The Roof Detatches from the XLR and the Government Doesn't Care

Key Points

  • The 2003-2009 XLR retractable roof can detatch from the frame while driving.
  • An investigation said the problem takes a long time to develop and decided a recall wasn't neccessary.
  • The vehicles are mostly out of warranty, so most owners have turned to 3rd party bodyshops.
XLR roof frame where the composite roof has come off
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Every XLR roof has an outer skin made of a sheet-molded composite. The skin is held onto an inner magnesium alloy frame using an adhesive that appears to degrade over time, loosening that bond and allowing the skin to pull away from the frame. The majority of complaints come from 2004 and 2005 owners which suggests the degredation may not happen quickly, but it's only a matter of time befoe newer model years have the same issue.

Owners who have experienced this problem say they heard an louder-than-noraml amount of wind noise while driving, shortly before their roofs flew off into traffic.

A Roof Seperation Investigation

During a federal investigation, General Motors told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that they believe an oxide layer on the magnesium frame reduces the effectiveness of the adhesion, but the problem takes a long time to develop.

Why NHTSA thinks the problem doesn't warrant a recall

The investigation found that most issues happened more than 10 years after the cars were manufacturered and that, along with a relatively low incident report rate, didn't warrant a recall.

Try telling that to owners.

"...while traveling at approximately 72 mph down the interstate, with the convertible top close, the top fiberglass panel of the convertible roof separated entirely and cleanly from the frame of the vehicle."

Maybe it's just me, but I find it odd that an agency tasked with the safety of our national highways doesn't think a roof suddenly detatching at 65mph is a safety concern.

So, Now What?

So an XLR's roof is likely to come off after a decade. GM admits it, NHTSA knows it, and owners are ... well, left with few options. They could have the roof reattached, but the car is out-of-warranty and the repair is expensive. Which is why some owners are just garaging their cars.

"I love the car but it has been in my garage for a year. Not sure what to do about the roof. Plan to address it this summer with a body shop. The dealer is so expensive with any kind of work they do and it's no longer under warranty."

It's possible the investigation will resurface if (when?) owners of the 2006 through 2009 model years share their own roof-flying stories.

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Cadillac generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 1st Generation XLR

    Years
    2004–2009
    Reliability
    25th of 35
    PainRank
    2.47
    Complaints
    15
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a XLR

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

  1. The agency tasked with keeping our highways and roads safe has determined that a roof suddenly detatching from a car at 65mph doesn't warrant a recall.

    XLR owners have made so many complaints about the roof detatching from the frame that it sparked a federal investigation back in February of 2019.

    But during the course of that investigation, safety regulators discovered that most of the complaints happened more than 10 years after the cars were manufactured and that, along with what they're calling a "relatively low incident report rate", wasn't enough to issue a recall.

    keep reading
  2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is opening an investigation into complaints about parts of the 2004-2005 XLR roof flying off.

    In some cases, the entire roof flies off while driving.

    NHTSA will look at degradation problems with the adhesive used to secure the outer roof panels to the roof frames. If they find a quality issue it's likely they'll issue a recall.

    keep reading

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA