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How to fix a sunroof that won’t close all the way?

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What is a sunroof?

A sunroof can be simply described as the movable panel which is present at the ceiling of the car. It allows light and fresh air to enter the car.

They might be manually operated or automated (motor-driven). They come in different shapes, styles, and sizes.

Functions of a sunroof:

Sunroofs provide us extra light and ventilation when the weather is nice. They are also referred to as a moonroof in some cases.

The first sunroof was a retractable metal panel found on the roof of a classic Nash in 1937. Thirty years later, the moonroof was introduced. A moonroof was made of tinted glass and would let a bit of light to get in even after being closed.

There are some arguments over the nomenclature of sunroofs or moonroofs but we will not get into that. Most sunroofs fall under two categories:

  • Internal sunroof: These are fitted between the headliner and the metal skin of the roof and retract into a pocket specifically made for it.These are the ones which exist most commonly.
  • External sunroof: The are present on top of the roof. They are mostly made of glass and some are textiles. They retract into tracks built above the roofs.
  • Fixed sunroof: These are fixed glass structures built specifically for light to come in.

Some common problems regarding sunroofs:

  1. Mechanical problems like the breaking of glass panel or a panel getting loose are probably the most common problems in this category. They can be replaced or fixed with some basic tools. These can be easily fixed with nuts and bolts or replaced. Special roofs called the Urethane-adhesive sunroofs are the ones only professionals should handle.
  2. Twisting, popping, or sticking sunroofs are the ones that are tricky to solve. It might also be a simple issue such as a lack of lubrication. This can be solved by greasing its tracks by heavy silicon grease and freeing it from sticking itself and in turn, preventing wear. Sadly, this is often overlooked by the owner and not maintaining the roof might lead to it having bigger problems later on. Worn out or broken cables may also be reasons for sticking or binding problems. The flexible cables mesh with the gear on the motor but this can be quickly destroyed if the track is sticking. This kind of repair surely seeks professional help. It is not going to be easy.
  3. Electrical problems like a blown fuse may render the sunroof inoperable. Problems of this nature also arise from lack of lubrication showing how important maintenance is. It might also become inoperable due to a dead motor, switch, or a broken wire. Fuses are the easiest to access so start with them. If the problem becomes too much for you, don’t risk it. Go to a mechanic.

Here are some of the basic things you can do to get your sunroof to work again:

The basic things that you will need to fix the sunroof are a multimeter and a screwdriver.

  • You will have to access the lift arms. For this, you will have to remove the glass from the sunroof. The guide lifting the arms need pushing forward if they are not closing all the way. You will need to use a screwdriver to accomplish the task of pushing the guides forward. This will help the lift arms to fully close. Replacing the glass should be the first thing on your list once the lift arms are moving properly.
  • The next step would be to lift the sunroof cable. It might have had slid in the path of the lift arm and the guides. Remove the J plate in your sunroof and rest the cable. Follow up by replacing the J plate and test if the lift arms are fully moving.
  • Check for any problems in the motor. Without any power in the motor, the roof will remain in that position no matter what you do. First of all, test the motor with a screwdriver. Place the screwdriver at the center of the motor at the nylon brushing. You can always make the motor work manually by rotating the screwdriver. This might be a temporary fix but the next thing in line would be to get the motor replaced.
  • As we have mentioned earlier, the sunroof might get stuck due to problems in the wiring. A short can be a major reason. To check if they are working you will need a multimeter. If the resistance is normal there is no problem with the wiring but if the resistance in the meter turns up to be high then there is a problem with the wiring.
  • Clean up the debris in the tracks. This step should be listed in preventions rather than cures. Regular cleanups of debris will save the cables from getting damaged. Cables are really tough and expensive to fix.

Fortunately, the easiest of fixes is this one. If this works, there is no need for you to do everything written above.

There might be a problem with the switch. In this case, open the sunroof all the way and let it shut. As it is, it won’t shut all the way. Don’t let go of the switch and hold it for about 20 seconds and you will see that the roof closes. This is the time the computer program takes to be accepted. This is one of the most common solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to fix a sunroof that won’t close? 

How much it costs to fix a sunroof that will not close depends entirely on the severity of the problem as well as how you decide to tackle it. If you need to replace the sunroof glass then you are looking at a price of between $300-$400, and a process taking a couple of hours. 

Needing to replace the sunroof motor will have a starting cost at $100, but can cost up to $250. 

Sunroofs can be cheap if you do it on your own at a smaller cost of $100-$200, but via a repair shop or car dealership, you are looking more at $300-$1000 depending on the problem. 

How do you manually close a sunroof? 

You can manually close a sunroof, however, how you do it depends on your individual car. For example, in a C-Class car, you will need to remove the lens on the overhead light by prying it off with a screwdriver.

Then you need to slide the locking tabs towards the windshield and pull down on the housing to remove the inside of the roof light assembly while leaving the wiring connected.

Take an S-shaped Allen wrench and insert it into the left side motor hole and turn the crank clockwise to manually close the sunroof. 

This is fairly similar on each type of vehicle, but each will vary in certain ways.

While a C-Class only requires the use of a screwdriver some may need more, such as a Toyota Solara which requires the use of a Phillips-head screwdriver, a flathead screwdriver, and an Allen wrench.

Check information for your specific car. 

How do you reset a sunroof? 

The process for resetting a sunroof can vary per each different make/ model of car. But, one of the more universal methods is best used when it needs a reset after the car battery has been disconnected or replaced. 

To use this method, you should turn the ignition switch on. Then push the sunroof button forward to close if it is not already closed, then release the button.

Now, push to sunroof button forward again and hold until the sunroof tilts and moved slightly, and then release. This will likely take around 10 seconds or so.

Finally within 3 seconds, push the sunroof button forward again and hold, now the sunroof should tilt closed and then slide open, and then closed again. At this point, you can release the button and the sunroof should be reset. This process may vary amongst different cars but is usually not too different.  

Is there a fuse for the sunroof?

Like any mechanical or electrical component on your car or indeed most things, the sunroof does indeed have a fuse. This fuse helps to protect the system from a spike in voltage.

Just like anything this fuse can blow. This can be problematic for something like a sunroof. Because if the fuse blows then the sunroof will get stuck, in whatever position it was in when the fuse blew. 

This can be problematic if the fuse blows while the sunroof is open, inviting in rain, debris, and more can get inside the car. A mechanic can fix this though, after an inspection to diagnose the cause of the problem.

A professional mechanic will inspect the sunroof, determine the problem and provide you with the required fixes and repairs to get your sunroof back working again. If the fuse has blown, this usually just requires a new fuse. 

How much does it cost to fix sunroof seal? 

Like on your car windows, house windows, or any other piece of glass intended to keep outside elements at bay, your sunroof has a seal. 

If the seal has broken then you may experience a leak. Though this is not the only cause, sometimes it can be caused by college drainage tubes, which results in cheap repairs. 

The other option is that the sunroof seal has broken, this sadly means that the whole sunroof will need to be removed, replaced, and resealed. There is no possible way to reseal a sunroof without completely removing the whole unit. 

Sadly though, to remove the whole sunroof, replace the seal, and refit, it can cost you a pretty penny.

Usually at around the $500 mark. Of course, you could just tape it up with some strong tape if you cannot afford it but it’s not a good permanent fix and isn’t the most aesthetic look. 

Is sunroof covered by insurance?

The short answer, maybe. It depends on the type of insurance you have. Sunroof’s fall under comprehensive coverage under your insurance. This type of insurance will provide protection for most, if not all components of your vehicle. 

It also depends on the type of damage that occurred. If it is due to poor maintenance then most plans will offer no protection, if there was an accident, either natural or human in nature, then your policy may help.

If the sunroof leaks then the interior may suffer damage and then insurance will possibly cover repairs to the interior of your vehicle, this can be covered by damages caused by storms, flooding, or even theft. 

Insurance may or may not cover your sunroof depending on the individual situation, what insurance you have and how the damage was caused to the sunroof in the first place. 

Final Thoughts

There are some easy fixes regarding problems with sunroofs. Try them out, do not be scared.

But there is a threshold to every DIY fix. If your judgment says it can be done, do it! Otherwise, there is always a mechanic around the corner.

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