How to Replace Panels on Your Hard Top Convertible

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How to Replace Panels on Your Hard Top Convertible

Hard top convertibles are undeniably a favourite type of car for many people. Hard top convertibles are very versatile and are often preferred over soft top models, because they are more durable and help keep moisture out better than many of the soft top models. This style of convertible is also valued because it offers greater noise reduction than soft top styles. But over time, due to continuous exposure to harsh environmental elements like sun, wind, and rain, parts begin to deteriorate. Even if the convertible is stored in a garage protected from the outside environment, just opening and retracting the hard top over time causes parts to wear out or become out of sync with each other.

When it eventually becomes time to replace a hard top, many people find that the cost is often very high and so they elect to do the replacement work themselves. Hard top convertible panels can be located in catalogues, some auto supply stores, and online at eBay. Replacing the hard top keeps the vehicle safe and sound and is easy to do when it is clear what steps need to be taken.

Overview of Convertible Hard Tops

Convertibles featuring retractable hard tops came into existence in the mid to late 50s and were manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. This type of convertible remained popular for many years and then slowly lost its appeal. Now, decades later, the hard top convertible is once again a popular item. Many people enjoy the convenience of being able to both open and retract the top on command. Retractable models are also enjoyed because no manual labour is involved in this process, unless the mechanisms stop working correctly.

One of the most common problems experienced when operating issues occur is that the timing becomes out of sync between the various moving parts, convertible top fails to open and close. Knowing what steps to take to replace the hard top panels on the convertible allows the owner to perform this task themselves and save money in the process.

Find the Problem

Finding out where the problem lies is difficult because there are various components that are used in the process of opening and retracting the hard top. Components such as hydraulic lines, switches, wires, and cylinders are all part of the moving process and must work together correctly.

Since so many components are involved, it is hard or even impossible to find the parts that are malfunctioning with the naked eye alone. That is where car diagnostic scanners come into play. Scan tools are often necessary to diagnose the problem, because many parts like sensors or switches do not show any outwardly signs that they are not functioning properly.

Gather the Hardware

Once the problem is diagnosed, it is time to get to work on gathering the necessary hardware that is needed to perform the work. The hardware that is needed depends upon which part needs to be worked on. Some parts necessary to complete the overhaul may vary depending on the whether it is an acrylic hard top or a fibreglass hard top.

It is possible that special tools and replacement parts have to be purchased before the job is started, so it is helpful to know some common hardware used to fix various hard top components as well as parts that are typically replaced. The table below lists some common types of hardware and replacement parts that are often purchased for this type of job.


Replacement Parts

Convertible top

Hard top fitting kit,, latch bezel,, tension cables

Deck lid components

Outer plastic trim,, deck latch,, release cables

Roof panel hardware

Headliner, hold down pin or fasteners, roof panel locator cone wrench

Always make sure, if the headliner is replaced, to leave the old headliner pad in place. If future work is performed on the roof panel, mechanics often want to see the original padding to help identify specific information that is necessary to complete the work. It is also a good idea to have plenty of headliner spray adhesive on hand, so that the headliner panel is securely fastened at all times.

Take Photographs

Before actually beginning the process of fixing the faulty component, take plenty of photographs before, during, and after the replacement process. It is not uncommon for a person who is performing a new mechanical task to forget where a certain part goes when reassembling the hard top. Having photographs to view aids in making sure that parts go back in the right direction and in the right order.

Remove and Replace the Faulty Components

Remove the faulty components according to the manufacturer's directions of the part that is being replaced. There are many guides and instructional car manuals that are available that can give specific instructions on how to replace a faulty component. Replacing panels on a hard top convertible is not performed in the same manner for all types of convertibles. How the panels are replaced and what tools and hardware are needed depends on the year, make, and model of the specific vehicle.

There are so many areas that could be faulty along with ways to fix these areas that are too numerous to individually list. However, the diagnostic test results allow people to know exactly which component is affecting the hard top panels from functioning correctly. It is easy to use that as a starting point for choosing a manual designed for the specific car that needs the work done on it. Included below are basic instructions that pertain to how a 1953 Corvette hard top convertible panel is replaced.

Removal Process

Replacing panels on a hard top convertible is often a tedious task if only one person is doing the work. It is suggested to have at least one other person to help with the job if at all possible in order to reduce the amount of labour involved. Depending upon the work needed to be done, it is often safer having another person involved to reduce strain due to lifting any heavy parts. The following is an example of how the hard top panel on a 1953 Corvette is replaced.


The first step is to unclip the panel side moulding and remove it. Unclipping one side is often enough to loosen and remove the entire moulding. Make sure to remove the rear moulding before removing the inner side moulding. Once the moulding is removed the hardware becomes visible. Losen the rivets which hold the the weattherstripping in place, and then remove the weatherstripping. The frame should now be able to be removed from the hard top.


Often the rear window is removed along with the rear lower moulding once the frame is separated from the hard top. Rivets are then removed from the window as well as any hardware from the outer moulding attachment. If there is a mounting bracket that attaches the hard top to the vehicle, remove that as well.

It is okay to remove the headliner at this point and take off any excess caulking from the edges of the headliner. Use the old headliner to measure out the area of the new headliner allowing for additional centimetres to be added all the way around the new headliner. Tuck the new headliner under the moulding and trim away excess material carefully. Make sure when adding the new headliner that the ends are worked into the right place. This can often be the hardest part of the job, especially if working alone.

Replacement Process

Now that the moulding and window are removed and the new headliner is in place, it is time to begin the replacement process. This part of the job is one that may require help from an additional person in order to get all the parts back into their right places.

The replacement process begins where the removal process left off. This calls for attaching the lower weatherstripping back into place and making preparations to replace the side glass. Replace the rivets in the glass and do not forget to also replace the rear outer moulding retainers. It is now time to install the lower weatherstrip and to reinstall the side glass and secure it with the rivets once more.

At this point it is necessary to add the retainers to the rear outer moulding making sure that they are securely fastened. Keep working backward until the entire panel is reassembled and reattached and until it is back onto the frame.

How to Buy Replacement Hard Top Panels on eBay

Hard top convertibles are fun cars to have, but require proper care and handling when it comes to opening and retracting the panels. Excessive use or even not being used often enough can create the need for the panels to be replaced. When it comes time to replace hard top panels, many people turn to eBay to fill this need for a variety of reasons. One of the best reasons people have for shopping here is that there is a variety of replacement panels, tools, and hardware to be found all in one convenient location.

Buying replacement panels on eBay is a very simple process as well. All you have to do is enter relevant keywords into the search query box that is located at the top of the eBay home page. For example, if you need hard top panels for a 1953 Corvette, simply type "hard top panels 1953 Corvette" and any item tagged with those keywords is displayed. You can add or change keywords to find panels in a variety of conditions that include but are not limited to new, used, and refurbished models.


When people experience problems with hard top convertibles that lead to panels being replaced, it is a job that often needs to be taken care of right away if the vehicle is one that is used on a frequent basis. Many people find that doing the work themselves is the quickest way to get the car back on the road and save money in the process. Finding out where the problem lies is the first step in the process of replacing the panels and one that often requires the use of a diagnostic scanner. Knowing what the problem is allows the person to get the right tools, parts, and manuals for the job.

Taking pictures before, during, and after the removal process can help avoid confusion when it comes to replacing parts. It is important to find the correct parts and tools for the car being worked on as well. Replacing hard top panels is not a hard task, however, it is helpful to have some extra help on standby just in case. Replacing hard top panels is not a job that is suitable for everyone, so it is helpful to get an idea of what is involved before the task is undertaken.

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