Question about 1999 BMW 323 Series

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How do I repair the passenger rear power window, which makes a grinding sound but will not lift?

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It sounds like the regulator and lift assembly has broken. The door windows have a gear-drive motor inside which spins to drive the window up and down. If the gear teeth have broken or been stripped, or the corresponding teeth on the window have stripped, it'll make that noise.

What you'll need to do, assuming you're going to fix it yourself, is to remove the rear door panel. Most cars have a screw behind the door handle (pull on it as if you are going to open the door, and see if there's a screw there). You'll probably have one or more screws on the side edges of the door panel too. On my Audi, I have to pull off the plastic inner cover of the door pull (where you pull the door closed) to expose another mounting screw. Since your BMW is a similar type of luxury car, yours is likely similar. Once the screws are out, try lifting up on the door panel from the bottom. If it doesn't move, pull it straight off the door. Some cars use guide hangers that just slot into the door frame, while others have snap clips that require the panel to be popped off. Once it's free, don't move it too far until you disconnect the door latch rod and the electrical connectors.

Now you should see a drive motor with a wire connector going into it. There are likely to be three or four bolts that hold it, and once they're out, the motor will pop off. What you can do is pop it off, and take off the one on the other door as well, and swap them. Try each window. If the failing door now works with the other motor, and the working door does not, then that's your problem. Order another one (see below for a great source) and install it, put the door panel back together, and you're on your way.

Now, if the drive motor wasn't the problem, you're going to have some gymnastics to do. I take it that the window is stuck down. You're going to see that the door framework itself has some holes in it. There are also some bolt heads that you'll see. Those bolts hold the lift mechanism in place. The cutouts are placed strategically but not all that conveniently, and you'll have to do some contortions to get everything undone. All the cars I've worked on require you to position the window at one height to get some bolts out, and then move the window up or down to get others out. With the window stuck, you'll have to take out the bolts that mount the whole mechanism to the door, so you can lift and lower everything manually into the right positions to get at the bolts that hold the window glass to the regulator, and possibly some various parts of the mechanism itself. There's really no cut and dried way to describe it, since all windows are different, but the bolts that attach the glass to the lift are at the bottom edge of the glass, and there should be two of them. Have a second person handy, so they can hold the glass from both sides while you take the bolts out. Then lift the glass up and out and set it aside where it'll be safe. From there, it's a matter of removing all the bolts that hold the mechanism, and pulling it out of one of the cutouts in the door frame. Installation of a replacement is the same in reverse order. If you need to source one, I'd recommend in upstate NY - they're a salvage yard for BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and VW, and they guarantee their parts (they're a forum sponsor for one of the online enthusiast forums that I moderate, and are highly regarded).

Let me know if you have further questions on this (post them as a follow-up comment here) and I'll address them:)

Posted on Nov 17, 2009

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