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Protecting a soft top

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Convertibles come in 2 types, the ones with a hard roof (hard top) and the ones with a fabric roof (soft top). The fabric on a soft top needs to be cleaned and protected, just like paintwork.

Why protect a fabric soft top

Soft tops are made of a certain type of fabric, this fabric needs to withstand the elements (freezing winter, rain, leaves and tree sap, the scolding summer sun etc.), and protecting it will help it do that. A protective product can contain UV inhibitors to slow down UV damage and oxidation, the hydrophobic properties prevent it from getting soaking wet (with water that contains contaminants), and it helps to clean dirt, dust and other grime more easily from the surface.
Protecting the fabric of a soft top is part of maintenance and will help to prevent certain wear.

Preparation

Before you can apply a protective product, it is important to prepare the surface first. If the material contains contaminants, the protective product will not bond properly, which will negatively affect its performance. The get the most out of your protective product, it is recommended to clean the surface as best as possible. Ending with a material can doesn’t contain any dust, grime, or other form of contaminants.
You can read about this in cleaning a soft top.

The steps

Protecting a soft top is not very difficult, not even very hard work. Cleaning and preparing is the hard part.
There are a few different types of protective products on the market, and some might need a slightly different approach. However, the guide below will give you a good starting point. It is recommended to read the label of your product first. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer first.

  • Tape/cover off the surrounding area of the vehicle, you don’t want the protective product to get on your paintwork for example
  • Shake the bottle of the product you are going to use
  • Make sure the surface is cleaned and dry
  • Spray the product liberally over the surface
  • If you have a very clean and dry brush or bristle, you can use this to rub it into the fabric and spread it more evenly
  • Leave it to dry for the recommended time (read the label)
  • The drying can be speed up by using a hair dryer, or air blowing device that heats the air up or an infrared light
  • When dry, apply a second liberal amount of product and leave it to dry for 50% of the previous time
  • Apply a third (liberal) coat to the surface and leave it to dry completely (the brush or bristle can always be used to rub the product into the fabric)
  • Leave the product for at least 24 hours before allowing it to get wet

Maintenance

Maintaining a soft top is fairly easy once it is properly protected. A weekly wash with a good car shampoo is enough to keep it going. Although some product will say that they last for a year or more, it is the contamination of the fabric that defines when the soft top needs to be cleaned again. If the fabric gets contaminated within a year, the fabric should be deep cleaned and protected again, even though the protective product might still be functioning.

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