Power windows intermittently stop working

I have a 2001 Buick Century and over the past few months, the windows have stopped working for short periods of time.

Today, for example, I turned on the car, lowered three of the windows a few inches, drove for a few minutes, put up 2 of the windows, drove another minute, tried to put the last one back up and it just wouldn’t go back up.

I was controlling the windows with the buttons on the driver door panel. I tried opening and shutting the door, I tried turning it off and back on, I tried switching on and off other unrelated buttons just to see if it made a difference. Nothing worked.

That lasted about 10 minutes and I tried once more and the window went up.

That’s pretty much the same thing that has happened of 2 or 3 occasions before. It doesn’t last a long time, but I don’t think I can count on that always being the case. I want to be able to control my windows at all times.

When I searched the internet, it seems over the life of a car, especially Buicks, the window regulator will fail. Does it sound like that’s what happening here?

I ask because it seems like each door needs its own window regulator, but all of the windows have failed to close at once. Today it was just the one, by chance. Other times, all of the windows wouldn’t work temporarily with no warning.

To me, that seems like an electric connection type issue, not a mechanical issue. I don’t know much about cars, but I would guess the problem is in the button panel on the driver’s door and not a mechanical issue in each individual door.

But what do I know. Is this a common issue? Easy to fix?

I did ask my mechanic about it about a month ago and he said he can’t determine the problem if the problem is not happening while he’s looking at it. Since the problem is intermittent, he couldn’t help me at all.

I would think process of elimination though could narrow down the potential causes. Any ideas? Thanks for your help.

If you use the individual switch in the door for the passenger window does that work while in failure mode?

When the drivers door switch stops working… stop the car. Go to each door and try to raise the window with each door switch. If they all work, it is not any of the 4 regulators, it likely lies with the drivers door switch or wiriing to it.

Once you know this, take it back to your mechanic. Expect to pay a diagnostic fee for his time searching for the problem.


You may be looking at a BCM that’s starting to fail.


The most likely cause of this problem would be the wiring between the door and the chassis. Sometimes it’s hard to access the wires because of the boot that surrounds the wires, but that is the first place to look. It can also be checked with a multimeter. Disassembly of the door panel may be required.


Good question. I haven’t been able to test that yet, but I will next time.

Interesting. Thanks for the link. It does say that if the BCM were failing, a check England light would light up on the dashboard. I haven’t had any lights. I’ll pay close attention next time, but I’m almost positive there haven’t been any check engine lights.

a British Buick :rofl:


The article states it can cause the Check Engine light and other dash lights to flash on and off erratically.

Not CAUSE a Check Engine Light.


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I expect your mechanic will be happy to spend all day trying to figure it out even though it isn’t happening at the time, as long as you pay him —in advance —his hourly rate. The mechanic is assuming you won’t do this. If you will do that, you’ll get you over the finish line faster. A diy’er wouldn’t just give up and wait for it to happen if it wasn’t happening at the time; instead they’d start taking stuff apart, looking for broken wires, wires with bare insulation, testing the voltage at the window motor, etc. If you will agree to pay your shop to do that, I’m quite certain they’ll do it for you.

If you want to do something yourself to get the ball rolling, first step is to try to understand how it works … when it is working. A simple DC electrical circuit powers the DC motor, which turns a gear that moves the window regulator (and the window) up and down. The window regulator is just a scissors like gadget that uses leverage to help the motor. The most common problem with a window regulator is one of the fasteners that attaches it to the door frame works itself loose. Can’t be that difficult, right?

Okay, thanks.

With all due respect, if I could afford to pay someone $110/hour to spend all day trying to figure this out, I wouldn’t be driving a 2001 Buick and I wouldn’t be asking for ideas on a message board.

Thank you for the link.

Have you tried lubricating the window tracks yet? I sprayed silicone lube into the tracks of my 1998 Buick Regal using the tube it comes with to direct the spray into the track. You shouldn’t need much and will have to clean off the excess from the window. This might help. The windows stop moving if there is too much force required to move them. It’s a safety feature to avoid hurting a hand, arm, or your neck if they get caught when the window goes up. It might not work, but it’s a cheap fix if it does.

You are correct that Buicks of this era have a lot of issues with the window regulators. My best guess is that is your issue. If you are able to do the work yourself, you might just swap out one and see if that fixes the issue. It looks like you can buy all 4 for less than $200 online. It is best to have it diagnosed correctly, however I don’t think that all of the doors would have wiring issues. And if the problem also exists on the individual window switches, that likely eliminates a faulty master switch.

Some windows in this era are wired in a way that a faulty master switch will prevent the individual switch from working. But I haven’t looked at this particular wire diagram. This is a situation that needs to be diagnosed before replacing a bunch of parts. But if you want to throw parts at it your better off using parts from a salvage yard. But even then it would be a shame if you spent all that money and time just to find out it was a couple of bad wires.

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Like the previous poster said, and does the window disable switch also disable the driver’s window?

To help diagnose it, I’ll tell you the way traditional car windows work. Each passenger door takes 3 wires. One is +12V, and the other two are normally grounded. The door switch connects the window motor between 12V and one of the ground wires for putting the window down, and it reverses the motor inputs and connects them to 12V and the other wire for putting the window up. When the door switch is in neutral, the motor is connected to both normally grounded wires, which allows the driver door switch to control it. Activating the window lock will either turn off the 12V coming to the door or disconnect the 2 ground wires from ground.