Detailing 101 Series - How To Clean & Protect Your Convertible Top
The convertible automobile is a combination of beauty, performance and superior engineering. We all know why we are attracted to the sleek masterful design of a convertible - they are pleasing to the eye, fun to drive and are even a little sexy!
Unlike coupes or sedans, convertibles have special care requirements for the delicate convertible top material, whether it is made of fabric or vinyl, and they should not be cared for like the painted surfaces of your car.
The longevity, performance and looks of your convertible top depends on regular maintenance, which consists of proper cleaning and protection for your specific convertible top type. A simple hand wash or drive through the car wash is not enough and could result in premature deterioration which not only causes your convertible top to look bad but it could cause it to leak or lead to a costly replacement!
Cleaning and protecting your convertible top is very important when it comes to the maintenance of your car. This article will take you through simple steps that will keep your convertible top looking good and performing well for years to come.
IS MY CONVERTIBLE TOP FABRIC OR VINYL?
The first step in the care of your convertible top is to determine if your convertible top is made of fabric, also known as cloth, canvas, or if the top is made of vinyl. The best way to determine this is to check with your automobile manufacturer. Keep in mind, if you are not the original owner, the top could have been replaced with a top made from a different material. This could also have been done by the dealership when it was new so it is best to test your top if you are not absolutely sure of the material. Determining the type of convertible top is very important as you will need to make sure you use the correct cleaner and protectant for your specific convertible top. Using the wrong product can harm your convertible top.
FABRIC OR VINYL CONVERTIBLE TOP TEST
- Take about 1/8 teaspoon of water and put it on your convertible top.
- Try to rub the water in to the material.
- If it starts to soak in, it is more than likely fabric, but if it sits on the top and just smears but does not soak in, it is more than likely vinyl.
CLEANING PRODUCTS FOR YOUR CONVERTIBLE TOP
Common household cleaning products can be very harmful to your soft convertible top. Chemicals you should not use on or near your convertible top include ammonia, bleach, detergent, alcohol and vinegar. Detergents, bleach and harsh acids will quickly deteriorate fabric or vinyl, whereas ammonia and alcohol will dry the fabric and cloud the vinyl. Using the wrong cleaners can be a costly mistake. Use only products specifically made for cleaning your type of convertible top.
Keeping your convertible top clean is important. If your convertible top is not dirty, just rinse it thoroughly at least once a month with a strong jet of clear water. For fabric convertible tops you can also carefully use a vacuum to extract any loose dirt or dust that settle into the fabric fibers. If your convertible top is dirty use a convertible top cleaner followed by your convertible top protectant. We recommend cleaners specifically designed for convertible tops, as many car wash shampoos contain gloss-enhancers. If a car wash shampoo contains gloss enhancers, the top will absorb them and become a dust magnet.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CONVERTIBLE TOP
Fabric, Cloth or Canvas and Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaning:
- Always wash convertible tops in the shade, never in direct sunlight.
- Always wash the entire convertible top at one time, never spot clean as this will leave rings or spots.
- Wet convertible top thoroughly and rinse off any loose dirt.
- Spray Convertible Top Cleaner and apply evenly over entire roof then scrub lightly with soft bristle brush
- For difficult soiled areas, spray and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Gently scrub with soft bristle brush.
- Rinse thoroughly with water until no remaining foam from Convertible Top Cleaner is observed.
Convertible top must be completely dry before applying protectant!
IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING YOUR CONVERTIBLE TOP
Your car's soft convertible top is subjected to the same harsh environmental conditions as the painted surfaces of your car but your convertible top is not as durable as your painted surfaces. We all know that it is important to wax your paint to keep it protected from premature aging. The fabric/cloth or vinyl material that your convertible top is made from, although durable, is more delicate than the painted steel or fiberglass that the body of your car is made from. This is why it is vitally important to protect your convertible top and keep it protected as a part of your maintenance regimen. Unprotected convertible tops will deteriorate, leaving them looking bad and even worse, they will start to leak! The worst nightmare of a convertible owner is a leaky convertible top!
IMPORTANT NOTE! About 99% of new convertible tops have stitching along the sides and around glass or plastic window is not treated when it leaves the factory! This is what holds your convertible top together so get it protected IMMEDIATELY!
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR FABRIC CONVERTIBLE TOP
Fabric, Cloth or Canvas Convertible Top Protection:
- Start with a clean, completely dry convertible top.
- If possible avoid applying protectant on windy days or pull your car inside the garage. Even a light breeze will cause more overspray and will also stir up dirt and dust that will be attracted to your convertible top before the protectant has a chance to dry.
- Shake fabric convertible top protectant well before use and several times during application.
- Hold can or bottle upright and spray evenly 16-18 inches from material and use a gentle sweeping motion. DO NOT SATURATE!
- Allow to Completely Dry 10 minutes or longer between coats, preferably in the sun. Artificial heat can be used to speed drying time. Drying time may vary depending on weather conditions. Your convertible top MUST BE COMPLETELY DRY before applying the next coat of protectant.
- Spray up to three light even coats of Fabric Convertible Top Protectant allowing protectant to completely dry between coats.
- Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off any excess overspray on paint, trim or glass.
- Apply every 6-8 weeks for maximum UV protection and to protect against the harsh environmental elements.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR VINYL CONVERTIBLE TOP
Vinyl Convertible Top Protection:
- Start with a clean dry convertible top.
- If possible avoid applying protectant on windy days or pull your car inside the garage. Even a light breeze will cause more overspray and will also stir up dirt and dust that will be attracted to your convertible top until the protectant is dry.
- Shake vinyl convertible top protectant and spray 8 -12 inches from convertible top.
- Spray on using gentle sweeping motions or spray onto clean microfiber towel or applicator and wipe onto vinyl convertible top.
- Wipe dry with a clean microfiber towel.
- Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off any excess overspray on paint, trim or glass.
- Apply every 4-5 weeks for maximum UV protection and to protect against the harsh environmental elements.
CONVERTIBLE TOP REAR WINDOW CARE
The rigid or flexible rear window on your convertible top is delicate and needs special care too. Many convertibles have flexible rear windows made of a clear vinyl allowing the window to fold. The rigid and flexible clear vinyl rear windows, when not properly cared for will scratch, yellow and deteriorate.
It’s fun when your convertible top is down but when it is time to drive with the top up many convertible owners experience foggy windows. This is especially true for newer cars. This fog is created by the evaporation of plasticizers which are used in the manufacturing of vinyl to keep it flexible. The plasticizers release through evaporation with the heat of the sun, causing your windows to fog up and turn yellowish if not protected.
CONVERTIBLE TOP REAR WINDOW CLEANING
To keep your convertible top windows crystal clear you need to keep them clean!
- Always wash your car in the shade, never in direct sunlight.
- Wash the outside of your window with a microfiber wash mitt and your car wash shampoo to remove loose dirt and debris during your normal car wash process.
- Dry your entire car as well as your window with a microfiber drying towel.
- Spray McKee's 37 Plex-All™ Plastic Cleaner, Polish and Protectant directly onto a clean, dry microfiber towel and use to polish and clean your window, inside and out.
Regular use of McKee's 37 Plex-All™ Plastic Cleaner, Polish and Protectant will prevent fogging, hazing, yellowing and oxidation which diminishes the plastic's luster, strength and appearance. McKee's 37 Plex-All™ Plastic Cleaner, Polish and Protectant also works great on your headlights, taillight lenses and gauges.
CONVERTIBLE CAR TOP CARE SUMMARY
Follow this simple maintenance regimen and your convertible top will look good and perform well for years to come!
- If your convertible top is not dirty, just rinse it thoroughly at least once a month with a strong jet of clear water. If your convertible top is dirty use a non-detergent-based convertible top cleaner followed by your convertible top protectant. I recommend a convertible top cleaner as many car wash shampoos contain gloss-enhancers. If the car wash shampoo contains gloss enhancers, the top will absorb them and become a dust magnet. For this reason I recommend using cleaners specifically designed for convertible tops.
- I recommend a very soft bristle scrub brush for cleaning your convertible top. If you can rub the brush across the back of your hand without scratching your skin, it's safe to use on your convertible top.
- Do not use a cloth, chenille-covered sponge or lamb's wool mitt on your convertible top, as they will leave lint.
- Do not use your scrub brush on the vinyl window, it will scratch and decrease visibility.
- Make sure you rinse the top thoroughly with a stiff stream of water to remove all of the dirt, grime and suds from your convertible top cleaner.
- After washing, dry your convertible fabric or vinyl top using a Microfiber Drying Towel. The best method is to use the towel to blot up the water. Do not use a terry cloth towel or diaper to dry your convertible, as they will leave lint on fabric convertible tops. The Microfiber Drying Towels will also work well on your clear vinyl windows.
- Keep your convertible top protected like you do your paint. For best results, protect your fabric, cloth or canvas convertible top at least 3-4 times per year and your vinyl convertible top as often as every 4-5 weeks.
- Fabric, cloth or canvas convertible tops tend to attract lint, dust, pollen and other things that fly around the air and find home on your convertible top. This can look especially bad on a black convertible top! To keep your convertible top looking sharp, keep a lint roller handy and when your top is dry, just run the roller over the top. You will be surprised how this simple step will bring back that crisp new look.