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Panoramic Sunroofs

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October 22, 2017
Edward Smith

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Panoramic Sunroof Options

Many new vehicles can be equipped with sun, moon, and panoramic roof options. While these features can greatly enhance a vehicle’s design aesthetics and driving experience, they also present some unique safety concerns.

A Big Window

Sunroofs and their variants are essentially just windows on a vehicle’s roof. While these windows are typically tinted and used in conjunction with a cloth shade, sunroofs let in sunlight and thus have a tendency to heat equipped vehicles with a “greenhouse effect.” Being that it absorbs light, the tinted glass will itself effectively become a superheated element when functioning. In hot, sunny climates a sunroof can make a car exceptionally hot.

Exploding Glass

Glass roofs have recently made the headlines with stories of “exploding sunroofs.” While automakers and dealers have not been forthcoming in acknowledging this admittedly rare phenomenon, experts believe that the problem is likely one of the manufacturing defects that become apparent when the glass is exposed to extreme temperatures. While explosions of this type are uncommon and do not typically result in catastrophic injuries, major manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Hyundai have still issued recalls over the issue in recent years.

Crash Safety

Perhaps the biggest concern that people have about sunroofs is one of safety in the event of an accident. It is true that metal, often aluminum in the case of car roofs, is significantly stronger than glass. This can prove relevant in the sense that a glass roof shattering in an accident both creates and exposes the vehicle’s occupants to debris. It is however unlikely that a sunroof otherwise compromises a vehicle’s safety in regards to structural integrity.

Strength Ratings

A vehicle’s frame is composed of various types of metal with different strength ratings. This is done for a number of reasons, one of which is to create “crumple zones” that absorb the forces of an impact. Since the roof is not an area that designers expect to see significant impacts, the structural pillars of the roof are some of the strongest components of a car’s frame and are designed to hold 4 times the weight of the vehicle without major deformation. In the event of a rollover, a shattered glass roof would perhaps present occupants with additional hazards over a standard model, but a fully collapsed roof isn’t one of them.

Sunroof Ejections

One particularly frightening safety issue with a glass roof is that of being ejected from the vehicle through the sunroof in the event of an accident. While your seat belt should hold you inside the cabin, over 260 people have been ejected from the sunroof since 2000. Hyundai has recently announced a new airbag designed to cover the sunroof and protect occupants by rapidly deploying in the event of a rollover crash, and their competitors are sure to follow suit as the popularity of these features increase.

Practical Issues

The biggest issues with glass roof amount to practical ones. The added weight associated with electric motors and large glass panels- compounded by the placement of this extra weight above the vehicle’s center of gravity- can reduce a vehicles performance and fuel economy. The “greenhouse effect” experienced by many owners can also affect a vehicles fuel economy by causing the air conditioning unit to work harder to cool the vehicle.

Water is another problem that can negatively impact roofs that open or tilt. Because they are not completely waterproof, a vehicle’s doors and windows rely on drains to keep the cabin dry. These drains can clog if not regularly maintained and lead to water intrusion, rust, or electrical failures.

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Car Accident Lawyer Sacramento 

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer. Have you or someone you love been injured in an accident involving the negligence of another person? Please contact me right away at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. I am also available online at

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Dual Sun Roof by Michael Sheehan. CC BY 2.0
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