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Power Windows In Cars and the Interesting History Behind Them

There are gadgets and inventions those make our daily lives in cars a bit easier and effortless. Also, our lives revolve around these things. Listing all those gadgets will take almost all day, so let’s focus on power windows.

Power Windows is one of those gadgets that have done a great deed but never received its credit. These can either make or destroy your day, as these are way better than the hand-cranking window levers.

Ever wondered when were the power windows invented? How were they invented? and most important of all how it works? So, let’s rewind a bit and figure out when these power windows were invented.

1940 | Power Windows Came into Being

1941 Packard 180
1941 Packard 180

The power windows started like any other add-on in a car. That is as a luxury feature in a car for wealthy.

  • The first car to ever come equipped with the power windows was the Packard 180.
  • Because of some reason, the name of the inventor who invented power windows went underground and is yet to be uncovered.
  • The first power windows to come into cars was the hydroelectric system. This was based on the technology that was developed before World War 2.
  • For you to know, the hydroelectric system was used in the raise and lower the vehicle tops in the military vehicles.

Power Windows in Private vehicles

Hydroelectric Power Window System
Hydroelectric Power Window System | Image Source (1)

This is where the hydroelectric system found many implementations.

  • In the late 1940s, General Motors came up with another use of the technology and started using them to control the roof top in private vehicles along with power windows.
  • Ford followed the pattern and integrated hydroelectric system in their convertible cars.
  • In the 70s, Cadillac introduced the power windows in their limousines as a drop-down window between the driver and the rear passenger compartment.
  • Then, in the late 80s, almost all the cars came equipped with power windows in the international market.
  • Well, the Indian automotive industry was still far from the introduction of power windows.

Development in Power Windows | Through the Years

It is obvious, that innovation will become refined with use and development. So, here is a list of developments in the power windows.

Power Window Switches
Power Window Switches | Image Source (1)
  • Through the years back then, there were some design changes keeping child safety at the top-most priority.
    • Earlier cars came with toggle switches. These were too easy to fidget and operate even for children. Making it dangerous for them.
    • With the consent of the NHTSA (Transport Department in the USA), the cars later came with a lever switch making it a bit difficult for children to operate.
  • The power windows working mechanism changed from heavy hydroelectric systems to a system driven by an electric motor. Making it cheaper and lighter to integrate into the car.
Power Window Mechanism
Power Window Mechanism | Image Source (1)

Current Gen Innovations

  • One-Touch Down:

    Current vehicles come with a feature called the one touch-down. This is where with a press of a button the window rolls down completely. This is a boon on the toll gates, parking lots and drive-through. The power window button comes with 2 actuation points. The first one to precisely rolling the window down and the other to completely roll-down the window.

  • One-Touch Up:

    This works similar to that one-touch down system but has a slight change. Completely rolling the window up has a hazard of choking the hands of a human or paws of a dog or a cat. So, this comes with a system known as anti-pinch. This is where a sensor is responsible for the length of the window rolling up. If the window stops before closing completely, it will signal to immediately retract the window.

  • Courtesy Power-On:

    Many modern cars also come with this feature making the life of the driver a bit less complicated. This function switches on when the driver turns off the car. The power windows are active for a while to close the window if the driver forgot to do go.

  • Hold-Up / Down Window:

    Here in India, all the cars from Volkswagen and Skoda come with the feature. This is where all the windows either can be completely rolled up or down with a touch of a button on the key. Hold Up / Down feature comes handy, to cold the car down fast. Hold the unlock button to roll the windows down and lock button to roll them back up.

Volkswagen Car Keys
Volkswagen Car Keys | Image Source (1)

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Power Windows | Advantages and Disadvantages

With the history and latest development clear, here are the pros and cons of this innovative technology. After all, every invention is good and bad in some way or the other.


Starting with the pros,

  • Power windows allow the driver to easily control the windows with a touch of a button, even while driving.
  • A person having a problem such as a hand injury or is physically challenged can also operate the windows.
  • The driver can control all the windows with the master controller on his/her door.


Almost everything has a dark side,

  • Over time it is one of the most prominent parts that get worn.
  • Sometimes the window is derailed that can cause a power window failure.

So, this was a short journey of how and when the power windows were invented. Let us know in the comment section, which car part you wanna know about.

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Utkarsh Bhardwaj
Utkarsh Bhardwaj
Technical Content Strategist at GoMechanic | Big Time Petrolhead with the passion for building cars and driving those beauties.



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