Golf Tilt 'n' Slide Sunroof

Updated 21st March 1999


Due to the interest generated at the Club GTI Website this has been put together to detail how I have modified my Golf Mk2 sunroof into a standard VAG tilt/slide model. I cannot accept any responsibility if you try this and it all goes wrong - the details are as I found them with my own car.

The car detailed is a 1989 8V 3 Door Gti though the job is possible on any Mk2 Golf.

I have now fitted an electric motor to this sunroof, and that modification is at the end of this feature.

One of the Club GTI members has been quoted £350 for a garage to do this job - you can do it yourself in a day for a helluva lot less than that! To whet your appetites here are a few points:

  •  VAG made it easy as most of their sunroofs are fully interchangeable, all made by Rockwell.
  •  The manual tilt sunroof fitting is a fully reversible mod with no bodywork butchery at all.
  •  This job should take one or two people about a day, once the new roof is ready to be fitted.
  •  It isn’t too difficult a job and no special tools are required. Just screwdrivers, masking tape, a bit of grease really, oh, and a bucket of water for the test at the end.

  • The job details are broken down into easy to digest sections:

    1. Getting the Parts

    2. Preparation

    3. Fitting & Fettling

    4. Follow Up Checks

    5. Electric!

    Thanks to….



    New parts from VAG were not a viable option as I’d heard that second hand parts would do the trick - Audi 80 & Quattro (For a MK2 Golf) and Scirroco (For a MK1 Golf). There are more than likely other donor cars out there but these work.

    I trawled the breakers and dismantlers in Berkshire to figure out which VAG cars of around the same year as my Golf would make suitable donors and noticed that all of the VW and Audi sunroofs were the same panel dimensions and seemed to use similar guides, with identical units turning up again and again all stamped with the name 'Rockwell', regardless of VAG type or even vehicle age.

    I finally settled on tilt/slide roof from a 1985 Audi 80 Cdi. I would suggest that all Audis of this era carry the same sunroof. For the one good sunroof I had looked at about five possibles, and no end of yards where there were no suitable cars - despite what was said over the 'phone. Just keep looking!

    When you find a sunroof, make sure you have the following parts –

  •  Sunroof panel with hinge assembly, guide brackets, edge seal and plastic sidepieces.
  •  Left and right drive cables.
  •  Front flat cable rail with gearing block.
  •  Left and right broad flat guide rails with plastic locating pins/lugs fitted at the rear end.
  •  Trim panel clipped and sprung to sunroof panel, with cross bar and spring.
  •  Winder handle with sprung loaded ‘push’ button intact.
  • The photographs below show the complete assembly stripped down:




    Before you part with your cash look for:

  •  Missing Broken Bits, - especially those that are mounted directly to the underside of the sunroof panel itself. There are moving components under there which are prone to damage if there’s been another car stacked on the roof at some time.
  •  Sunroof Panel Rot - Water can get into the sunroof panel itself and cause havoc. This is worst at the edges and corners. If you can, wind the roof until it’s tilted up and pry off the trim/seal from around the exposed panel rear corners. If it’s rotten there you’ll hear it as the seal comes away - minor rust can be cured of course, but it’s your call.
  •  Trim Condition - A colour match in both paint and trim material would be a bonus, but be prepared to repaint the panel and retrim where required. I have recovered the trim panel and got the paint to match the Golf. Plastic can be sprayed with bumper paint.
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    Prices - Expect to pay in the region of around £30 to £45 for a decent sunroof. I had higher quotes but these were over the phone from specialist Audi breakers.


    Get the new sunroof completely ready before you take the old one out! The paint colour and finish speaks for itself. If it’s to be painted then strip the brackets off - but remember how they fit!

    Trim - The tilt/slide sunroof trim is different from the Golf standard - there’s more of it to start with so you’ll need a bit extra - don’t forget this when you’re searching around the breakers! The Golf original trim has one single solid panel that is clipped to the sunroof panel, whereas the tilting sunroof trim also has a fixed sliding panel following the roof, but incorporates an inner section that tilts up with the roof to hide all the brackets and runners from the drivers view. I simply recovered the Audi trim carefully (and tightly) using impact adhesive to mount the Golf fabric. Fussy job, but with care a good permanent result can be achieved.

    Clean and lubricate the runners and brackets - you’ll not be able to clean and lube properly when the new roof is fitted in. Pay attention to the runners and cable channels within the broad side guide rails in particular. I used normal grease once everything was clean.

    Protect the roof of the car and windscreen, etc, with a blanket or something thick - it’s easy to mark your roof when doing this. I used a blanket held in place with white masking tape, and further tape around the edges of the sunroof recess in the roof itself.

    Removing the original Golf roof - this is covered in the Haynes manual, but basically whilst inside the car partly open the roof, prise off the trim panel and push it to the rear to expose the sunroof panel mounting screws and spring clips, and whip the lot off. Lift the sunroof panel away carefully as there's a water trap fitted to the back end of it that you cannot see until it's out of the car. There's a sprung loaded deflector plate fitted to the front of the sunroof that pops up when the roof is wound open - watch for this as you remove the mounting screws as it'll leap forward like a whack your bodywork.

    Remove the winder handle to expose the gearing block, and remove the gearing block (two screws).

    Next working outside and above the car and remove the crosshead screws on the exposed side guide rails and front strip. The screws are sketched out below:










    Now the guide rails and front strip can be lifted out and forwards all together. Go slowly and ease it out. You’ll see at this point that the sunroof side rails are held at the rear by the plastic lugs/pins, and all the actual fitting screws are within the sunroof ‘well’ area itself and easy to get at - there’s no awkward hidden screws to contend with. Take a note of how the cables are routed and how the three parts fit together.

    Take the new sunroof panel, side rails and front strip to a clean flat surface. Fit the side rails to the sunroof, as they would be on the car (exactly as the one you’ve just taken out). Take care to get the thing together correctly as there are ‘slides’ each side to get onto the guide rails. Feed the drive cables through the respective channels in the front strip and carefully slide the side rails up to the front plate

    Now hold the side rails and front strip firmly together on the flat surface and begin to ease the roof panel forward until it goes up into its tilt position. This may not happen first time and will take a bit of fiddling, but time spent doing this away from the car will avoid big problems during installation. If it’s easier move an inch or so each side but keep things even and squared up. You want to end up with the tilted sunroof sat fitted to the side rails and front plate. This lot can be easily handled as the drive cables and sunroof panel front and rear sliders hold it all together firmly. Don’t fit the trim panel, as you will need access to rig the roof position. It should look like this:


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    Here’s the clever bit. You can lift the lot into the car roof without scratching or squeezing anything. The sunroof panel won’t hit the car and you can see from inside the car if the guide rail locating pins/lugs are seated correctly at the back of the roof compartment (OK, you’ll need a small torch and have to squeeze your head to one side - but if the rear plastic pins/lugs aren’t located in their holes the sunroof will jam when wound backwards. Believe me.) There are channels in the car body that the sunroof assembly will drop into and will line everything up nicely. Now you will get the idea of how good the roof looks on your car!

    From inside the car fit the gearing block (Read the warning below). The block should be lined up almost perfectly though you may have to shuffle the lot forward a tiny bit. Now fit the winder handle.

  •  WARNING Gearing block differences
  • The gearing block is not all it seems. It is not the free turning toothed drive you would think. The VAG boys were clever with this bit - this part is what stops you winding the sunroof out through the tailgate or the windscreen, as it will only turn the drive a set number of times before it locks.

    The Golf unit will rotate only enough turns to put the sunroof between open and closed. The Audi unit has a set number of turns, but incorporates a sprung pin that is released down to lock the winder handle when the roof should be at its fully open, fully closed, or tilted position. If have the roof fully open and wind it closed, the handle locks when the roof is closed. You cannot now tilt the roof until the button on the winder is pressed to release the gearing. The winder then locks again at the tilt position. Geddit?

    Clever bit of engineering that as VAG don’t need to fit end stops on the guides, and it’s impossible to over wind and damage anything. You must ensure that you fit the gearing block correctly or else it will stop the sunroof from moving as it runs out of turns! With the sunroof in the tilt position the winder must be at the end of its turns - and not just held by the spring pin. A couple of minutes playing with the gearing block on its own will show you which is the right gearblock position for the roof in its tilted position.

     The sunroof assembly is now held at the rear with the lugs, in the middle by the cables and runners, and at the front by the front plate/gearing block from inside the car.

    Wind the sunroof slowly down flat and rearward enough to expose where the fixing screws can be fitted. Fit the screws. That’s now the roof fitted, we just need to rig it:

    Rigging the Roof

    Wind the roof to the closed position and ensure that the panel is flush with the car roof. If it isn’t then tilt the sunroof up and look at the rear of the guide bracket fitted to the panel. There is an adjustment screw there, to the right of the larger rear adjustment screw (see photo) holding the panel and bracket together. Slack that of and adjust as required. Front adjustments are made on the hinge assembly. With a bit of fiddling, you can line the roof up nicely. Wind the roof about a bit between adjustments to let everything settle. The adjustment screw locations are shown below:


    Left picture shows forward adjustment. Right picture shows rear adjustment (Note second adjustment screw to right of this)

    If the roof won’t drop and wind backwards to fully open, it may be that the sunroof is rubbing against the car body itself along the rear seal face. Take a look at the rear of the guide brackets fitted to the sunroof itself. There is a sliding foot that drops into a slot in the main rail, to drop the roof and allow it to travel rearwards without hitting the car body. These can be adjusted forwards and backward to allow the roof to drop before it hits anything, and should clear up the problem. You can see this in the photo (above, right) alongside the main adjustment screw.

    Don’t fit the original Golf seal to the Audi panel, it’s different and will cause problems like this. Believe me, I know.

    If you have problems with the rigging it may be advisable to remove the sunroof panel seal completely, rig the roof and ensure its full and free range of movement, the refit the seal once everything is set up.

    Once the roof is rigged correctly and moves smoothly, you’ll need to take it all out again and fit the trim panel (and sunroof panel seal if removed to aid the rigging) – it’s very awkward to fit with the roof in the car. The panel sits within the guide rails, clipped to the hinge bar at the front of the roof. The section that moves up when the roof is tilted is hinged to the main trim panel and connected to the sunroof itself with a spring that hooks onto a bar mounted clip. Once this is done, refit the whole lot – the rigging is done, so just ensure the roof is sat squarely once it’s all in.

    I'd say that this will either go right pretty quickly, or you may be there for a while. No pressure of forcing is needed when the thing is set up correctly so don't be tempted to get physical!

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    If the roof is aligned and even all round - i.e. Smooth operation through the whole range of movement, then there is little to check. Get that bucket of water and pour it over the closed roof, to see that it doesn’t leak and that the drain tubes are OK within the sunroof well.

    If any water gets in (and I doubt it) recheck the alignment by taking off the outer trim seal and closing the roof. The panel should be evenly positioned in the roof - it may be too far forward or sat crooked. If this is the case remove the gearing block (frees the two drive cables to slide independently) and nudge the roof square, refit the block and winder and test again. Some water will get past the sunroof seal, but there are channels and traps to take this water away -–it shouldn't get into the car interior though!!

    That’s it. It’s finished. The end result is pretty neat.


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    5. ELECTRIC!

    This is replacing the gearing block and winder handle with an electric sunroof motor and switches. It’s not too easy to do, and most of the work is with the trim, interior light and switches. You’ll have to change the trim where the winder/gear block fits as the motor is larger, fit switches to the trim, and drill for the two bolts to fit the motor. Here’s how I did it:

    Rockwell makes VAG sunroofs – so I tracked down a motor from the same manufacturer, as the drive gear would be a match to the sunroof fitted. You’ll find suitable motors in Vauxhall Carltons and Volvos. (Mine is from a G plate Carlton and cost £25 with the switch and wiring). The motor incorporates the same ‘travel stops’ as the hand winder, you just press the switch again to tilt the roof, etc, so there’s no rigging to do – just fit the motor in the right drive position.

    I removed the hand winder and gear block, offered up the motor and marked up for the mounting holes. The holes needed line up with the gutter inside the sunroof well, so two self tapping screws went in, and the threads sealed with sealant in the gutter. It sounds messy, but is a neat job once it’s done. There is a rubber anti vibration mount used in the Carlton at the rear of the motor, but I did not use it as the motor is supported much better in the Golf roof than that of the Carlton!

    The trim I used to cover the motor and house the switches was from a Volvo and it’s an almost perfect fit – surplus Golf trim material from the sunroof trim recovering was used for a perfect finish, but the Volvo piece was Grey plastic and would have been OK without the exact interior match. The switches were sprayed with Grey bumper paint to blend in. You’ll have to mount the interior light into this trim too, and I chose to use one from a Renault 11 as it’s smaller than the Golf item, but I wired in the light delay unit from the Golf. This photo will give you an idea of the end result, which I'm pleased with:


    The switch and motor earthing cables were fitted in the roof, and the feed wire run under the trim down to the ignition switch and an in line fuse fitted close to the ignition barrel itself. This allows power to the roof only with the ignition on, and avoids any long live wires in case of mishap in the future such as a motor failure, etc.

    All I have to do know is give the interior a good clean up to remove the finger marks and grease smears…..

    If you do decide to go the extra step and fit an electric motor to the sunroof, I’d advise you to study the job very carefully and make sure it’ll all work before you commit yourself to drilling anything – that part of the modification isn’t easily reversible. I’m not convinced that the motor will not drive the roof too far rearwards and cause problems, so I have fitted two end stops to the guide rails in case this happens if I leave the switch on too long! This is more than likely unnecessary, but they do no harm and rule out the only possible shortfall I could see in the whole job.

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    So Thank You to……….


    There are a couple of Club members that I’d like to give a mention to as this wasn’t a total solo effort. Thanks to Rehman Ditta and Vileen Dhutia for their suggestions and opinions through the Club GTI website. See, I said you’d get a mention.

    Thanks to Scott Lester for the news about the £350 quote from his local garage (That's the place with the really big windows - they definitely saw him coming……)

    Thanks as well to Berkshire Car Spares for their patience and parts, and to Berkshire Audi Dismantlers for the sunroof itself. Mustn't forget the stars at Timothy Green VW parts department (Reading, Berkshire) too, who will happily hunt through endless microfiche pages looking for one small bracket or seal. Nice coffee too.

    See you all mebbe at GTI International on 8th & 9th May! (I tell you, if it rains then I'll be the bloke biting chunks out of his steering wheel after all this……….)


    If you’ve not seen the Club GTI website take a look at http// as there’s a wealth of help and humour available there. Take a look at too as that's the brand new Club Gti newsgroup. Don't ask about the name.

    If you have any questions about doing this modification: and I'll get back to you. Also if you've done the job and have anything else to add, let me know and that can go up as well (I know I'm not the only person to have a tilt/slide sunroof)

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