Q: What are Power Windows?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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When looking to purchase a new or used car, most auto buyers look just as hard at the features that the car comes with as they do the make and model of the vehicle. Among these features are power windows, which are windows that can be opened or closed at the press of a button for added convenience.

Power windows are by no means new. Though common in today's automobile models, they began strictly as a luxury car option in the 1940s. The first power windows, which used a hydro-electric mechanism, were introduced in the 1940 Packard 180 series automobiles. Seeing the popularity of these windows, Ford followed suit, installing power windows on the Lincoln Custom limousines and sedans. Cadillac got into the power-windows game early on as well, including power windows in its 75 series limousines as dividers between the passenger and driver compartments.

The earliest power windows were the result of technology developed for convertible automobiles prior to WWII. The first power assist cars used hydro-electric systems to raise and lower car tops. When it was seen how effectively this worked, automakers extended powered systems to include front seat and window adjustments.

Usually, power windows require that the ignition be turned on in order to work. The automobile battery provides the power needed by the system for operation. Because many drivers often forget to raise the windows after turning off the vehicle, many powered systems today have what is known as retained accessory power. Retained accessory power keeps just enough electricity in the system after the engine is disengaged to allow for operation of the powered accessories for about ten minutes.

Newer car models include a variety of safety features for their power windows to avoid people from being trapped by the closing glass. Because the window switch is often found on the hand rest beneath the window where it can be pressed by children leaning out of the window, many vehicles include a lockout function that prevents those in the rear passenger seats from operating the windows. Some systems also have an auto reversing function that reverses the closing mechanism of the window in case of an obstruction in the opening.

When you take a car out for a test drive, look for the various features that the power windows for the car has. When testing the windows, make sure that you check for express window operation, a one-touch alternative for raising and lowering the windows fully. Instead of holding the window button until the window is fully opened or closed, you only need to press the button once and then let it go to complete the window action.

Power windows are a convenient addition to any automobile. They're easier to use than traditional crank windows and many systems offer driver control over rear windows for safety reasons. One of the greatest advantages, though, is that the easy operation of power windows is less of a distraction than a crank, so windows can be opened or closed without endangering the driver or occupants in the process.

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