An investigation by Consumer Reports is drawing attention to the issue of exploding sunroofs in cars. As supersized sunroofs grow in popularity, so does the problem of them shattering without warning, leaving consumers to deal with the expensive repair. Since 2012, consumer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have risen dramatically. From 2012 to 2014, the number more than quadrupled from 41 to 187 complaints. Panoramic sunroofs are a luxury feature, and carmakers have been adding them as an option to more vehicles to attract buyers. Some of them span close to the vehicle’s entire roof.
No Known Cause for Explosions
Consumers who have experienced a sunroof explosion describe a bomb-like explosion sound followed by a downpour of shattered glass. In the complaints received by the NHTSA, there was no direct cause for any of the explosions. Some brands, such as Hyundai, Ford, and Kia, have a higher incidence of sunroof explosions, but the NHTSA has records of complaints of at least 208 models of vehicles from 35 different brands. Automakers do not cover sunroof repairs, and some of them suggest that the glass must have been hit with debris from the road or been subjected to extreme temperature differences.
Glass engineers note that sunroof glass is made to be extremely thin to reduce the weight of the car. It also must bend to meet the curvature of the roof and be able to absorb impact from the road. Any quality control issue in the manufacturing of sunroof panes can result in an explosion as the glass weakens over time.
Safety Standards for Glass
Sunroofs do not have to adhere the same safety standards that is required for windshields. Most do not have a protective membrane as windshields do. There is a minimum standard for glass in cars devised by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the American National Standards Institute, but the last time it was revised was in 1996. In 2011, the NHTSA raised standards for side windows to prevent passengers from being thrown from the car during a rollover, but sunroofs were not included in the change. Because car design has outpaced glass safety standards, the engineering behind panoramic sunroofs is left to trial and error by automakers.
Not every consumer will file a formal complaint, so it can be assumed that this problem occurs in numbers greater than those available from the NHTSA. Kia has 156 instances of the Sorento sunroof exploding on record, but the NHTSA received only 43 complaints. Kia Optima owners filed at least 25 reports with regulators, but 173 Optima owners went directly to Kia. The same is true for Ford, whose Edge crossover wagon had 11 reports of sunroof explosion on record with the NHTSA, but 88 complaints to the automaker.
New Jersey Product Liability Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Advocate for Those Injured by Auto DefectsAutomakers have a responsibility to make sure their products are safe to drive. If you have experienced injuries in an accident caused by a defective auto part or component, contact an experienced New Jersey product liability lawyer from Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP to discuss your legal options. Call 732-777-0100 today to schedule a free review of your case, or contact us online. We have convenient locations in Edison, Toms River, and Red Bank, New Jersey to serve you.