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Subaru Sunroof Repair for $9 (detailed with photos)


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I have seen several posts on broken Subaru sunroofs. Mine was broken for about 5 years and I finally took it on last weekend with the help of this and another forum (http://forums.nasioc.com/forums). I have photographed some key aspects along the way and posted them here with fairly detailed instructions. I realize this may be more detail than a seasoned “Subie” requires, but hey, I am a novice and even a novice can do this repair with some good instructions. If you want to fix your sunroof for $9 instead of $1200 this may help you out.


What you will need:


1) A 12-year old son with strong mechanical aptitude, better eyesight than you and a keen attention to detail. If one of these is not available you will at least be better off with a second set of hands. In fact I’d say this is dang near impossible with only one person. You’re certain to damage your interior, your knuckles and your patience if you try this alone.


2) A power screwdriver or better year a drill with socket driver will be very helpful as there are many, many bolts and nuts to remove to get the assembly out of your car.


3) A clean space to work and lay out the parts as you remove them. There are many parts photo.


4) About 12 hours of your life (times two people). Less if you get it right the first time.


First, read the post below:




It is an excellent overview that I used posted at a different forum so please read this first (and thanks to “Gator GT” for getting me started). Post #20 has the details. I am merely adding my personal detail, insights and photos to go with this step by step.


1. Remove the entire headliner assembly. All of it. You cannot do this fix with the assembly in the vehicle. You will even have to take off the seat belt shoulder strap to get the side molding pieces off in order to easily remove the headliner. Take care to remember every bolt and nut for re-assembly.


2. If you are doing this by yourself (ouch) or even if not, remove the glass from the assembly before you remove the assembly from the car (much lighter). Remember exactly where the shims were.


3. You can remove the motor before or after. Again, it will lessen the weight if you take it out first. Remember, you have to maneuver this assembly out of the car without damaging the interior.


4. Once you have the assembly out, find a nice table (preferably at standing or sitting height because you will spend some time with this mechanism).


5. Here is a key point. Inspect the sliding mechanisms. This may inform you as to why your sunroof stopped working in the first place. On each side, there is a very small piece of metal (a polygon about the thickness of a dime) that is screwed into the side of the sliding mechanism. This piece serves to guide the mechanism when the roof moves to the up/elevated position. On mine, one of the pieces was missing. If it is missing, the elevator may hang up, placing tension on the cable and ultimately leading to the breakdown you now face. I have included a photo of both the original metal piece and the plastic piece my 12-year old assistant had to fabricate as a replacement.


6. If you are not missing the piece, great. If you are, you will need to make a new one out of plastic or metal. We used plastic and shaped it with a dremel.


7. Move the mechanism back and forth in the rail and note how it works. There is a spring mechanism inside that holds the back half in place when the glass moves to the forward position, locks into the outer rail, and releases the front piece to continue its travel forward and upward. You can see this in the photo of the missing metal piece as well. If you don’t have the 12-year old boy to figure this out, it may be a good place to take a photo or two. If you don’t get this spring mechanism put back together correctly, it obviously won’t work.


8. Remove the back-stops at the end of the rails and remove one side of the sliding mechanism. Slowly slide the mechanism out.


9. Repeat for the other side.


10. Carefully remove the cables. We used a paint key (has the small upward bend) to push the cable from the motor hole at the front until the cable was exposed enough to pull it out.


11. When you get the cable out, clean it by hand and straighten any bends. Set aside in a clean place.


12. Clean out the track to the best of your ability.


13. Slather the track and the inside mechanism with lithium grease – this is your first out of pocket expense unless you already had the grease on hand. Be careful not to get the grease in places where it will come in contact with the headliner or the headliner glass cover that rides in those inner rails (you removed this earlier in the process). Run the mechanisms back and forth in the tracks to make sure they move smoothly. Then take them back out of the tracks.


14. Reconnecting the cables. This may vary depending on the degree of damage. You can see what it looks like in my next photo. The cable was factory crimped into the ferule. If you can slide the cable back in with no difficulty, great. If not, use a drill to bore out the ferule until the cable fits again. Now you have several choices.


a. You can place the cable in and try to re-crimp it. I tried this once and it didn’t hold. The metal isn’t very strong and it seems to me that one fresh crimp at the factory is about all it could take.


b. If you’re good with welding you could try to weld this cable in place. Seems like the right thing to do, but I didn’t have access and was a little concerned about heating these pieces up.


c. Here’s your second out of pocket expense – J.B. Weld. I know, I know, but it doesn’t require any heat and has done the trick for me so far. I mixed some up, coated the cable and then slid it in. I crimped it again for good measure. I let it dry and then had to dremel off some excess and the slightly misshapen/bent ferule as the entire assembly must slide back into the track. You’ll know when you get to that part.


15. Slide the cables back in and re-assemble the two mechanisms and run them back and forth again to see that they still move freely. There will be more resistance now since the cables are in, but they must still move smoothly.


16. Re-assemble the remainder of the assembly (the end caps, etc).


17. Remember to re-install that sliding headliner glass cover (with the cloth facing down), before you put the assembly back in the car. You can’t get it in once the assembly is bolted back into the roof.


18. Place the assembly back in your roof.


19. Here’s another tricky part. The motor is servo controlled so the position of the motor relative to the glide mechanisms is important. If you get this wrong, you risk overrunning the mechanism with the motor, pulling the cables back out and starting over (thus my estimating 12 hours to complete the project). I pushed the slide mechanisms all the way to the front and fully elevated position. Then energized the motor while it was not connected to the assembly and ran it back and forth until I was certain the motor was also in the fully front and elevated position. Remember, when you are running the motor from back to front, it stops at the halfway point. So you have to run it again to get it fully forward, then the other switch moves it up. Experiment until you are absolutely certain you understand the positioning.


20. Re-connect the motor to the assembly. If you want to test it without power you can take a drill with a hex driver (or the hex-key provide by Subaru in your glove box) to manually run the motor back and forth now that it is back in the assembly. If it is working correctly, both rails should go all the way back, come forward, and fully elevated. If anything is binding up, STOP NOW! and figure it out. Once you hook up the motor it will likely pull the cables back out or damage something else if the glide isn’t perfect. The motor is powerful and does not stop until it gets to the end.


21. If the motor and track seems to be working correctly, run the motor to the closed position (not elevated, just closed) and replace the glass. Remember those shims and get them back in the same places. Be very careful when tightening the glass. Don’t over-tighten. You’ve come too far to break the glass now.


22. With the glass in place run the mechanism again to see how it works. It may still be advised to run it with a drill and hex bit on slow speed so you can avoid any excessive force on the first trial. Measure twice, cut once is the motto for this project. Remember you’re trying to save $1191. Build your confidence, then run it with the motor repeatedly to insure success.


23. Check the roof/seal at the top when it is in the closed position. If the glass is too low or too high, you can either adjust the shims or in my case (glass too low), I dropped the motor out while in the closed position, then moved the elevator mechanisms up slightly to press the glass higher, then re-installed the motor so the “new” position is the “closed” position as far as the motor is concerned. If you have it perfect, the glass will stop in both directions before you hear the motor bind.


24. If you are satisfied, button up the headliner and call it a day. I chose to leave my headliner out for a week while I drove around and put the glass through the paces (didn’t want to remove it all again if the cables didn’t hold up).


There you have it. $5 for the JB Weld and $4 for the lithium grease. Go spend your remaining $1191 on something fun. Good luck and feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’d be happy to share my experience because life’s too short for a busted sunroof.






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request that this be stickied in the DIY section!
258k miles - Stock engine/minor suspension upgrades/original shocks/rear struts replaced at 222k/4 passenger side wheel bearings/3 clutches/1 radiator/3 turbos
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A beautiful write-up from a brand new member :)

I'm sure you have a whole lot more where that came from.



+1. :wub:


request that this be stickied in the DIY section!


+1 to this, too!!! :)


I love using my moonroof - and I know that a post like this will come in very handy, in the long run! Thank you!

<-- I love Winky, my "periwinkle" (ABP) LGT! - Allen / Usual Suspect "DumboRAT" / One of the Three Stooges

'16 Outback, '16 WRX, 7th Subaru Family

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Just a note. When doing this, since you have the headliner out, order and install some Dynamat or Dynamat like material.


Two mods in one!

[URL="http://legacygt.com/forums/showthread.php/proper-flip-key-interesti-159894.html"]Flip Key Development Thread[/URL] "Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." - E. Hubbard
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  • 3 months later...

I've got the same problem on my 2005 wagon. Was set to get it checked out at a friend of our's shop. Will look into this thread more to see if it could truely be the fix for me too!


Anybody have tried this on a 2005+?

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  • 2 months later...

In the interest of full disclosure, it is one year later and my repair has failed.


I have the whole assembly out and one side came loose. Not sure if the JB Weld flat out failed or if the glass/assembly got sideways a bit, bound up and broke the weld.


In any case it's back to the drawing board. Only now I can't really re-crimp or do much with the sliding mechanism so I am looking for parts from another sunroof (no glass needed) to get this working again.

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^ Still, one year, that's not bad for $9!!!

<-- I love Winky, my "periwinkle" (ABP) LGT! - Allen / Usual Suspect "DumboRAT" / One of the Three Stooges

'16 Outback, '16 WRX, 7th Subaru Family

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  • 2 months later...
I have a 2004 wagon with two sunroofs. The front one will not stay in the up position. I can push it up by hand, but it won't stay up. Before I tear into it, any ideas about the cause? Thanks!
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Will it go forward and backward, but just not up?


When you run the motor, what happens?


Even if the cables detach from the glass frame, the motor should still *push* the roof back, but when you go to move it forward it won't go. The system is push back, pull forward, so usually disconnected cables can still push the glass back (unless they've been pulled so far forward that they've come out of the connectors).


Moving the glass up is definitely a *pull* effort. There are little wedges in the mechanism that pull forward and ramp the glass up.


If you hear the motor running but no movement on the top, then it's a good bet that the cables have come unattached.

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Mine is a two part roof - moon in front and sun in back. The moon roof (tilt only) is the part that has stopped working. There is only one control, a rocker button, open and close. Pushing the open side once is supposed to tilt the front glass. But now, the glass doesn't tilt unless you push it up with your hand. When you press the "open" button a second time, the rear window opens 1/2 way. When you press it again, it opens all the way. The only malfunction is that the front window doesn't tilt up. It does tilt down and lock at the end of the closing sequence. So your conjecture of a broken cable that tilts the front window sounds right on the mark. The next question is how would this be fixed and how much trouble is it to disassemble? From previous posts, my guess would be it's a lot of trouble to work on and possibly the only reliable fix would be a new cable assembly of some type. Probably just the part would be very expensive. Thanks for the help. Chris
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Well if you want to tackle it yourself, the instructions are all in my post at the top. You can not fix it without taking out the entire headliner and removing the sunroof assembly. If the cable has just slipped out, you may be able to re-crimp it and it might work. As you can see above, in the end I bought a new/used assembly for about $200 and installed it myself. The labor is a bit tedious, but not rocket science and so satisfying when the roof works again :) If you do decide to tackle it and run into problems, I'd be happy to talk you through it.
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  • 4 months later...

Hard to say without cracking it open. If one or both cables pull out of the crimped ferile then the result would be that it opens (push) but won't close (pull) because the cables can push back, but then they slide out of the ferile when it comes forward. As I recall, the pop open feature is an over extension of the pull so it doesn't seem that your cables have come loose.


There is a cam mechanism that has to lower the glass below the rail a bit in order for the glass to slide back, so it may be that the cam has failed. There is a small screw and a piece that holds that together. Mine had come out. Once that is out, binding could take place.


Have you tried to run the glass back by hand with the allen key? That would tell you if the motor is having problems moving the glass back.


Only way to know for certain is to take it apart. But if you get it open I'm sure those of us here can help.

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