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How to Clean and Repair Convertible Tops

A convertible is a joy to drive with the top down, but if you don’t take care of it properly, you may find yourself cold and wet when the time comes to put it back up. Proper care can protect and prolong the life of a convertible's cloth tops (affectionately known as ragtops) and vinyl-covered hardtops.

If you have a convertible with a cloth top, keep that top clean by vacuuming it often or by using a whisk broom to get the dust out of the areas around the trim. This isn’t just a matter of cleanliness; the dirt can cause the fabric to rot away if it’s allowed to remain there. Do the following to keep your ragtop in good shape:

  • Check the top occasionally to make sure that it’s not getting caught in the mechanism that raises and lowers it: If your top has a plastic rear window, make sure that it isn’t getting scrunched by the mechanism when the top is down.

  • Inspect the metal mechanism that raises and lowers the top and polish it occasionally to keep it shiny and beautiful: Put a coat of wax on the metal to retard rusting, and oil the hinges now and then to keep things working smoothly. Use the oil sparingly to avoid staining the top.

  • Remember to dust or vacuum the well into which the top folds: Keep it free of objects that can puncture or mar the top.

  • Check for weak spots or tears, and check the seams for threads that are beginning to break. Seams that are loosening up can be restitched by hand before they become major problems.

  • If you see a weak place or a small hole, reinforce it by placing a patch on the inside of the top, and glue it in place with a good adhesive or stitch it down securely. Convertible tops are under considerable tension, and a tiny rip can swiftly tear right across the top.

Vinyl tops usually clean up easily with water and mild soap or dish detergent. If the top is very dirty, you may want to try a commercial product made especially for vinyl tops. Use a fairly soft brush to get the dirt out of the tiny crevices in the finish (a recycled toothbrush or nail brush easily gets into the areas around the trim). Brush in circles because the crevices run in every direction, and rinse often to wash the dirt away. Vinyl hardtops respond nicely to a light coat of wax or the proper silicone preservative.

Here are a few more tips:

  • If you find that your vinyl hardtop has bubbles in it, prick the areas with a pin and try to press the air out: If any adhesive comes out of the holes, wipe it off the vinyl immediately. When the air is out, press the vinyl against the roof to reseal it. If the adhesive has dried out, you can use a glue injector to insert a tiny amount of vinyl adhesive under the surface.

  • If you find holes or rips in the vinyl, use a vinyl repair kit to correct them: Before you buy anything, read the instructions to be sure that you select the simplest kit that suits your purposes.

  • If your vinyl top has faded and become discolored, excellent sprays are available that can renew the color for you: Before you use these sprays, be sure to mask the surrounding areas of the car. Always choose the same color or a slightly darker shade to cover up spots.

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