Repairing a Window Regulator on a Saab 9-3
A few months after getting a 2004 Saab 9-3 Arc I found that the rear passenger side power window would not always roll back up. Instead it would try to roll up but soon stop and make a crumpling paper type of noise until I let go of the controls. I would have to help it up with my hand in order to get it to close. My guess was that it was the window regulator but let’s see what we find.
This DIY will focus on diagnosing the problem at the rear passenger door since we know that the controls have power and seem to be working. I suspect that it’s the window regulator but repair isn’t likely for those components… but we’ll give it a shot!
Tools you’ll need:
- T30 torx bit + driver
- ¼” socket + ratchet (optional but helpful in tight quarters)
- door panel removal tool, plastic shims and/or flat head screwdrivers
- masking tape (optional but helpful to hold the door barrier out of the way)
- work light
- rags (to keep your hands clean)
- some creativity if needed (in my case: a plastic letter opener)
- about 1-2 hours of free time
Ready to diagnose the power window at the door?
Pry off the door handle cover with your fingers:
Remove the door handle bolts with a T-30 torx bit and driver:
Use a plastic shim to create a gap between the door panel and the door to reduce the chance of scratching off the door’s paint. I had to get creative and used a plastic letter opener and a flathead screwdriver wrapped in a rag:
Get your fingers behind the door panel and slowly pry it off along all the bottom and side edges. It will simply click off the plastic fasteners:
Lift the door panel straight up and off the door lock knob:
Disconnect the door panel and set it aside:
Carefully peel away the moisture barrier at the bottom and sides. Take your time to prevent tearing off the barrier by slowly working off the black sealant from the door using your fingers:
Use masking tape to hold the barrier up and reconnect the door panel controls:
Operate the power window switch to see what’s going on. Here I found some cabling coming out as the window motor operated:
Remove the power window motor using the T-30 torx bit and a ratchet:
Carefully pull the motor straight out. I found a cable mess on the window regulator:
After straightening out the cable I noticed the plastic gear on the window regulator had some damage where the cable would sit in. I used a small flathead screwdriver to do my best and try to carefully massage it back into place but this is really a temporary fix with no guarantee it’ll stay that way and operate as effectively:
I decided to try and guide the cable back onto the plastic gear. This was hard to do without a helper and taking pictures was almost impossible unless I had a 4th or 5th hand. With the window lowered I started with the bottom cable and guided it onto the pulley at the bottom of the window regulator (I couldn’t see it and had to feel my way). Then I started to feed it onto the plastic gear with one hand slowly raising the window and another hand holding tension on the gear using a flathead screwdriver in an hole is could catch on the gear. The picture below is when I got the window all the way up while holding tension on the bottom cable:
Trying to get the top cable fed back into the gear was tricky. First I locked in the cable end into the gear then added as much tension as I could to the bottom cable to give just enough slack for the top cable to work over the gear’s edge. The picture below is the end result:
Reinstall the window motor:
Reconnect the door panel controls:
Test to see if the power window operates. In this case the cable would skip at certain points but would ultimately sit in the guides without any overlaps. I’m not confident this fix will work indefinitely but it did work after several tries. I’ll be planning a future DIY on replacing the window regulator to ensure this gets fixed properly so I don’t have to worry about it failing in the near future. For now this will do and passengers may hear some weird crumpling sounds as the window operates.
Put everything back together (steps are the reverse of removal) and test the power windows one more time before putting all your tools away.
Often times if a power window goes down when you operate the controls but doesn’t go back up without a helping hand then the window regulator is suspect. Here we found the culprit to be the window regulator’s cable to have gone off track from the gear. There usually aren’t parts to replace on a window regulator and often times you have to buy a whole new unit. Even though I got it working again I’ll plan on getting a new one and writing up another DIY when it arrives.
Written By: Gerry Tseng
Gerry lives in Cincinnati, OH where he works as a data analyst by day and enjoys working on cars in his free time. He’s spent over 25 years on domestics + imports alike. His latest efforts include a Saab 9-3, a BMW M3 and a Volvo S60.