Vanagon window regulator repair

The window on the driver’s side door on my ’86 Syncro came adrift from the winder mechanism yesterday. I wasn’t really surprised, it had been a bit wonky ever since I got the van. Today I took the door panel off and set about repairing the window. I didn’t take pics of the disassembly, but I took a couple of pics of reassembly to make up.

First, a diagram of the scene:

The regulator comes out with a bit of a struggle, but once out I took it to the bench where it was obvious why the window mechanism had failed. The picture shows the broken part (on the left, parts placed together), plus a couple of spares from my ’82 van. Notice that this piece (as is the winder assembly) is “handed”, ie different for each side.

The replacement part, with plastic guides in place:

Another problem was a missing plastic guide that sits in that rectangular hole in the above part. The plastic bit is fixed to the moving part of the winder mechanism. So I set about getting a guide from my spare assembly:

Maybe that metal part just twists off?:

Oops, I guess not:

 

But at least I have the plastic guide. Breaking the assembly showed that it is held together by 2 tabs on the “winding screw” projecting through the metal part, trapping the the plastic guide, and the tabs are peened over to secure. So he I go taking the same part off the regulator that I want to repair:

Tabs pressed together:

And the part freed:

Start of reassembly:

On and tabs spread:

The final result:

I guess I should mention that I cleaned the entire assembly and re-lubricated with grease. Now back out the van to re-install. I used a spring clamp to keep the window glass up and out of the way. Here is the assembly clamped on the face of the door to show the orientation:

Wiggling and tilting etc, it goes in:

That vertical track is secured at the top, and at the bottom on bottom edge of door:

The plastic guide tube (which contains the “winding screw” when the window is wound down, is curved and secured by metal tab on door:

Bolting glass carrier to regulator. Don’t tighten bolts up until you wind window up and down a couple of times. Note the hole at top of door that allows access to forward bolt:

There is a little felt pad glued to the outer door skin, I suppose its to eliminate the window rattling at some part of its travel. I glued it back on with double sided tape:

 

The window winder now works. It was a bit squeaky so I added some more lubrication by squirting some oil down that plastic extension tube. I think the “winding screw” may be worn in parts as the window does not lower smoothly at part, its sort of herky jerky. I’ll look into that some other time.

 

 

  1. #1 by Old Fussbudget on January 27, 2011 - 4:04 pm

    Nice. I wonder if it shouldn’t lower itself by gravity – would silicone spray on the channels at front and rear help?

  2. #2 by albell on January 27, 2011 - 4:47 pm

    The screw that moves the regulator is a wire wound steel cable. The wire winding acting as a worm screw, and I assume it engages with a gear in the winder. It seemed to be working smoothly when I was working in grease while it was on the bench, but I may have overlooked a bad spot on the cable. Alternately, it might be that the entire mechanism is worn. I bet that new window seals would make it seem better though.

    ab

  3. #3 by Old Fussbudget on January 27, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    I’m thinking that working smoothly on the bench is one thing – but it it’s worn, I’d expect troubles raising it, unless it’s supposed to have essentially zero lash and now it has a lot. But I’m expecting that it was built with a lot of lash and the window expects to fall by gravity; and you’re getting a stick-slip condition when the worm catches up with the gear and pulls on it. Hey, try some Vactra #2 on the Window seals.

  4. #4 by albell on January 27, 2011 - 5:20 pm

    Yup, you’re probably right. But Vactra #2 would not be my first choice for felt channel lubrication 🙂

    I’m going to make a trip to wreckers soon, maybe I can find some less worn channels and see if that makes a difference. I need them in any case.

    ab

  5. #5 by Angus on January 27, 2011 - 5:35 pm

    Good write-up, thanks!

  6. #6 by kamz on January 27, 2011 - 6:11 pm

    Nice write-up; I was afraid of having to do the same thing (or replacing the regulator as a whole) to mine, but have avoided it thus far. My driver’s window also had the “herky-jerky” issue, even after lubricating the cable. I discovered the following: With the cable unmounted and sticking out of the door, the window went up and down smoothly; reinstalling the cable in the original circular channel brought the “herky-jerky” back. My solution: Let the cable rest up into the A-pillar section of the door with a more gentle curve and Zip-Tie it to the door using one of the nearby holes to keep it from flopping around. My window has worked great ever since.

    • #7 by albell on January 27, 2011 - 11:36 pm

      Interesting, I’ll try the recurve of tubular channel tomorrow, thanks for the tip.

      ab

      next day… I tried it, letting that cable housing rest in a more gentle curve inside door. It didn’t work for me, I must have a more worn mechanism.

      ab

  7. #8 by johnt55 on November 30, 2011 - 12:04 pm

    Interesting…I’ll try that too.

  8. #9 by Tyler on January 18, 2012 - 2:02 pm

    on my window regulator, the square plastic guide that you got from a spare door/van is the only part that has broken on the whole assembly (it stil runs along with the screw when you turn the crank but it no longer brings the actual regulator with it and hence doesn’t move the window up and down. Whole regulators are 110$+… where can i find the little polyurethane square plastic guide piece so i can reattach the winding screw to the regulator and get my window working again? thanks so much any help is appreciated i cant afford to spend a lot of $ to do this and would love to fix it myself.

    • #10 by albell on January 18, 2012 - 9:58 pm

      Hi Tyler,

      I’m afraid I don’t know where you can get a replacement. At first look the plastic bit looks somewhat complicated (overly complicated?) to make, but perhaps you can use some cutting board material (HDPE) to carve your own? Yeah, sorry a bit of a lame answer I know. Only other suggestion is the wreckers.

      good luck

      ab

      • #11 by Tyler on January 23, 2012 - 7:40 pm

        thanks ab. interesting idea with the hdpe i think my dad could help me fabricate something out of that. tough trying to find parts van even in my area where there are lots of vanagons around.

      • #12 by albell on January 23, 2012 - 7:59 pm

        Hi,

        it is possible, if tedious, to make something with file and saw. Look on it as quality time with dad 🙂

        good luck

        ab

  9. #13 by Robb on January 20, 2012 - 7:58 am

    Tyler, I’m looking for the same piece if anyone knows a source? Everything works great except that part if I close the door a little hard with the window at the bottom it pops that little square piece out of the regulator. Thanks Robb

  10. #14 by Robb on January 24, 2012 - 8:25 am

    I found a complete door for $40 I picked up and plan on using the regulator out of, but I think I’ll go for the cutting board idea for the square peice and probably the to little slotted guide pieces for my old one so I have a back up Thanks for the write up and especially the pics big help!

    • #15 by albell on January 24, 2012 - 10:56 am

      Robb,

      Couple more things:
      -the winding action on the door I worked on was less than smooth, kinda herky-jerky. I tried other’s suggestions of easing the curve of the cable (the area it makes a semicircular path) but it didn’t really help. I think the cog/gear mechanism or the cable itself might be thrashed.
      – I noticed that there is a pad in the door at the rear edge that supports the window. It was not there on my ’82 though. I think this pad goes along way in keeping the window from rattling (window seals do that too).

      cheers

      ab

      • #16 by Robb on January 24, 2012 - 4:05 pm

        great, I’ll look for the pad this weekend when I get time to try and swap out the regulators! Thanks for the tip. I should probably check that first as my window goes up and down fine, it’s just when it’s in the down position and I hit a bump or shut the door it falls off the regulator, maybe I’m missing a part that holds it a bit more firmly in the down postion?

      • #17 by albell on January 24, 2012 - 4:17 pm

        It could be the pad, I’ll dig around and see if I have pics.

        ab

      • #18 by Robb on January 24, 2012 - 4:23 pm

        that would be great thanks!

      • #19 by albell on January 24, 2012 - 4:38 pm

        I looked but no pic. If it stops raining I’ll take door card off and take a pic tomorrow. I need to look behind there anyway, I still haven’t run power to my electric mirrors.

        ab

  11. #20 by Robb on January 26, 2012 - 7:00 pm

    Thanks again yea it’s busy around hear, I sure would be nice it it were a quick ez fix! pic would be great if you’re already going in there!

    • #21 by albell on January 26, 2012 - 7:15 pm

      was thwarted today, tomorrow more luck I hope

      ab

    • #22 by albell on February 1, 2012 - 12:59 pm

      Robb,
      finally got a pic of the foam block on trailing end of window “track”.
      foam block

      hope this helps

      ab

  12. #23 by Tyler on February 14, 2012 - 12:04 am

    i ended up finding a parts van and finding a plastic guide in one of its regulators and putting that in my van. your blog post made it possible for me to teach myself the job and saved me 280 bucks at the mechanics. thank you very much for making this ab and sharing it with your fellow VW owners

    • #24 by albell on February 14, 2012 - 7:21 am

      Tyler,

      And you got to work on it with dad, right? 🙂 Thanks for the kind words cheers ab

  13. #25 by Anthony on December 12, 2012 - 8:30 pm

    Great info. when getting my door ready for new rubbers. I discovered that the plastic piece was not on my mechanism. The window was on track ans still raised up and down but, obviously had a lot of play. I tried the cutting board idea and with the help of a drill and a dremel fabricated a nice little bushing. much heavier duty than the flimsy pieces of plastic I found in the bottom of my door. I cleaned the mechanism real well and re-lubed it with Red Line cv grease. Probably overkill, but it operates real smooth and resists water real nice. Thanks for all the pictures, made my job so much easier. Going to take out the chrome trim off the door and replace all the rubbers now. Sound Mat, new rubber, and a window that doesn’t rattle and thunk when I accelerate!

    Cheers,

    Anthony

    • #26 by albell on December 12, 2012 - 10:04 pm

      Anthony,

      Isn’t it a good feeling when you make things work well?

      Tell me, did you, or do you get any kind of herky-jerky motion on the downward travel of the glass? I seem to have that happening, I think there must still be some slop and wear in the mechanism.

      cheers

      ab

  14. #27 by Arthur McGinn on June 7, 2017 - 2:42 pm

    Alistair: Much appreciate your video on fixing the driver-side window of your Vanagon, swapping an ’82 part for the broken original. That window on my ’82 (air) Westy, came off its rail and fell to the bottom of the interior of the door, apparently because the little plastic slider parts wore out, broke, or something. No sign of them. Are these plastic parts necessary for the window to function properly? I have been unable to find any replacements. The only alternative seems to replace the entire mechanism, possible but I’m stubborn and would rather fix if possible. Would appreciate your opinion, and many thanks for the very fine and clearly-explained video. Cheers, Art McGinn,
    artmcginn56@gmail.com.

    • #28 by albell on June 8, 2017 - 9:02 pm

      Hi Arthur,
      Yeah I think the plastic parts are needed. The upside is that being plastic I bet you could carve out replacements. Don’t have to be pretty, just work as guides.

      I’m gusssing you don’t have access easily to a wroeckers yard that has vanagons.

      Good luck

      Alistair

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