Man's sunroof explodes mid-drive, remains mystery

KUSA – A Colorado couple could not believe it when they were driving on E-470 on a cool morning in April when the sunroof on their 5-month-old Ford pickup truck essentially exploded into hundreds of pieces.

The case of the exploding sunroof

David Dockens said he was driving in little-to-no traffic when, without warning, his sunroof exploded, raining shards of glass down on him.

"The sunroof had exploded out-ward," Dockens said. "It [sounded] similar to hearing a blow-out on an 18-wheeler going down the road next to you. Or maybe a gunshot.

Dockens was an Alabama State Patrol Officer for 10 years and has driven tens-of-thousands of miles. He said he's never seen anything like this happen on the road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said this is a known issue across many makes and models.

The possible causes of the exploding sunroof

There are a variety of theories of why this happens. One is heat may have built up between the sunroof sliding-trim panel and the bottom of the glass.

Another is the use of cheap, foreign-made glass. The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association thinks Chinese-made glass is the likely culprit in most of the incidents

Tim Jackson with the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association says Chinese-made products have proven to be problematic in the past, as well.

"We had this about two years ago with airbags, where … some Chinese, after-market airbags were installed in vehicles, and the airbags didn't work," Jackson said.

Repairing the exploding sunroof

The exploded sunroof is not a cheap repair.

"So far, we found it's going to be somewhere between $1,700 to more likely $2,000 [to fix it,]" Dockens told 9NEWS.

The reason behind the high price tag is, in addition to replacing the glass, dealers also have to replace the track the glass rides on.

At first, Dockens thought he had a legitimate claim as did his dealer.

"'This is not your fault,'" Dockens was told. "'This is something that's wrong with the glass or wrong with the truck, so we'll submit it to Ford.' And they did."

But Ford initially disputed the claim, arguing they don't use substandard glass and couldn't be sure the sunroof in the car was original.

Denver's Freeway Ford owner Mike Peebles agreed with that analysis but decided to step-in and do the repair anyway because it was such a mystery.

"I have never seen it before in a Ford," Peebles said. "And I drive that corridor a few times a month. It hasn't happened to me, but it looks like it happened."

Peebles said it may remain unexplained. The truck, the top-selling F-150, had only 15,000 miles on it. Dockens bought it from a dealer in Texas. Freeway Ford says it has taken the matter up with its corporate structure.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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