How to clean and protect your convertible soft top

Jaguar F-Type Convertible
To keep your soft top looking good for years down the road, follow a few basic maintenance rules. Photo by Benjamin Yong.

Just like washing your face or putting on sunscreen, the soft top on your convertible requires regular care and maintenance to protect it from the harsh effects of the elements and keep it looking its best. The cleaning is procedure is simple but differs slightly depending on whether your top is made from fabric or vinyl.

Check with your manufacturer to determine the type, bearing in mind that if you purchased the vehicle secondhand the top may be a different aftermarket model. You can also consult an automotive upholstery professional, or try this simple test: pour a small drop of water on the material and press down on it. Vinyl should cause the droplet to smear and/or roll off. If it’s absorbed, it’s probably fabric.

Vinyl care

Created from a solid synthetic sheet, vinyl tops are shinier than their counterparts and are inherently water resistant. To clean: 

  • Park in a shady or covered area if possible. Put the top up and wash it with a mild car soap as you would the rest of the car.
  • If your car has been parked outside and covered with any stubborn grime or other crud, spray the affected areas with a specialized cleaner like Mothers Convertible Top Cleaner, then scrub with a soft cloth or brush and rinse.

Mothers Convertible Top Cleaner

  • Afterwards, you’ll want to apply a vinyl protectant that acts as a barrier against dirt and harmful UV rays that can lead to fading and/or cracking. Gold Eagle’s 303 Aerospace Protectant is popular and easy to use — spray on a small amount, working one section at a time, and wipe completely dry.

Fabric care

Sometimes referred to as cloth or canvas, fabric soft tops, made from interwoven fibres, are softer and more appealing to the touch, although require a little bit more upkeep. They are chemically treated from the factory to repel water and contaminants, but these effects eventually wear off over time. When water starts to soak in rather than slide off the surface, it may be time to for another treatment. First:

  • Follow the same first two steps outlined in the section above.

303 Fabric Guard

  • Choose a fabric-specific repellant. The 303 lineup also includes an Indoor & Outdoor Fabric Guard that works well — spray the entire top with even coverage, and let cure six to 12 hours before exposing to any liquid. For faster drying, apply in direct sunlight.

Watch our video explaining this simple process:

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights