Following these tips will make caring for your convertible's hard or soft top a breeze
Cleaning your convertible's drop-top may not have been part of your classic sun-kissed, wind in your hair, smooth cruising in a drop-top sports car daydream, but if you love your roadster, regular cleaning and maintenance has to be part of the experience. There are few things better than cruising down a scenic road with your car's top down, letting in the sun and the warm breeze while listening to the roar of the engine or wind blowing through your hair. But, when that sunny sky is darkened by clouds threatening to rain on your parade, your car's roof quickly becomes your only sanctuary.
Before getting to the process, it's important to know what type of material your convertible top is made out of so that you don't unintentionally damage the roof by using incompatible cleaning tools or products. Most convertibles, whether a sports car or off-road convertible SUV, come equipped with the same basic apparatus. Hardtops can be constructed using a variety of lightweight metals and are sometimes covered with a vinyl layer to give them that shiny, plastic sheen. A fabric roof, or soft top, is usually made from canvas or cloth, supplemented by a waterproof material such as leather. You can easily tell whether your convertible's roof is hard or soft by using a droplet of water- if the water droplet sits on the surface of the roof, it's likely a hardtop, if it is absorbed, then it is likely a soft top. You also get targa tops, but these are exceedingly rare. Read more about them here.
Before cleaning your car, it's recommended that you consult your owner's manual to see whether or not there are any special instructions and precautions specific to your car. You should also read our in-depth article on car care, here.
Hardtops are generally easier to clean and maintain than soft tops because you can usually use whatever products you use on the rest of your car, too. The best way to clean your convertible top is to remove it, if that's possible. Whatever the case, whether you've got a hard or a soft top, there are always some steps in common and mistakes you should try to avoid.
With a hardtop, a regular car wash soap or vinyl cleaner will do the trick, along with a soft cloth. If you're using a purpose-made fabric treatment on the convertible top, be sure to treat the entire roof for uniformity. Avoid using a bristle brush and abrasive detergents as they could damage, scuff, and/or dull the paint. Once clean and dry, use a liquid protectant on the roof to protect the paint from ultraviolet light, bird droppings, and even tree sap, the latter two of which are quite acidic. Using a convertible top protector, like a car cover, will also prolong the quality of the roof and lengthen the time between maintenance checks.
When spot-cleaning a fabric cabrio, wet the fabric and then use a stiff-bristled brush and soft top cleaner, like convertible top conditioner suited to the type of fabric, to massage out any dirt and grime before rinsing with water. Finish off the job by applying a specialized water-repellent fabric guard or convertible top sealer, which will help with waterproofing the convertible top by causing any water to bead and slide off.
Cleaning the rigid or flexible rear-integrated window is also part of proper convertible top care and maintenance. These windows are usually quite delicate and will require some finesse when being cleaned. Glass windows can be cleaned the same way one would clean any of the other windows on the car, but flexible windows will need some extra attention. Using a plastic cleaner, polish, and protectant will help prevent the transparent window from yellowing, scratching, and deteriorating. Make sure not to get any on the surrounding vinyl or fabric, though.
Here are some summarized tips to keep in mind when caring for your convertible top:
Most modern cars with convertible roofs can endure mild automatic car washes, but it's recommended that you avoid high-pressure car washes, especially if your car is fitted with a soft top.
There are several highly rated convertibles for sale all lauded for the perks they carry within their specific classifications. The Porsche 911 Targa 4 is one of the top-rated sports cars with a hardtop. The Ford Mustang Convertible is one of the best 'affordable' muscle cars out there and comes fitted with a fabric top. For those who need seating for four, there's the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Convertible.
There are pros and cons to both hard and soft tops. Hardtops, for example, provide better protection from the elements, better insulation from outside noise, and better security. They are heavier, however, and take up more cargo space in the trunk when retracted. Soft tops, on the other hand, keep the car light, which benefits handling and fuel economy, and take up less room in the trunk when retracted. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Detailing your car refers to a particularly thorough and deep clean, decontamination, and polish, even going so far as to buffing out superficial scratches; it makes no difference if your car has a convertible top, when you have your car detailed every part of it gets some TLC. Taking your car to a professional for a proper detailing is ideal as they will have the knowledge and the equipment to give your convertible top the best human.