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How do I Take Care of a Convertible Top?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many convertible owners agree that few things are as pleasant as driving down a quiet road on a warm day with the top down. Caring for a soft top properly will result in years of good service and few problems, while neglect can quickly lead to leaks and other issues. There are two aspects to caring for a convertible top: cleaning and protection.

It is a good idea to consult the owner's manual for specific recommendations. Manufacturers usually include a detailed section discussing how to clean the top and protect it from damage. Some manufacturers may also recommend particular products for care and maintenance.

A convertible top should be kept as clean as possible, especially during the warm months when it will be raised and lowered frequently. Deposits from birds should always be removed immediately, as they are highly acidic, and they can damage the top. Rinsing the top with water on a regular basis or whenever the car is washed is often enough to keep the top in good condition, but at least twice a year, the top should be washed with a cleaning product designed for convertible tops. Washing should be done in the shade, starting with a rinse and then an application of the cleaner. A soft brush or sponge can be used to gently scrub the top before rinsing it clean.

The rear window will also need to be cleaned. It is important to determine whether the window is glass, or vinyl. Vinyl windows require products designed for cleaning this material, as they may cloud or crack otherwise. In both cases, the window should be gently wiped with a lint cloth before cleaning, to remove large particles which could scratch the window.

After the convertible top has been washed and allowed to dry, a conditioning product can be applied to keep it supple. While conditioning the top, it is a good idea to check for weak points at the seams, or holes in the top. These can be repaired with top repair kits when they are small, avoiding more costly repairs later. It is also a good idea to clean and condition the rubber gaskets which seal the edges of the convertible top, so that they do not crack or distort, causing leaks.

Convertibles should ideally be garaged, to protect the top from harmful UV radiation which can cause cracking and fading. If a garage is not available, the vehicle should be covered with a car cover or tarp to prevent damage to the top. Consistent exposure to the sun can cause serious damage. The convertible top should also not be left down for a prolonged period of time, as it will develop folds and wrinkles which are prone to cracking.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon190495 — On Jun 26, 2011

@ANON159699: You can discuss the problem with the company that did the replacement. If that doesn't solve the problem, I suggest contacting an attorney with experience in consumer law, product liability, etc.

By calpat — On Mar 23, 2011

I have a convertible and I love it. I don't think it's very hard to care for the top. Yes, you have to clean up after birds, but I would do that with any kind of car. I wouldn't want to drive around in a dirty car.

I can understand how caring for a convertible top would be more of a concern if you didn't have a garage to keep the car in though. It's true that the sun can do a lot of damage over time. I had to get a convertible top replacement on one of my older cars after it had been out in the sun for years. The cracks that resulted from the sun exposure were pretty bad.

But if you have a garage or a carport to park the vehicle in, I don't think the occasional washing is a problem.

By geronimo8 — On Mar 22, 2011

Wow, I had no idea that caring for a convertible top was such a big deal! I was thinking about buying a convertible, but I don't think I want the hassle.

Plus, I don't have a garage. Would I have to cover the car every day, every time I'm not driving it? That seems a bit extreme to me.

By anon159699 — On Mar 13, 2011

I have a 1999 Volvo C70 which has a convertible top. The old top never leaked, but it got really worn looking, so I had it replaced.

Since the day I had it replaced, I have spent thousands, and I do mean thousands, trying to get all the leaks addressed. My carpeting and front seat and all four windows have been ruined since this disastrous replacement top was installed. Is there any recourse?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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