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.
Typical Window Gearbox Faults:
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…
What Tools do I Need?
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…).
Where do I Insert the Tool?
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:
Closing the Window:
When you manage to get the window open, Don’t try and close the window straight away. The mechanism will still probably be faulty…
Freeing up or Replacing the Shootbolts and Roller Cams.
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 the parts, clean and protect from further corrosion. Lubricate, or replace as necessary.
Replacing the Window Locking Mechanism Gearbox:
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.
Checking the Connection Between the Locking Mechanism Gearbox and the Shoot bolts:
In some instances, the shootbolt can become disconnected from the handle gearbox. Refit, checking that the connection lines up correctly and is secure.
The main thing when ordering parts, is to compare the new part with the original. New parts may get modified as they improve and evolve (you would hope), but some key things should stay the same. For instance, the size and position of fixing holes (the part has to fit in the original position and the fixing holes need to be the same).
So, measure the size of your old parts, the position of fixing holes and the type of connections (how the other window parts may attach to the replacement part).
When ordering gearboxes, you will often see quoted “A 9.5mm, or 11.5mm latch and 20mm, or 22mm backset is available”. The image below gives an example of a 11.5mm latch with a 22mm backset. Therefore take care when measuring these particular sizes.
Ordering Parts – Examples of What You Can Buy:
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 vertical windows’ 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?
5.1 – 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?
5.2 – If you remove the glass:
With the glass removed, the frame should flex a bit 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 lucky if the window frame flexes a bit, and the shoot bolt is only just latching?
5.3 – Warning – I have never done this, (and it is the last resort). The whole window frame is usually held in place by drilling through the plastic frame and fixing into the wall using long screws. On the same basis, if the shoot bolt needs a small hole drilled in it, you could remove the glass and drill through the frame (in the area normally hidden when from the glass is 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 hole you’ve just drilled in the plastic frame bigger (slotted). The aim is to make a hole so that the shoot bolt can be levered up. Any hole(s) you drill will need to be hidden by the glass and shootbolts (when replaced).
If it’s the gearbox that’s broken and it’s not operating the shootbolts properly (the shootbolts are moving in both directions):
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).
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.
I’ve never tried to open a door, but if it has the same type of mechanism as the window in this article, then there’s is no reason why it won’t work. The shoot bolts on a door normally operate when you lift the handle (rather than pushing down the handle to open the door). So when you try and move the shootbolts with a tool, make sure the handle is lifted. You will then have to hold the shootbolt in the open position whilst you use the handle to open the door (doors and windows have two shootbolts. Hence needing to hold the shootbolt open whilst you move the other with the handle). Note – Just one, or both shootbolt mechanisms could be broken?
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