Automotive Electric Sunroof Repair

Blair's Texas Window Tinting and more repairs electric sunroofs now serving the McKinney, Texas area.
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  Do you install sunroofs or sell parts for them?
Fresh headliner installed looks new again


We have our gained knowledge of repairing them from doing headliner repairs. During our many years of replacing head

liners, we've fixed many sunroofs as well, along with repairing the head liners. We just fix existing sunroofs, mostly factory installed O.E.M. sunroofs where parts are available from the vehicle manufacturer.
  The Most Scenarios We See

 Most of the type of sunroof repairs we usually see have something broken within the hardware mechanisms. Sometimes it's a simple fix while other times it gets to be quite an ordeal.

The broken part shown to the right is typical of what we see in many cases. This requires a complete rebuild. This lift arm attaches to the

drive cable that moves everything. When broken, the drive cable doesn't work right and the sunroof doesn't close properly. This is a very, very common Ford truck part shown here (we have lotz-o-practice here)...

Many times we see the problem is caused by someone in the past has put grease on the tracks to try to lube things up for one reason or another. The problem with that is over time, the grease gets coated in dirt and grit then dries out.  This gums up the tracks and slides causing undue stress

to all the moving mechanisms. The reason why it dries out is because that area is the hottest part of the car. It's kind of like trying to swim through thick molasses in this scenario. Most sunroof assemblies are designed to run on dry tracks. If you feel like it needs to be lubed up, don't use grease! Use something dry if you can, such as dry silicone aerosol sprays or something super thin that will evaporate such as WD40® or similar. On greased up tracks we are dealing with, we'll clean off as much of the grease as we can and the spray it down with Liquid Wrench® or similar. This tends to dilute and wash out dried grease as you use the sunroof.
Other problems we some times see is in the electrical side of things such as blown fuses, bad relays, bad operating switches, something unplugged, or is when

you press the operating switch, nothing happens even but rarely, bad drive motors. The symptoms of this scenario or no noises are typically heard.
Leaking Electric Sunroofs

   Another common problem we see is people coming in with leaking sunroofs. A majority of them have been told by someone un-knowledgeable or just

 assume that they need a new weather seal to stop it. This is completely incorrect. The weather seal is there to do two things. It keeps out leaves and debris while also eliminating wind noise. It's not a water seal.
An electric sunroof is designed to take on water and drain it away through drain tubes similar to how gutters work on your house. What usually happens is one or more of the drain tubes is clogged up by debris, most of the time being leaves, acorns, pine needles etc. Heck, we've even found bullet casings, roach egg casings, spider nests, and other.

The picture to the right is an extreme case but it doesn't take much. A clean drain can even be messed up by just the broken off tip of one of those leaves that can leave you with an intermitted leak problem.

The sunroof assembly usually has four drain tubes. One on each corner of the pan or track assembly, meaning two up front that runs down the inside of each wind shield pillar and two in the

rear that runs down the inside of the sail panels on either side of the rear wind shield.

These drain tubes exit and drain through the underside of the vehicle.

The front two drain openings usually (but not all) can be seen by simply retracting the sunroof

 open and looking at the forward two corners. There you should see a simple hole in the frame leading to the drain tube on the back side of the frame. If you don't see these holes because of trash being in the way, then you've more than likely found your leaking problem. These two areas are where we see mostly being the problem of being clogged. These drain tubes exit out of the bottom of the vehicle. If they're clogged, water fills up the pan and overflows or sloshes into the interior of the vehicle usually noticed when you turn a corner.
If no debris is found obstructing the front two drain tube openings then the fix is usually having to remove the sunroof glass-panel to be able to inspect the back two drain tube

openings. Usually a small pile of decomposed debris is found piled up in front of one or both of the rear drain tube openings. On these, the head liner has to be removed or the back half has to be dropped to access.
We remove the headliner shell to recover it correctly

 Leaking problems other than listed above can be clogs down in the drain tubes themselves or even cracked or un-attached drain tubes. The fixes for this is usually having

to remove the entire headliner itself to be able to inspect and repair. Basically, leaking problems 99.9% of the time has to do with something going on with the drain tube system or something completely different from the sunroof itself such as a leaking wind shield, or pick up truck's rear cargo light gasket etc.....

To avoid these problems, don't leave your vehicle parked with the sunroof open under trees or don't open it when the roof is covered with leaves and debris stuck to it such as after a rain storm, etc...

  Can you just get it closed for me?

 Yes by one way or another. This is done by having to remove the drive motor to detach it from the drive cables. Once the drive motor is removed, this usually allows for the sunroof glass-panel to be pushed manually back to the closed position in most cases. However, the location of the motor dictates the cost of labor to do this.

Some vehicles have the drive motor placement under a console panel located on the head liner between the two visors in front of the sunroof assembly. This is the

best and cheapest scenario to manually close it.  Other vehicles have their drive motors located behind the sun roof assembly under the head liner. These cost

more in labor because to  access it, the entire head liner has to be removed. Some older cars have the drive motor in the trunk located behind one of the side panels.
  Do you work on any sunroof?     
at Blair's Texas Window Tinting & more

Bullet5.gif (101 bytes)  We'll usually work on any sunroof we can get parts for (if parts are needed). It's usually not a problem getting parts unless it's an extremely old vehicle where the

dealer has discontinued parts for that vehicle or if it is an aftermarket sunroof that's been installed after the vehicle was manufactured.

 We prefer not to work on aftermarket sunroofs because you never know what kind of rigging you'll find once you get in there. For example, look at the picture to the left.

Yes, that's right. The installer who put this sunroof in used CARDBOARD glued in place with silicone as a support bracket. Generally the design, installation, and engineering on these are pretty poor..... Sometimes, it might just be easier and cheaper to replace it with a simple pop-up style sunroof.
  What do these repairs usually cost?

 That's a wide range from nothing to extreme cases of 1500.00 or even more. Usually, if it's something simple and quick such as spraying Liquid Wrench® on the tracks, tightening a bolt that has come loose, or easily being able to just get it closed, then we probably wouldn't charge you anything. If there is more to it than that, then usually what we need to do is spend an hour or so to remove the sunroof glass-panel to look inside to determine what it needs to get a parts assessment. We usually charge $50.00 to do that and that cost gets applied back to the repair cost of once you bring it in to get it fixed. If we have to remove the headliner to access anything, we usually charge $400.00-700.00 + parts + any additional labor on most cars. SUV's are usually a bit more.

The majority of the broken sunroofs we see are related to broken guides, lift arms, and drive cables. Generally what happens is the sunroof hangs up on something while opening or closing and jams. The motor continues to run and the pinion drive gear on the motor either shucks or breaks the teeth off the drive cables or breaks the guides and lift arms. These parts are usually available and out the door repair costs on this scenario is usually around 1200.00-1500.00 to change them out. This is parts and labor by removing the head liner and sunroof unit to install them (rebuild the sunroof unit on the bench). If we don't have to remove the head liner which is kind of rare, then this cost will be less.......

  It is what it is...

However, it also needs to be said,
many manufacturers such as Ford for example don't offer the parts usually needed and you have to buy the whole sunroof frame assembly to get new parts (ouch!). Some of them we can get the needed parts without having to go this route. Ford and GM full sized trucks & SUVs we usually can while others we can't and this is your only option without going with a used one. The new unit scenario usually runs 1600.00-2200.00 (or more for some imports) to fix unless parts can be found from elsewhere or finding a used one somewhere. But to say, if you can even find a used one because everyone is looking for that option with these scenarios.

Just bear in mind though, that through our many experiences, a used one will probably come already pre-broken in some dumb way (old brittle plastic parts) or break on you prematurely anyway. We've seen it too many times making one working assembly from 2 broken ones. One of them being the used undisclosed broken replacement that got delivered to us from a supplier. That in itself is labor intensive driving up the cost and ending up with old used stuff that works ok but who knows for how long... Due to the costs of this usual scenario, if you can, might as well spend a bit more and just go ahead and fix it right, use it, keep it clean from your new found knowledge here, and forget about it.

It is what it is...

  Will my worn out head liner survive all this work?

Also, just to say the words, if we have to remove the head liner board and your material on that board is in rough shape, now would be the best time to recover it while it's out of the

This is typical as to when a headliner needs to be replaced

vehicle for a fraction of the cost as opposed to going through the same process at another time to take care of repairing the head liner material. Sometimes, this becomes a "have to" because the material is in such bad shape that it doesn't make it through the removal of the board process without falling off in our hands due to a rotten, worn out foam backing.  To see what's involved in head liner replacements go here:


NOTE: It's definitely worth mentioning and we're not trying to scare you into coming to us however, that we have had many come in that had unqualified personnel working on their sunroofs that did more damage than good which drives up the cost in repairs that shouldn't have been needed. We see this scenario more that you'd think (even from auto dealerships), so that's why we're mentioning it here for you to be careful as to who you let work on it.......
  My sunroof works fine but the shade panel needs to be recovered. Can you just recover that?

  Yes we can, however some are easier to do than others. Basically, the shade panel has to be removed from the vehicle to recover it with fresh material. There are two different scenarios out there and are explained below:

  Vehicles where it comes out through the top after sunroof glass removal.

Removing the sun shade panel on about 60-75%

of the vehicles out there is done by removing the sunroof glass and then the shade panel comes out of the top. These are the cheapest to do and can be done for around 200-300.00 on most vehicles with this type of design.

  This is on a Mercedes. On these, it's worth mentioning that the plastic vent pieces usually (but not always) need to be replaced as well because they usually crack and

shatter upon removing them. They have to be bent to unsnap them loose and being this is the hottest part of the car, they are usually cooked plastic and very brittle from the sun's effects.

  Sliding it forward to disconnect the rear slider tabs........

  Out and ready for the work bench.....

  Vehicles where it comes out through the rear after head liner board removal.

On these types of vehicle designs, the whole

head liner board has to be removed which is labor intensive. On these types, more than likely the headliner itself needs to be replaced as well which recovering shade panel is included in the head liner replacement job. So basically, you might as well get the headliner board recovered as well

 because the cost to just recover the shade panel will be almost as much as if you had the whole headliner done....

 Almost out....

 Out and on the work bench......

We hope this page helped you understand what's going on with the most common sunroof issues you might have. Feel free to call us with any further questions....

  Call Us @ (972) 783-6005

  During our normal business hours to set up an appointment or to ask any other questions that you may have.

We specialize in FINE automotive window tinting