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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm remodeling a house and have several windows that won't stay open. I've never been able to figure out how this particular type of window stays open. On both sides are aluminum spiral-looking "rods" (for lack of a better word) that look like they're supposed to be fastened somehow to the inside of the aluminum "tubes", also on each side of the window.

It's evidently called a "spiral balance" system. I see how it works, but cannot figure out what and how everything attaches to make the system work?
 

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You are totally right about them being called 'spiral balances' and they are notorious for failing. When I was doing replacement windows here in Florida, one of the main reasons customers were replacing windows was for that very problem. I was not in the business of repairing windows, so I do not know if there is a good or inexpensive fix. I do know that many of Window World's customers bought from us due to the fact that they could get a window replaced for little more than having a window repaired and get a lifetime warranty. But look around, call around. See what you can find in your area. If nothing but the balance is bad, there might be a good way to have it fixed. If the window itself is not all that good, consider having it(or all of them) replaced with a better quality window. You can save money on heating and cooling, plus add value to your home. There are many great windows/window companies out there. Just do a little research and get some quotes. Just make sure you are comparing apples to apples, oranges to oranges.
Do a search on replacement windows and you will find a plethora of information about the subject. If you decide to get replacement windows, get at LEAST 3 quotes. Prices will vary by thousands of dollars. Sometimes even on the same brand. Going with a nationwide company is definitely best, especially in this economy where a local company might not be there tomorrow, but a national company will almost always take over warranty/customer service even if a local franchise should fail. This often applies to all types of home renovation.
The problem I have seen with spiral balances is that even though they might be well lubed and/or even stainless steel, is that they are often attached to the window with non-stainless or pot-iron, and that is where they fail.
MTCW,
Brett
 

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Spiral balances usually fail internally. They are connected to a spring inside and that connection is what fails. There is a possiblity that they have just come unwound, and they need to be wound up a specific number of turns before fitting the window end into the sash, no easy task.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks, guys! My handiman and I fiddled with the darn thing and got it figured out. We managed to get both windows to stay open about half-way, which is better than not at all. At least now we know how the silly things operate, and can repair others I'll probably find. I've been afraid to check the other windows!

Again, thanks. And by the way: I didn't find a single window company here in Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation, who wanted to come and look at the windows. Evidently, it's just not worth the trouble for them.
 

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The spiral balance is adjustable by cranking the spiral clockwise. There is a special tool for this. Most installers will have one. You can try vise grips(winding the spiral) and needle nose pliers for reinserting the spiral back into the brake shoe(the part that houses the sash pivot bars- bottom of sash). Give each balance a couple of turns and operate the window until you are satified. Hope that this helps.
Another thing to look for. At the bottom of the balance where the spiral exits the metal tube is a plastic tip(red, blue, white, black or green). If there is a bit of grease between the tube and the plastic tip, chances are the the balance is blown. Most dealers carry a bit of stock, if not I am sure they can get them for you. Other sources are Srybuc and Blaine Hardware. All you need is the metal tube length and tip color.
 
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