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"Unlike a coupe or sedan, the roadster has special requirements."


The modern roadster is a masterpiece of beauty, performance, and superior engineering.  We own these wonderful machines because they warm our soul.  Like you, my blood stirs each time I twist the key and the engine comes to life.  Top down, sun on my back, wind in my face, eating up the road... could anything be better?

Unlike coupes or sedans, roadsters and convertibles have special requirements.  Where the roadster or convertible's fully enclosed brethren sport steel and glass, the topless car has canvas and vinyl.  This simple difference creates a myriad of challenges for the soft-top owner.

The first thing to understand about your soft-top is its materials. Without this understanding, it's hard to appreciate the maintenance requirements.

Most modern convertibles and roadsters have soft-tops made of a durable polyacrylic/polyester canvas or vinyl.  The fabric-like canvas tops feel nice and look great, whereas the vinyl tops are more economical and easier to maintain.  Fabric tops have a tight weave, but they breathe.  Unlike vinyl tops, a canvas top is not waterproof, it is only water-resistant.  To make the canvas top waterproof it must be treated.  Without protection, the canvas top is susceptible to leaking and stains.  Likewise, vinyl tops need protection from the sun and pollutants.  If you're not sure if your top is fabric or vinyl, check with your dealer or the manufacturer.

The rear window on your soft-top is special, too.   Many soft-top cars have rear windows made of a clear vinyl.  This allows the window to fold.  These clear vinyl rear windows will absorb a wide range of gasses and liquids, including water, acids and hydrocarbons.  Because it has the ability to absorb foreign materials, it will yellow over time if it is not properly maintained.  Most often, the yellowing and discoloration is a result of ultraviolet (UV) light crosslinking.  The vinyl is not directly affected by the sun's UV rays, but what it absorbs can be.

Common cleaning products can be very harmful to your soft-top. Chemicals you should not use on or near your top include: ammonia, bleach, detergent, alcohol and vinegar.

Detergents, bleach and harsh acids will quickly deteriorate canvas, whereas ammonia and alcohol will dry and cloud vinyl. Take my word for it, you don't want to know what it will cost to replace your soft-top.  It makes for a really, really bad day.  So please, know the chemicals you use before you apply them to your top.

Your car's soft-top is subjected to the same environmental conditions as the rest of your car.  However, where it is easy to see when your car's body is dusty and dirty, it is not always easy to see when your top is dirty, especially if it's black or navy blue.

Fabric tops, such as the top on this Porsche Boxster, should be washed using a soft brush and a soap that does not contain detergents or conditioners.  If the top is properly protected and conditioned, the water will bead. 

One of the biggest factors in top wear on canvas tops is dust in the canvas.  Dust settles into the weave of the fabric and begins to act like sandpaper.  Vinyl tops will also experience premature wear from dirt, but not as readily.  In general, you should care for your top each time you wash your car.  This does not mean you need to scrub it each time, but a good stiff rinsing is necessary. The following steps are recommended:

1. Wash your soft-top at least once a month (or when it is dusty or dirty) with a non-detergent based auto shampoo.  If your top is not dirty, rinse it thoroughly with plenty of cool water.  Make sure the shampoo you use does not contain gloss-enhancing oils.  If the shampoo contains oils, the top will absorb the oil and become a dust magnet.  The Porsche Tequipment Convertible Top Cleaner is an excellent choice for fabric tops.

2. The recommended tool for washing is a soft scrub brush.  Do not use a cloth, chenille covered sponge, or lamb's wool mitt, as they will leave lint.  If your top has soil marks, stains, or bird droppings, use a small, stiff, natural fiber scrub brush.  If you can rub the brush across the back of your hand without scratching your skin, it's safe to use on your soft-top.  Do not use a scrub brush on the vinyl window.  It will scratch.  Make sure you rinse the top thoroughly with a stiff stream of water to remove all of the shampoo and dirt.

3. On fabric tops, blot dry using waffle weave drying towel.  The best method is to use the towel to blot up the water.  Don't wipe.  Do not use a terrycloth towel or diaper to dry your canvas top, they will leave lint.  On vinyl tops, a synthetic chamois or microfiber towel also work well, as do cotton towels.  On vinyl windows, quality microfiber towels seem to work best.

Sooner or later, your top will be inflicted with a stain that will not come out with regular shampoo.  Common stains will include bird droppings, tree sap, and grease.  For these occasions, you will need to use a stronger cleaner that can penetrate and release the foreign matter.

Your first inclination will be to scrub the stain with the regular shampoo.  DON'T!  All you will do is spread it around.  To remove stains from your canvas or vinyl top, use a fabric cleaner or cleaner made for fabric soft tops.  Liberally wet and scrub the stain with cleaner before washing the whole top.  Let it soak in, but don't let it dry.  After it has soaked for 3-5 minutes, rinse your top and wash as normal.  Rinse the stained area with a stiff stream of water.

If your convertible is new, no doubt you have experienced the frustration of polyvinyl fog.  Polyvinyl fog is created by the evaporation of plasticizers (an oily hydrocarbon) and other oils.  Plasticizers are used in the manufacturing of vinyl to keep it flexible.  They are also used in many car care conditioners to rejuvenate vinyl and plastic.  Plasticizers remain liquid, and evaporate with the heat of the sun.  This off-gassing is worse with new cars, and gradually decreases to a manageable level.  Severe off-gassing can also be caused by using too much dressing on your dashboard.

The best tool to clean your convertible's vinyl window is the synthetic chamois or microfiber detailing towel.  Do not use a paper towel, as it can scratch the vinyl.  It is best to detail the window (inside and out) after washing the car.  Follow these steps:

1. Rinse the chamois or microfiber towel thoroughly with water to ensure it is clean.  Wring out most of the water, but leave it damp.  If the chamois it too dry, it will not slide across the window.  Microfiber towels are not as temperamental.

2. Fold the chamois or microfiber towel into a square.

3. Wipe in one direction across the window.  Turn the cloth or chamois, using a clean side with every-other pass.

4. To clean the inside of the rear window, kneel in the passenger seat (roadster) or in the rear seat (convertible).  It may take you a few times to learn the best way.  The taller you are, the more difficult it will be.

As mentioned earlier, canvas tops are not waterproof.  To make it waterproof and stain resistant, it is necessary to treat it with a protective spray.  The only recommended product is RaggTopp.

Although not necessary for waterproofing, vinyl tops also need protection.  Using a good vinyl top protectant, you can prevent discoloration damage from road grime, pollution, salt deposits, leaf gum and bird droppings.  Make sure you use a vinyl protectant that offers strong UV protection from the sun.

Before spraying your soft-top with protectant, it must be clean and dry.  Use a scrub brush and a full .75 ounce dose of top or car  shampoo to deep clean the top.  Using the canvas top protectant is best done in conjunction with waxing.  Your pre-wax cleaner or polish will remove any potential over-spray.

Canvas Top Protectant Instructions
1. Mask completely around your top and vinyl window with newspaper.  Once dry, the over-spray from the protectant is difficult to remove from paint, vinyl and glass.  Lift the top slightly and slip newspaper between the top and windshield frame. Do the same between the top and side windows.  Use masking tape and newspaper to mask the areas where the top and rear panels meet.  Use masking tape and newspaper again to completely mask the rear window (do not leave any vinyl showing).

2. Shake the Top Protectant for 30 to 60 seconds.

3. Spray two light coats from about 7 to 9 inches on the whole top.  Start in the center on one side and work towards you in even, back and forth sprays, releasing your finger at the end of each pass.  Repeat on the other side.  Spray a third light coat on the seams.

4. Remove masking materials.

5. Check for over-spray on paint.  Remove over-spray with pre-wax cleaner or polish.

Vinyl Top Protectant Instructions
1. Shake the Top Protectant for a few seconds.

2. Do not spray directly to the top.  Spray or pour the protectant on a foam applicator or sponge and use the applicator to apply the protectant to your top.   Start in the center on one side and work towards you in even, back and forth wipes.  Repeat on the other side.

4. Allow the protectant to soak in for 3-5 minutes, then buff dry with a clean microfiber towel or terry cloth detailing towel.

Your convertible's vinyl rear window is fairly delicate.  It can be easily scratched with little more than normal use or the wrong cleaning tool.  Be sure that any rags you use on your rear window are pure cotton.  If you use diapers, don't use it on vinyl.  Almost all diapers use polyester thread, which will severely scratch the clear vinyl window.

To protect and beautify your soft-top window, it must be polished.  I highly recommend Plexus for regular cleaning and light polishing.  Although there are numerous plastic polishes and compounds that work, Plexus is quick and easy.  For this reason, you are more likely to use it than a polish that takes a lot of time.

To apply Plexus, use a plush, terrycloth detailing towel or an old cotton tee shirt.  Follow these simple directions:

1. Fold your towel into a square.

2. Spray a moderate amount of Plexus on the towel, not directly on the window.

3. Work the Plexus into the clear vinyl, and allow it to dry for 3-5 minutes.

4. Turn the towel to a dry side and buff the window until clear.

5. If small scratches remain, apply a second coat. 

If your window has heavy scratches or slight yellowing, use a quality plastic polish.

It is not necessary to use Plexus with every wash, although many people do.  If you're careful with your window, you may find that every other wash, or every third wash is fine.  You cannot overuse Plexus.  So, don't be concerned about using it as your everyday cleaner if you drive in a harsh environment.

Proper care of your soft-top goes beyond regular maintenance.  You can also extend its life and beauty by providing a little extra care when lowering and raising your top.

While the engineers have done a wonderful job designing a top that folds into a small space, canvas and vinyl tops do not always fold flat.  It is best to lower the top half way, then smooth the canvas or vinyl to ensure it does not bunch, gather, or buckle.

One of the worst enemies of your soft-top is itself.  When lowered, your vinyl window is in contact with itself.  As you drive, road vibrations cause the top to rub on itself.  Over time, this will begin to leave scratches and other marks on the window.  To prevent this, you can use a small piece of fleece or soft cotton (not terrycloth) to protect the window.  As you lower your top, after smoothing the wrinkles, lay the fleece across the window.

Your soft-top can provide many years of beautiful service, but only if you provide it the proper care and handling.  Keep your top clean and protect it as needed.  When water stops beading on your canvas top, its protection from the sun and water are gone.  Vinyl tops need more frequent protection; as often as once a month.