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Part I Long Post...Convertible Top Care...


Well-known member
May 13, 2003
Round Hill, VA
2014 Convertible
Maintaining the Convertible Top

By Collin MacDonald

For some reason the convertible top is about the last thing people think of when they go through the normal routine of cleaning their cars or preparing them for winter storage. Now that winter is fast approaching, this is the perfect time of the year to clean and preserve the convertible top. Most of us think the convertible material is fragile and it often scares us to even think about cleaning it, never mind treating it. So I thought I would sit down and write this article for you, after all its much cheaper to buy and use the materials I am going to talk about and recommend, then buy a new top.

Corvettes have two types of top material, the canvas or clothe type (used as black top) and/or the vinyl/plastic type (used on white tops), and the newer Corvettes have glass in the rear windows, while the older Corvettes use for the rear window clear plastic.

So these are the types of materials used. Now lets start with the basics, remember that book that you find in the glove box, called an “Owner’s Manual”, well my first recommendation is to read it. They have a wonderful section on how to clean and maintain the top. They also recommend what to and what NOT to use on the care of the top. Please take the time and read you manual, its boring, but does offer great information.

Where do I start?

I bet you thought we would start be scrubbing the outside top right? Wrong, the best way to approach this is to start from the inside. The convertible top inside the car is a great dust collector. Start with the folds and corners near the back and work forward. Using a shop vacuum with the duster brush attachment and a damp towel with a couple of sprays of Simple Green or similar all purpose cleaner, attach those folds and corners. Us the vacuum to start, then wipe the areas lightly. You will find the rods and support braces, clean those with the towel, just a light wipe. Eventually you will come upon the rear window. If you have glass, just clean it like any glass window. Now if you have plastic, very special care has to be take, because that plastic scratches very easily. Just use a damp cloth (terry 100% clean towel, NOT paper) and a dry terry cloth to wipe dry. DO NOT use and ammonia base window cleaner on plastic windows. Now if you have heavy grimed yellow plastic windows, you can purchase special cleaner designed for clear plastic rear windows. You can purchase this from Ecklers, Mid-America, Zip etc. See the end of this article for recommendations of various types of products.

Don’t Forget Those Support Frames

The next step is to clean the parts you missed on the inside when the top was in the closed position. The next step is to open the top part way and clean the surfaces that you could not reach when the top was secured. The rear window deck, the top of the windshield were it fastens to the car, the painted and some cases chrome or stainless steel surfaces. I highly recommend using windex or a window cleaner for the stainless or chrome areas that are bright. Remember that painted surfaces, like the rear hatches on Corvettes that are painted can be polished once cleaned. Obviously painted surfaces should be cleaned with car wash and a sponge. Then rinse with clean water. Next you have various rubber parts that need to be treated with silicone. Just put some silicon on a fresh soft rag and wipe it on, removing heavy access. It should have a nice smooth even shean to it. Again weather stripping and rubber products are coated with silicone. Plastics and vinyl panels should be cleaned with light soap and rinsed with clean water, then you can use a vinyl preservative, like “Mother’s” “Black is Back”, or other vinyl preservatives, Zaino has a very good one used for vinyl and another for plastic.

The Outside, Cleaning the Vinyl and Canvas,They Are Different.

Finally the outside of the convertible top is the last to be cleaned. How you clean the outside depends on the material the top is made of.

Cleaning a Vinyl Top. Simply put if you have a vinyl top it feels like plastic, not cloth. If you have a Vinyl Top, is should be cleaned with a medium strength all-purpose cleaner diluted, such as Mr. Clean, Fantastic, etc. Of course they sell top cleaners, but I found them to be overpriced and you get the same results. The key to cleaning the top is two things, letting the detergent do the job, and scrubbing it with a soft bristle hair brush. I found the best place to purchase these types of brushes is at “Home Depot”. Vinyl tops seem to attract more road dirt and grim then top materials, so you just have to use good old “elbow” grease to get them clean. I found it much better to wet down the whole car so the dirt does not end up on the paint as you clean it. Most likely you will have to repeat the steps of cleaning the top several times, but the dirt will come off. So remember to be sure to spay down the entire vehicle first, being careful with you scrub brush not to scratch the painted surfaces, only use on the vinyl top, proceed to either spray the cleaner on the top, or soap it down with a sponge and scrub away. Now hear is the most important part of the vinyl process. You always must follow the scrubbing with a good rinsing, getting all the soap off the top, then apply an good application of vinyl top dressing. Again this dressing can be purchased from any Corvette supplier or found at automotive stores, doubt you will find it a Wall-Mart. As you have guessed, vinyl is much harder to maintain then canvas tops.

Canvas or Cloth Tops - Canvas is made of a cotton blend, and feels like a cloth material. Canvas will clean easier then vinyl, but does have one serious draw back, you can weaken the threads if you clean it to hard. So how do you clean the canvas top, usually the black top of a Corvette. Depending upon how you clean the canvas, you can weaken the threaded material. So I use one of those car washing mitts for canvas tops. You know the lamb wooly mitts with just regular car wash, I use the Zaino Bros. car wash, but any type will due, as long as you get a good soapy solution. I use about two caps for a 5 gallon water bucket, this renders a mild solution.

Now like any type of material, canvas will stain, if such things like bird droppings, or tree sap has a chance to set a while. If you have visible stains then you will have to use a stronger solution then just car wash. Use the same solution I suggested above for vinyl cleaning, a diluted solution of all purpose cleaner with a soft scrub brush. The difference is you must scrub softer then you do with vinyl. If the stain is not removed after two tries, then you will have to live with that stain. If you persist and scrub hard you will weaken the fibers of the canvas that will cause it to tear, or leak. Remember the canvas tops used on convertibles today use a blend of cotton and plastic fibers that can be damaged easily.

I use 3M Scotch Guard on my canvas top, about once every two years, if stored in a garage and NOT exposed to the elements. Covering the rear window, and immediate painted surfaces with newspaper, I simply spray on two light coats of 3M Scotch Guard, that you can buy at any Grocery Store. This caused the water to bead up and fall off and does protect against bird droppings, tree sap, and road grim such as tar and grease.

NOT Done Yet!

One other thing, if you have exposed convertible to mechanism, the support bars that pivot or collapse, then use some WD-40 to lubicate the joints. This will provide a lubrication barrier for the wear and tear of these joints when the top goes up or down. Don’t forget to lubicate the convertible lid or door that opens and closes in the back to store the top. Also, the latch area should be grease with a light grade grease so the release wire does not fray. Use it sparingly.

The convertible top is fairly easy to maintain, but does take a little time and you must understand the differences between the vinyl and canvas tops. I think if you follow these instructions your top and rear glass or plastic will last you for years.


Remember this Canvas or Cloth tops can stain, vinyl tops can become abraded, and the wrong combination of chemicals or non deluited chemicals are used, it can even damage the stitching. Exactly what to use has long been a concern for convertible enthusiasts, who understand fully that cleaning and protecting the exterior top is an absolute necessity. Some products contain chemicals, such as bleach, that can over time cause pre-mature deterioration of fabrics and stitching. They can also cause the tops to fade, forever robbing them of their original luster. Below is a list of recommended list of products and vendors.

See Part II for recommended products....
Part II LONG POST ...Convertible Top Care...

Recommended Products:

SheepSkin Wash Mitt, costs about $15.00, used to gently wash cloth or canvas tops.

Cotton Chenille Mitt costs about $7.50 used to gently wash cloth or canvas tops, This mitt fits comfortably on your hand, is highly absorbent and is safe for all surfaces. Made of 100% chenille cotton, this mitt will not put swirl marks in painted surfaces as some sponges and synthetics may.

Convertible Top Cleaners:

Mothers™ Convertible Top Cleaner It washes all types of convertible tops effectively without being even the slightest bit abrasive. Mothers™ Convertible Top Cleaner is a PH-balanced, super-sudsing formula that gently lifts grit and grime away from the surface of your convertible top., it is safe to use over and over again without ever worrying it could cause your convertible top to prematurely fade or deteriorate. It will never damage stitching, fibers, or paint of any color. Mothers™ Convertible Top Cleaner deep cleans even high exposure Tonneau covers! Mothers™ Convertible Cleaner is the one cleaner designed to work effectively, safely, and conveniently. Comes in a 16 oz. trigger spray bottle.

Meguiar's No. 00 Hi-Tech Wash safely foams away road dirt and grime without strong detergents. A special highly lubricating formula reduces washing swirls and facilitates fast, easy rinsing. Use with Sheepskin Wash Miitt for Clothe/Canvas tops.

303 Convertible Top Cleaner is for vinyl and fabric tops. It utilizes a unique "colloidal" action to lift and suspend oil, grease and dirt. It does not contain soap, detergents, toxic organics, phosphates, nitrates or caustics. 303 Top Cleaner is extremely effective and extremely safe and leaves no residue like most cleaners. To understand the nature of 303's colloid cleaner technology, one must first know what a colloid is NOT. It is not a soap, detergent or petroleum solvent. 303's colloid cleaner is non-toxic and does not have a flash point. The properties of colloids were first documented in the search for a biodegradable substance to break up oil slicks on oceans. Research into why some products break up and hold in suspension grease and oil showed that colloids have minute particles (0.000000001 cm) called micelles that, when combined with water, break the surface tension to make water super-wet. Combining with water causes the micelles to penetrate grease, oil and dirt and then hold them in suspension in the super-wet water…in effect making these substances dissolve in water. Simply, colloids penetrate into grease, oil and other "soils" and stir things up…a technological design like no other cleaner. In fresh or salt water, combined with other solvents or alone, 303's colloid cleaners will continue to clean.

Plastic Rear Windows:

Meguiar's No. 17 Plastic Cleaner is a non-abrasive cleaner that removes fine "hairline" scratches and grime from all automotive, aircraft, boat, motorcycle and residential clear plastic windows, windshields, and screens. Follow with No. 10 Plastic Polish.

Meguiar's No. 10 Plastic Polish safely restores and maintains optical clarity to all clear plastics. This polish is a complete one-step product for keeping new and like new transparent plastics in perfect condition.

3M Plastic Cleaner 3M makes quality products that do what they say. Their Plastic Cleaner is no exception. This is a non-abrasive cleaner that will remove fine, hairline scratches, stains and haziness from automotive, aircraft, boat, motorcycle and residential clear plastic windows, windshields, and screens. Follow with 3M Plastic Polish to further buff out scratches and other minor imperfections.

Plastic, Rubber or Vinyl Preservatives:

Mothers™ Preserves Protectant This product does exactly what its name indicates; it preserves and protects rubber, vinyl, plastic and fiberglass. Mothers™ Preserves Protectant contains a highly effective and penetrating UV blocker. And it leaves the surface looking sharp – not slippery or we looking.! It has a delicate scent, which won’t overpower your new-car-smell. Its conditioners have been developed to recondition and maintain the original look and feel of dashboards, bumpers, vinyl, trim, and tires. That’s right, use it inside and out! Preserves Protectant lasts for 30 days! Be sure to spray Preserves Protectant into a clean, dry, lint-free cloth when using. This prevents overspray onto your windshield and painted surfaces. Re-apply as needed. 16 oz. trigger spray bottle. Mothers® Preserves Protectant is now available in convenient, ready-to-use wipes. Convenient pop-up dispenser holds 25 wipes, sheet size 6” X 10”.

Mothers™ Back-To-Black is ideal for a variety of exterior hardware. It’s called Back-To-Black, but it works great on all colors of exterior trim. If it’s made of plastic or vinyl Back-To-Black will breath new life into it. Use Back-To-Black on molding, louvers, bumpers, window trim, skirts, seals, door handles, wiper arms and any exterior vinyl or plastic surfaces. Back-To-Black cleans and reconditions the surface. So it not only changes or improves the way the effected area looks, but it alters the way it feels. Leaving it softer, smoother, and more supple with long lasting moisturizers. It easily removes white residues, yellowing, and that awful brownish appearance on sunburned trims. Back-To-Black does not leave behind a greasy residue that attracts dust and yellows over time, rather it revives that show-room quality sheen. Mothers™ Back-To-Black has been formulated for ease of application and great durability – it won’t wash off with the first puddle you drive through. Feel free to retreat surfaces as often as you would like. Comes in an 8 oz. Bottle.

3M Leather & Vinyl Cleaner/Restorer cleans, shines, conditions, and protects in one easy step. Deep cleans dirt and grime from all vinyl, leather, rubber and plastic surfaces while leaving behind a natural carnauba wax protective coating

Complete Kits:

Wolfstein's Raggtopp Cleaner and Raggtopp Protectant for cleaning, renewing, protecting and beautifying fabric convertible tops. Haartz and R & S supply cloth convertible topping fabric for virtually every convertible manufactured throughout the world. The Raggtopp products in this kit have passed extensive tests for quality and effectiveness and are the only products endorsed by both Haartz and R & S for cleaning and protecting fabric convertible tops. Both products are easy to use and can be applied in direct sunlight. Usually not found on the shelf at stores.

Raggtopp Convertible Top Care Kit contains:

  • Raggtopp Cleaner (16 oz. spray). Acid rain, smog, tree sap, bird droppings, salt, tar, dirt, grease and mildew wage a constant war against your car's fabric convertible top. Raggtopp Cleaner is the only product approved by the manufacturers of convertible topping fabric for removing these and other tough roof soils and stains. Raggtopp cleaner will not harm automotive finishes, chrome, glass, rubber or plastic windows.
  • Raggtopp Protectant (14 oz. aerosol). This one-of-a-kind product allows fabric convertible topping to repel water and breath at the same time. It will extend the life and restore beauty to cloth convertible tops, increasing water repellency with each application. Routine cleaning and treating with these manufacturer approved products will keep your convertible top looking showroom new year after year.
  • To order call 800-628-7596 Price: $29.95

WEB Site: Check out these web sites for products and information:

RENEVO - http://www.convertiblecar.com

Autostyles - http://www.autostyles.com/prod01care.htm

Convertible Top Care - http://www.vcnet.com/worlduph/topcare.htm

Thanks for the info, I am putting my convert away this week-end and this is one item that I was wonder about a great help. :upthumbs
I merged them. If you'd rather have it in two separate threads, please let me know and I'll split them again. I just figured it would make for a better (more consistent) read if they were both in one thread. Weren't there three individual posts this morning?? I could only find two. :confused
Thanks Ken...thats great...one post was a dup that I deleted (I think).

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