There’s nothing better than getting to ride around in your convertible with the top down, sun shining, and perfect weather. Convertibles can be a real joy to own, but they can also be a real money pit if they aren’t maintained.
Convertibles require additional maintenance compared to a standard hard-top vehicle. Convertibles not only require additional work on the top, but they also require additional maintenance on the interior.
Nobody buys a convertible with the intention to replace the top every five to seven years. This article will give you some tips on keeping your top in great shape and some additional tips on convertible interior maintenance.
Convertible Top Lifespan
The lifespan of your convertible top depends on a lot of factors, how it’s maintained, what region of the country it’s located in, and whether it’s stored inside or outside. My BMW still has the original top on it and it’s a 1996. That being said, it’s definitely past its lifespan and will be changed soon. A well maintained top in a geographically top-friendly area can last 12 years or more. However, a poorly maintained in an unfriendly environment may only last five to six years.
Convertible Top Maintenance
Convertible rag tops are treated at the factory with water repellent. The problem is that overtime the water proofing begins to fail and this will allow water to seep through. It is important that rag top owners apply cleaner and protectant to their rag tops. This process should be done at least once a year, but preferably twice a year.
Local auto parts stores typically carry car wash, and convertible top protectant. There are a variety of different options to choose from when looking for a convertible top cleaner. Although BMW does sell it’s own convertible top cleaner, it certainly is not required and many people have found non-BMW cleaners to be just as effective if not better.
Some of the really good top cleaners include: (1) RaggTopp; (2) Meguiar’s; and (3) BMW soft top cleaner. I usually use Meguiar’s and I have been happy with the results, but I have also used the BMW brand and it is effective.
Depending on your location you might consider a spray cleaner that prevents mildew. I noticed that my brother’s car developed a ton of mildew on the rag top after he left his car sitting for a month in the North Carolina humid summer. If you live in an area that gets a lot of humidity during parts of the year you should apply a cleaner with an anti-mildew agent.
Rag top convertible typically come with plastic windows and they require a specific cleaner. Remember that when you are purchasing a window cleaner for your rear convertible top window most window cleaners are not recommended for plastic and they should be avoided!
Meguiar’s makes a plastic polish and cleaner which is highly rated. If the window is in rough shape with stains and discoloration, there are several products out there that will remove hazing and stains from your plastic windows. Most cleaners can be purchased from your local automotive store.
Common Leak Areas
An important issue to watch out for is leaks. BMW has a common problem where water will begin to seep down the corners where the top meets the windshield. This leak has occurred on every single BMW convertible top that I and my family have owned. One minute you will be making your morning commute to work, and the next, it’s raining and you’ve got a leak dripping onto your leg. It always happens at the absolute worst time, and a leak on your seats can severely damage the leather overtime.
What happens with the corner leak is that the corner rubber seals age and become brittle and crack. The seals then allow water to get through the cracks. One way I have temporarily fixed this leak is by sticking a poker card into the gap. This has actually succeeded in stopping the corner leak on multiple vehicles. For a more permanent fix you can either replace the rubber seal or you can add an additional layer of repair. Here is an article that discusses the repair.
Convertible Top Tips
Keep convertibles housed in garages whenever possible. This is the single best way to maintain a rag top. Unfortunately, it just is not possible for many of us, that’s where regular maintenance comes into play.
If you have cats or your neighbor has cats, be wary of them. They tend to have a special place in their heart for tearing holes in cloth tops.
Always follow factory recommendations for top cleaning. Certain products such as bleach, citrus and petroleum based products can break down a convertible’s resistance to water.
Thou shalt not take thy rag top convertible through an automatic car wash. This was passed down in the Convertible Commandments.
Sunlight, hail and heavy rain are all standing in your way of a long-life cloth top.
Sunlight can and will damage your interior overtime. It happens in all vehicles whether it’s a convertible or not. Convertible interiors tend to not last nearly as long as hardtops, especially leather interiors. Leather seats need maintenance, such as cleaner and conditioner, but leather seats in a convertible need it much more frequently than a hardtop.
Leaving the top down by accident during inclement weather can also shorten the lifespan of your leather.
Here is a YouTube video that I made concerning things that you should think about before buying a convertible.
Convertible tops are typically made of vinyl or cloth, with cloth being the easier to maintain. They also vary between manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic tops. The fully auto are the most luxurious, as they only require the push of a button. Semi-automatics typically have a handle that must be released and raised before the driver can push the button. Manuals are the most hands-on, however they also require the least amount of maintenance.
Automatic Convertible Tops are complicated, and many owners refrain from attempting to fix them and simply take the car to the mechanic. That’s totally fine if you don’t want to fix your top. There are quite a few moving parts and sensors that make the top function.
Top repair can also be quite expensive, as the motors alone cost anywhere from $300 – $1,000 a piece, and the fully automatic top has three motors!
The most important thing you can do about maintaining your bmw interior besides keeping the convertible top nice, is regular cleaning and conditioning. This should include the dash, seats, console, and door panels.
There is a number of leather cleaner & conditioner brands. Meguiar, Lexol, and Chamberlain are all highly rated leather cleaner & conditioners. These brands are typically carried at your local auto parts store or area Walmart.
Using the cleaner you’re going to want to wipe down the interior with a microfiber cloth. Remember that the cloth should not be too wet for use on leather. Afterwards, apply the leather conditioner to all applicable surfaces. Most leather conditioners should also have a UV Protectant.
When the leather does begin to crack (it always does), there are several products that can be used to fix the cracks. 3M makes a really great leather and vinyl repair kit. Simply follow the directions on the kit to restore the leather.
Of course there comes a time when the leather isn’t worth saving. At that point there is a wide selection of color and design options for new leather covers. Some can be found on amazon, and others across the web.
Overall, the choice is with the owner whether he/she wants the car top to last five years, or 15 years. Convertibles do require more maintenance if you are going to make the top last 15 years, but its well worth the time and money when comparing that with how much top replacement costs.