Exploding Sunroof: Why and How to Protect yourself?

by IndianAuto Team | 28/11/2018
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Exploding sunroof is as dangerous to the driver and passengers inside the car as a blown-out tyre. What can you do to prevent the unfortunate incident from happening in the first place and/or to minimise the damage when it occurs?

A sunroof adds a nice pretty touch to a car and brings sunshine as well as air into a car. It is gaining popularity and favour in India, but around the world, especially in Canada and the United States, there have been many recorded incidents of exploding sunroof, which casts clouds over the well-loved feature. If you intend to buy a car with sunroof, plan to retrofit a sunroof to your car, or look for a solution to your already shattered sunroof, this article is a must-read.

If you do not know what a sunroof is, please read our article about the pros and cons of sunroof first (click here). If you know what it is already, please proceed.

To understand the full scope of danger of an exploding sunroof, you need to know this: an exploding sunroof is as dangerous to the people on board as a blown-out tyre. The loud sound of sunroof breaking apart, which many witnesses say resembles the sound of an explosion or a firing shotgun, startles the driver and in some cases makes them temporarily lose control of the driving wheel. The impact of the sudden blast also causes the car to swerve, and if you are driving on a crowded street or zooming on the highway, this would be the last thing you want to happen as the chance of accident is extremely high.

A large part of the commotion around exploding sunroof is who is at fault. Drivers who have had their sunroof fail at maintaining in one piece put the blame on car manufacturers, saying that the car has faults from the production process or the engineering is not of good quality. On the other hand, the automakers blame the environment for the explosion of the sunroof, announcing that the glass shatters only when there is a drastic change in temperature or when a heavy object hits the sunroof. Unfortunately for us, there is no study done on this topic to pinpoint the exact cause of the exploding sunroof, so the burden is mainly on the car owners. There are a few simple steps to minimise your risk of an exploding sunroof or injuries and damage thereof.

1. Choose the right sunroof

The first step to avoid the accident of exploding sunroof is to choose the right sunroof. Though every single car manufacturer says that the sunroof explodes due to external factors, statistics show that there are some car brands that have a higher number of recorded complaints regarding this matter. Five brands that receive the most complaints in both Canada and the United States are Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, Kia, and Toyota.

The recorded occurrences are not heavily subject to weather and major impact as what car manufacturers claim as the cases happened in all kinds of conditions, be it summer or winter, day or night, when parked or while driving, on highways or on urban streets, and so on. The point here is that despite your special likings towards a certain model or brand, if you intend to purchase a car with sunroof, it is highly recommended that you think twice before purchasing vehicle from one of the five aforementioned brands.

Another thing you have to consider before buying a sunroof is the material. Most sunroofs today are made of tempered glass. The glass is pre-stressed for safety and it will shatter into tiny fragments to prevent major injuries. If you are vigilant, you can see that the mirror or window in your house usually breaks into huge chunks and they can cut through human skins more easily. The shortcoming of the tempered glass is how easily it breaks when a small unnoticed defect is under the right amount of pressure.

There are some sunroofs that are made of laminated glass. This kind of glass has been used for windshield for a long time and it creates a big crack that has the shape of a spider web when broken rather than shattering into small pieces. The disadvantage of laminated glass is very obvious on your windshield, that is it is very easy to scratch, which is not the case for tempered glass.

The best material out there for sunroof is polycarbonate glazing because it solves the problems of both laminated and tempered glasses, and it is considerably lighter than the other two. However, the only car brand that implements polycarbonate glazing material for sunroof is Bugatti, and the reason is, you guessed it, the price is steeper than steep.

The conclusion here is that you would want to purchase polycarbonate glazing sunroof if you can afford it. The next best option is laminated glass, unless you are someone who thinks it is better to have a sudden rain of glass shards than multiple scratches on your sunroof. And the worst option for sunroof material is tempered glass.


The first step to prevent your sunroof from exploding is to choose the best sunroof you can afford

2. Notice the warning signs

Some people who have gone through the experience of having the sunroof exploding over their head say that there are some certain signs that happen before the actual explosion. The symptoms are not very well-documented and one prominent warning sign is some popping sounds in the sunroof before bursting. If you ever spot this kind of sound coming from your sunroof, you had better take your car to a trusted dealership immediately.

cracked sunroof

If you hear popping sound in your sunroof, you should bring your car to a dealership before it bursts into a thousand pieces

3. When it happens, stay calm and document the damage

Telling you to stay calm when you just heard a loud bang right over your head is definitely easier said than done. But if you unfortunately have your sunroof raining down on you in the form of sparkling debris, you do need to be as calm as possible, or otherwise, a real and serious accident are highly likely to occur as an impact of a burst sunroof can be as forceful as that of a burst tyre. When you are calm, cool, and collected, try to drive safely to the nearest spot where you can pull over and assess the situation.

At this point, you would want to take photos of the “crime scene” aka your car, take note of the weather that day, look around if any falling heavy object could be the culprit. If you find any witness, talk to them, and get their contacts and testimonies, so that they could support you when you call the car dealer and contact the manufacturer.


Stay calm, drive to a safe place, and assess the situation

4. Notify the car dealer and the auto manufacturer

After you have all the information of the occurrence, the next thing you should do is contacting your car dealer and the manufacturer and ask what they plan to do about the situation. Some good dealers/manufacturers will apologise to you properly and offer a free repair. However, some not-so-nice companies will flat-out say that the exploding sunroof is not their fault and that you have to pay a large amount of money if you want to sunroof repaired or replaced. If you have convincing evidence and witnesses to prove that it happened not because of extreme weather change or major impact with heavy objects, keep contacting and making complaints to them. A lot of people have to be persistent with this process and many succeed.

If after many attempts, the dealer and manufacturer still say no, you may feel the need to contact your insurer. The insurance company will look into the problem and may pressure the two persistent guys to pay for the repair work. And if things still do not work out, you may consider instigating legal proceedings against the dealer and/or manufacturer.


Contact your dealer and manufacturer to tell them about the exploding sunroof and demand a free repair

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