September 24, 2003

Changing your car's broken window

The Struggling Grad Student: Everything that I wanted to blog. It's always nice to find out that the information you put on your blog is actually being used. I received an email from a person who had his car broken into and was looking to fix the broken window (vent window, it's the small triangular glass in the back) himself. He wanted to know more details on how I did it myself. Realizing that I didn't provide that much detail in my last blog entry regarding this matter. I sent off an email to him outlining the entire process that I took to install my own glass. Read on to learn more. Also, read my old blog entry as background (it tells you where you can go to buy the glass cheap).

Iakovos Papadimitriou wrote:

> Hi,
> I am sorry to bother you, but I have a Toyota Corolla 1997 (sedan) which was broken into (from the vent window) last night and I am thinking of replacing it myself. I ran into your website while checking out how to do it.
> Do you also have this model? I went to a dealership and they are asking for $190!!! (the part itself costs $20). They told me that they need to take out the inner part of the door and the movable window in order to install the vent window... but somehow I have hard time believing them.
> I already took out the rubber frame and it seems to me that the whole job needs 10-15 minutes, just to force the glass into the groove of the rubber frame. Am I right or is it a more involved procedure?
> Again sorry to bother you (I just got my M.S. so I know how busy it is to be a grad student) . Any hint would be appreciated,
> Regards,
> Iakovos


Yes, I have a 1996, which is essentially the same as the 1997 except for the taillight changes (cosmetic). No, the dealership is giving you a bunch of crock, I've had my window changed by "professionals" multiple times (at a $100 a pop) and stood there watching them do it myself every single time -- thinking to myself "I could do this and save me some money AND time." So it sounds like you've already cleaned out the broken glass and taken out the plastic/rubber molding. You do NOT need to disassemble any part of the door or back window to install the vent window. All you need to do is roll down the back window as far as you can (for my Corolla, I can't get it all the way down, I think this is a factory default; but it's down far enough).

What you have to do to install it is:
1) Put the glass into the plastic/rubber molding.
2) Unscrew and pull aside the divider on the door between the vent window and main window. Make sure no broken glass or debris is left in or around the vicinity.
3) Slide the vent glass assembly (glass and molding) into place
4) Put back the divider and screw it at the top

The divider that separates the vent window from the main door window is only attached at the top with a regular screw. You'll need a phillips screwdriver to remove it. To access this screw, open the door and move aside the foam rubber seal running along the top of the door, right where the divider is located. You can't miss it. If you have a problem with finding this screw, let me know and when I have time I'll take a digital shot of it and send it to you. The divider between the vent glass and the main glass may not be completely removable, so don't force it. You should, however, be able to move the top part of the divider and swing it aside towards the front of the car (after removing the screw, of course), far enough to fit the glass and the rubber frame into place. It will require some work -- like figuring out how to make that last puzzle piece fit, even if it's a little off.

The toughest part of this job will be steps 1 and 3, since everything is so snug and tight, it takes some time to figure out the correct approach (again, like putting together a puzzle). If you can get the vent glass for $20 WITH the plastic molding already attached, then you've already save yourself some time and money. But if you have to put your glass into the molding yourself, then the trick is to start from one point of the glass and ease the lip of the molding over steadily around the perimeter of the glass. The most difficult part of this process is the very end, when you just have to get that little last part of the lip over the glass -- again, this is because it was made for everything to be very snug and fit with no slack. The tool I used to flip the lip over the glass at the very last point is a large flathead screwdriver. I think a spatula may have been a better tool since you run less of a risk of breaking your glass. It's absolutely crucial that the rubber frame/molding goes completely around the glass. And avoid the urge to cut the molding and re-gluing to fit it around the glass -- it won't work that way.

Putting the divider back into place after placing your vent glass into your door may also be difficult because you will need some elbow grease to align the top of the divider with the hole for the screw.

Other than that, this is a fairly simple process -- at par with changing your own oil in terms of level of difficulty. If it was me, I would NOT have the dealership do this, $190 is WAY too much. I hope it all goes well for you. Let me know if you have any problems.

If you don't mind, could I post this email along with yours--without your email address published, of course--as an update to my blog entry? I've always been meaning to add pictures or diagrams regarding the process, but have never had the time. Good luck.


UPDATE Sept. 26, 2003: I got another email from Iakovos today. Very detailed and worth putting up for all the world to see. He did followup on this next email to tell me that I got robbed for buying the glass from a salvage yard. I could have gotten the glass new for around $20 if I had taken the time to go to an authorized Toyota parts dealer. D#*@! I should have been more diligent. I could have saved some $15 on account of shipping and handling fees and all. Oh well, good to know for next time (hopefully never)! If I ever have to do it again, I'll take some digital shots and update this blog entry some more.

-------- Start Email from Iakovos -----------

Hey, John... Mission completed!!!! Total time: 45mins (not too bad eh?). Here are the steps in case you want to post them on the net.

Step one: Remove the rubber frame from the window by just dragging it and clean it from the broken glasses. (5mins)

Step two: Attach the rubber frame on the new glass. Start from the top, that is, put the upper corner of the glass in the rubber groove and leave the lower left (or right) corner last. (10mins + plenty of force since things are quite tight. I did not have to use any tools, but then again if you want to use a a spatula or something like that to increase your force , be careful not to break the glass.)

Step 3: Open the movable window (5secs!!)

Step 4: Drag the door's upper rubber seal (don't be afraid it is not glued) so that the screw that holds the divider (between the vent window and the movable window) is uncovered. Unscrew this screw. (1min). The divider is also mounted on the lower part of the door but it is flexible enough to give you some space to fit the glass. Be careful though because too much force might break it.

Step 5: Try to fit the new glass(with the attached rubber frame) in the door. This is the most time consuming part. Rule number one is to put from the outside. I found that the best thing to do is to first put in the lower part of the glass that is closest to the divider, then slide in the rest of the lower part. Be careful though, the door's lower rubber seal should not get stuck between the glass and the door.Once the lower part of the glass is in the groove fit the part that is closest to the trunk and finally fit the glass with the divider. (30mins). Hints: try to tske advantage of the flexibility of the divider. Plenty of force is required again.

Step 6: Screw back the divider and snap in the door's upper rubber seal. (2mins)

Step 7: Check that everything is in place. that the window can go up and down and that everything is sealed well (throw a bucket of water and check if any water came in)

Step 8: REMOVE VALUABLES FROM YOUR CAR (to avoid repeating the same procedure over and over again!!) AND GO BACK HOME TO WASH YOUR HANDS AND BRAG ABOUT HOW GOOD A MECHANIC YOU ARE :-):-) :-). SPEND THE EXTRA $100 - 150 YOU SAVED ON DINNER AND DRINKS!! (5hours or more!!)

-------- End Email --------

Posted by johnvu at September 24, 2003 01:12 PM

Johnvu and Iokovos,

thank you both of you for this money saving
tip. Toyota quoted 120$ for service and
40$ for the glass. (corolla 2000).
I bought the glass and fixed it myself.
very useful tip especially step 5.



Posted by: Ram on October 17, 2003 09:16 PM

You guys are the best I had the same thing happen to me and the instructions work really well step five is the key......... you also can remove the black trim at the bottom of the window it help alot it snaps back in place with out any problems......... well thanks

Posted by: Mrbigandsexy on October 29, 2003 01:43 PM

Someone is asking my help in installing a door glass in a 56 ford truck/ chopped 3". The truck door is stripped and being renewed. I am wondering if glass needs cutting 3" first or at all. Would the channeling need to be put on the glass first, then together sliding down into the metal door frame. E-mail to

Posted by: Curtis on November 4, 2003 08:45 PM

Thanks guys I was looking for instructions on how to replace and remove the Quarter window for my 4Runner and this helped Alot. I did'nt know about that screw up top, it made all the difference. I removed the door panel before I found this article. These instructions pretty much worked the same for my 91 4Runner. I bought my window at a salage yard for $35.00 (including the weather strip shell....It just kind of pops in) I woner how much just the window would have cost? Anyway, Thanks for the info!!!

Posted by: dwayne on December 20, 2003 01:49 PM

Thanks a hole buch guys with this now i don't have to go all crazy and spend 120$ bucks on fixing my ventwindow

Posted by: Reorigo on May 27, 2004 11:24 AM

Someone broke into my daughters 1986 Ford Escort, they broke the back side window on the drivers side. I called a glass man and he wanted $225.00 to replace the window, the window itself cost me $30.00. Can we put it in ourselves, doesn't sound that hard? Can you give me so tips? Thank you, Jaret

Posted by: Jaret Davis on May 28, 2004 10:49 AM

the driver side front window of my '93 mercury tracer got smashed. can you please tell me where i can buy the glass and where i can find replacement instruction for the unexperienced (and struggling grad student)? thanks a lot. philip

Posted by: philip on June 14, 2004 12:28 AM

Can someone help me please? I can't do step five. I have trouble fitting the glass with the rubber frame between the vent divider and the lower corner(closed to the drunk). I bent the divider and it still doesn't fit. Don't know what to do. Any tip? Or does anybody think it is my car? I have a 94 Benz E320. Thanks!

Posted by: stan on June 18, 2004 10:31 PM

After a panel beater replaced the driver's door in my 85 Corolla, the window had never closed because the window seal catches and causes the window to pop out of place. I'm sick of putting the window back on track and realise I have to replace the window seal. Any hints, I've managed to get a seal from the wreckers (Toyota wanted $117 just for the seal). Any hints please?

Posted by: Stephanie on June 23, 2004 11:23 PM

i have a 94 corolla and i was trying to replace the vent window according to the directions BUT the screw on top of the divider wont budge! my boyfriend even tried an electric tool. so i pushed the window in but the whole top is sticking out. wat am i suppose 2 do? y wont that screw unscrew!!

Posted by: cathy on June 27, 2004 12:41 PM

I broke my fathers 1997 toyota camry rear driver window. I pushed it off track and I cant put it back on track. Can you help me by telling me what I have to do to put it back on track. I have never had to work on a cars window before. Thank you for your time.

Posted by: Simeon on June 30, 2004 10:42 PM

I recently bought 1994 toyota corolla 4dr sedan which has missing driver side back door vent glass. It will be very nice if somebody can tell me from where to get this glass in 30-40 bucks so that I can fix myself.mechanics and garage people are asking for 180-200 bucks for glass and installation.
I live near hartford area CT.

Posted by: Shafi on July 8, 2004 07:27 PM

For those of you who have trouble getting the screw off, try using a penetrating lubricant such as WD-40. Be careful not to strip the screw and if it is, don't reuse it, just replace it.

For those of you wanting to find cheap replacements, first check with your dealer and use that price as a comparison point. Next fire off a request at and wait for the price quotes via email.

Posted by: John on July 28, 2004 10:27 AM

Thanks a Lot Guys....
I got a quote for $200 for my nissan altima Which i thought was quite high. Then i came across this site and i thought i would give it a shot. The glass cost me a bit $90 from the dealer(that was the lowest i could find)
first attempt, i couldnt get it in.
But then later on, took the car and parked in an area with plenty of sunlight, and though over the whole thing and gave it s shot and it slid right in. Took me abt 20 mins i think...
But yes.. a lot of force was needed to slide the glass in.
Just to add one more hint, insert the glass form the bottom towards the divider end and to get the other end in, i had to tilt the glass a little bit towards the top before i could slide it into the groove. Again like mentioend above, make full use of the flexible divider.

But yea.... saved $100 and thanks to All you guys for this GREAT POST.


Posted by: Ajit on August 6, 2004 11:14 AM
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