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How to Fix a Double-Hung Window

Repair a broken double-hung window by repairing the jamb liner. This is a DIY repair that you can do once you have the right parts and these complete, step-by-step instructions with photos to guide you through the entire process.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Fixing a broken window counterbalance on a double-hung window

Imagine this: You’re taking one of your wood double-hung window sashes out of its frame when suddenly and violently, the spring-loaded balance releases and snaps up into the vinyl jamb liner. The first time this happens, you stand there in shock. Then you notice broken plastic parts on the floor and that there’s no longer any tensioning force to hold the sash open after you put the sash back into the window jamb liner (or track). You must decide if you’d prefer to let a pro handle this repair. If so, search online or look in the Yellow Pages under “Windows, Repairs.” Search for outfits specializing in a range of window repair work, and avoid the listed hardware stores that may only replace broken glass. If you fix this yourself, choose one of the following three repair options (depending on the damage you identify and/or your skill level):

  1. Replace the whole vinyl jamb liner unit (Photos 1 – 4)—including both balance cartridges. This is the simplest but most costly approach. If you’re a beginning do-it- yourselfer, go this route.
  2. Replace only the balance cartridge that was broken (Photos 1 – 5 and 7). This inexpensive repair is for intermediate skill workers.
  3. Take apart the crippled balance cartridge, replace the broken locking terminal and (sometimes) restring the pulley mechanism (Photos 1 – 7 and Fig. A). Tackle this only if you’re a highly experienced do-it-yourselfer.

First, get the repair parts. (Note: The parts and the repair techniques are different for wood windows and all-vinyl windows.) Double-hung wood window hardware may vary by brand. To make sure you get the right parts, first refer to any product literature you may have. Then order repair parts from the manufacturer through the dealer where you bought your window. If the original part sources are unknown, you can buy generic parts over the Internet. If you’re going to buy either the entire vinyl track unit or just the damaged balance cartridge, copy the number stamped on the cartridge’s face (inset, Fig. B). This number is the glass size code for your window; a parts retailer can’t fill your order without it.

Whichever repair option you choose, if it’s a wood double-hung window, you must first remove the vinyl jamb liner unit from the window frame.


  • Our window was a factory-made unit, not an older window retrofitted with vinyl tracks.
  • Each type of window has a different method for jamb liner installation.
  • Our jamb liner came out of the left hand side of the window opening. For right-hand side jamb liners, reverse any instructions calling for turning a screwdriver clockwise or counterclockwise.

Carry out the steps relevant to your repair in Photos 1 – 7.

When the repair is complete, reinstall the vinyl track in the window frame. Reset the tension on the sash balance by reversing the earlier steps. Release the locking terminal’s pawl, lower the terminal down to a point about 10 in. from the windowsill and twist your screwdriver counterclockwise to lock the terminal in the vinyl jamb. Carefully install your window sash by positioning one cam, then the other, onto the top of each locking terminal. Next, level the tipped sash, then raise the sash top and snap it back into the vinyl jamb liners.

Finally, lower the installed sash, and the braking pawls on each side of the sash will be released. Now that the window sash is under spring tension, return it to a fully closed position.

Window balance parts

Window balance parts

Figure A: Anatomy of a Window Balance

Our window uses a “block-and-tackle” balance. Each window has four balances, two per jamb liner. If the locking terminal is broken, the cord in one block-and tackle mechanism may have snarled. To restring the pulley system, use a pliers to grab the top of the tensioning spring and detach it from the holding pin. Once the pulleys are restrung, run some cord out the bottom of the balance, clamp it with a locking pliers and reconnect the pulley block to the spring. Insert the holding pin and install a new locking terminal (Photo 6).

Glass code number location

Glass code number location

Figure B: Glass Size Code

Record the glass size code stamped on the balance cartridge. If you replace the whole cartridge, you’ll need this code to order parts. Note the position of both the locking terminal and the braking pawl before the unit is installed in the jamb liner (Photo 7).

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Putty knife

Comments from DIY Community Members

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March 01, 9:59 PM [GMT -5]

I have double hung windows in order to close and latch them I have to pull the bottom window forward and push the top one up and hold it to close the latch. I say there is something not put together right it is a pain. They should just slide and latch right?

March 01, 5:13 PM [GMT -5]

I'm not replacing the windows or jams . I sanded the side of the windows and the the jam tracks but I need to know how to reattach the cable to the winows. Do I install one window first over the other.

March 01, 5:02 PM [GMT -5]

I have double hung with wood jams.

September 29, 1:58 PM [GMT -5]

I have older Double hung windows and my daughter broke one, I used this article to get the broken window ouit, now I need replacement Vinyle Window Tracks or Sliders what ever they are called. Do you have a place on the Internet I can go to to order some???

I've been looking but haven't found any place.

Thanks for any help

Rich Zorovich


September 25, 8:45 PM [GMT -5]

How do I print all the pictures in this article on How To fix a Doublehung window? I need to refer to them as I do the work.

September 25, 8:44 PM [GMT -5]

How do I print all the pictures in this article about fixing a doublehung window? I need to refer to them as I do the work.

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