Owning a convertible is a special kind of pleasure. When the weather heats up, while most drivers are rolling down their windows, convertible owners are letting the top down to feel the breeze running across their skin. While owning a convertible can be loads of fun it also requires special maintenance.
When a convertible top starts showing signs of extensive wear it will need to be replaced. Replacing a convertible top can cost over $1000. A convertible top replacement can be one of the most expensive repairs you’ll ever have to make on your car. When you’re working with a relatively small budget you’ll need to consider all of your options.
What Is The Average Life Of A Convertible Top?
A soft convertible top has a shorter lifespan than a hard convertible top. Although soft convertible top fabrics are durable they are susceptible to punctures from sharp objects. In addition, outside elements like the weather can reduce the integrity of the material. The average lifespan of a convertible top is about five to seven years when properly maintained.
Top Signs That Your Car Needs A Convertible Top Replacement
A worn or damaged convertible sticks out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, it can bring down the overall aesthetics of your vehicle even if the body of your car is in great condition. Here are the few most common signs that it’s time to have the convertible top on your vehicle replaced.
There are holes in the top
One hole often leads to several additional holes over time. If you’re holding your convertible top together with duct tape and prayer you may want to consider having the convertible top replaced sooner rather than later especially if you plan on eventually reselling your car.
You notice discoloration
Discoloration on your convertible top might not seem like a major issue but it’s a sign that the top is well past its shelf life. Most convertible top manufacturers have a three to six-year warranty on their fabrics. However constant exposure to harsh weather conditions like snow, rain, hail, and even extreme heat can cause a convertible top to wear faster than normal.
The top is sagging
Is your convertible top sagging? A sagging top is a sign of aging fabric, vinyl, or an improperly installed frame. In situations like this, you may need to have the top inspected by an automotive upholstery trim shop to determine if the frame on your convertible top or if the fabric needs to be replaced. Or perhaps you’ll need to install a new convertible top.
Water is getting inside of your car
If water is getting inside of your car when it rains or snows there may be a leak somewhere within the convertible top. The problem may also lie in the seams and seal gaps that help hold the convertible top
Convertibles tend to be noisier than a traditional vehicle. But when you start to hear more noise than usual from the road this is a big sign that the top has aged and needs to be repaired or replaced by a professional.
Convertible Top Replacement Or Repair?
In some instances, you may be able to have your convertible top repaired instead of replaced. If you’re looking to have a tear or hole repaired you’ll need to consider its size. Most experts will recommend a convertible top replacement for tears that are 12 inches or longer. Smaller tears can be patched. Small lacerations should be repaired by an expert for a seamless look.
It’s important to note that when you choose to have a soft convertible top repaired rather than replaced it will be a temporary fix. Patching tears or lacerations in your soft convertible top shouldn’t be a permanent solution. Repairing a torn or damaged convertible top is a lot harder than it seems. Depending on the extent of the damage it may be wise to have the top replaced instead.
Budget-Friendly Convertible Top Replacement
When you’re working within a small budget there are a few ways you can cut the costs of your convertible top replacement. Here are few things you’ll need to consider:
Choose An Affordable Material
One way you can save money on a convertible top replacement is to consider using alternative materials. Soft convertible tops are made from a variety of materials that vary in thickness, soundproofing properties, and other important factors. Most convertible tops are produced from either vinyl or cloth. Vinyl is one of the oldest fabrics ever used on convertible tops and they are typically used to mimic the look of leather. Convertible top fabrics that aren’t as thick or soundproofed as others are usually the least expensive option.
Oftentimes the factory cloth installed on your vehicle is cheaper than some of the premium fabrics available on the market. Make sure you do your research on aftermarket options for your convertible top replacement. Opting for lower quality materials can cut your convertible top replacement costs by hundreds of dollars.
Believe it or not, brands matter when you’re having your convertible top replaced. Opt for brands that target the budget-friendly shopper. Often these brands also offer warranties on their convertible tops that are similar to the warranties offered on premium brands. Even private label brands have soft tops for a wide range of car models such as Chevy, Audi, Ford, and BMW.
The great thing about budget-friendly convertible top brands is that they manufacture soft tops that are nearly identical to factory original patterns and designs. Private label and lesser-known brands usually charge hundreds of dollars less than premium brands.
Consider reusing the original accessories and hardware
Besides the convertible top material, you’ll also have to consider important accessories such as the frame, pads, and cables. Most of the time these components are in relatively good shape and can be reused instead of purchasing new ones. You should avoid reusing components that have sustained any type of water damage or corrosion because they will end up compromising the integrity of your convertible top later on down the line.
What about the convertible top frame itself? Most of the time the convertible frame is reusable. If it has been bent or warped in any way you may have to talk with a technician about having the frame fixed. In extreme circumstances, an entire frame replacement might be necessary. You’ll also need the convertible top pads inspected for damage and wear. The pads are located right between the convertible top frame and the actual soft top material. If your budget is really tight you can do without installing new top pads.
The side tension cables attached to the convertible top are responsible for raising and lowering the top smoothly and effortlessly. If you haven’t been having any issues opening and closing the top then chances are you don’t need to be replaced or repair the side tension cables.
Yes, reusing these essential components can scale hundreds of dollars off the top of a convertible top replacement.
A quality convertible top replacement is important for long-lasting and reliable results. That’s why such a job is best left to the professionals. DIY convertible top replacements are discouraged if you are not skilled in this area. In fact, convertible top installations is one of the most complex tasks to perform on a car so a job of this magnitude is best left to professionals.
Of course, it's always a good idea to shop around for prices whenever you are having any work done on your vehicle. A bad installation can possibly lead to leaks or other types of damage. Worst case scenario you’ll end up with additional costly repairs that will drain your bank account.
Hard Top Convertible Replacement
Although hardtop convertible tops last a lot longer than soft tops they can cost an arm and a leg to fix. A hardtop convertible replacement can cost anywhere between $500-$2000. Some of the most common problems that car owners with hard convertible tops experience include:
Slow top movement – Worn out of cylinders can cause the top to move really slow when you are bringing the top down or back up over the car.
Convertible top won't go up or down – When the convertible pump motor fails to get sufficient power the convertible top may get stuck in any position. The problem could also be the fuse or the relay.
Worn Lift Solenoids – The more you use your convertible top the faster the lift solenoids will wear. When this happens the convertible top might get stuck open or closed.
As you can see hardtop convertible problems tend to be more mechanical. You’ll need to shop around for a technician with experience in diagnosing problems with hardtops.
How To Save Money On A Hardtop Convertible Replacement
The best way to save money on a hardtop convertible replacement is to work with your technician to determine what parts need to be replaced and what components can be reused. Oftentimes, for simple repairs like installing new relays or fuses, you won't have to actually have a lot new convertible pump motor installed. It is important to have a skilled technician who you can trust to work on your convertible top replacement.
When it comes to replacing essential components that can affect the function of your hardtop you should opt for parts from private label brands. Premium brands tend to overcharge for even the most basic parts. When it comes to parts like fuses and relays you’ll be able to get away with using cheaper parts.
Proper Maintenance Schedule Can Help Your Convertible Top Last Longer
Whether it's the soft top on your Jeep or the hard convertible top on your BMW, regular care and maintenance can extend the life of your convertible top.
Check the owner’s manual
When it comes to cleaning and maintaining the top you should always consult your owner’s manual to see if there are any special instructions that your specific convertible top requires. Always follow the directions outlined in the owner’s manual.
Most convertible tops can tolerate a gentle cleaning with a mild car cleaning detergent. As a general rule thumb avoid harsh cleaners like bleach, ammonia, and waxing products which can ruin the convertible top material. Stick to all-purpose cleaners
Use a convertible top protectant
Whenever you wash your convertible top you should use a liquid protectant. A protectant spray protects the vinyl material from UV radiation, tree sap, and bird droppings. Vinyl safe treatments add a protective shine and serve as a water repellant.
Q: Does insurance cover convertible top replacements?
If you have full coverage your insurance company may cover the costs of your convertible top replacement minus your deductible. If your convertible top is 8-10 years old your convertible top will be considered at the end of its useful life. In a situation like this, your insurer might not cover the costs associated with your convertible top.
Q: Can you replace a convertible top yourself?
Installing a new convertible top isn't for the faint at heart. In fact, it's a complex job that requires skill. We don't recommend a DIY installation if you have minimal or no skills at all with these types of installations.
Q: Does a convertible need to be garaged?
Storing a convertible in a garage is ideal especially if you want your convertible top to last longer. However, convertibles can also be stored outside. If you convertible is going to spend time on the streets you should consider investing in a water-resistant yet breathable convertible cover. It should be made from a thicker material than a regular car cover.
Q: Can you drive a convertible top in the rain?
Although soft convertible tops are susceptible to leaks you can drive them in the rain. There is no guarantee that water won't penetrate the material especially if you use aftermarket or a cheaper rooftop material during your convertible top replacement.
Q: Are convertible expensive to repair?
Convertibles are designed with several components that can ultimately increase the cost of a convertible top replacement such as the side suspension cables and the convertible top pads. A motorized top can be really expensive to repair