her and before I knew it I had the switch out and back in the house. But if I hadn’t found your web page with the instructions on how to get it apart and fixed it probably would still not be working lol. Just would like to thank you and the others who share your knowledge and experience with those of us less knowledgeabl.

  • Anonymous

    This helped a lot fixed an annoying issue for free! Very detailed instructions left no room for error!

  • curtis

    Wow I’ve been wondering about this issue ever since I bought my impala in 2010…. I ended up going to junk yard to get another “used” switch , which didn’t last long…. This walkthrough saved me time and money…. Thanks

  • Patti

    I cannot wait to get home from work to try this. My window is stuck I a down position and rain is coming in a few days. I hope this works!

  • Anonymous

    what an amazing set of instructions!! So clear and so right. It was about 20-30 minutes of quality time with my teenage son and will keep the old 2001 impala going a few more miles.

  • JOHN

    Thanks for the info. It did the job on my daughter’s 2005 Impala.

  • Anthony Brown

    THANK YOU! That’s all I have to say….

  • Becky

    Called Chevy because in 8/2012 they did a recall for 250.000 vehicles (no Impalas) & another in 8/2014 for 184,000 more vehicles (still no Impalas). This recall was for the same driver’s door window switch that also impacts the 2000-2005 Impalas. Same exact issues were reported. I asked why they aren’t included since this is a safety issue if people are putting a leg out, reaching around the door when using an ATM, drive-thrus, ect. They said they didn’t have enough complaints on them to issue the recall! Really? This is just one site I’ve found with many having the same issue!! They want me to pay for the diagnostics to make sure it’s really the problem. I said why would I do that if I can fix it myself for half the price? The point is I shouldn’t have to, you knew it was a problem but decided to ignore all models effected!

  • B Wilson

    bro. You are a lifesaver. Great step by step instructions. AND thank you for taking the time to put this online. This solved the problem in one try. Thank you thank you thank you

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much!! This worked great. The torx screwdriver you need is a T27, in case anybody new is reading this and needs to know.

    These instructions are great, so great that even I could fix my own window issue! Thanks again.

  • Scott

    Matt, I had bought a part online (not new), one from a salvage yard and they all wouldn’t raise the driver window, then I finally Googled the right statement to find your blog. Thank you Matt. It was exactly as you said as pop the unit apart. This was a blessing to relieve this much frustration. :o)

  • Jesus

    Seriously the most well written and easy to follow how to. Not a car guy but was willing to give this a shot after reading, going and getting the part in my town was 79, so yeah, I at least owe you a beer

  • Anonymous

    The 1-15 worked thank u so much it’s November 2015 and it friggen worked really didn’t have the money to put out 200+ just for my stupid window

  • Sherri

    Thanks for the tutorial. Worked great. I followed your directions on taking it apart .You right on taking the rocker switch part off . I took a blow dryer and heated them up a bit before trying to take them off since its 45 degrees here. I also heated them up before putting them back on. Cleaned everything with denatured alcohol, and filed the contacts. Switch works Thanks

  • William

    Thanks matt

  • Anonymous

    I followed your precise instructions and fixed mine today. Thank you for the details and I even rotated the burnt metal to a less used switch, before I read your comment to do such. Bless you for saving me some money and giving the opportunity for personal satisfaction.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, thank you, bless you, bless you!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lee schoenfeldt

    Thank you so much,just fixed wife’s 2003 Impala worked like a charm,need more people like you helping people from
    getting ripped of by manufacturers.
    Your awsome!

  • KHUSHBOO LASURE

    This is happening to my 2009 Impala – I’m tempted to give it a try. Currently the window is completely down and when pushing the button to roll up, it makes a crunchy sound (the window) – but nothing happens. Should I try?

    • Crunching probably isn’t the switch. Usually anything like crunching, a repeated clicking sound, etc is something mechanical like a worn/broken gear on the armature or track. Chances are you’re looking at pulling the door panel to see what’s going on inside.

      Before doing that, you could *try* lifting the window by hand. Open door, standing outside the car, one hand on either side of the glass pull up while a helper briefly pushes the up button – DO NOT have any hands/arms/fingers/thumbs above the glass where they could get crushed between the glass and the frame, you want to pretty much have a hand on either side of the glass without anything above the glass.

      If that’s unfruitful, I suppose you could try doing the switch repair “just in case it’s the switch anyway” just because it’s a quicker thing to try than pulling off the door panel.