With the push of a button, a sunroof brings the outside in—and can make your car feel more spacious.
So it’s understandable that sunroofs are growing in popularity. The number of new vehicles sporting this bright feature has increased dramatically over the past few years, and market researchers estimate that demand will jump even more in the next years. Sunroofs are also growing in size, with panoramic versions becoming more common.
And while a sunroof can make driving more pleasurable, it does require regular maintenance, says Pat Goss, a Maryland-based mechanic and co-host of television’s longest-running automotive program. Without attention, your sunroof can be more likely to leak or break down.
Here are Goss’s expert-approved tips on how to help keep that roof over your head working properly.
Clean It Regularly
Regular cleaning of your sunroof is the most effective way to keep it functional. Every time you clean your car, give your sunroof some TLC with these steps:
- Open the sunroof and clean the entire visible area, using a vacuum if necessary.
- Wipe down all moving parts and the gasket around the roof with a soft cloth, automotive cleaner and toothbrush. Clean the slides and tracks.
- Use a small amount of lightweight, heat-resistant grease (such as white lithium) to lubricate all moving parts.
- For the glass, consider a cleaner that does not contain ammonia or vinegar. (These chemicals can vaporize in warm weather and cause irritation if inhaled.)
Detail It Annually
First, clean the sunroof as you normally would. Then clear the sunroof trough (just inside the rubber seal) by blowing low-pressure air (no more than 10 psi!) through the drain tubes (at the base of the sunroof seal). Finish the process by inserting a skinny, flexible, non-puncturing wire into a drain tube, twisting the wire clockwise and then counterclockwise while gently pushing it deeper into the tube. Make sure to check the length of your drain tubes; the far ends, usually located under the car near the wheels, can be tempting places for insects to build nests that can block the drains and cause leaks.
Then close the sunroof and pour water over the glass. If it leaks into the passenger compartment, look for cracks or jagged edges along the sunroof seal, and scan the area around the seal for any excessive water pooling or mold. Still leaking? Consider taking your car to a pro for a repair.
Let It Move Freely
If your roof is sticking or seems to be slow, inspect the moving parts (if they are visible) for cracked or stripped gears, or a buildup of dirt and debris. Turn on your car engine and cycle the roof through the open, closed and vent positions to identify the area where the problem occurs. If it runs more smoothly after a couple of cycles, clean everything and then lightly and carefully apply a lightweight, heat-resistant grease to any visible moving parts. If it’s still stuck, says Goss, it could be a malfunction of the circuitry that powers most new sunroofs. Take your car to a qualified sunroof repair shop.
Popping and scraping noises are generally not good sounds for cars to make; in a sunroof they may indicate parts that need lubricating, slipping gears, or some other mechanical issue. If you notice any of these noises, clean your sunroof and lubricate any visible components. If you’re still hearing them, close the sunroof and take it to a pro for repair. Some drivers have reported hearing popping noises right before their sunroofs shatter; if you hear those sounds, take your car to a qualified repair shop.
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By Maridel Reyes