Today: Fix for a Leaky Sunroof?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 22, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2003 Toyota RAV4 with the sports package. Two years ago, there was a water leak in the driver's seat area -- a lot of water. After several visits to two different repair places, they found that the sunroof was leaking, and they replaced it. I had no problems until recently. Now when slowing down or turning corners, there is a noise that sounds like water is sloshing around on the rooftop, even though there is nothing on the roof. How can we dry out the roof?

-- Sharon

Get ready for another leak, Sharon.

All sunroofs allow water to get into the sunroof well "inside" the roof. And because water inevitably gets in there, there are drains that are supposed to allow the water to flow out onto the ground. Your drains are plugged up -- that's why the water is sloshing around right over your head.

When enough of it builds up, you'll step on the brakes one day, and a bucket of water will pour out of the overhead console and onto your head. So, one of your options would be to set up your phone to film you while you're driving, because that will make an excellent YouTube video. Especially if you happen to be on your way to a wedding that day.

Alternatively, you could ask your mechanic to clean out your sunroof drains. Most cars have four drains.

Two go down the A-pillar (at the sides of your windshield), and two go out the back. What we mechanics do is we'll very slowly fill up that well around the sunroof with water. And we'll see what happens. If it doesn't drain out, we know the drains are plugged.

They get plugged over time by outdoor debris -- leaves, pollen, dirt, bird droppings -- that gets in there with rainwater, whether or not your sunroof is open. But they're easy to clean out. We just blow them out with compressed air, which works well.

Then we'll do a post-op check with some water to verify that they're draining well.

So ask your mechanic to give that a try. And by the way, that might have been what you needed last time, instead of a new sunroof.


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