A Calgary driver is demanding answers and compensation after she says her sunroof suddenly and unexpectedly exploded.
Deneen Davidson was driving down Calgary’s busiest roadway, Deerfoot Trail, back in May, when she heard a frightening sound.
“It was like a bomb went off,” she told Global News. “It was the loudest thing I ever heard.”
She said she then felt an explosion of glass raining down on her and her passenger.
Exploding sunroofs: Complaints are soaring – here are the car brands and models involved
“We were shattered. My girlfriend has MS and we had to pull over on the wrong side of the road. Thankfully the guy behind me got around me, but I’m sure his car was shattered with glass.”
Stunned, they got out and looked at the damage to the sunroof.
“Probably the size of a big pumpkin — the hole,” Davidson said.
Davidson then phoned her BMW dealership and said she was told to drive her BMW X5 in to be checked out.
“We drove down the Deerfoot with glass flying everywhere,” she added. “When we got there, they said they wouldn’t cover it. Like right away they said, ‘We’re not at fault. It’s not a defect.’”
Faced with no other option, Davidson paid the bill, which came out to more than $6,000.
“I was charged out-of-pocket because my insurance didn’t have extended glass.”
‘I had to drive home on towels’: Exploding sunroofs just the start of the ordeal for many drivers
Global News reached out to the Calgary dealership Davidson went to but did not get a response.
However, BMW Canada said in a statement that it can confirm: “There are no known manufacturing defects or recalls associated with glass causing breakages in the BMW product portfolio, including the 2013 X5.”
Jean-Francois Taylor, Product and Technology Manager, Corporate Communications added: “Glass breakages can occur when operating motor vehicles and are largely due to impacts with foreign objects and accidental damage.”
Davidson is adamant that did not happen to her and that she did not hear a rock or anything else strike her vehicle.
“Absolutely nothing,” she said. “And I have a witness to it. We heard nothing.”
Shattered sunroof complaints on the rise in Canada
Global News also reached out to Transport Canada.
It said it records and investigates reports of shattered sunroofs to identify a possible cause. The information is then relayed to the manufacturer to help identify trends or commonalities that could determine whether a safety defect exists.
According to the government agency, there have been 771 complaints regarding shattered sunroofs of various models of vehicles since 2000, a number that has been “growing consistently over the years.”
Back in 2000, the agency recorded zero complaints. That number had risen to 158 in 2017 and 2019. Transport Canada partly attributes this to the increased popularity of sunroofs and their large dimensions.
Other shattered sunroof causes
Transport Canada also said although the cause could not be confirmed in all cases, its investigations concluded the majority of incidents were the result of external damage with an impact from an airborne projectile. Those can include a piece of ice, gravel or other debris hitting and damaging the glass. Severe temperature shifts, it said, can also be a problem.
Paven Nijjar, the owner of Diamond Glass, said those are definitely factors in Calgary.
“Living in Calgary, we’ll see that quite often. We’ve got gravel everywhere. And these things can have an impact on sunroofs and windshields.”
Nijjar added her shop fixes about three to five shattered sunroofs a year, and a problem that can start off small can quickly grow.
“It can start off as a crack. Or you can have a piece of rock hit it. It can just be pressure cracked,” she said.
“You had a little chip somewhere on your undercarriage or on your sunroof and you’ve now turned on your heater — it can crack just like that or explode.”
VW owner cautions others after sunroof shatters
Still, she added, it really shouldn’t happen too easily.
“This glass isn’t fragile, it’s a tempered glass, it’s a safety glass,” she pointed out. “If you’re just going to take your fist to it or your elbow to it, it’s not going to break like that.”
‘It sounded like a shotgun’: Sunroof in Toronto woman’s vehicle explodes
Vehicles driving the complaints
Transport Canada also keeps a record of the vehicle make with the most reported shattered sunroof complaints. In the top five: Hyundai, with 161; Nissan, with 112; Toyota, with 64; VW, with 51; and BMW, with 50 reported cases.
It encouraged all drivers to file a report online.
‘They need to do something about this’: More exploding Hyundai glass complaints
Davidson hasn’t done that yet, but plans to.
She also told Global News, she hasn’t ruled out legal action.
“I haven’t taken legal action yet but I absolutely will.”
“It could be very dangerous,” she added. “What if there was babies in the backseat? What if my kids had been driving?”
Another Hyundai sunroof explodes with 14-month-old in backseat
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.