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How To Clean A Soft Top Or Convertible Roof - A Detailed Guide

How To Clean A Soft Top Or Convertible Roof - A Detailed Guide

Drivers of convertible cars do not get their fair share of top-down days in the UK. At least though, when the sun does shine, they can make the most of those wind-in-the-hair moments. Modern technology means that soft tops raise and lower very quickly but when in place they are still subject to the same weather as their tin-top counterparts.

That’s why owners need to ensure that the hood, vinyl or fabric, gets as much attention as the rest of the car body. We spend a lot of time detailing our cars; why not give the fabric roof the same attention? Here are our tips for keeping a fabric soft top properly maintained and capable of long life:

How To Clean Dirt, Mould & Residue From Your Convertible Roof

Unlike a metal car body, without proper attention a fabric convertible roof can be attacked by road dirt, mould and mildew, attracted to the fabric material thanks to our often wet ‘summers’. Tree sap and bird lime too are acidic and, as with car paintwork, these need to be removed immediately.

Here’s how to go about attending to that soft top:

1. Wash car

Wash the vehicle as normal with a good car shampoo, using hot water on the soft top. The application of a scrub brush will make inroads into any ingrained pollutants. Rinse, noting that power washers are not a good idea for convertible hoods. Allow the roof to fully dry.

2. Kill the mould

An interesting suggestion is to use Milton steriliser tablets dissolved in hot water. This kills mould as does a solution of white vinegar. Note: Any previously applied water repellent will be stripped off by this process and reapplication is required (see section below). Conventionally though, use, in order, a branded hood cleaner for best results and subsequently a roof proofer to ensure that the surface fully repels water.


Cleaning Green Algae & Moss Off A Cabriolet Roof

A badly neglected hood may well also be infected with green algae and moss. Try this approach after first washing the car:

1. Kill those spoors

Unlike hard top vehicles, a pressure washer should not be used on a soft top. It could damage seams. Wash the car as normal. Also, regular cleaning products may not kill spoors and they will return in short order. As suggested above, ordinary white vinegar is great for removing mould. Using a spray bottle containing a water/white vinegar mix, wipe vigorously on with a clean microfibre cloth.

2. Use a soft top cleaner

Apply a branded soft top cleaner liberally over the roof using a good applicator block, working into the fabric. Wait a few minutes and rinse off with plenty of water until it runs clear.

How To Recolour Your Convertible Roof Fabric

Over time the weather, sun, age and sometimes neglect mean that the fabric of a convertible roof can become discoloured or faded. If the hood is otherwise in good condition, it is entirely possible to re-apply colour and make it look as good as new. Here are our tips:

1. Wash The Hood

As described above, wash the hood and remove any contaminants like mould. Allow to dry. If not wearing them already, change into old or work clothes and wear protective gloves, eyewear and face mask.

2. Masking

Using newspaper or similar and some masking tape, mask off the windows of the car and the rear plastic screen to prevent overpainting, ensuring that all of the top is visible and accessible.

3. A good convertible dye

Apply the dye according to the directions on the package, using a small clean and soft paintbrush. Begin painting in the middle of the top and move outward, applying in one direction only. Cover evenly. If necessary, repeat with a second and third coat after the previous coat has dried. Allow to dry fully before moving on to the next step.

How To Weather Protect Your Soft Top Roof

As alluded to above, the next stage for a full refurbishment of a convertible is to weather seal the material so that water runs off the surface, helping to future-protect the fabric. Any previous deep cleaning process will have stripped away any remaining weather-proofing and without this essential step water could permeate through the material and into the cabin. Apart from the discomfort, this could lead to window interiors misting and indeed mould forming inside and nobody wants that. Protect your hood like this:

1. Select the right product

The general consensus is that it is better to paint on the weather proofer. Sprays are available but the application of several coats is recommended. To protect colour and reduce the occurrence of mould, mildew and the like a quality product that also offers UV light and mould protection is recommended. There will be a choice at the local motor factors or online.

2. Application

As suggested, apply with a clean brush, working the product into the fabric, not forgetting around the seams and the window overlaps. Allow to dry fully before applying a second or further coats. There are no short cuts to doing this job. You’ll know the job is done when the fabric will accept no more proofer or when water beads off the surface when it rains, as it surely will.

Preventing Convertible Roof Leaks

Age or neglect are the likeliest reasons for water ingress through a soft-top roof. Tell-tales signs could perhaps be damp seats, the appearance of mould with an accompanying smell and condensation on the inside of windows, although often it is difficult to identify the actual cause.

Clearly proper roof maintenance as described above will help prevent water ingress but otherwise urgent attention is called for. These are some of things that can be done:

Finding leaks on a soft top car

These might include damaged or distorted door seals or accumulated detritus behind the seals and blocked rain channels around the car, including the boot surround. Wet carpets are often a sign. The hood itself may be damaged, torn or lacking in weather-proofing, allowing water to find its way in.

It’s an idea to get someone to sit in the car while a water hose (NOT a pressure washer) is played over it. This might speed up the process of discovery.

Fixing a leak on a soft top car

Clean rain gutters and door shuts and inspect the rubber seals. Top Tip: regularly clean rubber door seals and lubricate them with something like petroleum jelly to help keep them supple and resistant to water ingress. If the problem lies with the roof then the solution may be this:

Renovate or renew a car soft top

If, despite all the steps to refurbish a soft top, the water ingress problems remain then a thorough inspection is advised. Is the hood mechanism working as it should and does the hood fit properly? Any tears can be repaired professionally but at some point in a convertible’s life it is probably time for a new hood. This may not be the cheapest option but it will improve the look of the car and add to the resale value. We may not have the ideal weather for convertible motoring in this country but when the suns shines it’s a great feeling.

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