2009 Ford Flex Long Term Road Test


2009 Ford Flex: Sunroof Gap Walkaround

August 26, 2009

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I know, I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes at the mere mention of it. But it's too late for that -- the sunroof gap in our 2009 Ford Flex has taken on a life of its own. Mention of it shows up as a non-sequitur in other unrelated posts. There are songs. We hear it figures prominently in the next Quentin Tarantino film.

Besides, Donna is hogging this week's Car of the Week all week.

Back to the sunroof gap. When Scott Oldham first complained about it, many scoffed. 'Picky, picky', they said.

Later, when prepping for our Oregon trip, I found a use for it. The gap became a handy place to mount the Wii sensor bar. Maybe it's not so bad, after all.

But as I was unloading the Flex and removing the Wii, the sunroof gap revealed itself as something that wasn't designed like that, wasn't supposed to be there, and the reason for it became all too clear.

First, let's get out bearings. Above, the yellow arrow indicates the sunroof wind deflector that pops up when the sunroof is open, as it is in this photo. White shows the edge of the sunroof frame. The black arrow points to the headliner. Finally, the green arrows represent the infamous sunroof gap.

Between the arrows, you can see a strip of industrial-strength velcro, the kind that has the firm hooks on both sides and no fabric loop. I don't know if you've ever played with this version of the stuff, but it's quite strong.

No problem. This should be a simple matter of re-engaging the velcro.

Here we go...

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All I have to do is press hard, like *grunt* this. Wait. It's not working. What the?

I'm really pressing quite hard in this picture -- 40 or 50 lbs of pressure, at least. This amount of force is much higher than the weight of the headliner itself. Something's wrong here: the headliner seems to resist the up position and the velcro isn't catching.

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Just look at it. The prongs on the upper mating surface are all bent over, and they're all laying over the same way. I bvelieve that if the velcro had been properly seated in the first place, the headliner should never have come down and the gap should have never happened. It may be that the prongs were not lined up properly during assembly, so they bent over instead of engaging, or something. It's hard to know at this point, but I bet this headliner rolled off the assembly line with this gap.

Are you thinking that velcro doesn't seem like the right sort of fasteners to assemble parts such as this? Maybe, maybe not. I've seen velcro do impressive things in the past.

<anecdote>
I used to race a VW GTI in SCCA showroom stock events. It was my daily driver, too, so it had a stereo in it. It was a nice one, but what I didn't know until later was this: it had two aftermarket external amps -- one under each front seat. One was bolted firmly to the floor with four 10-32 grade 5 bolts. A larger and much heavier second amp sat under the other seat, held to the carpet with simple Velcro strips.

My buddy borrowed this car for an SCCA driver's school on the big track at Willow Springs. Someone cut him off, he overreacted, and as I watched in horror he went off at turn 6 and rolled 5 or 6 times. He was OK due to a stout roll cage and other safety gear, but the car was a total loss.

In salvaging the car, I found the bolted-down amp far up under the dash, near the base of the windshield and the defroster vents. All four mounting bolts had sheared off. Meanwhile, the heavier velcro-mounted amp was still in its place, apparently unphased. (I know, I know. The whole idea of such an aftermarket stereo system in a track car is stupid.)
</anecdote>

Anyway, back to the Flex. There isn't just the one velcro pad.

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There are three of them, and together they ought to offer enough holding force. But all three are bent in the same way. None will engage. It's not possible to fudge the headliner to one side to realign things because it is fixed firmly in place at the sides, out by the door frames. Laterally, it's not going anywhere. Besides, once the pins are bent flat like this, you're done.

No, replacement of the velcro seems to be the only solution. It's either that or live with the sunroof gap. Personally, I'm torn: I wish it wasn't here, but I admit I never noticed it until Scott pointed it out.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 31,715 miles

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2009 Ford Flex in VA is:

$130 per month*
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