Owners of soft top convertibles, including BMW, Ford Mustang, and Mazda Miata models, love driving on the open road with the tops down and blue skies above. Keeping a soft top maintained and in good condition ensures many years of enjoyment, but, eventually, a soft top has to be replaced. Whether it is from exposure to the elements or general wear and tear, convertible soft tops wear out and do not last forever.
While owners can pay professionals to do the work for them, soft top removal and installation can be expensive. Those who want to save money can remove and install their new soft tops themselves. When installing soft tops, vehicle owners need to know a few things before proceeding. This includes the exact model of the convertible, the type of soft top material, the tools needed, and instructions for removing and installing a convertible soft top properly and safely. To purchase new soft tops, vehicle owners can find them at automotive supply shops and at various sites online, including eBay..
Choosing a Soft Top
While vehicle owners have a large selection of convertible soft tops to choose from, they do need to keep some factors in mind when shopping. These factors include the vehicle model, the type of material, the top's colour, the number of layers making up the top, the tint of the windows, and the inclusion of side windows.
The first thing convertible owners need to do is determine which soft tops they can use. Not all soft tops made by a particular vehicle manufacturer fit all its convertible models. The various tops are usually compatible with certain years, models, and makes of vehicles. By focusing on the tops that fit their convertibles, owners can save time when shopping.
Soft Top Material
When choosing soft tops, vehicle owners should keep in mind the materials they prefer. The following table outlines the two most common types of soft top materials: fabric and vinyl.
More attractive visual experience
Usually comes in canvas or sail cloth
Durable with a slight sheen
Some are indistinguishable from fabric tops
The construction of fabric tops leads to a better overall product. This does not mean that lower-quality vinyl tops should not be considered.
Soft Top Colour
When it comes to colour, soft tops usually come in black or beige,, with most convertible manufacturers producing tops in both colours. When buying replacement tops, vehicle owners must decide between going with the same colour or choosing another one. This can change the look of the vehicle to a large degree. Shoppers should consider how the tops look before completing their purchases.
Number of Layers
Thickness, created by adding additional layers to soft tops, increases the protection to drivers and passengers from the elements when the tops are up. In addition to protecting the vehicle's occupants from the weather, the extra layers can also help reduce the overall noise level that penetrates the vehicle from the outside.
If a convertible owner wants tint on the rear window, he or she needs to decide how dark it needs to be. While tinted windows usually cost extra, they provide an added layer of privacy for vehicle owners. In addition to varying degrees of window tint, some rear window designs incorporate mesh, with tighter mesh designs creating darker windows. Vehicle owners should take care, though, as the darker the mesh, the less visibility through the rear window.
Soft top convertible owners need to keep in mind any side windows connected to the top. One thing vehicle owners can do to save money includes replacing the side windows if they become worn or cracked as opposed to the whole top. Owners can usually purchase these windows separately or as part of a set.
Replacing a Convertible Soft Top
Even though removing an old soft top and replacing it with a new one might seem easy at first glance, vehicle owners should take certain steps to ensure that the removal of old tops and the installation of new ones goes smoothly. This includes taking crucial measurements before removing the old tops, removing the old tops correctly to keep from damaging components, and installing the new tops properly.
Measure Bow Height
Before removing anything, the owner needs to measure the height of the rear bow. The steps below provide more details on this process.
Find the bottom centre of the current rear window at the point where the window meets the inner edge of the belt moulding. Owners should also locate the rear bow. The rear bow extends over the top of the rear window and is composed of the last roof support before the rear of the car.
Use a measuring tape to measure from the inner edge of the belt moulding to the middle of the rear bow Make sure to keep the measuring tape flat against the rear window for the most accurate measurement.
Write down the measurement. Look up the normal distance in the convertible manufacturer's catalogue. If owners find that the measurement differs by more than 1.3 cm from the factory setting, then they must reset the rear bow to the correct height before installing the new top. Otherwise, the rear window might not fit correctly.
Remove the Old Soft Top
After the vehicle owner makes sure to adjust the rear bow to the proper height, then he or she can remove the old top. Owners should find this process relatively easy, but they have to be sure to remove any pads they plan on reusing with new tops.
Starting at the header bow, at the front of the top, remove any fasteners that hold the top in place. Owners can identify the header bow as the front cross-member of the convertible top frame.
Carefully roll back the old top, taking note of how to put the top back together when installing the new top. The owner can lay out the old top and place the new one as a guide to mark where certain points of the top should go when installing.
Next, remove the curtain, taking care not to damage the window in the process. The curtain on a convertible refers to the section separate from the actual top that contains the plastic or glass of the rear window.
After removing the whole top, including the curtain, the owner should clean and lubricate the frame of the convertible's roof. At this point, owners should remove any pads that they plan on reusing and set them aside.
Install the New Soft Top
Following the removal of the old top and after preparing the new one, the installation process can begin. Installers need a staple gun and contact cement to properly place the new convertible top.
Install the curtain first. This makes installation easier and helps ensure a proper seal against the weather.
Insert any pads into place. This includes any old pads that owners want to reuse.
Lay the new top across the frame, lining up any markings. Starting from the rear, staple the new top to the frame and reinstall any bolts removed.
Adjust the top as necessary, working from the rear to the front, waiting to staple the top in place until after securing the front of the soft top.
After the top has been adjusted properly, secure the front of the top to the front cross-member using staples. Be sure to pull the rest of the top taut before doing so.
Starting from the rear, work your way down the top, securing it with staples as you go. This might require readjustment of the front of the top.
Test the new top out to make sure everything works properly. Make adjustments as necessary.
Finding Convertible Soft Tops on eBay
To purchase a convertible soft top online, visit the eBay home page and start your search. First, type in keywords into the search box. Use terms like 'BMW soft top' or 'black convertible top', for example, to begin your search. Narrow the list of results down by clicking on the filters. This shortens the list to display only the listings that closely match the items you are interested in buying. Reading eBay's Search Tips can help you determine good search terms. Visitors to eBay can also search top seller's specific eBay Shops for the products of their choice.
Once you locate a product that looks interesting, read through the listing the seller posted. Be sure to locate product cost, item quality, model information, colour, and any other pertinent information. Check with the seller to ask questions that are not in the listing by clicking the Ask a Question link. The last step before purchasing a product on eBay includes assessing the seller's feedback rating.. This rating gives you an in depth look at what other shoppers had to say about a seller.
With continued maintenance and upkeep, a convertible soft top should last for many years. However, eventually vehicle owners must replace these tops, as the old ones eventually become degraded due to weather and exposure. To save money, owners can perform the installations themselves. First, they should educate themselves on how to remove the old tops and install the new tops correctly, thus making the whole process easier and safer. Additionally, they should make sure they buy the correct replacement tops for their convertibles before starting the installation process.
After they have gathered all of their materials and tools, installers need to find an area that gives them plenty of room to perform the whole process. They should also put enough time aside to accomplish the entire process from beginning to end without pausing. Owners can generally accomplish this task in a short period of time as long as they have everything they need, including materials and tools. When looking for convertible soft top tools and materials, shoppers can find them at local auto supply shops or online at eBay.