Why are windows wired so they only operate when the ignition is on?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1989

Dear Tom and Ray:

Why in the world do car makers connect power window circuits so that the ignition switch must be turned on in order to operate the windows? It's a pain! You get out of the car and realize you left a window open. Then you have to turn the ignition back on so you can close the window. Why don't they wire the windows so they can work anytime?

RAY: The reason most power windows won't work with the ignition off is so that little Johnny can't guillotine the family cat by putting up the window while mom and dad are in the video store. I suppose they're also concerned that once the cat is done for, Johnny might go after his little sister.

TOM: It's a safety feature, Fred, and like many safety features, it serves an important purpose while creating a mild pain in the neck. Here's another example. All cars with automatic transmissions have "neutral safety switches." These prevent you from starting the car in "drive" and making kindling out of the garage door. It's inconvenient when your car stalls in traffic and you have to shift before restarting it, but think of all the innocent garage doors it's saved?

RAY: That's nothing. My car won't start unless the clutch is depressed. Every time it's in a good mood, I'm late for work.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One