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My wife and I just purchased a 2003 Element with 112,000 this past week. We had been looking to replace our 1994 Toyota Previa with 257,000, did not want to pay to have the AC fixed on it anymore. We had been looking around for an Element for about a month and drove farther than we wanted to, to look at some of them. After finding a local one at a used car dealer, we got it, tired of searching and traveling to find one that was priced to high or had more miles than we were willing to pay for. Looking forward to using the forum for information and help. I have been amazed at how much information there is here. :)

Yesterday we had a down pour of rain and my wife told me that there was a leak in the back of the Element. That was a somewhat of a surprise, since someone before us had used clear RTV or silicone ALL around the sun roof opening. The sun roof will not even open because of it. She showed me last night were the water was and so now we have the job of finding out where the water is coming from. I have not done a search on this forum yet, so I thought that I would ask for the help now, in where I should begin to look for the leak, as I am guessing it would be around the sun roof.

I have a few questions:

Are there any other locations besides the sunroof that I should look for where water might be coming from?

Is it worth looking under the trim pieces on the corners of the roof, where water might get in there?

How hard is it to get the headliner out around the sun roof? :?

How hard is it to replace the sun roof?
 

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2008 Element EX AWD TRP
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The roof drains should function only when the roof is open.

If the seal around the moonroof is untorn, has no rough or ragged surfaces, has been treated with a recommended door seal conditioner and is closed, it should not leak. The roof drain hoses are accessible and can be replaced by removing inner lining panels.

I often have mine open and forget to close it, but rarely has any water gotten in my car that way. Opening the rear hatch during a heavy rainstorm is another matter, The open hatch directs the falling water toward the door opening.
Other seals to check are where the lines to the rear hatch connect to the roof, and re radio antenna seal.

The previous owners using RTV was an ugly effort, and even if that was the original cause, bad surface prep or overapplication could cause the RTV to not seal as well as the original gasket did. I'd plan to eventually remove it, even if it meant carefully cutting away and replacing the skylight seal.

Are you certain that the water is entering from above? Could it have happened while driving? Badly mounted rear struts can leak at the tops. There is a major seal on the bottom, and several around the periphery of the rear area. Unless the roof rusted through, there should be no openings under the edrge cladding, but if you want to check, they remove from the rearmost ones working forward.



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more information

My wife said that she saw water coming out of the upper plastic trim piece and the headliner, above the passenger side rear window. So I would guess that the water would be coming from somewhere above that. So I don't think that water could come in from the strut towers and go up above the window. I did not see it dripping from where she said it was coming from, but there was water in the side pocket and around the spare tire floor cover when she was showing me later.

I am guessing that the sun roof is where the water is coming from, but I would like to consider other places before I go and start to take out the headliner. I just would like to know if there is any point in me looking into the plastic roof trim pieces on the corners of the roof? I don't think that there would be openings under those trim pieces, but I just wanted to make sure.

I see evidence that at least some of the headliner was not put back fully, so that makes me wonder if this has been a long term problem.
 

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2008 Element EX AWD TRP
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I know that there is one roof drain that goes from under the front roof garnish and down the front (A) pillar. I've never heard about one, but there could be another at the rear.

But my best guess is that the rear side window (quarter glass) seal has failed or the glass was replaced improperly.

The glass extends above and beyond the interior opening. It is supposed to have an adhesive gasket that Honda calls a dam, around the front top and bottom where it meets the body. Partially removing the headliner to cut through this dam with piano wire is part of the removal procedure, as is removing the roof garnish.

First, try using a hose without a nozzle to flood back and upward into the upper front corner of that pane for 15 minutes. If that does not induce water wait an hour to see if any seeps through. Sometimes it takes a while.

If that does not localize the leak, do the same thing with the hose just above the inboard seam of roof garnish, avoiding the sunroof entirely.

If that doesn't stop, remove the rear and center sections of the roof garnish. This will expose the upper edge of the quarter glass and you'll be able to see if there is a rear drain under the garnish. Repeat the flooding procedure on it.
 
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