The roofs of convertibles - also known as cabriolets or soft tops - are susceptible to damage over time.
Some types of soft top damage are easier to repair than others.
Common causes of soft top damage:
- Tree branch strikes
- Road debris flung up by the wheels of other vehicles (especially lorries)
- Sunshine (UV damage can cause fading and cracks)
- Using unsuitable cleaning products - including solvent-based cleaners with alcohol, vinegar, or bleach
- Mould and mildew caused by moisture build up from rain and other forms of precipitation
In this article we will focus on how to repair convertible tops with tears, cuts - as well as how to remedy UV damage.
Glue and patches
A number of products for soft top repairs are available. These often combine patches and glue.
Such kits are designed to repair a range of both manmade and natural fabrics; neoprene, PVC, rubber, nylon and most plastics.
Car soft top repair process
Before a soft top roof repair can commence, all errant fibres should be removed, to produce a clean, level finish.
Ideally these strands of fibre should be cut rather than pulled, in order to prevent further damage to the fabric.
While processes can differ, these kits essentially work by placing a backing patch on the underside of the fabric (grey coloured), under the hole.
Applying the convertible roof repair glue and patch
A special glue is then applied over the cut or hole on the top side (darker) of the damage.
The glue should cover the fracture and a few millimetres of the surrounding fabric.
The glue is left overnight to cure. At this point, the hole should be sealed. The backing patch can then be removed.
With some kits, regular tape may be used on the rear of the damage, instead of a specialist patch. Both do the same thing: hold the damaged fabric together while the glue works its magic.
Should I remove the roof before undertaking repairs?
It may be easier to effect convertible roof repairs if you first remove the rooftop. This is especially the case if there are large cuts in the fabric (such as those caused by trees).
With the roof off, you can lay the fabric on a floor or a table, and ensure the backing patch holds the damage in place.
However, for smaller holes you may be able to carry out the repair "in situ".
How to repair soft top sun/UV damage?
It is also possible to address damage caused to a convertible car roof by sunlight – e.g. fading and cracks.
Solutions are available which can be applied to the surface of the soft top roof. As well as making the fabric more durable and covering up any fading, these usually include UV inhibitors.
The process for repairing convertible roof sun / UV damage
The surface of the convertible should be cleaned and dried before application. Special care should be taken to remove any silicones present, since solutions will not adhere to these.
Application should be taken in the shade - not in sunlight.
Solutions come complete with applicators (usually a sort of hard sponge).
One bottle should be more than enough to cover one top. If there is enough solution left, you may add a second layer.
Pro tip: Keep a damp cloth handy to wipe away any spillages on paintwork or windows (after all, the solution is permanent). Any spillages must be removed while the solution is still wet.
When should you replace your convertible roof?
In some circumstances, the damage to your soft top may be too extensive to be repairable. For example, a large tear caused by a tree branch, or by vandals.
UV damage, too, can be so serious that the fabric becomes too brittle to be an effective barrier against wind, rain and sun.
Soft tops need to be replaced every 10 years or so.
Convertible roof replacement cost
Soft top hood prices vary depending on the make and model it is for - but usually fall within the £400 - £1200 range (which may or may not include installation).
That said, you may be able to buy a new or used hood on eBay for as little as two hundred pounds (but of course you would need to install it yourself).
Soft top roof installation can be a challenging process, so unless you have sufficient experience it may be worth paying a convertible roof specialist.
Convertible roof care tips:
- Clean the fabric frequently with a car shampoo, using a scrubber to gently work out the pollutants and debris.
- Avoid pressure-washing the roof - this could exacerbate any small areas of damage
- Allow the roof to dry fully