In any convertible, be it a hardtop or a soft top, the roof is one of the most vulnerable to all sorts of damage and wear parts. So if you want to own a convertible or have one, top maintenance will be the as routine as oil change or lubricating. As to which one is easier to maintain, a hard or a soft top, opinions will differ but mine is that fabric or vinyl convertible roofs need less care than hardtop ones. By saying care I mean the combination of efforts, time and money you’ll have to spend on maintenance of a cabriolet roof in total. Of course, soft roofs are less durable and their weather protection and resistance qualities are definitely lower, as well as visibility. However, technically these are way simpler which means less probability of a failure and all accompanying expenses, provided that they are treated properly. If a detachable soft roof needs to be fixed, you can just take it off and drive without one for some time, if the weather allows of course. With a hardtop you won’t leave the roof at the body shop and drive away, you’ll have to leave the whole car. Moreover, while sometimes soft tops can be fixed at home, the hard ones need a mechanic’s hand and equipment. The same about top replacement. Below is a quick overview of convertible top care basics for different types of retractable roofs and the links to detailed maintenance tips and guides for different types of roof materials and constructions.
The damage to most soft tops sustain over time is fading from UV rays, cracking and staining.
Canvas / fabric top care is a bit different from that for vinyl or vinyl covered canvas, so first of all define if your car roof material is fabric or vinyl (some drivers don’t know even after buying a sportcar).
While the vinyl top can be washed every time you wash a car, a canvas roof doesn’t need such a frequent washing.
The dust and lint are perfectly removed from the canvas top by a sticky paper roller, the same as used for cleaning clothes. Read more about soft roof care.
A plastic or less frequently glass window is inserted in most soft roofs. Other time the plastic becomes foggy because of UV, oxidation and mechanical damage, which impairs its primary function. With regular washing by wash soap and applying specialized wax the window will retain transparency for a longer period. Stuck on dirt of plastic chips are carefully removed by the razor. If it became foggy over time you may try headlight lens restoration remedy, it is reported to work perfectly. User glass cleaners only for glass windows, never for plastic ones! Plastic windows need cleaners for plastic.
Although hardtops are lees prone to wear and tear than soft-tops, mechanically they are more complex and need more of an expert hand if something goes wrong. The major maintenance activities include: