When mother-of-five, Heather Savage was driving her four-year-old Eli and her 15-year-old daughter Raquel who she just picked up from ballet class, a loud noise caused her to pull over her car.
"My heart was racing," she says. "It's not something you expect to happen when you're driving."
The Utah mother thought that she had blown a tire on their 2016 Nissan Pathfinder, but when she got out to take a look around, the tires seemed fine. Then she looked up and saw that the sunroof had exploded, shattering the glass pane into tiny shards of glass that landed on the sunroof's shade guard above her children's head.
"I feel really lucky that I had that shut at the time," Savage says. "When I was looking at cars, I loved the sunroof, but I never imagined in a million years that would happen."
While this might sounds like a freak occurrence, a Consumer Reports investigation found that these incidents happen in every month of the year, in every part of the country. It has happened on interstates, country roads and even while a car is parked in a driveway.
While sunroofs have become a popular upgrade in most vehicles, getting bigger and more extravagant, but not necessarily safer.
Although the issue of exploding sunroofs is known in the auto industry and to government regulators, drivers generally assume their sunroofs are safe.
While experts don't know exactly what is causing the glass to explode, one thing is for sure: The bigger the expanse of glass, the harder it is for manufacturers to ensure that it won't shatter.
So which are the brands that are most effected?
American consumers have filed at least 859 complaints about exploding sunroofs, usually within the first two years' of a car's life.
The list includes at least 208 models of cars across 35 brands of automakers.
Top complaints were issued against Hyundai, Ford, Nissan, Kia, Scion, Toyota and Honda.
While the odds of your sunroof exploding is low, if it does shatter, often consumers are left to deal with the repairs on their own.
Among the complaints, there were at least 36 reports of injury, including cuts and scrapes.
"A shower of glass fell on me," the owner of a 2013 Hyundai Veloster said in his complaint to NHTSA. "I managed to get to work with a bloody arm and forehead, and thank God I had no other cars close to me when it happened."
While a big panoramic sunroof seems impressive, the large pane of glass can pose a risk to passengers.
For Heather and her family, her husband Roy was tasked with coming up with a solution for their shattered sunroof.
He started by taking it to the Nissan dealership. "I told them that the sunroof just exploded, and they're like, "˜Well, you should be fine to drive it. But it's nothing we do; we don't fix it.'"Š"
With five kids and a busy life, he didn't have time to argue with the dealership. He contacted his insurance company who covered most of the $1,000 bill.
Surprised how this could happen out of no where, he searched the internet for answers.
"I was a little miffed," he says, and disappointed "that sunroofs don't have a protective membrane making them like windshields."
Since getting it repaired, Heather can't stop worrying about the glass above her head.
"I'm really hesitant to open it, or to go to a car wash, or do anything that might potentially break it," she says. "It's kind of scary."
What do you think? Will you think twice about your sunroof after reading this?
Source: Consumer Reports