How to Detail and Restore Convertible Roofs Like A Pro
Detailing convertible roofs is actually not all that tough a task. I like to approach it in a similar way to my interior, but knowing that I need to apply an extra layer of protection given that it’s exposed to the elements.
I want to show you that not only is it relatively simple to detail a convertible roof, but it’s also possible to restore them from the brink the disaster.
This article will look at both detailing and restoring convertible roofs and offer you some insights as to what methods and products to use to get the best possible results.
Convertible Roof Cleaning and Maintenance
There are two general types of fabric utilised in convertible roofs:
Older vehicles will usually be equipped with vinyl tops that are relatively easy to clean. But in most modern and pre-modern cars, the convertible soft top is made of cloth or fabric.
How To Wash A Vinyl Soft Top
Cleaning a vinyl soft top is nothing more than rinsing with water, washing with car shampoo, and wiping it dry. The same procedure applies for tonneau covers and sport utility tops.
The final step is to apply a light coat of vinyl conditioner like the Car Gods Fabric Cleaner to restore and protect the surface of the vinyl.
- Suitable for use on all fabric soft tops
- Hydrophobic formula repels dirt and water, aiding future maintenance
- pH neutral and acid free formula
That’s it, job done.
How To Clean A Cloth Convertible Roof
For cloth convertibles, you’ll need to employ a different cleaning method to vinyl. Here are the easy steps on how to clean and maintain the like-new appearance of convertible roofs.
1. Park in the shade
Park the vehicle in a shaded area, but it is still preferable to work outdoors in sunny and warm weather.
2. Rinse at low pressures
Rinse the top with clean water. If you’ll be using pressurised water, be careful not to directly spray the stream of water into the seams of the top. It is also best to use lower pressure whenever possible.
3. Apply a specialized convertible top cleaner
Use a fabric cleaner to deep-clean the cloth. I like the Meguiar’s G2016 Convertible Top Cleaner or the RaggTopp Fabric Cabriolet Cleaner. Both cleaners are strong enough to remove soils, stains, and mildew without using bleach or harsh chemicals.
- Brand Name: Meguiars Mfg#: G2016
- Shipping Weight: 1.24 lbs
- Exclusively Formulated for Fabric and Vinyl
- Safely Removes the Toughest Roof Soil and Stains
- Will Not Harm Metal, Plastic, Rubber or Wood Finishes
When using a dedicated convertible cleaner, I highly advise you to work in small areas. This will prevent the cleaner from drying up as you work on other sections of the roof.
4. Allow to dwell on surface then agitate
Spray the cleaner directly on the convertible top and allow the product to dwell for at least 5 minutes. Grab a soft detailing brush to agitate the cleaner on the fabric. This will further loosen up dirt and debris that are trapped in the fibres of the top.
After cleaning each section, rinse off the cleaner with clean water immediately.
Remember to work in small sections. After cleaning the entire roof, give it a final rinse with a garden hose or pressure washer.
5. Dry naturally or with air (Don’t use a microfiber cloth!)
This next step is all about the drying process. You can allow the convertible roof to dry under the sun without any consequences whatsoever. But it is better to dry the roof using a waffle weave microfibre drying cloth and a wet/dry vacuum cleaner.
But whatever you do, avoid using terry cloth to dry the fabric top unless you want to spend the better part of the day removing small pieces of lint. If you don’t have a thick microfibre drying towel, you can also use a synthetic chamois. Just make sure the drying cloth is clean and dry as a bone before you proceed.
If you’re using a microfibre towel or chamois, do not wipe the towel forcefully on the fabric. Instead, simply fold the towel in half and press it gently on the fabric. Allow the microfibre to absorb or soak up all the moisture on the fabric top. Wring the towel and repeat until the top is semi-dry or mildly damp.
6. Suck out remaining moisture (Optional)
This next procedure is optional. Use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to suck out all the remaining moisture on the convertible roof. Focus your efforts on the seams and stitching of the fabric, which will dry slower compared to thinner areas of the fabric.
After this, allow the roof to air dry for another 10 or 15 minutes.
7. Apply fabric protectant
The last step is to apply fabric protectant like the RaggTopp Fabric Protectant or the Meguiar’s Convertible & Cabriolet Weatherproofer. Both products are like wax on paint. It will seal and protect the surface against weathering, dirt, dust, and bird poo while offering excellent protection against UV damage.
- especially developed for the true convertible top professional and enthusiast to protect and maintain their fabric from harmful elements
- The number one factor in deteriorating convertible tops is acid rain, along with U.V. rays, smog, tree sap, bird droppings, salt, tar , dirt, grease,…
- All these elements contribute to the weakening and failure of convertible tops.
Fabric protectants will usually come in aerosol spray cans. Simply spray the protectant on the fabric roof and allow to air dry.
How to Restore Fabric Convertible Roofs
This section is perfect for dirty, mouldy, and neglected convertible vehicles. But as I previously mentioned at the beginning of this article, restoring the surface will take nothing more than using the right cleaning products, tons of patience, and a modicum of common sense.
Sounds simple enough, right?
- Rinse the convertible roof with clean water. This will help remove larger colonies of mould and mildew from the surface prior to deep cleaning.
- Use the spray cleaner and allow the solution to dwell in the fabric. Don’t be shy to spray more of the cleaner on heavily soiled areas. For this step, you can use the same products mentioned above such as the Trinova and RaggTopp convertible cleaner. You can also use all-purpose cleaner diluted in clean water. Whichever you choose, the trick is to allow the cleaner to dwell on the fabric for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
- Next, grab a soft detailing brush. Use the brush to agitate the fabric, which will help loosen up all the nasty dirt and grime. Spray more of the cleaning solution when necessary.
- If you see a lot of mould and mildew stains on the seams and stitching, a soft brush won’t cut it. For this step, it is better to use a hard or medium cleaning brush. Mildly scrub the seams to remove mould and mildew. Do not apply excessive force when using a hard brush to clean the convertible roof! You might end up ripping, tearing, or damaging the fabric! Keep it mild and gentle. Allow the cleaner to do the hard work.
- Rinse the convertible roof with clean water. Make certain to remove all traces of the fabric cleaner on the roof.
- Use a microfiber towel or synthetic chamois to remove excess water from the fabric. Fold the towel in half and press gently over the convertible roof. Do not wipe the towel on the top, and remember NOT to use terry cloth for this procedure.
- [Optional] Use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to suck out all the remaining moisture on the convertible top.
- While allowing the convertible roof to air dry.
- The final step in restoring the beauty of convertible roofs is to spray fabric protectant. I like the Gtechniq Smart Fabric Coat for this procedure. This product is formulated with Nanoparticles to coat the individual fibres in the fabric to repel water, moisture, dirt, and UV rays. It will also kill bacteria and bad smells.
Simply spray the fabric protectant and allow to air dry. Make sure to cover all areas of the soft top for complete all-weather protection against wear and tear.
Here’s an important tip: make certain the convertible roof is completely dry to the touch before spraying fabric protectant. If the fabric is still damp, allow it to air dry for another 30 minutes before treating the fabric with protectant. In cooler temperatures, you can leave it overnight to fully dry and then apply your coating at the end of the next day.
How To Restore Plastic Windows on Convertibles and Cabriolets
It is time to focus your attention on the plastic rear window. If the window is in relatively good shape (but is marred by fog, cloudiness, and/or dirt), you can clean and restore the clarity of the window using Meguiar’s PlastX.
This product is formulated to eliminate cloudiness and oxidation on clear plastic surfaces including windows and headlights. It contains Meguiar’s Diminishing Abrasive Technology to effortlessly cut through stains, contamination, oxidation, and chemical degradation. Think of it as a polish for clear plastic windows. This product is non-toxic, contains no solvents, and will leave behind a layer of protection against harmful weather and UV rays.
Pour a small amount of Meguiar’s PlastX on a small applicator pad or microfiber towel and rub the product gently on the plastic window using a left-to-right or up-down motion. Avoid using small circular patterns in cleaning the plastic rear window to prevent visible scratching and marring.
- HEADLIGHT CLARITY: Removes fine scratches, oxidation, yellowing & grime
- NIGHT TIME VISION: Restores optical clarity and provides long lasting durable protection
- SAFE & EFFECTIVE: Safe and effective on ALL clear plastics; plastic headlights, plastic windows, plastic visors, tail lights & more
Now, give the window a final wipe with a separate microfiber towel and you’re done! Don’t forget to repeat the same process for the inside of the plastic window to reveal a clear and like-new surface!
However, this product is not a miracle cleaner for severely deteriorated or yellowed windows. In some cases, you will need to consult a professional to replace the rear window.
In order to maintain the clean appearance of convertible roofs, make sure to clean the soft top each time you wash the vehicle. It’s definitely one of those things that if you tackle often enough, you won’t need to complete a major restore.
I can’t stress enough how important a good coating is. Convertible roofs are far less durable than a car’s paint, so getting a decent coating will ensure that they last a lot longer than without.