How to Fix a Sunroof Leak


 

Leaking sunroof? You’re not alone. Sunroof leaks can be a problem for some drivers who have a sunroof in their car. Although sunroofs are a great feature to have in your car, it can create additional maintenance. Leaks can develop in all types of sunroofs including folding sunroofs, pop-up sunroofs, t-top and targa tops, sliding sunroofs, and panoramic sunroofs.

sunroof

How to Tell if Your Sunroof is Leaking

There are common telltale signs that your sunroof is leaking. If the interior of your car smells musty or you’ve actually seen mold spores, this is a dead giveaway that there is too much moisture entering the vehicle’s cabin. Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint where the moisture is coming from though and the sunroof isn’t always the culprit. Water flows downhill, so it typically follows channels and ends up in a car’s floorboards, making it hard to tell where it originally started. Other times, staining and wet spots make it obvious.

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Moisture can wreak havoc on your car’s interior. Not only can it cause uncomfortable wet spots, but mold issues also pose serious health concerns. On top of that, moisture can fry your car’s electronics and even cause rust issues if left untreated. Any leak should be taken seriously and fixed as soon as possible.

mold-car-interior

If your car has a sunroof, it may be a prime suspects of a water leak. You may notice water dripping from directly around the sunroof area, staining in the headliner around the sunroof, or even water in the floor of the vehicle.

Other less common leaks can be caused by your vehicle’s:

Windshield

Possible symptoms:
Windshield easily fogs
Whistling noise from the windshield when driving
Moisture on, behind, or underneath the dashboard

Parts that might need replacing:
Windshield urethane seal
Windshield moulding

Side windows

Possible symptoms:
Wet door panel
Electronics in door panel no longer function properly

Parts that might need replacing:
Weatherstripping

Quarter windows

Possible symptoms:
Wetness underneath

Parts that might need replacing:
Weatherstripping

Back glass (Back windshield)

Possible symptoms:
Wetness underneath the back window

Parts that might need replacing:
Gasket

Slider (only applies to pickup trucks)

Possible symptoms:
Wetness underneath the back window, typically where the slider section opens

Parts that might need replacing:           
Weatherstripping

Air Conditioning Condensor (AC Condenser)

Possible symptoms:
Water in floorboards after running AC

Parts that might need replacing:      
AC condenser
Clogged drain
Hoses

Heater Core

Possible symptoms:
Low coolant
Moisture is not clear water, has a colored tint
Sweet chemical odor

Parts that might need replacing:
Heater Core
Hoses 

The glass parts listed above are all barriers to outside elements. These usually will only leak when your vehicle gets wet. Signs of a leak typically appear after a rainstorm, washing the car, or similar. The other parts such as AC condenser and heater core are parts of the car’s HVAC system which will not be as affected by outside moisture. Therefore, to help diagnose whether the moisture in your car is coming through openings or coming from the HVAC parts, take note of when the issue occurs. Did you notice moisture after the car was wet? Or did it happen after running the car’s heat or air conditioning?

To troubleshoot, you can run a garden hose over different points of the car, then check the interior for new signs of moisture. Likewise, you can run the heat or AC and then check for new moisture. This will be a good starting point for diagnosing the problem. Once you know which category the leak falls into, you can more easily pinpoint the problem.

Common Types of Sunroof Leaks and How to Fix Them

Sunroofs can leak in a number of places. Sunroofs are particularly susceptible to leakage because most are actually meant to leak by design. In order for the glass to sit flush against the roof, there is usually no exterior gasket to block water from dripping down along the outside edges of the sunroof. Instead, there are channels underneath the glass around the outside edges that catch the water. The channels typically have drain holes in each corner to allow the water to drain out. There is usually tubing attached to these drain holes that run down and out underneath the car.

In short, when it rains, a small amount of water leaks in around the sunroof is caught in the channels underneath the sunroof and drained out underneath the car. There are three issues you’ll want to look for if your sunroof is leaking. It’s best to check them in order of easiest to hardest.

Bad Sunroof Seal

Although there typically is not a gasket to lock out water, there is still a seal to limit the amount of water that enters underneath the sunroof. The sunroof seal is the first thing you’ll want to check. Depending on what type of sunroof you have, it may play a more vital role than on other types. Some sunroofs rely solely or at least partially on a sunroof seal to block out water, as with T-tops and Targa tops. Other sunroofs rely on the seal to primarily block wind noise, as with sliding sunroofs, and some have no seal mounted to the glass at all as with some panoramic sunroofs. 

The seal is a rubber trim piece that wraps around the outside edges of the sunroof glass or roof panel. This seal helps seal out as much water as possible from leaking into the track below, or the car itself. If the car does have a drain channel in the track, a seal will help keep it from filling up with too much water.

Glass.com always recommends having your car serviced by a trained professional and not to try to perform work yourself. Here is what a professional might look for when determining if the sunroof seal is bad:

  • Sunroof seal is dry and cracking
  • Sunroof seal has a gash, split, rip, or tear
  • Sunroof seal is warped or misshapen
  • Sunroof seal is missing

In many of these cases above, the sunroof seal should be replaced. This is usually a relatively simple process just requiring the removal of the old seal and the installation of a new seal. If the sunroof seal is undamaged or has been replaced and the leak continues, move on to checking the other parts of your car’s sunroof below.

Clogged Sunroof Drain Line

The drain lines work similarly to the plumbing in a home sink. If the drain becomes clogged, water will back up and overflow. The same goes for your sunroof. Remember the drain holes we mentioned are typically mounted in each corner of your car’s sunroof? If these drain holes and the connected lines are clogged, the water will typically overflow from the channel and soak the headliner around the sunroof. If the headliner becomes too saturated, it may even drip onto the seats and consoles below.

Glass.com always recommends having your car serviced by a trained professional and not to try to perform work yourself. Here are the steps a professional might take of how to locate a clogged sunroof drain line:

  1. Start by covering the interior of your car underneath the sunroof with towels. This will help catch any water that drips.
  2. Next, open your sunroof and locating the drain holes. There is usually one in each of the 4 corners of the channel.
  3. Use a bottle of water or a cup to carefully pour a small amount of water into the first hole. Does it drain quickly, slowly, or not at all? If it drains slowly or not at all, this is probably the drain hole causing the issue.
  4. Look underneath the car to see if water has drained out below. Typically the front left drain hole drains behind the front left tire, the rear left hole drains in front of the rear left tire, and so on.
sunroof-water-leak-test

If no water or very little water has drained, this is also a sign that this drain line may be causing the issue.

sunroof-drain-water
  • Continue testing the other three drain holes.
  • Once determined which drain holes are clogged, move on to fixing them.

Here are the steps a professional might take of how to clean a clogged sunroof drain lines:

  1. Start by cleaning the area around the clogged drain holes. It’s a good idea to go ahead and clean the rest of the channel and the sunroof too. The cleaner these parts are, the less likely they are to fail. Usually, a can of quality, ammonia-free glass cleaner and lint-free paper towels or a microfiber towel will do the trick.
  2. After everything is clean, use a small pipe cleaner, toothbrush, or something similar to clear the entrance of the drain hole and the top few inches of the drain line. Many times, debris are stuck in this area.
  3. Re-test the holes by pouring water into them using the methods above.
  4. If the holes are still not draining, use a piece of stiff line, such a weedeater string, to snake the line, or use an air hose to blow the line clean. Either method must be done gently in order to not puncture, rupture or otherwise damage the line.
  5. Once the line has been cleaned, retest using the water method.
  6. Repeat the cleaning and testing process as necessary until water drains properly.
clean-sunroof-drain

Disconnected Sunroof Drain Line

If the technician has tested and cleaned the sunroof drain lines, and water is still leaking, it could be caused by a disconnected sunroof drain line. Attached to the underside of the sunroof drain holes will be a drain line which routes the water down to a lower point on the exterior of the car where the water can drain without causing damage.

This drain line is typically rubber hose. On one end, it is attached to a fitting underneath the sunroof drain hole. On the other end, it is attached to a fitting where the water drains underneath the car. If either end of the hose becomes detached from one of these fittings, water will not be directed where it is supposed to, resulting in a leak. If the leak is up high, the drain tube probably disconnected from the sunroof track channel. If the leak is low in the car, the sunroof drain hose is probably disconnected from the drain fitting where the water exits to the outside of the vehicle.

disconnected-sunroof-drain-line

Glass.com always recommends having your car serviced by a trained professional and not to try to perform work yourself. Here are the steps a professional might take of how to fix a disconnected sunroof drain line:

  1. Locate the drain holes in the sunroof.
  2. Pour a small amount of water into the drain holes using a water bottle or plastic cup in order to determine where the leak originates.
  3. If the leak is high, access underside of sunroof track, usually by dropping headliner.
  4. If the leak is low, access drain fitting, usually by removing trim panels or pulling back carpeting.
  5. Reattach drain hose to fitting; new clamp may need to be installed.
  6. Re-test drain holes and repeat as necessary.

Where to get a Sunroof Leak Fixed

If your sunroof is leaking, there are a number of ways to get it fixed. Your local glass shop should be the first place you try. Use Glass.com to locate a local glass shop near you. Keep in mind, not all glass shops service sunroofs, so you’ll want to call ahead of time to double check.

If there aren’t any glass shops in your area that service sunroofs, Try your local mechanic. He or she should have knowledge about how a sunroof operates and the steps needed to fix it.

Lastly, you can take your car to the dealership to have it serviced. The mechanics are your dealership should have an intimate knowledge of your make and models since they specialize in these cars.

Where to get Sunroof Glass Replaced

If your sunroof happens to be leaking because the glass is broken, the above steps won’t be of much help to you. You’ll need to get the glass in your sunroof replaced as soon as possible. Don’t worry though, Glass.com makes this an easy hassle-free process. Simply go to Glass.com, type in your zip code, enter your car’s year, make and model, then complete the booking with our affiliate that services your area. We’ll just need some basic contact info and there’s no obligation.

We hope this information helps you fix your sunroof’s leak in order to get your car back on the road!

 

© 2019 Glass.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact info@glass.com.

Glass.com attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.

2 responses to “How to Fix a Sunroof Leak”

  1. Does not answer my question. My moon roof allows air to make noise around the front only at 30 + miles per hour

    • Hi Linda,

      Air leaks are certainly different than water leaks. However, some of the steps in this article still hold true. First, give your sunroof a good cleaning to remove any debris or buildup which could cause a bad seal. Next, inspect the gasketing around the sunroof to see if there is any visible damage or if it looks excessively worn. If all looks good, the track may need an adjustment to seat the sunroof properly. Hopefully this was a factory installed sunroof and not one the was installed aftermarket? Aftermarket sunroof installations can be done well, but not all turn out perfect because there isn’t the same quality control that occurs during assembly line manufacturing.

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