Thursday, March 23, 2023

F150 Panoramic Sunroof Repair

Sometimes, you can do it yourself.

The King Ranch was in storage for a few months and when we went to go camping, I realized I had left the sunroof closed.  I usually leave it in the popped-up (vent) position to air out the truck in storage.  Anyway, I hit the button and it made a sickly cracking noise and wouldn't open.  I tried it a few more times and it finally opened, but sounded like there were rocks in the mechanism.

It is the kind of thing you dread owning a car with a sunroof, or a convertible with a fancy electric top - or worse yet, one of those retractable hardtops with motors and limit switches and levers and gears.  It all goes wrong over time and only the dealer has parts and know-how to fix it - right?

Well, in the case of the sunroof, many dealers are clueless about them as they tend to break out of warranty.  So they quote astronomical prices to repair them - from $600 to $1000 or so.  One dealer had the balls to ask $4000.  The repair, in this instance, turns out to be simple, and the parts cost about $150 from sunroof doctor and there are all sorts of DIY videos on YouTube (some better than others - it pays to watch several).  I also pays to take the time to understand how the thing works, which becomes quite clear once you work on it - it is not the giant mystery it seemed at first, nor was it horribly complicated.

The problem is twofold.  Panoramic sunroofs, unlike ordinary one-piece sunroofs, have two pieces of glass.  So in a regular sunroof, you have a seal that goes all around the glass and seals against the sheetmetal of the car.  In the Panoramic, one side of the glass has a rubber seal that seals against another rubber seal on the rear glass.  These seals can stick together over time, if the roof is left closed.  When you finally open it, it acts like it is glued shut and the "pop" you hear is a plastic part of a metal rail cracking.  A piece of this plastic can fall off and get in the track, causing further problems down the road.  And as the plastic track is now cracked, the "follower" that moves the sunroof along this track will jam or can jam.  The good news is, Ford designed this with a torque-sensing overload, so if it does jam, it will reverse or shut down to prevent damage to the cable drive.

I ordered the parts - about $170 delivered, and they came in a few days.  I sort of put it off (CoVid) but we wanted to go camping, so after watching all the videos, I gave it a shot.  Removing the glass was easy - three 9mm bolts on each side and you put an old blanket on the back of the roof and push the glass up and rest it on the blanket (hint: slam the edges of the blanket in the rear doors so it doesn't slide off the roof and destroy the glass.

Removing the "rails" was a little trickier, but the kit even came with some extra parts and screws.  The first one was the hardest, and took about 30 minutes. The second took about 15.  It isn't really a "rail" as it moves with the sunroof.  It is a track that moves the rear edge of the glass up and down to open fully (down) or pop into vent mode (up).  It also moves the front of the glass up or down as well.

Once the rails were in place, I could work the mechanism a few times and confirm it worked.  I re-installed the glass, putting in the bolts loosely and then pushing up on the glass until it was flush with the roof, adjusting both sides accordingly.  Once I confirmed it was flush and worked properly, I tightened down the bolts.

And... done!

Supposedly Ford has had a big problem with these rails and redesigned the part with a different kind of plastic.  We'll see.  In the field, things happen that you don't see during development.  I guess they don't have live oak pollen in Dearborn - it lands on everything here.  Add a little water and it is like glue - particularly on that rear seal!

So, keep the seals clean and lubricated and be prepared - after seven years - to fix it.

Some people say, "Well, that's why I would never have a sunroof!  Nothing but trouble!  Best to stick to simple things!"  Well, that's one approach, Amish.  But the point of this blog is how to live better on less, not how to live like a Monk on bread and water.

$170 repair after seven years and 68,000 miles.  Not bad.  The only other thing I've done to it is change the oil and put in a new battery and a set of tires.

I can live with that!