How to Replace a Car Window

A car side mirror with a shattered glass mirror
  1. Find a replacement window
  2. Remove the old window
  3. Carefully remove the vapor barrier
  4. Raise/lower for access to the mounting hardware
  5. Disconnect the plug that powers the window
  6. Install the new window
  7. Plug the wiring harness back in
  8. Replace the vapor barrier

Whether it’s a wayward baseball or a thief that causes the damage: A broken car window must to be replaced immediately, for obvious reasons. Replacing a car window may seem intimidating, but with the right tools, the vehicle service manual, and some patience, replacing a car window is possible to do on your own if you are good with your hands. Since every vehicle is different, use this guide as a framework in addition to your service manual for car window replacement.

What Do I Need to Replace a Car Window

You don’t need any special tools to replace your car window, although trim removal tools available at your local auto parts store will certainly make the job easier and will be less likely to cause damage to your trim than say, a putty knife. You should have the other tools you will need already around your house. If not, you may want to reconsider the cost of DIY vs. professional replacement.

  • Screwdriver set
  • Socket set
  • Shop vacuum
  • Safety gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Trim removal tools (or something similar to pry with)
  • Vehicle service manual
  • New car window

Replace Your Car Window

Your car’s service manual will be a tremendous resource during this project. Every car is unique and trim panels attach in different places with different makes and models. If you can’t find the service manual, at the very least find instructions on how to remove your door trim panel. Some local libraries may have service manuals to check out and the Internet is also a great resource. Plan on spending at least two hours doing this job yourself.

Does the clip go to the left or right of that bolt? Take photos for a reference during reassembly.

1) Find a replacement window – Your local Glass Doctor will be able to help. Your local auto parts store may also be able to order a replacement windshield, or your local car dealer can do the same if you want an original equipment equivalent (OEE) replacement part.

2) Remove the old window – Use a shop vacuum to remove the glass pieces in the car.

  • Remove any bolts, screws or clips that hold the door trim panel in place. This is where your service manual is helpful because the screw heads can be out of sight, hidden behind plugs – or access may require removing other components on the door.
  • Manual window cranks or door handles usually need to be removed to access the door panel. Sometimes it’s as easy as using a trim tool or butter knife to pry the plastic trim off the door. Knowing where to pry helps you avoid cracks in the plastic and frustration. 
  • Once the panel is removed, carefully remove the vapor barrier. Use this time to vacuum any glass shards that found a way inside the door panel.

3) Install the new window

  • Raise or lower the window to a height that provides access to the mounting hardware.
  • Disconnect the plug that powers the window regulator and motor.
  • Remove the weather seal at the top of the doorframe so you have more space to remove the glass.
  • Loosen the hardware and remove the old window.
  • Adjust the window track to make installation easier if needed.
  • Lower the window through the slit in the top of the doorframe and gently wiggle the new window into place.
  • Reinstall the hardware that secures the window to the regulator.

4) Reassemble – Follow these directions in reverse to button everything back up:

  • Retighten the window track if it was adjusted and replace all the hardware.
  • Before you reinstall the door trim, plug the wiring harness back in and make sure everything works correctly: window goes up? Window goes down? No gaps or cracks? Great job!
  • If it doesn’t line up correctly look for adjustment screws in the door panel that should tweak the window into place and double check your work.
  • Replace the vapor barrier and door trim and any hardware you removed such as door handles, weather stripping or manual window cranks.
  • Use the palm of your hand to gently tap the door trim into place if it uses friction fit clips. 

Need Car Window Replacement Help?

If you’re rethinking this DIY project or the cost of tools for installation is more than you want to spend, Glass Doctor can help. Our trained glass experts replace car windows, rear windows, and even sunroofs. Our workmanship is guaranteed, and we’ll never charge you for overtime. Bonded and insured, Glass Doctor is ready to help when you need it. Just call 833-974-0209 or schedule an appointment online.