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Guide To Convertible Top Replacement

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Convertibles can be tricky, despite the many pleasures and conveniences they provide. Sooner or later you will have to think about your convertible top replacement. When the top begins to show symptoms of wear or just has to be replaced after years of use, what should you do? What is the price of a new convertible top?

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Convertible Top Replacement: How often does a convertible top need to be replaced?


Convertible tops can last anywhere from 10 to 12 years, depending on how well they are cared for, stored, maintained, and used. If well cared for and maintained you may not even have to think about getting a convertible top replacement beyond that 12 years. There are convertible tops that lasted 15 years and still look great, so there are a lot of aspects to consider.


A convertible top has a ten-year average life, depending on its exposure to the elements and usage. Cloth and vinyl tops age differently. With time and exposure to frigid temperatures, a vinyl top loses its elasticity.


A vinyl top develops cracks at the critical folding places as it ages. If you put down an older vinyl top in cold weather, it may crack. Vinyl windows are very susceptible to the elements. When the temperature drops below 40 degrees F, don't put your vinyl top down.


Cloth tops age more slowly on the inside than they do on the outside, so they last longer. Cloth tops are less susceptible to cold weather; but, if the temperature drops below 40 degrees F, it is a good idea to keep the top up. To maintain the fit and shape of your top, always store it up.


To clean your convertible top, use a cleaner designed specifically for convertible tops; however, a moderate car wash soap or dishwashing soap will suffice. To clean your top, use a sponge or a piece of boat cushion foam (polyether foam or poly foam). When possible, wash your top in the shade. If you have a clear vinyl window, wash it first, then the top, rinsing thoroughly to avoid your sponge picking up dirt from the top and scratching the glass!


Sun and dirt are the two most destructive elements to a convertible top. There are cleansers specifically designed for vinyl or fabric tops. It's a good idea to use a cleanser that contains a UV protectant, or to follow up with a UV protectant.


Convertible Top Replacement: Kinds of Convertible Tops


Convertible tops are either motorized or manual, meaning you may either push a button or manually raise or lower your top. The hydraulic mechanism in most power tops is powered by a tiny motor and hydraulic lift cylinders known as rams. If component parts fail, replacements are easily available, however they can be rebuilt for a lower cost than replacement.


Vinyl and fabric are the two types of convertible top materials. Under normal conditions, both will survive roughly ten years. Glass or clear vinyl (40 gauge) are used for windows. A plastic window will last about 60% of the lifetime of the top and can be replaced with either conventional clear vinyl or a scratch-resistant clear vinyl.


When the vinyl top to which a glass window is attached deteriorates or fails, it should be replaced (or obviously, when it is broken). A window skirt is the top material that runs below the rear window. The skirt can be re-bonded or replaced if it becomes damaged or loses its attachment to the glass. (However, most facilities are unable to perform this type of repair.)


Convertible top pads are 6-8 inch-wide strips that may be seen from the inside of the vehicle. They extend from the visors to the back bow over the window. Their purpose is to conceal the top center deck seams and hold the convertible top frame mid-bows in place while also providing support to the top.


There are also foreign convertible tops that are distinct because of their style and materials. A completed and bound edge surrounds the majority (if not the entire) of foreign automobile tops. The binding edge of the back half of the top (below the window) normally rests on top of the car body. Many foreign convertibles have had headliners built into their top systems for years. Domestic convertible tops with headliners are a relatively new innovation.


Cloth is a common material used on the tops of foreign cars such as BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, and Saab. Cloth convertible tops are more expensive than vinyl convertible tops, but they have the advantage of being more durable, longer lasting, and looking newer for longer.


Because those tops have completed and bonded edges at specified spots, they must fit exactly on the frame and there is minimal room for changes, installing tops on foreign convertibles has its own set of obstacles and complications. Installing a foreign car top requires extraordinary talent, as attention to detail makes a significant difference in the top's final fit.


Domestic car tops are the most difficult to install. The styling and materials set them apart from foreign tops. Domestic convertible tops have become increasingly complicated throughout time, but the core design remains the same. The back of the majority of domestic convertible tops is joined to the car's body.


Some cars, such as rare replicas or those that have been converted from hard tops, may not be able to get factory or aftermarket tops. Tops must be patterned and then handcrafted in these circumstances. These shirts need the most dexterity. The abilities and competence of the craftsman who creates and installs them are totally dependent on the design, patterning, cut-out, and stitching, as well as installation.


When it comes to buying a new convertible, deciding whether to go with a soft-top or a hard-top is a common conundrum. Though both soft-top and hardtop convertibles have their advantages and disadvantages, when it comes to maintenance, they are two very different applications.


Some customers may be concerned about the safety features of a soft rooftop because the structural integrity of their vehicle's top is not as strong as that of a hardtop. Soft-tops are also more prone to general wear and tear than hard-tops.


Hardtops, despite being the safer and more lasting option, are also more expensive to maintain and repair. A hardtop convertible requires more time and expertise to service because it has so many moving parts.


The soft-top, on the other hand, has one major advantage: it can be detachable. So, if your convertible top needs to be repaired, you can still drive your car while the work is being done. Keep in mind that insurance rates for soft-top convertibles are frequently higher than for hardtops. This is because soft-tops are more vulnerable to damage and break-ins than hardtops (owing to their easy access), and hence have higher insurance costs.


Convertible Top Replacement: Is it hard to replace a convertible top?


Convertible top replacement also requires pads, cable, and frame besides the material for the top.  If you want to save money on your convertible top replacement, reuse these parts as much as possible. You'll need to determine whether they're in good enough condition to reuse. Never reuse any components that have been corroded or damaged by water.


Most often, the convertible top frame can be reused. If your convertible top frame is damaged or distorted in any manner, or if it does not raise or lower properly, consult your installer about a repair or replacement. In most cases, the convertible top frames do not need to be changed as part of the project.


When the top is raised or lowered, convertible top pads are inserted between the new convertible material and the convertible top frame to protect the material from friction damage. You can re-use these pads to save money if you are truly on a budget and they are not worn thin or broken.


Side-tension wires aid in the even and smooth raising and lowering of the convertible top. Most of the time, if your top opens and closes smoothly and does not sag or lean to one side, your side-tension wires are in good form. When removing them, take care not to harm them and check for water damage. You can save hundreds of dollars on your convertible top replacement by reusing these pieces.


With the growth of the Internet, toolbox-wielding auto owners who are used to DIY have access to a vast array of materials. But still installing a convertible top is one of the most difficult things you'll encounter with your car, so it is still recommended to leave it to the specialists. They are effective and stop you from making a pricey mistake that damages the top or causes a leak that necessitates convertible interior repairs.


How Much Does Convertible Top Replacement Cost?


The cost of replacing a convertible top is estimated to be between $900 and $1500. The convertible top replacement cost is mostly determined by the vehicle's make and model. Pop rivets, staples, hold-down cables, and glue are all included in one replacement top.


In the case of a DIY application, you'll need to invest around $300 in parts to complete the task. Depending on your vehicle's make and model, as well as whether you have a soft-top or hard-top, a professional will likely charge around $1,000 to execute this operation. Changing the roof at an authorized dealer may cost a little more (about $1,000), but depending on criteria like top style, warranty coverage, and insurance claims, this may be the best alternative.


Please keep in mind that these are simply approximations. The final cost is determined by the vehicle you drive and the repairs required to get you back on the road. Maintaining and fixing your convertible can be costly, but nothing compares to the sensation of having the wind in your face while riding down the highway.


Convertible Top Replacement: Can a convertible top be repaired?


Knowing basic strategies for fixing convertible tops will help you save the costs of having it done in a service garage. Some convertible top repairs are simple enough that vehicle owners can do them without assistance. Learning how to repair a convertible top will allow you to get new abilities that you would otherwise have to pay a mechanic for.


The first step in repairing your vinyl convertible top is to thoroughly examine the damage. If the tear is less than 12 inches long, you should be able to fix the damage yourself by doing stitches or by using patches especially made for convertible tops.


If the convertible's top is damaged, use a strongly curved needle and strong thread or wire to repair it. Cover the damage to the convertible top with the two. Use the cross-stitch pattern for best results. Remember that sewing can take some time, so be patient while you're doing it. 


Besides stitching you can also repair by using patches. Now go inside the car and cover the bottom of the tear with masking tape. It's crucial since it'll keep the damage together and prevent the adhesive from leaking into the top inside. While you're working on a replacement patch, masking will keep the thread or wire from breaking.


After masking, add a layer of heavy-duty glue over the seam you made on top. Don't worry about using too much tape. If you followed the instructions correctly, the excess should be caught by the tape you applied in the previous step. 


Remove any dirt or surface oils from the repair area with isopropyl alcohol to ensure a solid bind to the convertible top. Scissors can be used to trim fraying edges. Cover the damaged area with the patch. At least 1″ beyond the rip, tear, or hole should be covered by the patch. Round the corners of your patch when cutting it. Smooth out any bubbles and make sure the borders are flat while applying the patch to the convertible top.


Finding the best convertible replacement that best meets your needs and budget is totally up to you. Just bear in mind that having your convertible top replaced by an expert is strongly recommended.

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