An automotive SUNROOF is a fixed or operable opening in a vehicle roof (car or truck) which allows light and/or fresh air to enter the passenger compartment. Sunroofs may include a transparent or opaque panel, may be manually operated or motor driven, and are available in many shapes, sizes and styles.

Various types of sunroofs are commonly called many different names. The generally accepted sunroof industry terms are as follows:

Pop-Up Sunroof
POP-UP Sunroofs (pop-out, hatch) are simply a manually operated tilting panel. These panels are typically glass and usually removable. The panel must be stored when removed. The operating mechanism is typically a lever latch, however some use a rotary crank jacking mechanism. The tilting action provides a vent in the roof, or a full opening when the panel is removed. Pop-ups can be installed in most vehicles, and are relatively inexpensive.

Spoiler Sunroof
SPOILER Sunroofs
(tilt-&-slide) combine the features of a pop-up with those of a sliding sunroof. They tilt to vent, and also slide open above the roof, requiring little headroom or roof length. Spoilers don't provide as large a clear opening as other sunroofs (typically only 60-75%), but offer the convenience of a self-storing panel. Most are power operated, with optional features like integrated sun shades and electronic controls. Spoilers are ideal for short roof vehicles where other types of sliders are too long to fit within the roof panel.

Inbuilt Sunroof
INBUILT Sunroofs
(internal sliding; moonroofs) are usually electric and often factory options in luxury vehicles. Some imports use a painted steel panel, while domestic makers prefer glass [moonroof]. The panel slides open between the metal roof and interior headliner, requiring some loss of headroom, and providing a full opening in the roof. Many include a tilting feature for venting and electronic control. Inbuilts don't fit every vehicle as the panel must slide and store completely within the vehicle roof.

Folding Sunroof
FOLDING Sunroofs
[often called rag-tops] are a European tradition. They offer the convenience of a sunroof, with an opening more like a convertible. The panel is made of fabric (vinyl), which folds back as it slides open. Folding sunroofs have been spotted on many recent concept cars. Original designs were manually operated, however most modern ones are now powered.

Top-Mounted Slider
(rail mount topslider) have been a popular factory option in Europe for many years. A large glass panel slides open in tracks on top of the roof, with no loss of headroom. Most feature an integral wind deflector to eliminate wind noise. The new BMW Mini offers a top-mount slider, as did early Toyota Previa minivans. Another example is DONMAR's original SKYROOF® Sliding Sunroof.

Panoramic Sunroof
are a new type of large or multi panel sunroofs which offer openings above both the front and rear seats and may be operable or fixed glass panels. Large operable openings are often accomplished with top-mount slider or spoiler type mechanisms. Familiar factory options include the BMW Mini, Caddilac SRX and Pontiac G6.   

T-Top  [photo courtesy C&C]
(T-tops & Targa roofs) open a vehicle roof to the side windows, providing a wider opening than other sunroofs. T-roofs have two removable glass panels, and leave a T-shaped structural brace in the roof center. T-Tops were made famous on the Camaro/Firebird in the late 1970's. Targa roofs, like on today's Corvette, include only one [often opaque or acrylic] panel and leave no cross brace. Aftermarket kits are no longer made, however, several companies sell replacement and remanufactured panels, parts and accessories.

Electric vs. Electronic: Motorized power sunroofs may be operated by a simple push-and-hold switch, or may include an electronic control module (ECM) to provide single touch express open, express close and/or auto-close on ignition off.

Sunroofs may be factory installed or aftermarket. Just because the vehicle included a sunroof when the dealer sold it doesn't mean it was installed at the factory. To tell the difference, open the sunroof and look at the edge of opening in the vehicle roof [the hole]. If the painted metal rolls down over the edge of the hole, it is factory installed. If it has a black or silver frame overlapping the roof skin, it is most likely aftermarket.

If your vehicle does not presently include a sunroof, see your local sunroof professional for a custom installation.

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SUNROOFS.ORG Sunroof Definitions copyright 1998-06