I couldn’t open the window, it was stuck, jammed and seized shut. The window handle moved, but the window just won’t open?
When you close the window, the gearbox (which is attached to the handle) pushes shootbolts (espag or espagnolette) and roller cams (mushrooms) out to lock the window in the outermost corners. Parts of the gearbox can break, or the shootbolts can seize preventing the window from opening.
The window handle gearbox can break (which is often the case), or the shoot bolt (espag or espagnolette) and roller cams (mushrooms) jam or seize. When the gearbox breaks, it doesn’t allow the shoot bolts and the roller cams to return to the open position, and the window won’t open.
This image shows a lug that has broken off. The gearboxes use cast components which can be brittle.
And this image shows the operating arm broken away from the window gearbox.
Note: The parts below are for illustration only, as they come in different shapes and sizes from various manufacturers… uPVC and PVCu are the same material, just a different pronunciation.
It’s a fairly easy process to open the window. The difficulty is when there is:
It may seem daft, but… Please don’t fall out of an open window, it’s easily done. Be careful, be safe!
Any modifications are at your own risk…
The text and images below, describe how we open a jammed or stuck window…
You will need something fairly thin bent at a right angle. You could use a:
Once you have your tools, it’s trial an error to see which one fits best? Each window may have a different size gap between the window and frame, (and the gap can be different from one end of the window to the other…).
The shootbolts are towards the opening ends of the window, above and below the window handle (side-hinged window), or to the left or right of the handle (top-hinged window) – See the image below.
It can sometimes be a very easy job. It’s difficult when you can’t get the tool in the small gap, or the shootbolt mechanism is stiff or seized.
The repair will usually involve either:
The shoot bolts and their rollers can become seized or corroded, as they are usually manufactured from mild steel with a thin electroplated finish.
Free up, clean and protect from further corrosion. Lubricate, or replace as necessary. Silicone grease is a good lubricant for windows. It less likely to get washed away, won’t damage any rubber seals and is usually a transparent white colour (often used in plumbing applications).
Lugs can break off within the gearbox, or the casting can just fracture. To replace, remove the window handle and loosen the shoot bolts. You can then slide the gearbox out of the window frame (see the images below).
When you replace the gearbox, you can insert the gearbox in the window frame the wrong way round. All this does is change the direction that the window handle operates. Try the handle in the gearbox before you fit it in the window, or just turn the gearbox through 180 degrees.
As a temporary solution, you can often refit the shoot bolt gearbox without the shoot bolts (espag or espagnolette), so your window will still close and lock (by the handle latch only) whilst you wait for parts.
In some instances, the shootbolt can become disconnected from the handle gearbox. Refit, checking that the connection lines up correctly and is secure.
When uPVC windows are manufactured, the shoot bolts are sometimes cut to length to fit the window. In some cases, they can be cut too short and can jump out of the housing. If this is the case, the shoot bolt (espag or espagnolette) may need replacing.
If it helps, practice on an open ground floor window (that has the same fittings), to see how the mechanism works and where all the parts are. It may give you an idea on what’s needed to open the stuck window. You will probably need to operate the window handle at the same time when testing. With the windows that are stuck shut, make sure the handle is in the open position (when trying to open).
As usual, any work is at your own risk… Please be careful, as it’s very easy to fall out of an open window. Be safe!
Thin cardboard can protect the soft window frame plastic from getting damaged. You could hold the cardboard in place with masking tape.
Don’t forget to make sure the handle is in the open position, when trying to open the window that is jammed.
For verticle window’s it’s easy, as the handle normally point downwards. For top hung windows (horizontal), imagine for a moment that you have turned the window sideways, and the window is now side hung (vertical). This gives you a good idea which way round the handle should go.
Have a look at another window (with the same mechanism) to work out if there is a method of opening – Choose a window on the ground floor, as you don’t want to fall out the window!
There may be some holes somewhere in the mechanism (shoot bolts) that you could grab with a pick. Practice, investigate with another open window (on the ground floor) to see if you can to work out a method of opening?
Removing the handle or jiggling it around whilst using a pick may help?
Looking at another window (on the ground floor, so you don’t fall out!), are there any holes where rollers could have been fitted? You could try and make a ‘u’ shaped tool to grab the shoot bolt. If there is absolutely nowhere to grab the shoot bolt and there is no way of hooking it, then the only option may be to grab it from the other side?
As always, this is at your own risk… If you remove the glass (remove the plastic beads around the glass edge – Older windows outside edge, newer windows inside edge). The frame will flex slightly more. Be careful though as things can break (the plastic welds holding the window together can be brittle and the hinges can break). You might be very lucky if the window flexes a bit, and the shoot bolt is only just latching?
Warning – I have never done this, (and it is the last resort). The whole window is usually held in place by drilling through the plastic frame and fixing using long screws. On the same basis, if the shoot bolt needs a small hole drilled in it, you could drill through the frame from where the glass was fitted. Choose the best position to drill through carefully by comparing the shoot bolt position on another window (on the ground floor).
If the shoot bolt still cannot be moved using a pick, make the start of the hole (in the plastic) bigger. The aim is to make a funnel type hole so that the shoot bolt can be levered up using the hole drilled in it. Failing that, make an inspection hole through the plastic frame to get to the shoot bolt from the other side. You may need to jiggle the handle to get the shoot bolt to move. The hole(s) you drill will need to be hidden when the glass and shootbolt are replaced.
If it’s the gearbox that’s broken and it’s not operating the shootbolts properly (moving them in both directions), you can remove the shootbolts (top and bottom, or left and right) and just leave the window lock (next to the handle) in place. The window should still open and close. Check that the window lock operates freely when you have removed the shootbolts.
Note: Your house insurance may stipulate the type of locking mechanism that should be fitted to a window. So you may need to replace the broken parts.
The gearbox fitted inside the window (the handle shaft passes through it) has probably broken. To shut the window, you will need to remove the shootbolt(s), as one, or both have probably not retracted.
The shootbolts are normally held in place by screws, but are sometimes pop riveted. If you manage to move the shootbolts (without removing) and shut the window, it probably won’t open again by the handle (because of the broken gearbox). You will then have to use an allen key (or something similar) to open the window.
Sometimes you have to use a screwdriver to increase the gap to get the tool in, and use a pair of pliers to grip the allen key. Use some cardboard or something similar between the window and your tools to try and protect the window from scratches.
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