Breaking your car’s sunroof is undoubtedly a frustrating experience, especially if it appears to have broken spontaneously. However, it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, your vehicle still runs and usually is technically driveable. But is it legal to drive it? People often wonder if they’re able to drive their car without risking a traffic ticket while waiting to replace the glass.
Sunroof Requirements by State
Many states set minimum safety requirements for vehicle glass and use yearly or periodic vehicle safety inspections to ensure these requirements are met. There are 12 states that don’t require inspections to be completed at all. For this reason, you’ll want to consult your local laws to determine what is acceptable.
Most states primarily focus on windshield requirements as this is the driver’s primary viewing area and paramount to safety. Side window and back glass requirements are typically are secondary to windshield requirements. Here in Virginia, where Glass.com is headquartered, we did not find any regulations that specifically addressed sunroof requirements. However, there are regulations that say a vehicle cannot pass a safety inspection if “Any glass at any location where glass is used is cracked or broken so that it is likely to cut or injure a person in the vehicle.”
From this regulation, we can interpret that a vehicle with a broken sunroof should have all the broken glass cleaned from the sunroof’s frame and the interior of the vehicle.
This leads to our next question:
Is it Safe to Drive with a Broken Sunroof?
This question, unlike the previous question, has a definite and straightforward answer. The answer is no; it is not safe to drive with a broken sunroof.
Safety Issue #1: Broken Glass
Sunroofs typically are manufactured using tempered glass. When it breaks, tempered glass shatters into hundreds, even thousands, of tiny pieces. These pieces, although somewhat rounded, still have the ability to cut and injure passengers, and it’s not safe to continue driving with broken glass in the vehicle.
How to Clean Up Broken Sunroof Glass
The glass should be cleaned up as quickly and thoroughly as possible before the vehicle is driven again. Check out our blog on cleaning up broken auto glass to accomplish this safely. Be sure to check on top of seats, under seats, cup holders, air vents, the dash, and nooks and crannies where glass could have fallen. You’ll also need to remove any remaining glass from the sunroof’s frame and vacuum the glass out of the sunroof frame’s tracks. Clean up glass at your own risk. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can contact an automotive detailing company to clean it for you.
Safety Issue #2: Hole in Roof
Now that you’ve finished cleaning up the broken glass, you need to consider the fact that there is now a hole in your roof. The sunroof acted as a protective barrier, keeping foreign objects from entering your vehicle and helping to keep you inside the vehicle’s “safety cocoon.” Without the glass there, you’re liable to be pelted by highway debris such as dust, pebbles, and more. You’ll be susceptible to weather events too, such as rain, snow, and hail. If you are being pelted by any of these things while driving it could be a major distraction and cause a danger to you and other drivers on the road.
Vehicle Damage from a Broken Sunroof
Not only are you susceptible to weather damage, but so is your vehicle. That gaping hole in your vehicle’s roof is an easy way to incur water damage. If left unprotected, heavy rain could soak your vehicle’s interior leading to mold, mildew, rust, electronics problems, stains, and more. Even if there isn’t rain, the interior can dirty quickly from natural debris such as leaves, acorns, and, worst of all, bird droppings. Damage such as this could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair.
Temporary Sunroof Repair
While waiting for your sunroof glass replacement, you may wish to apply a temporary fix by covering the opening. This will help to prevent outside elements from entering your vehicle. Here’s a technique that many use, but do so at your own risk:
- Cover the sunroof hole with a piece of stiff cardboard.
- Secure the cardboard to the roof along all four sides using tape. Duct tape will hold strongly but might damage the paint. Painters tape won’t damage the car’s paint, but might not stay for very long.
- Cover the cardboard with plastic such as plastic sheeting or a durable garbage bag.
- Secure the plastic bag to the roof using tape.
This temporary fix can help you get by until your sunroof replacement can be completed. However, it won’t be completely weatherproof, and your vehicle should be garaged if possible and the sunroof repaired as quickly as possible.
Fixing a Broken Sunroof
Whether or not it’s legal to drive with a broken sunroof will be determined by the laws of your local jurisdiction. Keep in mind that laws can be subjective and open to interpretation. Be smart about it. If driving the vehicle when absolutely necessary and for a short amount of time until the sunroof can be replaced, you might be okay. If you’re putting off the sunroof replacement for as long as possible to save a few dollars, it could end up costing you more in the long run. Legalities are not the only consideration here. Safety is also a high priority, as well as keeping your vehicle from unnecessary wear and tear.
Schedule your sunroof replacement as soon as possible. Use Glass.com to find a sunroof replacement specialist near you. Receive a quick, easy, no-hassle quote within minutes!
Mr. Snow, after the remnants of the broken glass are thoroughly cleaned from the frame and the interior of the vehicle, why is this awful, terrible, big bad hole in the roof any less safe than a convertible?
Steve, you ask an interesting question. Structurally, it’s possible the car may be “as safe as a convertible” in terms of structural integrity during a rollover. But this is not guaranteed. The bottom line is the vehicle is no longer as safe as it was designed to be. Furthermore, convertibles have tops that can be put up/on and down/off. Without a way to keep moisture out of the vehicle, weather damage can occur including rust which can eventually compromise structural integrity.