Unfortunately, my wife recently brought an issue to my attention that makes me question the value and appeal of having a sunroof, especially the large panoramic variety. The issue you ask? She drove the car to work on one of our many rainy days here on the Oregon coast and parked it, facing down hill. When she hopped into the car to drive home for lunch she noticed that the front seats were quite wet, as well as the inside ceiling. As it turned out, the rear wheel well, where the spare tire and subwoofer is held, was also holding a small pool of water.
We very seldom ever use our sunroof, and rarely even bother to look up, through it. How could so much water enter so suddenly, when it was all closed up tight?
A call to my VW dealership was quite enlightening. I explained the issue and that it is the customer's responsibility to do periodic cleaning and inspection of the sunroof, as it supposedly says in the owner's manual. I was shocked to hear that, but then reminded him that all of my service for the car has been done at the their dealership, including a service that was just completed one week prior to this leak. During that service they even asked me if I wanted to have the service bulletin for the drainage of the moonroof taken care of. I said sure and then they replied that it was their mistake, it was already done last year. Had they forgotten to inspect the sunroof while they had it in their possession?
Regarding the servicing, I replied that I would assume that if something is important (as this is) they would include it with their other services. I was surprised to hear that it is included, for my car model, only starting at the 40,000 mile service! That sounds ridiculous, but is actually true, as I confirmed in my VW manual. It is sooner and more often for the Touareg model, but not so for the 2015 Golf Sportswagen.
i am not alone with this cold (wet) discovery, it turns out that with an internet search of "Volkswagen sunroof leak", results yield VW Class Action Lawsuits up and down the screen.
I was disheartened with this news. We love our car, what to do now? We live in a rainforest, we can't have a car that isn't weatherproof, let alone a car that can't handle rain!
I was curious to know if this was a VW issue or if other makes also soaked their customers on this issue. So I called a friend who is a service adviser at a Mercedes dealership. I asked if Mercedes cars and trucks have issues with sunroofs leaking"? He said "they all do". All makes have the same issue, as the issue mostly comes down to the drainage and that needs to stay clean or water will overflow into the passenger compartment.
As I understand this, there are typically two drains at the front of the sunroof and two drains at the rear of the sunroof. These drain hoses are about the size of a drinking straw and thanks to spider webs, pollen, tree needles, leaves or you name it, can be easily plugged, even if you never use your sunroof. The drain hose can also disconnect altogether, leaving water draining where you don't want it to.
The Bottom Line:
My friend at the Mercedes dealership said that is why they (MB Service techs) check the sunroof drains at each service. Perhaps that is one reason why you don't see the class action lawsuits and disgruntled customers that you see with VW. VW doesn't service this important issue nearly as often as they should and customers don't even know they need to, until their vehicle is possibly ruined with water damage.
It is getting more and more difficult to avoid a sunroof in a car, as most midline and upper trim lines have them as standard.
My thoughts in conclusion:
I have learned that car manufactures that sell vehicles with these large sunroofs should service them often and they should actively inform all owners of the importance of this maintenance, because people become very angry when learning this potentially costly and avoidable lesson on their own. Vehicles that are not properly and quickly dried can develop interior water stains and mold growth can become a health concern. Water damage often results in cars being "totaled" by insurance claims and all of our rates increase to pay for it.
With my car at least, I don't see how anyone that is not a professional mechanic could be expected to clean out the drains on their panoramic sunroof, especially the rear drains, where it appears the rear tires may need to be removed for access. Which brings me back to my first point.
Far too many cars and trucks and almost all prestige brands have sunroofs/moonroofs as standard equipment. Can we all just let go of this obsession to see the sky through our vehicle's roof? Likely not.
The point of the story; When you bring your car in for regular service have them check and clear the drains for your sunroof. if you don't have a sunroof, good for you.