Steps to Fixing that Shattered Sunroof


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.

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

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.

Another issue that may occur with your sunroof is that it won’t open. This could be caused by a problem with the wiring or with the motor, and 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 as well.

Why Does your Sunroof Shatter?

The bigger problems with a sunroof is one whose glass shatters spontaneously 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.

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

Do Sunroofs Shatter?

Although complaints about shattering sunroofs may be rising, we don’t know exactly why sunroofs explode. Some 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.

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

How to Fix it

None of that really matters however when you have a car that is not drivable. So if your car sunroof has shattered first follow these steps.

  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 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. Call your insurance to see what is covered. The glass damage may be covered under the comprehensive coverage while other damage incurred may fall under collision.
  6. Schedule the repair. Call a reputable glass shop that can repair the broken glass for your vehicle.

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.


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