Shattered Sunroofs Shed Light on Different Types of Glass Used


Many vehicle owners enjoy driving in a newly purchased vehicle. There’s something exciting about driving something new that’s now yours – a feeling that some might say wears off too soon. But what happens when you’re diving and you’re suddenly covered in glass from your sunroof? That’s been an unfortunate reality for a small number of vehicle owners who had sunroofs that randomly exploded.

Before we get into the possibility of sunroofs exploding, it’s important to first understand what they are, how they work, and what options are available to you.

The Sunroof’s Start

It’s fair to say that most people know what a sunroof is, but do most people know its history. The first time vehicles offered sunroofs as an option was in 1937, thanks to Nash Motor Company. Consumers started to see the retractable roof panel’s main benefits, which include an increased amount of sunlight and airflow inside of a vehicle. Throughout the years following not much has changed with the concept sunroofs until recently.

In today’s car models you’ll see another option for vehicle light and airflow – the panoramic roof. This type of roof is sleeker than standard sunroofs that tilt open or slightly slide back, this is partly because the roof isn’t clear, it’s tinted and it has a black finish. Another upside to having this type of vehicle roof is the ease of cooling down in your vehicle. The panoramic sunroof feature allows a larger opening for sunlight and air, which makes your vehicle go from summer heat to summer breeze in just a few button taps or pushes in a vehicle’s settings.

Glass options have come into question after car makers noticed an upward trend in the panoramic roof. Today there are two main options for the glass located in the standard sunroof, laminated and tempered.

Sunroof Glass Options

When it comes to sunroof glass, FMVSS No. 205, specifies performance requirements and test procedures for glazing installed in motor vehicles. The standard specifies performance tests that every vehicle must pass. There are two primary options and car manufacturers have their pick between them.

First, let’s go over using tempered auto glass. Tempered glass is not the same as a typical standard glass, this is due to how the glass is made. Tempered glass is made when glass is heated and then cooled quickly. This process allows the glass to have a different structural integrity. What this means for you – it’s stronger than regular annealed glass.

If a standard piece of glass breaks its broken pieces are typically large and uneven, but when tempered glass breaks, it shatters into very small even pieces. Why is this important in vehicles? Using tempered glass makes any breaks safer for the person inside of the vehicle. Tempered glass is also typically used on vehicle’s side and rear windows.

Now let’s go over using laminated auto glass. Many car manufacturers switched to using laminated glass for its sunroofs after several cases involving sunroof spontaneous breakage. Laminated glass differs from tempered glass because there is a layer of clear plastic located inside of two thin layers of glass. By using this method breaks can form without completely shattering. Laminated glass isn’t new, as it is also used in vehicle windshields.

Tempered Sunroofs Seem Tempting

If you’re thinking you’d want a vehicle that has a panoramic sunroof with tempered glass, here are a few companies to keep on your radar:

  • BMW,
  • Fiat Chrysler,
  • General Motors,
  • Hyundai,
  • Kia,
  • Mercedes-Benz, and
  • Volkswagen.

Laminated Glass Likers

On the other hand, if you’re thinking about what options are available for laminated glass, look no further. The following companies have stated they use laminated glass for their panoramic sunroofs:

  • Ferrari,
  • Tesla, and
  • Volvo.

Too Tough to Choose

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to forming a preference on what glass you prefer for your sunroof. If you still aren’t able to decide between laminated versus tempered that’s ok, there are companies that use both. Depending on the specific vehicle you have in mind there can be a variety of other options that are available. Below are companies that use laminated glass in some of its panoramic sunroofs:

  • Ford: at this point the company does not specify which of its vehicle models have laminated glass nor does the company explain why it chooses one kind of glass for some of its models and tempered glass in other vehicle models.
  • Honda: according to the company it chooses which glass to use on a model-to-model basis. This allows the company to choose which vehicle models will have laminated glass and which will have tempered glass. The company says its Acura ZDX features tempered glass.
  • Jaguar Land Rover: according to the company, laminated glass for sunroofs can be found in some of its models. The company also stated that tempered glass can be found in its other vehicle models. Here are a few examples of where laminated glass can be used: Discovery, Discovery Sport, Evoque, Velar, E-Pace, F-Pace, XE, XF, and several other F-Type vehicles in its lineup.
  • Nissan: although this company used both types of glass it has not specified which of its models use tempered and which use laminated. One thing Nissan did confirm is that most of its models do use tempered glass for its sunroofs.
  • Subaru: this company has stated it too uses both types of glass for its vehicle sunroofs. If Subaru is the automaker you’re leaning towards it’s important to note the company uses laminated glass for panoramic sunroofs in its Forester and Ascent models. Many of its other models currently feature tempered glass.

Companies in the Spotlight for Exploding Sunroofs

Several companies have made headlines in the past few years concerning spontaneous sunroof breakage, those include:

  • Honda,
  • Hyundai,
  • Kia,
  • Volkswagen,
  • Nissan, and
  • BMW.

Since having issues with sunroof breakage there have been several lawsuits that have gone to court. If you ask your glass.com affiliate what the likelihood is of your sunroof exploding, he or she might tell you the chances are low. This is especially true due to automakers taking a closer look at how to ensure driver safety. If your sunroof has broken, use glass.com to find a trusted replacement specialist in your area today.

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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.


Emmariah Holcomb

By Emmariah Holcomb

Emm Holcomb serves as assistant editor to AGRR™ (Automotive Glass Repair and Replacement) Magazine and has a background news, as she was a journalist for Time Warner Cable News. Emm received her Bachelor’s Degree from St. Bonaventure University in New York where she studied journalism and mass communication.

In her free time, Emm loves to cook and is passionate about trying new recipes and using food to bring people together. When not in the kitchen, she can be found in the gym working out and fostering her love/hate relationship with weight training.


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