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It should be no surprise that convertible tops require different care and cleaning than hard tops. Hard tops are made up of rigid glass and steel whereas convertible tops are made of flexible materials such as canvas or polymer. And, naturally, these different materials mean require different kinds of upkeep. In this article, we will look at the care and upkeep of the former: convertible tops.

Soft-Top Materials
You will find two different materials making up soft tops.  Most modern convertibles have tops that are made of a durable polyacrylic/polyester canvas. These fabric-like canvas tops have a nice feel and look great. One thing to keep in mind is that canvas tops aren’t usually waterproof, they are “water resistant.”

The other material you will find is vinyl. Vinyl tops are more economical to make and easier to maintain for the owner. They are waterproof and are difficult to stain as easily as canvas tops are. Our detailing consultant at Rochester Hills Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Rochester Hills, MI suggests being careful about leaving vinyl tops out in the direct sun for long periods of time. The Sun’s ultraviolet rays will eventually yellow the top.

Cleaning Your Convertible Top
Although it’s easy to see when your car’s body is dirty, it is not always obvious when a convertible top is dirty. This is especially true for canvas tops that are black or navy blue. You may have to look closely to see if dirt and dust has settled into the weave.

When you do find your soft top needs cleaning, wash it with a non-detergent-based auto shampoo. The recommended tool to use is a soft scrub brush to dig deep down in the fabric. When drying the top off later, use soft cotton rags or towels; do not use clothing or paper towels because they may leave lint. 

Removing Convertible Top Stains
Sooner or later, something will soil your convertible top. Common stains include bird droppings, tree sap, grease and road tar. Unfortunately, you will find that these stains won’t come out with standard cleaners. For these, you need something strong, a cleaner that can penetrate and release the foreign matter. If you visit your local automotive supply store, you will find many special cleaners made just for this purpose. As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  

Protecting Your Convertible Top
It’s a good idea to maintain your convertible top with protectants. With fabric tops, you may want treat it with a protective spray. Available at most automobile supply stores, some contain an anti-fungus agent to prevent mold and mildew.

Although vinyl doesn’t need waterproofing, vinyl tops can use protection too. A good vinyl top protectant can prevent discoloration damage from road grime, pollution, salt deposits, leaf gum and bird droppings.

How-to Apply Fabric Convertible Top Protectant
Mask around your top and vinyl window with tape and newspaper. Once dry, the overspray from the protectant is difficult to remove from paint, vinyl and glass. Lift the top slightly and slip newspaper between the top and windshield frame. Do the same between the top and side windows. Use masking tape and newspaper to mask the areas where the top and rear panels meet. Use masking tape and newspaper again to completely mask the rear window (do not leave any vinyl showing). Finally, apply the fabric top protectant as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

How-to Apply Vinyl Convertible Top Protectant
Do not spray directly onto the top. Spray or pour the protectant on a foam applicator or sponge. Then use the applicator to apply the protectant to your top. Start in the center on one side and work toward your body in even, back-and-forth wipes. Allow the protectant to soak in for 3 to 5 minutes. Then buff dry with a clean microfiber towel or terry cloth detailing towel.

Cleaning Clear Plastic Windows
Your convertible’s rear window is fairly delicate if it is transparent vinyl. You should recognize that it can be easily scratched when using the wrong cleaning tool. For cleaning vinyl rear windows, use a compound designed for them, such as Plexus. Just be sure to use on 100% cotton rags when cleaning vinyl rear windows because anything else may scratch the surface.

Give a Helping Hand
Besides keeping your soft top nice and clean, there is another thing you can do to help it out. Here’s the issue: today’s engineers have designed tops to fold into small spaces but canvas and vinyl tops do not always fold flat very well. Here’s what you can do: Lower the top about halfway and then stop the mechanism. Then use your hands to smooth the canvas or vinyl to ensure it does not bunch up when it is lowered all the way.

Another thing you can do will help protect rear vinyl windows. The problem is that when lowered, your vinyl window may rub against the “abrasive” top material. Unfortunately, this will begin to leave scratches and other marks on the window. To prevent this, use a small piece of fleece or soft cotton to protect it. As you lower your top, after smoothing wrinkles, lay the fleece across the window then close the top.

Convertible Top Care Summary
With proper care, you can keep your convertible top clean and protected for many years. The key is to use the right cleaners and perhaps help the mechanism store the top when you put it down.

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