How to Repair Sliding Windows

Whether your window's latch won't catch or it slides awkwardly, we'll help you troubleshoot (and fix!) common sliding window problems.

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Most sliding (also called gliding) windows have one or more sashes that slide along metal tracks at the bottom and top of the frame. Sometimes the tracks are wood or vinyl, while sashes may have nylon rollers on the bottom and top.

When a sliding window gets stuck, the most common problem is a dirty bottom track. The solution is to clean and lubricate the track. The rollers on the bottom of the sash can pick up dust and may need to be cleaned as well.

A catch, which secures the window when closed, can also fail. You may be able to bend a small part to make it work, but often the solution is to replace the catch. Finding replacement parts can be difficult, so if you can find the make and model of the unit, you may be able to contact the manufacturer or an online parts supply source to obtain the parts you need.

Most sliding window repairs won't take very long—one or two hours, tops. The exact tools you'll need vary by the project, but it's a good idea to have basic home repair items—like a screwdriver, pliers, and hammer—on hand.

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How to Fix a Rough-Gliding Slider

Step 1: Remove Sliding Sash

To remove a sliding sash, remove any security devices that may be holding it in place. Lift the sash into the top track, tilt the bottom out, and remove the window. With some models you need to align the rollers with notches in the bottom track before the sash will tilt out.

Step 2: Clean the Track

Vacuum the track, then clean with a solvent-dampened rag. Continue to clean until all the debris is removed.

Step 3: Remove Bottom Roller

If the bottom roller (or glide) does not roll, try cleaning it. If it still does not operate, remove it. On a wood sash you can unscrew the roller unit and remove it. For some metal units you may have to first disassemble the bottom rail. Knock the pieces apart using a hammer and a block of wood.

Step 4: Add a New Roller Unit

Slip a new roller unit in and tighten the mounting screws. If you had to dismantle the window, reinstall the bottom rail.

Step 5: Replace the Window

When replacing the window it often helps to ease the rollers over the lip of the track with a putty knife.

How to Fix a Bent Track

To straighten a bent track, place a piece of hardwood against it and tap with a hammer. If that doesn't work you can try using pliers, but work carefully so you don't create a series of small kinks.

How to Fix a Broken Latch

If a latch doesn't grab, first check for an obstruction in the tracks that may keep the sash from closing fully. Inspect the weatherstripping, which can wad up and make closing difficult. You may be able to adjust the latch by loosening a screw, moving the latch, and retightening the screw. If it still doesn't work, replace it.

How to Fix a Rattling Window

For quick repair to seal the unit for the winter, push tubular insulation into the channels. If you can find replacement insulation for your type of window, remove the old one and clean the surface with a solvent-soaked rag. Use a slightly thicker insulation if needed to create a good seal. Replace the cover, reinstall the sliding sash, and test.

How to Burglar-Proof a Window

A security bar firmly secures a sliding window so it can't be opened from the outside. Some models swing down to secure the sash (above) and can be adjusted to allow a slight opening for ventilation. Quick-open security clips (above) allow you to open a sliding window with relative ease.

More Home-Safety Tips

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