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Panoramic Sunroof on 2006 Pontiac G6 Sedan

A Sunroof is an opening in an automobile roof. Sunroofs may be either fixed or operable.

Historically, sunroofs have been opaque and open to the air to allow the sun to shine directly into the vehicle, while moonroofs have generally been transparent or semi-transparent and designed to remain closed while allowing muted light to penetrate the vehicle.

Variations have become the norm and often combine the features of the Sun and Moon types into a single device. It is not uncommon to see tinted glass that can retract fully like a traditional sun roof, remain closed like a traditional Moonroof, or tilt to allow for airflow.

Modern implementations often include a sliding shade that usually matches the internal roof upholstery and provides a way of essentially hiding the sun/moonroof behind it. The American Sunroof Company is often credited for creating the modern moonroof.

Sunroofs can be manual or electric. A basic manual sunroof can be tilted up to create a small opening around the trailing edges, or removed completely. There were also manual hand-crank sunroofs that slide back into the headliner, some even had a tilt-up vent position. Electric sunroofs either flip up and slide back on top of the roof, or down and into the roof. An electric sunroof will have the facility to be closed manually if the motor or control circuitry fails.


Sunroofs are available in many shapes, sizes and styles, and are known by many names. In general, the following terms are used:

  • Pop-up sunroofs are simply a manually operated tilting glass panel. These panels are usually removable, and like T-roofs, must be stored when removed. 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 sunroofs (tilt-&-slides) combine the features of a pop-up with those of a sliding sunroof. They tilt to vent, and slide open above the roof, requiring little headroom or roof length. Spoilers do not provide as large an opening as other sunroofs, but offer the convenience of a self-storing panel. Most are power operated, with optional features like integrated sun shades and express open/close. Spoilers are ideal for short roof vehicles where other types of sliders can not be installed.
  • Inbuilt sunroofs have a panel which slides between the metal roof and interior headliner, requiring some loss of headroom, and providing a full opening in the roof. Some use a painted steel panel, while others are glass (sometimes referred to as a Moonroof) with a sliding sunshade. Many feature a tilt-up feature for venting as well as express open and/or close control.
  • Folding cloth sunroofs (often called rag-tops or cabrio coach) are a European tradition. They offer the convenience of a sunroof, with an opening more like a convertible. The panel is made of fabric (could be vinyl, cloth, canvas, etc.), which folds back as it slides open. Aftermarket versions are now available in powered versions.
  • Top-mount sliding sunroofs (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.
  • Panoramic roof systems 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 topslider (tracks in the top of the roof) or spoiler type mechanisms.
  • Removable roof panels (T-Top or Targa Roof) 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. Targa roofs, like those on today's Corvette, include only one (often opaque or acrylic) panel and leave no cross brace. Aftermarket kits are no longer made, but several companies sell replacement and remanufactured panels, parts and accessories.

Sunroofs can be factory installed or aftermarket. Open the sunroof and look at the opening in the vehicle roof. 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 aftermarket.

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