Mechanics

Convertible Top

AD
This article explains how an automotive convertible top works.

A convertible automobile is a type of car which has a retracting, folding, soft or collapsible top. If the top is made out of metal, its called as a retractable/removable hardtop and not a convertible. A convertible top is made from a flexible material, such as vinyl or canvas, and is designed to fit over an articulated folding frame which is made out of steel, aluminum or rigid plastic. An electrical retraction mechanism can be designed to fold and unfold the frame which is also known as a power top. 

Before a manual top can be lowered it must be un-fastened from the windshield frame before its retracted. A convertible automobile in Europe is known as "cabriolet" and a retractable hardtop is known as a "coupe convertible" or "coupe cabriolet". Convertibles are desired by many because of the look and the adventurous feeling it gives the passengers while driving. Presidents and celebrities are featured riding in convertibles for the added exposure and easy access.

Convertible Top
Convertible Top

Initially when convertible cars began to be manufactured they were made with only two doors. The production of convertibles boomed in the 1950s to 1990s. Owning a convertible car was more of a luxury at that time and was only used for special occasions. These tops have been made more durable. A plastic rear window has been replaced by heated glass which improves clarity. Structurally the vehicle top is the most important part of the car, the frame or chassis of a convertible car is built more rigid to keep the vehicle from flexing during normal usage. Convertible cars usually weigh more than fixed roof cars due to the added material.

The automatic convertible top system involves electric motors, switches and sensors, while the latching and unlatching is performed automatically.


Best Practices

  • Observe the top while in operation if any irregular motion or snagging occurs its an indication of a malfunction.

Basic Maintenance

Its recommended that a convertible be hand washed, special vinyl cleaners are available for cleaning vinyl tops. Wax should never be applied to a convertible top, soft tops should be protected using scotch guard and can be softened using a liquid fabric softener. Do not use an abrasive cleaner or cloth on plastic windows, they can scratch the plastic surface. Avoid retracting the top when wet to avoid mold which can lead to discoloration. The top should always be free of objects, even a small item such as a beach towel can damage the top structure.

AD

AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


COMMENTS TO THIS ARTICLE


Please use our question form if you have a specific question about your car as we are not able to give you a full answer on this page.



Article first published (Updated 2013-11-19)