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Car Talk: Figuring out why window of van sticks

Dear Car Talk: I have a perplexing problem with the driver’s-side power window in my 2003 Voyager minivan. About three years ago, I pressed the button to roll it down and nothing happened except a faint “click” sound. I continued to press the button out of habit when I went to drive-thru windows, etc., and about three weeks later, it worked again. About two months after that, it stopped working. I have been through this same working/not-working cycle about 10 times in the last three years. Any idea about what’s going on? – Jamey

A: I’m going to guess that you don’t want to invest a lot of money in solving this puzzle, so start with the easiest approach to failing electrical equipment: Whack it. Sometimes, when an electrical switch or motor is failing, tapping on it or giving it a jolt can bring it back to life – albeit temporarily. Assuming you’ve checked the circuit breaker in the driver’s foot well , start with the window switch itself.

Try poking at the driver’s window switch more forcefully than you normally do. If the contacts for the window switch itself are rusting or coming apart, sometimes a little extra force can get them to work again for a while – sometimes a long while. If you can get the window to work by stabbing your finger on the switch, that tells you that the switch is your problem.

Then you have two options: You can live with it, and try to revive it when you need to, which leads to SIFS – stubby index finger syndrome (which is what you’ll probably do). Or you can replace the switch (which is what I’d do).

If you can’t get the window to work by being more vigorous with the switch, the next thing you can try to test is the window motor. That’s inside the door. The easiest way to test it is to give it a Judge Judy: Gavel it.

While a helper is holding down the window switch, close your fist and, with the bottom, give the middle to lower half of the door some quick, sharp blows. Try it from the inside first, and then from the outside.

If the motor is failing, a jolt like that often will get it to start working again. More importantly, it’ll tell you that the motor probably is the culprit here. Then you can either replace it (which is what I’d do) or go to the gym and do fist exercises (which is what you’ll do).

If you can’t get the window to respond to those tests, then you may have to resort to actual diagnostic methods. Start by removing the window switch and using a test light to see if it’s getting power.

If there’s no power getting to the switch, the next thing I’d suspect is a broken, or almost broken, wire in that bundle of wires that runs through the driver’s door pillar and into the door. It’s certainly possible that one of those wires is frayed or partly broken.

If there is power to the switch when you test it, then this suggests that the motor is bad. Then you’ll need to remove the interior door panel and confirm that power is getting to the motor – which it probably is.

Once the motor is exposed, you can tap it directly with the end of a screwdriver or some such thing. Or you can just replace it. And whatever your diagnosis, you can look for parts at a junkyard.