Introduction: Remote Controlled Window Lifter by Steve M. Potter "WindowMoto"

Do you have a window that you would like to easily open and close, but can't easily reach it? Here is a very simple and effective device for motorizing your window using a cordless drill as the motor and controller. This is a nice literal example of a hack, since you will actually saw the drill in half! This mechanism could easily be adapted to move all sorts of heavy things things up and down or back and forth, not just windows. You or a mobility-impaired person you know may just need a little help moving a heavy window, garage door, freezer lid, etc. Geared drill motors to the rescue! Use your imagination, motorize it, and post the results here in the comments or your own Instructable!

As you can see in the video (, the window of my wife's crafting room is blocked by her desk, so I built this "WindowMoto" for her to easily get some fresh air and hear the birds, or shut out the elements and leaf blower noise as she fancies. The clutch in the drill also locks the window shut when closed, so the window latches don't need to be used.

This Instructable is the result of a long invent-build-fail-learn cycle that I will mention at the end for those like me, who like to learn from their failures. A much more complex Arduino-controlled leadscrew device I made was pretty much a complete failure. Then I came up with a much simpler scheme (the WindowMoto) that worked the first time and every time ever since it was installed.

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed to Build the WindoMoto


  1. Cordless drill. Pretty much any cheap modern one will do.
  2. Pulley
  3. Spring
  4. Strong nylon cord
  5. (3) fencepost brackets
  6. Small metal bracket
  7. Sturdy hinge
  8. Sugru rubber glue
  9. Hot glue
  10. E6000 glue
  11. Wood screws
  12. Piece of cardboard or thin plastic
  13. 12" x 1/4" steel or aluminum rod
  14. Roller skate or skateboard wheel
  15. Heavy (10 or 12 gauge) two-conductor stranded wire, long enough to reach from where you like to sit to where the window is.
  16. Electrical tape or heat-shrink tubing


  1. Dremel or Foredom rotary tool and a carbide cutting bit
  2. Drill (a second one, or plan your building process carefully ;)
  3. Screwdriver
  4. Scissors
  5. Labeler
  6. Battery charger for your WindowMoto
  7. Soldering iron or gun and solder
  8. File and sandpaper
  9. Hot glue gun
  10. Wire cutters and stripper

Step 2: Get a Cordless Drill

I used the Chicago Electric 18V cordless drill with NiCad battery from Harbor Freight, which was nearly as cheap as this other one they are now selling. Mine has the advantage of a "Turbo" speed setting (see video, not really necessary. The key to success here is revealed when you look inside the drill: both the speed control trigger and reversing switch are electronic, not mechanical. That allows you to separate them by many feet, so the motor can do its job over at the window, while the controller with its battery sits comfortably in your hand at the other end of a wire. Yes, you could get sophisticated with IR remotes, Bluetooth or other wireless schemes, but the wired approach works well and is very easy to build.

Step 3: Cut the Drill in Two With Your Dremel

Picture of Cut the Drill in Two With Your Dremel

Disassemble the drill, careful not to lose any screws. Remove the motor and gearbox from its housing. Take photos to remember how to re-assemble if needed. Remove the speed control trigger and reversing mechanism, and plan where you will cut the handle away from the motor carefully, so that the reversing mechanism will still be functional in the handle. Now with just the outer plastic shell of the drill in hand, one half at a time, use a Dremel with a bit that allows sideways cutting motion (I had the best effect with the one on the right) to carefully cut/saw the handle off the motor housing. Wear goggles as plastic bits will be flying everywhere, and leather gloves may be a good idea too, to protect your hands from the sharp bit if it slips. Use a pretty slow speed when cutting through plastic; the idea is to chip away at it, not melt it. Also, melted plastic tends to gunk up the bit, and may even catch on fire.

Step 4: Connect Motor and Controller With a Long Heavy Wire

Picture of Connect Motor and Controller With a Long Heavy Wire

After you have cut the handle from the motor body, and removed any sharp flash with sandpaper or a file, cut the 2 wires leading to the motor and solder your 10-gauge 2-conductor stranded wire to those wires. It helps to use a soldering gun here, since many electronics soldering irons don't have enough heat to solder to fat wire well. You will be pushing a lot of amps through this wire at low voltage, so a thicker wire with a good solder joint means a faster motor, with less voltage drop across the wire, and less chance of melting insulation and starting fires. Insulate the solder joints with heat shrink or electrical tape.

Solder the handle's cut wires to the other end of your fat cable, and insulate. You might also want to install some sort of strain relief to hold the cable to the cut top of the handle, in case the cord gets yanked. This could be a large blob of hot glue or Sugru rubber glue.

Cover the ragged cut edge of the handle with a piece of cardboard or flexible thin plastic (like a milk jug) and glue that on with hot glue.

Step 5: Mount the Motor on the Window Sill

Picture of Mount the Motor on the Window Sill

Make a rubber base for the motor with Sugru or silicone rubber by
squashing it down onto glue blobs on wax paper or other non-adhesive surface on a flat table. Be sure not to get any glue stuck in the motor or gearbox, or the moving parts like the chuck and clutch setting. When the glue has set, remove the wax paper and bolt the motor down to the window sill using wood screws and fencepost brackets. I included more Sugru between the motor and brackets to hold it tightly under a heavy torque load.

Step 6: Install a Bearing

Picture of Install a Bearing

Mine your garage for those old skate wheels you don't need any more. It's a fine ball bearing with a rubber standoff that is about the same size as the drill chuck diameter. Install a foot-long 1/4" diameter steel or aluminum alloy rod into the drill's chuck and the skate bearing, and bolt the skate wheel to the window sill as you did for the motor, using Sugru to hold it firmly in the bracket. The rod should be level. Do not use tubing. It will buckle. Use solid rod.

Step 7: Install the Pulley System

Picture of Install the Pulley System

With very long wood screws (ideally, with anchors), mount a pulley on a strong spring to the top of the window frame. I used a hinge to do that, but a wide variety of hardware would suffice for this purpose. Choose hardware that is able to tolerate not only the weight of the window, but also to overcome its inertia and static friction when rapidly opened and closed.

Attach a metal bracket to the window that is to be lifted. If the bracket has sharp edges, file them smooth. Since our window frame was vinyl and hollow, I actually glued the screws in with E6000 glue. Be careful not to damage the glass or window seal hidden inside the frame. Mount it as close to the top edge as possible.

Wrap a strong nylon cord (e.g., high-quality paracord) around the bracket a couple times before cinching it down tightly. Loop this cord over the pulley, and back down around the metal rod. Loop it several times around the rod to get a good grip on the rod. Now tie it into a loop, under quite a bit of tension, enough to stretch the spring a bit, and flex the rod a bit. To do this more easily, I first created a slipknot loop in End #1 of the cord. Then I put End #2 through the slipknot's loop, tightened the loop, and used the slipknot as a pulley to add the right amount of tension. Then I tied a few knots in End #2 so it could not slip back through the slipknot. Sailors and boy scouts will have better ways to do this, I am sure. But it works!

Step 8: Finishing Touches and Security

Picture of Finishing Touches and Security

Charge your drill's battery, plug it into the controller handle, and let it rip!

Add a label to the remote controller to indicate which way the reversing switch works to move the window up and down.

Adjust the drill's clutch so that it slips when the window reaches full-closed or full-open. That will reduce wear and tear on the cord and reduce the chance of something getting destroyed by the awesome power at your fingertips.

My drill has a locking mechanism when it's not energized, which keeps the window securely shut from potential intruders. So I don't need to use my fancy window latch extenders you may have noticed in the video, which can be locked and unlocked using a long grabber. HOWEVER, if you only actuated one pane of a double-hung window, you need to screw the other pane shut or intruders might sneak in. Again, choose screw locations carefully so as not to hurt the glass or seals in the window, or the counterweight mechanisms in the window frame.

Step 9: Lessons Learned

Picture of Lessons Learned

As you can see from my simple drawing, I had planned to include some sort of limit switches for safety. This turned out to be completely unnecessary thanks to the drill's clutch, which works like a charm.

Before I came up with this simple design, I had a lot of fun inventing a much more complicated WindowMoto. Until it failed dramatically.

I created a cheap leadscrew with a long stainless steel 3/8" all-thread rod extending the height of the window, and a brass coupler moving along it, mounted to the window. The rod was rotated by a large Ford car window motor that I had hidden inside the wall below the window sill. You might see the patched hole it used to poke through, as well as two big bolts at the top of the window (by the hinge) that held the upper skate wheel bearing. I controlled it using a Pololu motor control shield on an Arduino microprocessor. It sort of worked for about two or three goes. One problem was resonance in the leadscrew that created huge vibrations and noise at certain points. The pitch of the threads was too fine, so it took a long time to travel at a non-vibrating speed. The motor could be sped up very fast with the controller, but this vibration lead to wear on the brass coupler's threads and the thing suddenly jammed up. Permanently seized. Even though I had greased it up well beforehand. Fail and learn!

Moral: sometimes, simpler is better.

Let me know if you implement my drill-based WindowMoto, or your own improved version, in the comments!


avocadostains (author)2015-02-05

OMG, this is Amazing! Thank you. This could make a greenhouse into something that would grow plants instead of cook them. Also, you build big a giant solar oven as a house and use the excess heat to heat water or oil that could provide warmth through the night. The fact that the drill separates like that into a simple motor with a shaft basically in a tube, not an akward drill shape, the drill could be put in jigs/modified to function as a saw, sander, so many other tools, (OK This HFT drill might not be the best super powerful candidate for such modification, lifts the begeesus out of a window though.) Love it.Great Job!

Yes, lots of good ideas there. See Russ Hensel's list of other things folks did on Instructables with their drill motors:

Nice. Cool collection. thanks.

stevempotter (author)2015-02-10

Good idea, Michael. I think you could even loosen the screws of the window anchor bracket to adjust the tension and then tighten them up again, perhaps with no knots at all, just wrapping around the bracket a few times.

MichaelAtOz (author)2015-02-06

I'd knot the ends at the window bracket. No knot hanging in the view.

stevempotter (author)2015-02-05

Thanks so much for all your nice comments and excellent suggestions!

BeachsideHank (author)2015-02-04

This 'Ible is a perfect example of my own personal creed:

About:There's always a better way of doing things, to realize it merely simplify, improvise, adapt, and achieve.

Well done, looking forward to more.

dsandds2003 (author)2015-03-03

This idea could work for a blind on my skylight...Thanks

You did a great job with the window..

EricHi (author)2015-02-23

I especially like your use of everyday items in constructing your window opener. Good use and adaptation of a HF drill. Thanks for posting.

marlietta (author)2015-02-05

This is cool! I am rying to lift a camper top. it is a hard top. I am wondering how something like this could be used to lift my camper hard top. it is 34 feet long

stevempotter (author)marlietta2015-02-10

A drill motor has a lot of torque, with its gearing (especially if it has two speed settings and is set to #1). You can also exchange lifting time for force by using pulleys of different sizes, or use block-and-tackles with several pulleys in them, what sailors used for centuries to hoist huge sails by hand. Then you can lift anything! Counter-weights or springs (as most windows have hidden in the frame) can also be used to reduce the load on the motor.

marlietta (author)stevempotter2015-02-10

thxs for your imput and time to post it. cheers!

мминков (author)2015-02-10

Awesome idea! I've got same problem with my exterior rolling shutters, i've searching for suitable motor for year and lowest price was around $30. In 2nd hand tools shop, near my work i saw cordless drill without any battery for 2$ / pcs.Yeah, may be few of them will need some repair. But anyway is 2$. Now i just need power supply. Thank you for idea! This instructable save me a lot of money!

phidgetsinc (author)2015-02-09

Wow! What a creative way to automate a window. I've heard that most people who buy a drill only use them for a total of less than 5 minutes or something (couldn't find a citation, sorry). This would definitely improve that stat!!! Thanks for the Instructable.

ir jammer device (author)2015-02-08

Hello can you this build for me this is a ir jammer device for the bill acceptor send information to the bill acceptor send me or writing me to email

JanetB1 (author)2015-02-06

Wow, cool! I wish I'd had this at my old house, I could have used it on several windows! :) Great idea! :)

denbecr (author)2015-02-06

I knew a guy many years ago who did something similar with a rechargeable screwdriver. He separated the forward/reverse switch from the rest with wire to control it remotely and attached the drill to the screw for adjusting the air/fuel mixture on the carburetor of his ultralight airplane. As he gained altitude the engine needed a leaner mixture to run properly.

LongJohnHolmes (author)2015-02-05

The cutting the drill is super idea. Thanks.

Ali Suhail (author)2015-02-05

Thanks for the video. Excellent idea !

russ_hensel (author)2015-02-05

Just a note to let you know I have added this to the collection: Cordless Drills Hacking for Other Uses !


Take a look at a bunch of different/similar approaches to this project.

stevempotter (author)russ_hensel2015-02-05

Thanks, Russ. I am honored to be included in your excellent collection of drill motor Instructables!

tjk1939 (author)2015-02-05

Good job, the kind of project I like. Thanks for the idea, which I can see useful in other ways.

jsadler1 (author)2015-02-05

Good thinking on this one! It does point to many other possibilities.

rhkramer (author)2015-02-05


Just a thought--if I were
doing this I'd do something so that the force on the window pane frame
was always toward the glass rather than away.

(In your design,
with the fastening at the top of the pane, when you close the window it
pulls into the glass, but when you raise the window, the force tends to
pull the frame away from the glass.)

I'm concerned about the
strength of the frame around the window pane, and the possibility of it
eventually pulling free from the glass--I have that problem with storm
windows and can imagine the same thing happening with the main window.

I see two possible solutions (I'm sure there are more):

Attach the paracord at both the top and bottom of the window and let it
overlap--the anchor at the bottom of the window pane should hold the
end that pulls the window up, the anchor at the top of the window pane
should be the end that pulls the window down.

2. Add an
un-obtrusive rigid brace between the top and bottom of the window, so
that forces on either end of the window are shared between the top and

stevempotter (author)rhkramer2015-02-05

Thanks, rhkramer for your ideas about reducing stress! For my windows, I saw no signs of strain during the fastest turbo acceleration, but I agree that a vinyl frame with a big span might be damaged. Both of your ideas would work, and so might putting the anchors along the sides rather than top or bottom. I originally thought I might do that so as not to have any obstructions in the view, but would need a couple more pulleys and mounts.

rhkramer (author)stevempotter2015-02-05

You're welcome! And anchors on the side would be nice, too.

dollarseed (author)2015-02-05

I love the concept. I have been playing around a lot with stepper motors and such, building a CNC machine, and think some of those parts could be used as well. I see you mentioned using a brass bushing with all thread. I would recommend welding a nut to a bracket instead, since the metals would be similar in strength for the lead screw design. LinuxCNC also comes with a built in PLC Controller, that could be newfangled, to add moisture sensors, so the window would close automatically during intermittent storms, etc.

godfish (author)2015-02-04

I love it, but my wife saw it and said "Only a man would think that's cool" LOL. She likes the idea just not the look. But you can't argue with results.

stevempotter (author)godfish2015-02-05

Yes, my wife was amazingly tolerant of the kludgy look, and just thankful for the fresh air. As I mentioned in the "Finishing Touches" captions one could hide most of it below the window sill and behind a curtain rod cover.

LexiM (author)2015-02-05

I just got an idea.

stevempotter (author)LexiM2015-02-05

Please share it with us!

tyscof (author)LexiM2015-02-05

That's what matters

woodNfish (author)2015-02-05

The clutch on your drill does not secure the window. You still need to be able to lock it shut or it can be opened from the outside.

stevempotter (author)woodNfish2015-02-05

It does lock. It is quite impossible to open the window without breaking something. Of course, any window can be forced open with a pry bar, or the glass can be broken. This WindowMoto is much more secure than the original latches the window was installed with. Those latches are still operable too, as I mentioned in the write-up, using a long grabber, for those who want that extra security.

longp2000 (author)2015-02-05


longp2000 (author)2015-02-05


misterwalrus (author)2015-02-05

I liked your project and enjoyed your exciting presentation. You sound so happy to have it working. Kudos on your project!

mponce de leon1 (author)2015-02-05

The only mistery that's remains on this technique is: how he drilled and fixed the drill without the drill?!?! =)

Amazing job!

yurikleb (author)2015-02-05

overengineering at its best :)

deluges (author)2015-02-05

Hey great project! You could hook it to a discrete IR transmitter/receiver, add a remote safety lock and use it as a way to avoid getting stuck outside if you loose your keys :)

diy-master (author)2015-02-05

Hahaha :))

Yardster (author)2015-02-05

This would be great for those shades in the 3 story atriums of trophy homes.

About This Instructable




Bio: AI consultant and semi-retired brain scientist and former professor at Georgia Tech.
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