Why do they call it a sunroof if it's raining on my head?

Published: Apr. 9, 2017 at 9:15 AM CDT
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If you have a sunroof and have noticed some water leaks, don't panic. Many times the fix is pretty easy. Let’s start by taking a look at what makes up your sunroof.

A typical sunroof is actually a fairly large assembly that fits behind the headliner in your roof. The glass, motor, housing and tracks are all built together and removed and installed as one unit. The edge of the glass will have a rubber edge on it to it to keep most of the rain out when it's closed, but most drivers are surprised to find out it is not a water tight seal.

The sunroof assembly has gutters going all of the way around it to catch any water that gets by the sunroof glass. The water then makes its way to drains on the corners of the sunroof housing under the glass, where it flows down plastic tubes inside the body of the vehicle, draining out onto the ground.

Sunroofs typically start leaking when one or more of the drains get plugged up. That allows rain water to back up inside the sunroof assembly, eventually overflowing and leaking inside the vehicle. To check your drains, simply open the sunroof all the way up and check the corners of the sunroof. You should see a hole about the size of a pencil in each corner, which are the drains. Sometimes you can’t see the rear drains, but it’s usually the front ones that become clogged anyway.

To test a drain, carefully pour water in the gutter by the drain to see if it drains out onto the ground below the vehicle. You should see it pouring out near the closest tire as fast as you pour it in.

If any of your drains are plugged, you can usually fix it yourself. Using a small wire, carefully try to pull the dirt and debris up and out of the drain as much as possible, rather than pushing it down the tubes. Plugged tubes inside the vehicle body will be much harder to clear. After the drain gets opened up, pour warm water down the tube to carry away any residual dirt.

While it’s tempting to blast the tubes with water pressure or compressed air to clear them out, you run the risk of accidentally disconnecting the drain tubes inside the vehicle body with the force of the blast. Getting the tubes reconnected sometimes requires quite a bit of labor, so be patient and avoid using too much pressure.

Remember to clean your sunroof drains at least once a year and you should be able to keep your interior nice and dry during the upcoming April showers and beyond!