What better time is there to enjoy the wind in your hair while you’re driving in your convertible with your top down than in the autumn? It’s finally starting to cool down again, which means it’s the perfect time to make sure your convertible top is in working order. At VIP European Auto Interiors, our mechanics can repair and replace your convertible top so you can hit the road to feel the sun in your face and the breeze in your hair.
Type of Convertible Tops
As you probably know, convertible tops come in two forms: soft and hard tops. Soft-tops are made from fabric-like materials such as polyester or vinyl, rubber or canvas. Popular soft-top vehicles include the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Corvette.
Hardtop convertibles come in two forms: detachable and retractable. Detachable tops are exactly that: tops that can be removed from your convertible. They were popular in pre-1990s made vehicles and consist of a singular piece roof that is usually made of steel, hardened plastic, or aluminum.
Retractable tops are multi-piece units that are mechanically retracted, collapest, and stored in the back of the cars. These are more common in modern vehicles and more common to breaking.
How to Learn If Your Convertible Top Needs Repairs
When it comes to retractable convertibles, the telltale sign that something is wrong is the fact that it doesn’t retract or open back up. This is most likely caused by a malfunctioning pump or motor, or the unit is simply not getting enough power to work! The secondary options could be a damaged or misaligned hinge.
The second sign is that your car’s top may be moving slower than normal. This is common as it ages. Sluggish movement can be caused by a weak lift cylinder, low fluid levels, corroded relay contacts, air in the lines or worn out cylinders. In some cases, the car’s battery may also be the problem.
Remember, if your car’s top is stuck, don’t force it open or closed! This can cause even more damage and be costly to repair. You may think you’re helping your car, especially if the top gets jammed or is moving slowly, but you accidentally break an inner mechanism while trying. Let the professionals jar a jam loose to get your convertible road ready again.
When Your Convertible Top Needs to be Replaced
Soft top convertibles and retractable tops are more often in the repair shop due to their material and mechanisms that make them work.
When it comes to soft top convertibles, wear and tear really degrades their lifespan. You can expect to get 3-6 years out of a soft top before it needs to be replaced. This is because holes, mold, sagging, or broken seams are common.
A hole in the roof is obviously the most obvious and problematic. We’re not talking gaping holes either — think of holes at a pulled seam, a tiny pinprick caused by a rogue branch or rock, or a small tear due to debris or weather. Any opening in your roof is problematic: it not only opens you up to the elements, but it runs the risk of letting moisture into your car or making the tear worse as time goes on.
In all convertible top types, you may notice a change in shape or color overtime. This can be caused by road debris, rust, and mold/mildew.
Mold and mildew can form if moisture is trapped in the car or if the top isn’t properly dried or cleaned. In some cases, mold and mildew can be treated at home, though severe growth should be inspected by a mechanic to see if your top needs replacing.
Both soft and hardtops can experience discoloration from the sun, but this is generally aesthetic and does not typically need attention. Hardtops roofs are commonly plagued by rust if they are not taken care of. A little rust may not be a problem, but rust quickly eats away at the metal and spreads as the metal continues to oxidize.
Convertible Top Maintenance
Three to six years is nothing in the life of a car. If you want to keep your convertible in tip-top shape, here are some tips.
Do not attempt to lower top while the vehicle is in motion.
Ever stick your hand out of a car window? That air rushing over your hand makes it harder to keep your arm straight. Now imagine your hand is your convertible top. Your top, which is much larger than your hand, will experience more air pressure as it tries to move against the rushing wind. This strain can damage your car, and if it’s enough pressure, can rip it off the hinge!
Keep your car out of the sun.
In general, it’s good to keep your car out of the sun as much as possible. Keep your convertible top up to protect the interior, park it in the shade whenever possible, cover it or store it in a garage to keep the paint looking like new. While sun damage is mostly asestitc (think faded colors and melted protective coats), it can get hot enough in some cases to damage the interior mechanics of your convertible top.
Clean your soft-top before it gets dirty to prevent mildew growth.
Although most soft-tops are mildew resistant, it doesn’t mean mold and mildew can’t form on a film of dust or dirt. Use Raggtopp Cleaner and Raggtopp Protectant to ensure your top will be clean and protected before any problems occur.
VIP European Auto Interior can provide you with a free estimate and is well-equipped to handle all your convertible top repair needs. Let us ensure you make the most out of the fall!