How to keep a sunroof from leaking?


#1

Anyone I’ve ever known with a car three or more years old with a sunroof has always had the sunroof leak. That, along with the reduced interior head room, is why I’ve never wanted a sunroof.

However, several of you have responded to this viewpoint of mine on another thread by stating that you have never had problems with leaking sunroofs.

Please, then, educate me how to use and maintain a sunroof such it doesn’t leak???

I’d really like to know. It just might expand my car shopping choices.

Thank you.

Marnet
…still reading, still learning


#2

I’ve done absolutely NOTHING. They just never leaked. All were factory installed. That might make a difference.

87 Accord (340k miles), 96 Accord (over 250k miles…then gave it to niece…and she kept it another 100k + miles and no leak). And last was my 98 Pathfinder (last I knew approaching 500k miles and no leaks).

If done properly they shouldn’t leak.


#3

Most of the ‘leaks’ are actually plugged up drain lines. So keeping stuff out of them would help. Covered parking would be a major plus.

But I never buy them because of the headroom problem.


#4

I’ve never had a problem with factory ones in over twenty years of having them. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable with an aftermarket one, though.

I could see how the drain lines might be an issue for people who park outdoors under trees, especially pine trees. They can supposedly be cleaned using string trimmer line or compressed air, being careful not to detach them internally, although I’ve never done that myself.


#5

Most sunroofs have one or more drain holes in the corners of the lip around the edge of the movable section. These holes frequently get plugged up allowing water to fill the lip and spill over into the car…Care must be taken when cleaning the drain tubes so you don’t damage them, which would allow water to pour into the car…


#6

Sun roofs are like ski lights. Short term, no problem. Long term, not so good. The people I have know with the fewest problems, we’re those who kept car garaged or undercover when not in use. With the electronics and wiring now finding it’s way under a headliner, I would avoid them like the plague. Exception might be factory installed fix roof found on Scion tC where car has been designed around it for years and it’s standard.


#7

I’m one who has posted that I never had a problem, but my sun roof design on my tC is unique. A single sheet of glass closes over two neoprene gaskets and the water runoff runs into open drain channels on the sides of the glass that run all the way from the bottom of the A pillars to the bottom of the hatch. There are no drain channels to plug up and no way for the water to get from the roof to the cabin. Unless, of course, I leave it open and it rains… which I have done.

Why this design is unique is a mystery to me. It seems so logical.


#8

“Anyone I’ve ever known with a car three or more years old with a sunroof has always had the sunroof leak. That, along with the reduced interior head room, is why I’ve never wanted a sunroof.”

That’s also why I’ll never buy a car with a sunroof. However, my parents once owned a car with an electric sunroof, and most of the leaking was caused by people (parents and siblings) not knowing how to operate it properly. The car was a 1989 Nissan Maxima, and to close the sunroof properly, I held down the button that operated it until it stopped automatically. Everyone else who drove that car tried to time their release of the button in an effort to close it, but whether it was opened all the way or just propped up in the back, all I had to do to get a tight seal on the sunroof was hold the button until the sunroof automatically stopped moving. This leads me to suspect some sunroof leaks are caused by operator error.

Also, I bet those who have good history with sunroofs park their cars in a garage most of the time. Exposure to the elements probably isn’t good for the seals.


#9

Ah, okay. Thank you for the responses. It tells me what I need to know. :slight_smile:


#10

@Same. I feel it’s successfully because it’s built into the car. It isn’t something that you can add economically at the factory from one model to another without being much more expensive. I looked at them in a show room. Ingenious. But the whole car from the belt line up has to be built around it. I mentioned it because I remembered you had and liked yours. If it leaked, that might not be the case. :wink:
@Marnet‌
Yes, get a Scion tC.


#11

I’ve never had a problem either with my factory sun roofs. Even my 59 VW sunroof didn’t leak and that was just a canvas cover. They told me an architect owned it and he used to carry long boards by putting them through the sun roof.


#12

Mountainbike, you’ll find that design is getting common with all these panoramic sunroofs. On almost all of those the rear pane is fixed and the front pops up and slides back. The earlier cars you’d very rarely see it on were cars like the tC that had roofs that were short front to back and/or sharply curved. A conventional sunroof in that car would have either dramatically cut into the rear headroom or be so tiny it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

If you want to see a super dramatic sunroof check out the current optional panoramic roof on the Lincoln MKZ. At an auto show last year they had one on a turntable with the sunroof continuously opening and closing and collecting an admiring crowd. Not sure I’d want to be behind one in an accident. But a very cool design.


#13

I have owned many ( all factory installed ) none have ever leaked. I also opened and shut them as often as I wanted. I personally will not consider purchasing a vehicle without one. The benefit of being able to open one on the highway for fresh air is a great benefit. ( and not have everything blow all over the place like opening a side window )


#14

Spray hose water on the sunroof and track down where it is leaking from. It really sounds like seals in the sunroof. Replace if needed.


#15

My feeling is that the Scion tC design is successful because it lacks a moat and drain channels in the A-pillars. It drains in an entirely different way.

The important point to Marnet is to look at the design of the sunroof. If it has a moat, of it has an enclosed drain channel, it stands a fair chance of eventually leaking. Drains clog up and neoprene eventually deteriorates, albeit very, very slowly. Neoprene is also subject to erosion failure. A good design provides no leak path even if the neoprene deteriorates.


#16

"How do you keep a sunroof from leaking ?"
The people I know who have had the fewest problems, keep their car garaged or under a carport when not in use and out of the elements. That seems to agree with Same’s general conclusions and guide lines but does not conflict with those who had them that have never leaked. The elements, including freezing weather, sunlight and debris can all contribute to leaking. When we do fall cleaning of our cars, we always include a gasket treatment around doors and windows. Sunlight is a killer and the roof area is potentially the hardest area to protect.


#17

Mark, how is the drainage set up in the Lincoln?


#18

Can’t say I noticed, MtBike. The pop up then slide back designs are getting ptetty common with so many cars, especially SUVs, offering panoramic sunroofs with a fixed panel over the rear seat. I’ve never seen one like that Lincoln, where the roofline is a smooth arc and the sunroof is a huge pane and pushes back partway over the rear window. It looked like it was asking for problems with that giant piece of glass hanging back there. Maybe it’s actually polycarbonate or some other plastic. It looked like it would generate a lot of wind noise.


#19

Mark, that’s great, but the question was pursuant to leakage around the sunroof. If the Lincoln contains a moat around the roof panel that drains into channels enclosed in the A-pillars, than it’s nothing like the tC pursuant to its drainage. It’s just like any other sunroof that’s subject to leakage. The image may be cool, but the drainage design won’t be technically different.

I’ll stop by a Lincoln dealer this week to see if I’m wrong about the drainage.

Re: issues with the overlap, I’ve already read magazine critics’ comments of the overlap interfering with rear view through the center mirror. Lincoln seems to be trying to reestablish an image as a world class luxury car, but without investing in what it takes to actually be a world class luxury car. The things they promote on their current ads seem to be technology readily available everywhere and their car seems built on a regular Ford full size platform. There’s nothing in the ads about luxury ride, smooth power, leather interior, woodgrain panels, multiadjustible super comfortable seats, not even a shot of the interior. Luxury buyers are not likely to be attracted to cheap tech tricks. Lincoln seems to be teams of young techies trying to design an old fashioned luxury car without ever having been there.


#20

Oh, I absolutely agree the car is surprisingly ordinary. But it sure looks striking. The Lexus ES and RX are easily their best sellers and they’re closely related to the Camry. Many luxury buyers want quiet, comfortable and swanky looking. Some care about more. Lincoln seems to be going after the first group, but doing it badly. For one thing, they have way too many models. They don’t need a mildly restyled Lincoln version of every mid-sized and larger Ford product. Cadillac doesn’t do that. The ATS and CTS are only distantly related to other GM products. A little Corvette here and there, but mostly unique. The big XTS is made for traditional Cadillac barge buyers who don’t care so much what’s underneath. Even it looks decent.

If Ford doesn’t think it pays to design a new platform for Lincoln, I think they can still offer some attractive models. The Fusion reputedly drives very well (CVT excepted). Ford can do like Toyota and build several Lincoln models related to that good model. Stretch it a little for a bigger car to replace the ugly Taurus-based model. Use the Focus as the basis for a new small Lincoln. Nothing wrong with its handling. The Escape and Explorer give you adequate compact and medium large crossovers. The giant Navigator is embarrassing and pulls in the wrong customers.

Anyhow, I haven’t examined the details of the sunroof drainage on the MkZ. I’ve never had a problem with sunroofs leaking. The newer pop-up, slide back style may have a moat underneath, but the glass presses down hard on a rubber seal so there is little space for water to accumulate. Less than on older designs.