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Steps to Fixing a Broken or Shattered Sunroof

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A sunroof is a great feature for your car, though there are some issues you will have to watch for such as leaks, malfunctioning buttons or shattered glass. No one wants to have to deal with a shattered sunroof, but, if it does happen to you, has some steps to take until you schedule its replacement.

If you’re driving down the road and your sunroof shatters, it can be quite a jolting experience. The news is often filled will reports of families who have experienced this. For instance, a Virginia family reported that while driving along Loudoun County Parkway, their SUV’s sunroof suddenly shattered. Occasionally an automaker will even issue a recall over a faulty sunroof. So if it happens to you, it’s a good idea to check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database to see if your model has been recalled.

Sunroof Auto Glass
Hopefully the glass in your sunroof never shatters. But if that should happen to you, offers tips on how to proceed.


Sunroof Issues to Watch out For

Sunroof Water Leaks

Before we get to those glass breakage problems, let’s talk about some of the other things that could happen with your sunroof. The most common problem is water leakage. Open your sunroof and look for the drain holes in both front corners. Often times this is caused by a clogged drain tube and this can be solved easily by using a shop vacuum to remove debris. If that doesn’t work it may be time to contact an auto glass shop (Check out for someone to help with the repair.) You definitely don’t want a leak to get out of control as this can create more problems including stains, mildew and rust.

Sunroof Won’t Open

Another issue that may occur with your sunroof is that it won’t open. This is usually caused by 3 main problems:

  1. A bad switch
  2. A bad motor
  3. Faulty wiring

Sometimes this can be caused by debris as well. It is important to clean the sunroof tracks regularly as dirt and debris can cause the sunroof to become stuck. Auto glass shops can help fix these issues also.

Do Sunroofs Shatter?

Complaints about shattering sunroofs may be rising, which is likely due to vehicle manufacturers making sunroofs larger than ever before. As panoramic sunroofs (sometimes referred to as moonroofs) grow in popularity, these larger glass sizes can have a higher risk of breakage. These larger sliding panels and allow front and rear passengers to enjoy the fresh air and view of the sky.

Other sunroof options on the market include:

  • Pop-up Sunroof: This sunroof includes a tilting panel that is operated manually.
  • Spoiler Sunroof: This type of sunroof features a panel that tilts up and slides backward on the exterior of the car, providing a partial opening.
  • Top-Mount Sliding Sunroof: The sunroof panel is mounted on rails and slides open on the exterior of the vehicle.

While some blame size, others blame a switch to different types of glass. Others blame it on physics, change in temperature or any other number of factors. (You can read about those here.)

Those are the unexplainable occurrences. Other causes could include accidental breakages caused by rocks, tree branches or other debris. Or even sports accidents like a ball hitting the sunroof, can be the cause.


Spontaneous Sunroof Shattering

The bigger problems with a sunroof is one whose glass shatters spontaneously while driving with no warning.  Whenever one of these situations occur it always seems to make the news, perhaps making it seem more common than it is when you consider the millions of cars equipped with a sunroof. Then Consumer Reports (CR) published a research report this year giving these cases even more visibility.

The magazine analyzed complaints listed in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) database. There have been at least 208 car models and 35 automotive brands listed in complaints to the federal government about exploding sunroofs since 1995. Hyundai, Ford and Nissan were the top three automakers against whom consumers filed complaints. The Scion tC, Hyundai Veloster and Kia Sorento were the top three models.

Kia Sorento Exploding Sunroof

Of all the models mentioned in complaints, only the Kia Sorento is under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the time that this article was published. Kia has received at least 156 complaints about the Sorento sunroof.

What Causes a Sunroof to Spontaneously Shatter or Break While Driving?


It happens more frequently than you may think. An individual is driving down the road and a piece of glass in the vehicle shatters suddenly. This could happen with the side or back windshield, and it is more common with sunroofs. Spontaneous auto glass breakage occurs because these types of auto glass are made of tempered glass and when tempered glass breaks it can break in a million small pieces. This is to protect you from jagged shards.

When this happens, many times the sound is described as a gunshot (luckily it’s not but for the driver it’s almost as frightening.) This breakage doesn’t necessarily mean the glass was hit from a piece of debris. Any flaw can cause the glass to shatter under pressure, and this may include one that occurs during manufacturing.

Retired glass consultant Bob Brown says this: If tempered glass shatters spontaneously, it’s because a contaminant found its way into the glass and ” … escaped to the surface or the edge.” In a recent article in Auto Glass Repair and Replacement magazine, sunroof installers say the cause is likely a matter of physics or torque, or both.

Neal Ailstock, an installer with Seatco in Springfield, Va., says the way the glass is held in place has a lot to do with the spontaneous explosions of tempered auto glass. Ailstock says the glass usually is held in place by “two beads of high-strength urethane. That glass can’t move. It has to flex.” That ability to flex is important to the vehicle in motion, is his theory.

“When a car goes too fast around a corner, the body starts to flex,” Ailstock explains. “But the glass is glued in and can’t move, so something’s got to give.”


5 Steps to Fix a Broken Sunroof

If your car sunroof has shattered first follow these steps to fix your sunroof:

  1. Make sure you are safe.

    Pull over to a safe area or find a safe spot to park. Call 911 if you are injured though that is unlikely. Most drivers are just in shock at the sudden sound and breakage. Be careful to check yourself thoroughly for any glass fragments and remove them safely.

  2. Transport your vehicle.

    If you are close to home and can drive your vehicle there safely, cover the exposed opening and pull into a garage if possible. If the vehicle is unsafe, get a tow truck to transport your vehicle to a shop that can repair it.

  3. Clean up the broken sunroof glass.

    This step is important so others are not injured. To clean up the broken glass, pick up the large pieces of glass only if you are wearing safety gloves and dispose of them in a heavy duty garbage bag. Be very careful of shards. Use a high-powered vacuum to vacuum the entire area and dispose of the vacuum bag. Re-vacuum the whole area again a few hours later and dispose of that vacuum bag too using the same methods. (Read this article for more advice on how to clean up broken glass.)

  4. Cover the exposed opening.

    Ideas on how to do this vary widely. Some suggest calling an auto dealership detail area and asking for some Automotive Carpet Plastic Film, others suggest duct tape. One web user tells consumers to call a body shop and ask for a piece of crash wrap. Another idea is to check with a hardware store for a durable plastic sheet that will keep out the elements until you can get the vehicle repaired. You can simply cut the sheet to fit and then use automotive tape around the edges to keep it in place. Silicone and duct tape may be used are more water resistant but may be harsher on your car’s finish than the automotive tape.

  5. Schedule the sunroof repair.

    Use to schedule a sunroof repair with reputable glass shop that can repair the broken glass for your vehicle. offers nationwide coverage through its sunroof specialist.

Keep in mind that cases of exploding sunroofs are rare, so don’t let that deter you from splurging on that option when purchasing your next vehicle. But if you do find yourself facing any issues with your sunroof, know that is here to help. Simply use our locator tool to find a local, reputable glass shop.

Finding a Company That Can Help

While it isn’t a difficult job, not all auto glass repair and replacement companies do it. With a multitude of sunroofs available on the market, it may be difficult to find the replacement parts needed to fit your particular model.

Over the years, there have been a variety of style changes in sunroofs and some models may be discontinued. Occasionally, a part is no longer available. If this is the case, you may need to visit a specialty shop.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, search for a reputable sunroof replacement shop in your area, find out how much it will cost to replace sunroof glass, and get the broken sunroof glass replaced quickly.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Tara Taffera

Tara Taffera was the editorial director for USGlass magazine, AGRR Magazine , and Window Film Magazine. Her skills and more than 20 years of experience have helped her earn numerous journalism awards, including coveted Jesse Neal Awards. Tara enjoys spending time with her family and staying active with her husband by competing in races together, including triathlons. She also spends time volunteering in her community and with her church. Find out more about Tara on Linkedin.

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6 Responses

    1. Hi Thomas,

      We’re not familiar with that particular company but it’s usually best to go back to the original installer to correct any issues. Depending on the construction of the roof, some of the window pane seals may just need to be replaced or resealed.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      If the sunroof was factory installed, you can go to type in your zip code, and request a quote for the replacement. If you’re looking for an aftermarket sunroof, a local shop that does custom automotive work might be your best resource.

  1. I have a 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe. I was going about 35 40 miles per hour and my sunroof blew right off . It wasn’t even being used and it didn’t leak or give me any indication of being faulty or damage in any way!!! The next thing was the inside part blew off also. The part that you slide open or closed.

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