Since 2008, Ford owners have been complaining about problems with their panoramic sunroofs – most notably how they can explode without warning.
Lawsuit About Exploding Sunroofs Filed and Then Dropped
In 2016, a wide-reaching lawsuit said 16 models of Ford vehicles have sunroofs that can spontaneously explode.
The lawsuit was filed by the owners of a 2013 Ford Escape who’s sunroof exploded while on the highway:
“Mr. Krebsbach says he thought someone blew out the sunroof with a shotgun when the glass exploded on February 8, 2016, leaving the occupants with their hair standing up. According to the lawsuit, the vehicle was traveling at highway speeds when the glass exploded toward the outside but then sent glass into the car.”
At the time, there were at least 80 complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about shattering sunroofs in Ford vehicles.
According to the lawsuit, there are two main problems with the sunroofs:
- Tests showed a problem with tempering, leaving the glass weak
- To save weight, and boost MPGs, the glass is much thinner than it should be.
Vehicles Mentioned in the Lawsuit
Dropped by Plaintiffs
Roughly two months after filing the lawsuit, the lead plaintiffs walked away from their claims. There wasn’t any indication of a settlement, just a sudden change of heart.
Ford’s Refusal to Cover Under Warranty
A sudden glass shower in your car is frustrating enough, but what really ticks people off is how Ford won’t cover the replacement under warranty. Instead, their go-to tactic is to blame the owner – just like this 2014 Taurus owner.
“Ford says this is not covered under warranty because it must have been my fault. I was driving at 55 mph on a clear cool morning. The sunroof exploded with a sound like a gun shot. I thought someone had dropped something from an overpass, but I had not gone under one. The remaining glass in the roof was pointing upwards as if it had been pushed up from inside.
A 2013 Ford Edge owner, whose warranty replacement was also denied, said his sunroof broke on an otherwise perfect day.
“No other traffic or pedestrians in immediate area. Loud explosion noise similar to a window being shot out. Looking upwards at sunroof: it was badly cracked and crumbling. Pieces of glass falling from car. Vehicle stopped and examined. No foreign object damage. No point of impact noted. Glass sunroof was badly cracked around entire perimeter. Many small pieces had blown off car.
This was obvious structural failure causing the perimeter breakage rather than at a single point of impact.”
But Why Do They Explode?
Sunroofs use tempered glass which is designed to break into small pieces instead of huge shards for safety. The problem with tempered glass is any imperfection – from air bubbles in the glass to a small scratch – can cause the glass to shatter when under pressure. That pressure could come from inside the vehicle which is designed to be more sound and air proof than ever.
CarComplaints.com contacted four top university mechanical engineering professors and got their take on why sunroofs explode:
“Because a glass sunroof is under a lot of compression, air pressure or temperature changes can all contribute to pressure on the glass. All it takes is one microscopic imperfection and time to allow the problem to reach a level where the glass explodes.”