How To Clean The Sunroof Drain Tubes [5 Quick Steps]

You will require a string trimmer line and a dust blower with a mini compressor to clean the sunroof drain tube. To clear the debris, clean up the tube with the trimmer line and pour hot water. To ensure all the dirt is out, use the blower with the compressor. The finishing touches can include applying automotive cleaner and using sealants to repair any leakage. 

Most vehicles with a panoramic sunroof either have two or four drain tubes around the corner of the sunroof. It’s common to have them clogged up due to heavy rainfall or dust, resulting in leakage inside the vehicle (1). 

After the end of the whole process, with recommended suggestions, you can enjoy a durable system that shows no issues.

What Is The Function Of Sunroof Drain Tubes

The primary function of a car’s sunroof drain tubes is to allow rainwater or melting snow to exit the vehicle. The tubes are located around the perimeter of the sunroof. They typically connect to a drain channel that runs along the sides or bottom of the sunroof opening. 

When the sunroof is closed, these channels direct water away from the vehicle’s interior. When the sunroof is open, they allow water to drain out of the sunroof area. Most vehicles drain the water from right behind the wheel through the drain channel. 

In some cases, the sunroof drains may also be connected to the car’s windshield wipers so that any water that enters the sunroof area is immediately wiped away. 

5 Steps To Cleaning The Sunroof Drain Tubes

Assuming your sunroof is the sliding kind (as opposed to the pop-up type), there should be two drain tubes—these drain tubes run from the sunroof down to the bottom of your vehicle. 

Over time, these tubes can get clogged with debris, causing water to back up and leak into your car. Cleaning out your sunroof’s drain tubes is an easy do-it-yourself job. Here are the five steps you’ll need to follow:

Step 1: Inspect The Sunroof’s Drain Tubes 

To inspect, find the location of your sunroof’s drain tubes. These will usually be located near the front corners of your sunroof opening. Then, check how much dirt is there and analyze how to get rid of the dirt.

Take some time to have a closer look because if you start cleaning without noticing those tiny particles hidden inside the corners, you may damage the tubes.  

Also, see if the dirt has stained the sunroof’s steel materials, as this clogged debris can make the surfaces look nasty and old.

Summary:

Inspecting the drain tube is required to analyze the cleaning procedure required so that the debris won’t damage the sunroof. 

Step 2: Clear The Debris 

First, use a small brush or another narrow object to clear any debris blocking the drain tubes. However, a brush may only work if the contamination is light enough. 

This means you are clearing the over-the-top layer of dirt, which can be removed before pouring in any liquid. If you pour water without removing the outer non-sticky layer of dirt, the drain tubes may leak inside. And, if you need more detailed guidelines on how to unclog and clean a sunroof drain, here you go.

Prepare the surface for proper polishing. Next, insert a long string trimmer line in the drain tube. Move it around so that any remaining stuck debris is dislodged from the inside. 

Summary:

Take out all the debris one by one or bit by bit and see how much more sticky dirt there is for you to clean. 

Step 3: Pour Some Hot Water

Once the tubes are clear, pour warm water into the sunroof opening to ensure the drains are working properly. Ensure that the blockage is cleared when the warm water runs through the drains. 

Apart from that, the hot water will work to make the dirt lose its stickiness, so it will be easy to wipe out the outside using a soft cloth. 

If not, you can use a blower with a compressor. It will force the air into the drain hose to clear up any remaining debris. Just shield up the blower against the drain pipe and give a few quick bursts of air. Be careful to avoid damaging the drain while doing this.

Summary:

You can pour warm water and use a blower with an air compressor to clean out all the dirt. 

Step 4: Properly Clean Using Automotive Cleaner 

Now, you can use an automotive cleaner to give it a final wipe. You should spay a little amount of such cleaner onto the surface and use a soft cloth to wipe it.

Take some time for the hot water to dry out on the surface. If there are rubbers or foamings around, take more time so that it stays dry when the automotive cleaner solution is applied.

The automotive cleaner can provide a quality finishing touch to the steel exterior of the perimeter of the sunroof. This means all the faded old look will disappear, and a polished surface will appear. 

So, keep wiping with the cleaner until the vehicle’s surface is cleared of any sticky dirt and stains. This is the procedure to clean up the drain tube exterior thoroughly.

Summary:

For cleaning the drain tubes, you can use automotive cleaner. Spray on the exterior of the tubes and wait for them to dry. 

Step 5: Apply Sealants If There Are Any Leaks

If your car has a built-in sunshade, ensure it is fully extended to prevent water from leaking when it rains. If not, seal the edges using silicone caulking. They are very easy to apply and don’t consume much time. 

Some good quality caulking products will let you do the job smoothly and relatively faster. Simply press the sealant bottle for it to come out and gently let it settle onto the edges.

Within a few minutes, you will see no leakage anywhere. Have your car checked by a professional if you continue to experience leaks after cleaning and sealing the drain tubes. 

Summary:

Check for leakage and use sealants to block them off. It will prevent the drain tubes from clogging and leaking inside your car.  

How Do Sunroof Drains Get Clogged

Over time, your sunroof’s drains can become clogged with dirt and debris. This can happen if your car does not receive regular cleaning and clearing-up maintenance. 

To prevent this from happening, regularly check the sunroof drains for any blockages or debris. In addition, if you notice that your sunroof is leaking water, as suggested many times, be sure to have the problem checked out by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.

When To Replace Sunroof Drain Tubes

In most cases, you’ll need to replace the entire sunroof assembly if the drain tubes are damaged or clogged. However, clogged materials can be cleaned, but damaged ones need to be replaced (2). 

Consult a professional mechanic or automotive specialist if you need help with replacing your sunroof’s drain tubes. They can help you determine whether you need to replace the entire sunroof assembly or the drain tubes. 

Replacing your sunroof’s drain tubes is relatively easy, but it’s essential to ensure that the new tubes are properly installed. If they’re not, you could end up with water leaks in your vehicle again. 

FAQs

What happens if the sunroof drain is clogged?

When the sunroof drain is clogged, the water builds up within the drain lines. This means the water is not moving around but is fogging up to damage the vehicle’s interior. 

How often should you clean the sunroof drain?

It is recommended to clean sunroof drains every six months, and this shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes. By doing so, you are preventing any leakages from happening. 

Can a sunroof leak cause electrical problems?

Yes, a sunroof leak can spread corrosion to the internal wiring system and cause electrical problems. This means if not treated early, a lot of issues inside the car’s system may appear. 

Endnote

As you understand how to clean the sunroof drain tubes, you should do it more regularly. Otherwise, there will not be an assurance of long-lasting vehicle performance.

It’s essential to check your sunroof for proper maintenance regularly. Dust or debris can cause leakage or even damage the drain tubes of your sunroof. Act now and see the results coming up fast. We wish you all the best with this.

Please comment if you face further issues regarding your favorite car!

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Gary Wright

Hi, I'm Gary Wright, an automotive industry specialist. I'm an installation, repair, and maintenance specialist of automotive sunroofs, moonroofs, and panoramic sunroofs/moonroofs.