install a power window

| October 05, 2001

Wide-blade screwdriver
Torx set
Philips screwdrivers
1/ 4-inch ratchet
Metric and standard sockets
Metric and standard wrenches
Connector crimper
Test light
Drill and bits
Straight edge
Small C-clamps
Duct tape
Utility knife
Plastic ties
Penetrating fluid
White lithium grease
Pencil or pen

Power windows are much more than a status symbol for truckers. They are also defense mechanisms that can quickly seal off a cab to unwanted outsiders, such as insects, ambitious lumpers or parking lot Rolex salesmen. Call it push-button pest control.

Most heavy trucks nowadays are spec’ed with power windows, made by ArvinMeritor or Sprague. However, there are still enough miserly fleets around to keep at least one manufacturer building these products for the aftermarket. Electric-Life, based in Chicago, offers kits for Freightliner, Peterbilt and Kenworth.

Mitch Sremac, Electric-Life’s president, says Class 8 business, while steady, is just a small part of his production.

“We’re an OEM vendor for Mercedes truck, Volvo autos, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati,” he says. The 20-year-old company, started in Europe, also caters to hobbyists restoring classic vehicles. “We make window kits for almost any light truck from 1940 to today” – about 500 models in all. He says Electric-Life would add more heavy truck kits if it had a demand for them.

Sremac says there are a few universal kits on the market, but those units tend to be more difficult to install, involving multiple bushings and brackets.

“With universal kits,” he says, “you retain the old mechanical regulator and put the drive assembly over the crank stub. So what you’re doing is motorizing the manual system. They work OK, but they’re not very pretty.”

He says Electric-Life builds its kits to the intended doors’ exact dimensions, using die cast tooling to ensure a precise fit. “All of our aftermarket kits are made on the same lines that produce our OEM products,” he says.

An Electric-Life kit includes all the parts and supplies needed to power two windows. It sells for $399. The directions below apply to a Freightliner door kit. Shop time is about six hours.

The job

  1. Lay out contents. Separate parts by category: regulator and frame, wiring, switches, and mounting hardware. This will save time when you’re in the thick of installation.

  2. Remove door panels. Remove window crank handles, then gently, but firmly, pry off the upholstery panels with a wide-blade screwdriver or a small, thin pry bar. These are attached with plastic “Christmas tree” plugs and, sometimes, metal screws. Once the panels are off, spray a small amount of penetrating fluid on the screws fastening the metal covers to the doorframes. It might be necessary to tap the lower screws with a ball peen hammer to help break them free.

    Slide the unattached cover to the left or right to disengage the regulator arm from the window channel. Repeat the process on the other door. Unbolt the regulator from each door panel.

  3. Mount new regulators. Electric-Life’s regulator frames are designed to use existing bolt holes, but some doors will require drilling to widen or open these otherwise blank mounting points. In punching out the holes, be careful to avoid drilling into the window.

    Connect the appropriate (black and blue) wires to each regulator motor.

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