Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunroofs : why?

One of the buying decisions I had to make on a new car a couple of years ago was whether or not to get a sunroof. Actually, it wasn't really a decision because it was pretty clear-cut; there's no point in having a sunroof in a car unless you want years of anguish and problems. In the case of my car, it was even clearer - it had the option of one of those full-length glass roofs with two opening segments - the worst possible combination.
I can understand why manufacturers still put them in though. They're perceived by the buying public as a luxury or nice-to-have feature. The glossy photos in the brochures and on the website look beautiful too because of all the light streaming in from above. But cut to the harsh reality of owning a car with a sunroof: it will leak. I've yet to find a manufacturer capable of building a sunroof that doesn't leak. It will be fine for the first few months of course, especially if you buy it in the summer. But as the weather begins to turn, you'll notice odd creaks and pops from the roof as everything twists and torques when you drive in the cold. Rubber seals will begin to shrink and perish, mechanisms will begin to stiffen and pretty soon you'll find yourself with the odd drip here or there where something won't close properly, or something else isn't sealing quite right. If you live in a snowy environment, there's not a sunroof in existence that can handle a few inches of melting snow sitting on its seals. And then begins the endless number of trips back to the dealer, where they'll never be able to find the problem, but will be able to accidentally unhook one of the drains meaning you'll now have a footwell full of water the next time it rains. Still - when summer comes around again you'll long forget the woes of the constant interior wetness. Now you have to deal with the burning heat of the sun shining into your mobile greenhouse. That's why most sunroofs have covers on the inside, which you'll close in the summer in a desperate attempt to keep the heat down.
In which case, you might as well have not bought a sunroof in the first place.
The salesman at the time I bought my car was mystified by my decision. He was absolutely confident that there was no way the roof would ever leak. After all this was a modern car! Take a look on the forums, go visit a workshop in the rainy season and see how many people are having trouble with leaking sunroofs and then tell me again what the benefits are.

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9 comments:

Rainer Riegler said...

At least in my experience (We have to Opel Astra from 1994 and a Mercedes 190E from 1990 with unleaking sunroofs. (I live in Austria, so there is enough snow and rain throughout the year) But I can definetely understand you that those are completely unnecessary, as in the winter you want the heat in the car and in the summer you do everything that your head doesn't get a sunburn.

Silas said...

And that's not even touching on the major problem with the things, which is the clear two inches or more of headroom you lose to them. To fit my head into my car, I have to drop the seat right down; if I didn't have the blasted sunroof (at least it's a metal one, so has less to annoy) I'd be able to sit higher and see more.

Ars.Gladius said...

I have a 2004 Volvo XC70. 8 years old now, not a single leak issue, sound issue, operation issue yet in any season.

**knock on wood**

Silas said...

True, my sunroof isn't leaking at the moment. It's not fun if I open it in the slide mode, since the wind deflector pops up but won't pop down, but it's not leaking. For a car that's at least 18 years old (94 Volvo, built December 1993) that's impressive.

Micah Cameron said...

I've owned two 1988 Audi 5000's with sunroofs. Neither of them leaked, and both worked perfectly. Additionally, they had never been repaired in the past. Depends on the manufacturer. I like having a sunroof, neither of my Audi's have air-con, and having the roof open really helps flow air around the cabin during the summer heat.

Chris said...

Sorry Micah - couldn't hear you over all the wind noise cos' this damned sunroof is open :-D

Micah Cameron said...

Well there's no doubt that it is noisy, especially on a motorway, but what else am I to do with no air-con :-)

Anonymous said...

1999 Mazda Protege, the econobox of Mazda, spent its entire life in hot Iowa summers and cold Iowa winters. My sunroof doesn't have a single leak, and with the plastic sunroof deflector mounted on the roof, I can have a conversation with the person next to me at highway speeds without yelling.

Looking back through your blog posts, it seems that you only write about things/people you hate - why not do some positive articles?

Anonymous said...

The information in this post is completely and utterly wrong for premium car brands manufactured today. Speaking from personal experience I've driven several BMWs over 8-10 years old without a single leak and without a single crack in their rubber seals. I for one would only buy a car with a sunroof. It's sooooo much nicer driving with the sun, the sky, the moon and the stars above you.