Consumer Reports writes on exploding sunroofs


In the recent past, cases that have reported car sunroofs exploding have increased. Consumer Reports (CR) has now compiled the statistics regarding such incidences across the different automobile manufacturers.

Over the years, the sunroofs have kept on increasing in size. The largest ones being the panoramic sunroofs that cover a majority of a car's roof. The number of cases reported for exploding sunroofs is low as compared to other incidences like tyre bursts, etc. CR has noted that these instances are not just random occurrences and have been happening across the US in all conditions - summer, winter, day, night, on highways, in cities, while driving, when parked etc.

Based on the data of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), CR has found at least 208 models of vehicles across 35 brands over the last 20+ years in the US to have reported shattered sunroofs. The data since 1995 reveals that there have been over 859 reported cases of the same. Shockingly, over 71% of those have happened after 2011. Most of the reports mention that the sunroof just randomly shattered due to no particular reason. Thankfully, the only minor injuries like glass cuts have been reported.

Complaints from owners of brands like Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Nissan and Toyota feature more in the NHTSA than other car brands. While the Scion tC, Hyundai Veloster, Kia Sorento, Nissan Murano, and Kia Optima complaints are higher, the Sorento is the only car currently under investigation by NHTSA. CR has also tracked down more cases of unreported incidents of sunroofs breaking. Kia has revealed that while only 43 Sorento owners have reported to NHTSA, Kia knows of at least 156 such cases. Kia Optima owners have filed 25 cases with the authorities, however, Kia reported a total of 173 shattered sunroofs in the Optima. Ford has reported 88 events in their Edge model, but regulators have only 8 official complaints.

NHTSA requested data from 13 companies out of which only 5 have responded so far. There has been a lack of transparency regarding this matter. South Korean authorities, during their investigation of Kia and Hyundai, found that the application of a layer darker than the rest of the glass would make the sunroof weaker and more prone to shattering. This darker area is used to hide the mechanical elements on the sides of the sunroof. Hyundai recalled their Veloster model along with Nissan for their Maxima - resulting is no further complaints. However, the Cadillac SRX and the Scion tC cases were closed with no defect found - it's no surprise that those two models are in the top 10 complaints list.

However, there are manufacturers that have been issuing recalls without waiting for prodding by authorities. Volkswagen and Audi have recalled the 2012 Q5, the 2013 - 2014 A8 and S8, and the 2013 - 2015 VW Beetle. Going forward, CR has met with experts who recommend usage of laminated glass in the sunroofs. Some of the other guidelines for owners include - checking if the car is equipped with a laminated glass sunroof, warranty coverage of it, insurance coverage of sunroof shattering and checking for warning signs - most users who experienced their sunroofs shattering reported hearing pop sounds before the incident.

Source - Consumer Reports

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