In a country that has a worldwide reputation for ‘changeable’ weather conditions, it is surprising to learn that we only fall behind the Germans when it comes to convertible cars – we buy more than the Italians, Spanish and French! Maybe that’s because we’re trying to eek out the last of the sun, or maybe we’re just living in hope. But even driving a convertible on rainy days can be a great experience.
Convertibles are changing – Peter Wheeler (ex-TVR Managing Director) thought that putting a convertible roof on a sports car was akin to driving round in a giant windsock and started combining a fixed roof panel with convertible section. It meant that even at high speeds, the roof felt solid (although some unfortunate TVR owners did manage to lose a top or two at ‘prison’ speeds).
Gone are the days of baggy, loose fitting cloth roofs, barely held on with a few fasteners. We now have full metal ‘fixed’ roofs, folding, autonomous and 100% weather-free roofs, but are they suitable for all driving styles?
Car maintenance is an important aspect of ownership, and more so if you drive a ‘vert’ – poor maintenance is perhaps the biggest problem when it comes to the performance of the convertible roof, be that lifetime performance or weather and wind proofing.
So just what is the best way to take care of it?
For the most part, caring for your convertible hood is largely dependent on the type of roof that it is – a pure soft top will need different maintenance requirements from a mechanical metal roof, but the one common theme for care is cleanliness.
A metal roof can be considered to be an extension of the normal bodywork, which means other than regular cleaning and polishing, there isn’t a great deal you can do – perhaps keeping the mechanism well lubricated at the most. You should still avoid getting dirt and grime in to the folding parts where possible though.
A soft top is a completely different matter – we’ve seen people rolling up towels to place on the screen to stop creasing, hundreds of different lotions and potions to clean, waterproof and treat the material, silicone oil used on rubber seals. It seems that every soft top owner has their own method for treatment.
These are our top tips for soft top convertible maintenance:
Keeping the rain out is an important job for the convertible roof, but to do that successfully, you need the material to be waterproof. From new, most soft tops are treated with some sort of chemical proofing agent, but as the years roll by, you’ll need to keep it treated.
You can buy dedicated soft top waterproofing treatment, or you could visit your nearest ‘outdoorsy’ shop and buy a waterproofing agent for a lot less.
The rubber seals on a convertible always seem to be prone to drying out and cracking, which then can degrade the ability to shut out the wind (and noise). A quality silicone lubricant applied annually will help to prevent the seals from drying and cracking, which in turn, will help to keep the integrity of the roof.
Depending on the nature of the hood, it could have a glass rear screen or plastic. A glass screen needs minimal maintenance to keep it looking fresh, but a plastic screen will degrade over time, going yellow and brittle.
There is very little that you can do to prevent this altogether, but there are a number of cleaning agents which can help to delay the process. You should also try and minimise the condensation on the inside of the screen.
These are notoriously difficult to keep in A1 condition, but you should try and minimise time spent under trees (particularly if the tree is home to birds), and clean it regularly to keep the dreaded green moss at bay.
Drying it off properly can also help to maintain condition (coupled with the previously mentioned waterproofing agent) – a little care each day can make all the difference.
Cruising with your top down makes for a completely different motoring experience – increased wind noise gives the sensation of driving faster, as does being able to hear your exhaust (definitely worth it if you’re driving a V8), and it brings the seasons right in to your cabin.
Try to remember though – just because your car is a convertible, it doesn’t mean that you have to drive it that way all the time – the roof goes up as well as down – great for winter time!