Damaged Interior From Leaking Sunroof

TL;DR

Multiple defects with the sunroof drainage system are causing massive amounts of leak problems for Audi owners. The water is soaking headliners, creating unsafe amounts of condensation, and short circuiting sensitive electronic components. Audi has a long list of communications with dealers about the problem, but hasn't offered any solutions or compensation to owners.

Poorly drawn blue box outlining damage made to the headliner from rain leaking in through the sunroof.
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One of the most common complaints about sunroofs is that they leak. And when they do it's likely a problem with the drainage system that is meant to divert water and drain it away safely.

That's because water is extremely damaging and even a small leak can be an absolute nightmare for owners.

And yet, for some reason Audi has sold cars since the 2016 model year with the same leaky panoramic sunroofs. This includes the A1, A3, TT, Q2, and Q3.

The Sunroof Design Defect

Multiple problems can be found with the panoramic sunroofs sold by Volkswagen Group, parent company of Audi, over the last handful of years.

Most notably is stress cracks found in the plastic water channel that runs around the sunroof itself. The channel has a different expansion rate than its steel reinforced brackets, causing cracks where the two pieces meet.

It doesn't take much of a crack for water to leak through.

Other defects include an incorrectly assembled rear drain that owners say is "pinched shut" over time. And poorly designed outer sunroof seals that don't properly adhere to the car body.

Warranty claims for sunroof problems are usually denied

Owners say that most, if not all, warranty claims related to the sunroof are denied by Audi.

It's a bad look, especially given the "People First" bumper-to-bumper limited warranty that came about following the dieselgate scandal.

So much for restoring consumer confidence.

It's More Than Just Leaks

Water is shockingly destructive. In addition to paying for any repairs related to the sunroof itself, owners are often left paying for other expensive repairs to soaked headliners.

Water also creates the perfect environment for mildew smells and mold spores.

As water builds up inside the car it can create an excessive and dangerous amount of interior condensation.

Finally, the water can damage sensitive electrical equipment and has been blamed for stopping cars dead-in-their-tracks while driving down the highway.

Technical Bulletins, Tech Tips, and Other Communications

Unlike warranty claims, Audi can't deny knowing about the problem.

Complaints started rolling in soon after the release of the 2016 A1, A3, and TT. That led to an uptick in warranty claims, and replacement parts being ordered.

A Series of TSBs

Most damaging of all is the 20+ service bulletins, "tech tips," and special campaigns VW Group has sent through the years. It's a long list so get comfy.

  • September 2016 one of the first TSBs titled "PANORAMIC SUNROOF INSPECTION AND REPAIR PROCEDURE" is sent along with repair kits and sealant.
  • October 2016 a second TSB #2045672 titled "Water Leaks from the Rear of the Panoramic Sunroof," was released telling dealers how to inspect and replace the rear sunroof drain hoses and ensure the correct routing of those hoses.
  • November 2016 VW Group sent a "tech tip" to service technicians titled "Sunroof Concern Diagnostic Tree to address Water Leaks, Wind Noise, Mechanical Concerns.” The tip acknowledged the technician may not be able to replicate the issue, but they should clean the drains and adjust the sunroof glass just in case.
  • November 2016 VW Group issued a TSB concerning “Water Leak from Panoramic Sunroof” To date none of the TSBs reference Audi vehicles directly.
  • December 2016 New month, new TSB with more repair kits and sealant.
  • January 2017 VW issued Special Notice SM 14-2016 to “inform dealers to return all sunroof repair kits” labeled 5GM898041, and to order repair kit 5GM898041A including those sent in December and September of 2016. Whoopsies.
  • February 2017 VW issued a TSB clarifying the models, VIN range, and instructions for applying of additional foil patches to prevent leaks.
  • August 2017 VW issued an "Important Notice to Dealers – For Immediate Distribution" to inform dealers about an upcoming update that would provide specific repair instructions on sunroofs. Dealerships were told they cannot sell vehicles from their lots until the update is completed. Customers were not notified about any such repair.
  • August 2017 Later that month VW issued a 2015-2017 Golf and Golf GTI TSB telling dealers to “[p]erform this UPDATE on all applicable vehicles within New Vehicle Limited Warranty." Once again it was mandatory to complete the repairs for any vehicle on the lot, but not customers who came in with complaints.
  • September 2017 The Golf Alltrack was added to the list of previously covered models. Once again, no Audi models were mentioned.
  • March 2020 A letter is sent to a small number of owners providing them with details of a "special service" that provides cleaning and modification of the front sunroof drain.

OK, so you get the idea. In fact there's three more sunroof TSBs, three "Tech Tips", three "Service Actions," one "Special Notice" and one "Important Notice." all which allegedly show the VW sunroofs are defective.

A Series of Lawsuits

It should come as no surprise that VW Group has been sued over this problem multiple times.

The lawsuits all boil down to the same grievances.

  • There are defects in the design and manufacturing of the sunroof drainage systems
  • VW Group has issued multiple technical service bulletins about preventing water leaks from their panoramic sunroofs, but have only offered a "cleaning and modification" service to a small number of owners.
  • The defect leads to considerable damage to interior components, such as the headliner and sensitive electrical components
  • VW fails to honor their warranty when making repairs related to the defective sunroof drainage system.

In December 2019, the first lawsuit, Gjonbalaj, et al., v. Volkswagen Group of America, et al. was filed in the Eastern District of New York.

A second lawsuit, Cole, et al., v. Volkswagen Group of America, et al. followed in March 2020 in the Northern District of California.

The following Audi vehicles have been mentioned in these lawsuits.

  • 2015-present Audi A1
  • 2015-present Audi A3
  • 2015-present Audi TT
  • 2015-present Audi Q2
  • 2015-present Audi Q3

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA