The Soft Top vs The Hard Top Car

This is about the two basic choices of buying a convertible or cabriolet: soft top or hard top. There are more choices to be made with these types of cars, but this is the focus of this post.

Soft Top

A soft top is an informal way of referring to a convertible with a thick fabric roof which can be taken down or removed altogether.

The bad side of the soft top are the maintenance issues. If you maintain it properly it will last about 6 years or so, but hundreds of owners forget regular maintenance.

It’s important to get rid of any specks of dirt and repair any rips in the fabric. It’s awkward to find the right material to clean them, as you can’t use any product that contains citric acid, bleach or petroleum. The acid in these products aren’t reactant to water. An auto shampoo is better though you do need to rinse the shampoo off, otherwise the colour will fade.

If you leave the top in the weather for a long time it may develop mold or spores, the first can be removed using a hood cleaner, the second using a mix of white vinegar and warm water applying it using a clean microfiber cloth. It’s best to use protective gloves when handling vinegar.

You should also use the microfiber cloth and cool water for the plastic window, a normal glass cleaner will make it speckled.

Although it seems a simpler treatment, a car wash will ruin the fabric. In a similar way a power wash is also a no no, the basic message here is there are no shortcuts!

The Real Gotcha of Soft Tops

You shouldn’t leave the top down overnight, as it can become stuck down. If you park outside you might want to leave it up in case of rain, but then it’s going to get more sun fade and wear from the weather and more incidental damage. If the roof does become stuck it is important not to force it – see expert help.

Soft tops are hard to secure – and it means insurance premiums are higher unless you keep it in a garage or similar. It’s best to shop around to discover the insurers who offer specialist rates for convertible. So bottom line, be sure to always garage your convertible.

Hard Tops

Merc Hard Top (self storing)

There are certain advantages to buying a hard top – it’s harder to break into and offers better protection against the elements. However, they are more expensive, and many drivers seem to think they don’t have the look of an iconic convertible.

There is also a color difference between the top and the body of the car. This isn’t noticeable for some consumers while others it drives crazy. Some describe the roof color as “too perfect.” The sun will also fade the roof at a different rate than the rest of the car, but it sort of does that even on standard cars, so just expect a paint job to expire after a few years.

There are two main types of hard top, those that come off in one piece to store in a garage and those that fold into a compartment in the trunk space for safe keeping. The first is more like having a regular roof, the second is more convenient and lets you take the car out when there is a chance of rain (because you have the roof with you if it starts to rain).

Which is Better?

What you may not know is that a soft tops flip much easier than a hard top due to the lower center of gravity because of the flexibility of the roof which reduces the structural integrity of the car. The soft top is more likely to be bent out of shape after an accident even if it does have other elements of structural stability, designed to prevent injury in a crash. (The safety structure, or lack of it, in a soft top is not easily spotted if you lack the knowledge of aerodynamics.)

As so often happens “better” is in the eye of the beholder. In summary, a hard top is over all better, but people just prefer the soft top in terms of status. It could be worth taking both for a test drive to see what you prefer.

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