By on January 26, 2015

moonroof. Shutterstock user JADEZMITH

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m a long time lurker on the truth about cars, it’s probably of my favorite car website‎!

The problem I’m having is with my 2010 Ford Fusion SEL, I bought it brand new back in May 2009 and now with 175,000KM (Canadian!) it’s been a great car until this recent issue has popped up and neither I or a glass shop or a Ford Dealer can figure it out. I’m getting water in the car on the passenger side A pillar where the plastic trim meats the headliner, the water doesn’t gush in, the floor is never wet just that corner gets wet during heavy rain.

The Fusion is equipped with a moonroof but I’ve had the drains cleaned and even went as far as pouring water down the drain tube that runs along that part of the car and it stayed dry inside, I thought it might have been the corner of the windshield but after using some heaving duty caulking along the top of the windshield it’s still getting wet inside.‎ I checked the moonroof drip tray when the headliner was wet but it has very little water inside the drip tray, I thought it might be the passenger side door seal leaking but it’s also dry inside when the headliner is wet. I can’t seem to figure out where it’s coming from, every time I think I’ve pinpointed it, it gets wet again. I have also noticed that it seems to stay dry most of the time when parked on a flat surface but when parked on any sort of incline it seems to get wet and of course my driveway is inclined. There is these long black plastic trim that runs along the roof on both sides, I always thought it was held down with adhesive but is it possible there are holes underneath that trim?

I’m feeling extremely frustrated at the moment with it, I am?! don’t want to trade it in, I love my Fusion I’ve got the 3.0 litre V6 which gets good mileage and is quick, it’s comfortable and has been reliable only needing one repair under warranty to replace the shifter because the switch for manual mode died, so any help you and the best and brightest can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Thanks for no longer being a lurker! Woot!

I’m thinking the moonroof is the problem, the alternatives are not likely. Bad door weatherstripping? That normally causes leaks further south, as water runs down to the carpet.  A leaky windshield isn’t likely considering today’s bonding process at the factory. Remove that caulking you crammed in there, it’s only lowering the Fusion’s resale value and curb appeal.

Plus, if the windshield was the fault, I reckon it’d also be a howling nightmare in stiff cross winds at highway speeds.

The plastic rain gutters are often held with nuts/bolts, but it isn’t a likely defect. Wait just one second! Remember what our friend from the UK, Mr. Edd China, did to find a water leak?

The smoke machine is a brilliant idea, but I suspect it couldn’t find a leaky rain gutter: those are probably sealed away from the headliner quite well.

I keep going back to moonroof drainage for multiple reasons. Put another way, A Fusion of Moonroof Drainage Problems:

  • Glass is out of adjustment, allowing for excessive amounts of water when parked at an angle.
  • Drain tubes are slightly crimped/blocked which exacerbates the problem.
  • The glass’ rubber seal is dirty; dirt reduces the seal’s effectiveness.

A tough problem for sure.  I’d clean the seal, clean the moonroof gutters, have someone make sure the glass is adjusted correctly and hope for the best. If not, time to drop the headliner and go for a closer look. No fun, but certainly not impossible.

[Image: Shutterstock user JADEZMITH]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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53 Comments on “Piston Slap: A Fusion of Moonroof Drainage Problems?...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    It’s probably a roof drainage problem, either a clogged drain tube or even a disconnected drain tube. Sometimes finding and repairing these things is all in the method. You need to have a really good flow of water. Remove the trim around the area, lower the headliner as needed, then retest with a garden hose running full tilt over the roof for at least 20 minutes to duplicate the issue and pinpoint the source. I cannot stress how often this is caused by drain tube problems, any of them as the system needs all of them to flow freely so the channels don’t overflow.

    That being said, I never option a roof when ordering a car.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “but when parked on any sort of incline it seems to get wet and of course my driveway is inclined”

    I’ve never had a sun/moon-roof that after 5 years didn’t leak a little. Seals dry out drains clog, but your answer is right here. Because of the incline water seepage isn’t dropping straight down into the gutter, but at an angle to your driveway incline thus missing the gutter and getting into your headliner. (actually the water *IS* dropping straight down your gutter is angled away from it)

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The angle very well could be the contributing factor. Test as previously noted on the incline and on flat ground to see if there’s a difference. If the issue has only recently started happening, you could still ahve a water management problem as it’s generally designed to sufficiently drain water on a variety of angles that owners typically park their cars on. If the driveway on an excessive incline, you may want to find another place to park.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      I think you’re onto something.

      I never had leak issues with a sunroof on a Z24 cavalier that I had for 14 years. I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I have had a sunroof in every single car I’ve owned. All of them have been 10+ years old at the time of purchase, except for my current car, which is now 6. Never had a sunroof leak issue! I feel like these people with leaky roofs have been the exception, not the rule.

        (Related: Did have clogged A/C drains on two of three Audis. All full of plant matter.)

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “I feel like these people with leaky roofs have been the exception, not the rule.”

          In general they are, as with most car problems. There are some models I can think of where leaks are the rule and a good seal is the exception.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What’s a model where leaks are the rule? I’m interested.

            Rules:
            -LR/Jag air suspension will fail.
            -LR headliner will fail.
            -LR/Jag will have electrical issues.
            -Audi will have electrical issues after 5 years.
            -VW will have window regulator issues.
            -Subaru if 4-cyl will go through head gaskets.
            -N* engine will need major heads work.
            -2.7L Chrysler engine.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “What’s a model where leaks are the rule? I’m interested.”

            Pretty much anything with removable tops or complicated folding roofs.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corey

            All air ride eventually fails.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I suppose you’re right with the air ride. But you can fix a Lincoln for a couple hundred, right? An LR is several thousand, unless you go coil conversion.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Depending on what the issue is, it can be fixed of course but the air bag part then was something like a hundred to a hundred and a half per wheel. The T/C only had it on the rear wheels, where the Contis and Mark VIIs were all four wheels. The best way to “fix” it was to simply convert to a traditional shock setup which was common to do on T/Cs. I have heard of it being done on Contis and Mark VIIs but never personally witnessed it. I heard the same logic applied to Mark VIII.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @CoreyDL

            Land Rover air suspensions do not fail if they are maintained correctly. Maintenance does not mean waiting for the parts to fail, oddly enough. The air bags wear out, like any rubber part that is in constant motion. The O-ring seals dry out and need to be replaced, also like anything made of rubber. The compressor ends up running all the time because of the aforementioned leaks, and wears out. All of which can be easily prevented by changing out the airbags at appropriate intervals (easy to see the cracking when they are getting old) and changing the O-rings every 8-10 years, a little more often in hot climates. Hardly onerous.

            Baffles me how people think maintenance solely consists of fluid, filter, and spark plug changes.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Have never seen the maintenance explained before. Since it’s not a “shock,” I bet people think “Oh bag of air, that won’t wear out!”

            How often would you say, miles wise, do the bags need replaced?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @CoreyDL

            I would say it is a time thing more than a mileage thing, unless you are putting just enormous miles on annually. 8-10 years and the bags are pretty done – sooner in very hot climates.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks. Almost makes me want to shop used LR. And if air suspension was the only concern I had, I might. Ha.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @CoreyDL

            Here is my version of The Truth About Older Range Rovers, based on a ton of research before I bought one, and going on 18 months of ownership. As with most things, reality is somewhere between what you would like to believe and what the Internet says. These trucks are NOT Toyotas, they require regular attention. The dealer, not surprisingly is ungodly expensive – but I have only bought two things from them in 18 months, one light bulb for the HVAC, and a tie rod assembly to pass inspection (dry rotted boots). The tie rod because I wanted it RIGHT NOW, so I paid $200 vs. $125 to order it online. Otherwise parts are quite reasonable if you look around. I have paid no shop labor on the truck at all, it is fairly easy to DIY work on.

            At 13 years old and 135K, it had some issues when I bought it, all of which were fairly easy to sort out with the help of the Internet. Needed a MAF ($150 new), SRS clockspring ($35 used), and crank sensor ($50 new). It does odd things occasionally, but the only time it has “failed to proceed” and had to be towed home was my own fault – I knew the upper radiator hose was punky, and I ignored it too long. Blew on the hottest day of the year 1 mile from home. ($125 with overnight shipping) I would NEVER have this truck as my only vehicle, thirst alone would ensure that, but for what little it cost (’01 HSE, $5500)I think it is great value, even with the quirks. And it is the only off-road capable SUV I have ever driven that is actually good to drive ON the road too. It can do 90% of what a Jeep Wrangler can do, and 90% of what an S-class can do.

            I’d love to have a Land Cruiser, I am sure it would do a lot fewer odd things, but an equivalent one would be 3x-4x as expensive, not as nice to drive, and not as attractive inside or outside. You can do an awful lot of Range Rover fixing for the cost difference. I have spent maybe $1.5K on it since purchase, with no major bills looming at this point. This includes snow tire wheels and a new stereo headunit. Most expensive single thing was a new fuse/relay panel and relays for ~$400. Installed in my garage in 15 minutes. I will probably be getting a used air injection pump at some point soonish, it’s getting loud and causing CELs occasionally, but that is $50 on eBay.

            So if you like them, go for it! Just do the research and know what to look for. I really like the P38s in that they have more off road ability than the newer ones, are mechanically more refined and better built than the Classics, while being less electronic than the newer ones. Kind of a sweet spot. And no bling.

            And to bring this back on topic, the sunroof doesn’t leak, but the cowl does in heavy rain or a carwash – need to sort that out! Pretty sure it is warped HVAC filter housings, need to seal them up with silicone caulk and life will be dry again.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My main problem would be a lack of tools for these fixins, and only one garage space currently.

            I don’t even have a jack or a set of screwdrivers, etc. Just a couple multi-tools which wouldn’t hold up to heavy use. I know you’ve got a big garage workshop – not possible on my current property without building it in the back yard, and it would have to look similar to the house.

            I would feel also very guilty about parking a Range Rover outside – the leather would get all dried out!

            So this sort of car exploration will wait until another part of my life.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          *My personal experience with sunroofs over 5 years old is limited to Jeeps and Fords. My GM sunroofs never leaked but the cars didn’t make it to 5 years. My BMW and Mercedes sunroofs did not leak, but both were 2 year leases

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You didn’t seem like a lease sort of guy. What do you drive now?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The Mercedes and BMW were business leases, a business I’m no longer involved in. My Jeeps and Fords were always my daily drivers. The GM cars were malaise era, my last new GM being a ’86 Riviera (with headliner issues among the multitude of issues) My current daily driver is a Ford Escape V6 tweaked and modified for my pleasure with the two antique Sevilles as my hobby cars

          • 0 avatar
            greaseyknight

            Parents have an ’01 Suburban with a Sunroof for 6+ years, never leaked a drop, nor been cleaned. They live in the PNW, always park it outside under the trees. They at least got that part of the rig right.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh right you had a bustle!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “a Ford Escape V6 tweaked and modified for my pleasure”

            So is your wife’s car tweaked for her pleasure?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            My what?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Was a pun.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Oh, must have been, ’cause no amount of tweaking could please… oh, never mind

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve had or have about 10 cars with sunroofs and have never had one leak. All of them have been Japanese or German though.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Wife’s pilot, going one ten years no leaks, daughters Volvo wagon 14 years no moonroof leaks, my TDI wagon did leak the tubes were clogged, had them blown out w air problem solved, next time try this park your car the opposite way in your driveway, if it does not get wet I bet the drains are clogged somewhere in the middle if the tubes.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Drains don’t clog if you CLEAN THEM. It’s called maintenance, which I know is such a foreign concept to most people. Sunroof seals do not really keep water out, they are to keep air out (and in). The drains are all-important.

      I did have a Volvo that turned out to have a trim screw out of place that went right through one of the drains, causing a leak. Sajeev is right, you need a LOT of water on the car to find the leak if it is an oddball one. Try a car wash stall.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Most likely what danio3834 said. Just be prepared for squeak and rattle hell if you decide to drop the headliner. Dropping a headliner is a nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      ” Dropping a headliner is a nightmare”

      +1 Just don’t, personal experience

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’ve seen my dads headliner experiences on his truck, would not recommend either. If it came to that, I’d wait til the dry months and dump it on a dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Removing the headliner depends on the car. Not a big deal on Volvos with the one-piece foam and cloth covered one. Suspended vinyl like a 240 is a much bigger deal.

        Having taken many car interiors apart back in my stereo nut days, I usually ended up with fewer squeaks, as a bit of strategically placed felt works wonders.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      May just need to undo the front portion to see where the leak is coming in. It’s really not that big a deal in a sedan like this.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Have a look at the drainage for the HVAC system. It’s not unknown for that to get clogged with leaves and gunk and overflow into the cabin. Not sure about the Fusion, but most cars have a cabin air intake under the hood at the base of the windshield, and access to the cabin filter near the glove box.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I have had this issue, but any water from there is going to be at dashboard level and lower. Not up in the roof.

      When mine got full due to a clog, it would dump in the foot well when going around a corner.

      • 0 avatar
        never_follow

        LOL D2 A8? I just did all the drains this summer. the AC Evap, cowl, and under the airbox. PITA, but once it’s done, it’s done.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Yas. :(

          • 0 avatar
            never_follow

            Beautiful cars. My V8 is awaiting 25 year old replacement parts, so I was driving my dad’s D2 for the last couple of weeks… I’m now looking at an S8 local to me.

            Other than the tranny’s, they’re reliable as the sun,and just magic at cruising speed.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I got mine at 9 years old (was a 00MY LWB), melange metallic over tan. It had about 110K miles, $5900. On Ebay! One owner who was a surgeon, religious maintenance at the dealer per the CarFax. Zero dents or scratches.

            It already had lots of new parts when I got it, the main big one being a full instrument cluster replacement under warranty. I had issues with the O2 sensors IIRC, and a fuel sending unit gasket thing (plastic) which warped and threw a code. About $400 to fix, as it took some special “rebuild kit” as the plastic disc was no longer manufactured. I was done with it after that, sold it after owning for a little over two years, $5300. It had a transmission thump I was concerned about as well, though it apparently was not an issue because…

            It was for sale recently at a BHPH place, the old man who bought it from me put on about 60k miles in a little over three years. Didn’t take care of the interior too well either.

            That thing rode beautifully, and had no squeaks or rattles. Very happy at 80mph and you’d get 24mpg. It drove much smaller than it was, my current M feels a lot more ponderous.

          • 0 avatar
            never_follow

            Can’t reply to your reply, but yes, parts can be $$$$ if you’re unlucky to need an A8 specific piece.

            A well maintained car will go forever though, as yours living on at a BHPH will attest. Such a sad fall from grace, but that’s the circle of life I suppose.

  • avatar
    Vinnie

    Hey, so the dealer just figured out this same exact problem in my 2012 SE. It took several calls to Ford engineering and a year of trial and error for them to figure it out. It ended up being the moonroof glass itself. Apparently the metal band that is around the actual glass can become separated and water can get in there and leak into the headliner. Based on what Ford told them, they put in 3 brand new moonroof glass panels before they found one that worked, so there seemed to have been a bad batch or two where the metal and glass were not bonded correctly. Good luck…

  • avatar
    RHD

    Try parking your car at the usual location, but back it in instead of how you normally do. This won’t cure the problem, but might give you a clue.

  • avatar
    gasser

    If the car is parked with the nose UPHILL and the leak is at the junction of the A pillar and the headliner, the leak is from the windshield seal, not the moonroof, which would be downhill from the leak site. I had the same pleasure with an older Mercury. Have the glass shop pull off all the windshield trim and reseal it, especially at the roof line.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m not sure how I feel about that navy and grey in the DB7. It’s a bit Town Car Spinnaker. Could never watch Wheeler Dealers, the way the sales guy minimized all the work the mechanic did. And they discount the time put in, only counting the parts!

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I had exactly the same problem with my CTS. Parked on an incline after a heavy rain, it appeared some water pooled in the channel on the passenger side. Accelerate and the water would enter the cabin an drip on the floor.

    I suspect that when parked like this, the drain hole opening is higher than the level of the accumulated water.

    What did I do to fix it? Nothing. It’s not a big problem and it has only occurred two or three times in over three years, so I just ignore it.

  • avatar
    clkimmel

    What about the SAT radio antenna? There have been problems with them leaking on other Fords.

  • avatar
    Speedster356

    100% clogged drain pipe!
    The leak when parked on an incline, proves it and also indicates the direction/end you have to inspect.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The problem is the clamp that holds the drain hose to the drain tube. Removal of the headliner or at least dropping that corner will be required to either reposition the spring clamp or slide it back and put a worm gear clamp on it. Been there done that.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Assuming that a blocked sunroof drain tube isn’t mechanically pinched it can be cleared of gunk using weed-whacker line. Then pour some diluted bleach down to kill off any mold and fungus.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The old Versa hatch had similar. Dealer cure: blast drainage channels with compressed air hose.

  • avatar
    scwmcan

    Probably not your problem, but I had something similar with my Toyota Matrix, in my case it was water getting in around loose bolts for the roof rack mounts ( roof racks not on, but under the plastic trim on the roof the bolts were loose). Don’t know if your fusion has something like this, but if it does it is something to look at.

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