corner wrench: maintaining your convertible top's tip-top shape

Convertible and soft-folding tops really saw their golden age in the 1930s when lower posted speed limits, limited engine power, and less-than-smooth roads combined to make 50 km/h about as fast as most drivers felt comfortable going. Top-down driving in those days meant being able to carry on a conversation without shouting and not having to worry about anything loose inside the vehicle blowing out. Today’s carmakers have done their best to ensure that same sort of comfort at speeds over 100 km/h in today’s rag-tops with rear windscreens, smooth upper-body lines, and other design tricks. But keeping those tops in top shape takes a little extra care and maintenance.

Folding top designs use dozens of joints and pivots, all of which need to operate freely and smoothly. But there are differences between joint types. If it’s a metal-on-metal pivot joint, a quick shot of lithium spray lube is a good annual practice. If there’s any plastic or nylon involved, stick with silicone lubricating spray to avoid slowly dissolving petroleum reactions. Always remember to protect any top fabric when using spray lube, and to wipe away any excess or old buildup.

Check the connectors on any movement-limiting or other electrical switches to ensure they’re tight and corrosion free. If your ride’s top is operated by hydraulics (as most are), check lines and their fittings for any signs of leaks or seeping.

Cleaning a soft top usually means knowing whether it’s made of fabric or vinyl. One of the top-rated soft-top cleaners, Meguiar’s Convertible Top Cleaner, is safe on both.

When using a brush on a stubborn stain, make sure it’s got soft bristles. Most household scrub brushes are far too harsh. If you can’t scrub your own cheeks (either ones) with the brush, its bristles are too stiff and are likely to damage the fabric with any force at all.

Always work in the shade when cleaning a top to prevent any cleaning residue from drying out before you can rinse or wipe it off.

Protective spray treatments are a great idea for older tops to help protect them from UV rays and to keep them as waterproof as possible. Plenty of products do the trick, though for consistency my pick is Meguiar’s Ultimate Protectant spray.

Finally, don’t forget all of those weather-seals. When age starts to cause cracks and splits in them, annoying water leaks and wind noises aren’t far behind. Silicone lubricating spray helps keep those seals flexible and can extend their life spans greatly.

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