How To Repair And Clear A Convertible Top

Dustin Hawley | Feb 23, 2021

In a world where close-bodied cars dominate the roadway, owning a convertible gives drivers a feeling of freedom and luxury. Who doesn’t want to feel the wind in their hair when speeding down the highway? The mere thought of it can make any driver wish for the onset of summer and the chance to enjoy a ride on a sunny day.

how to repair and clear a convertible top

However, purchasing a convertible is a huge compromise. Though you have the ability to choose whether you want the top up or down, a convertible top is far more sensitive and prone to complication than standard, close-bodied vehicles. They can often get damaged and be susceptible to malfunction. 

If you are experiencing issues with your convertible top, this guide should provide some baseline instruction on how to repair and clear a convertible top properly. 

A Brief Explanation Of A Convertible Top System 

In vehicles with convertible tops, there is a gear on each side of the car connected to the lifting mechanism. The motor turns it on, and the gear starts powering the lifting mechanism. The gear engages a bracket that has gear teeth, which are connected to the main structure of the roof. When the gear starts turning, it moves the convertible top into the desired position. 

Common Issues With Convertible Tops

Don’t be surprised if you get into your car one day, press the convertible switch in the center console, and the roof doesn’t go down. It’s a common problem with a myriad of causes. Of course, you can always try pressing the switch a few times and see if it alleviates the issue. If you’re lucky enough, it might just solve the problem, albeit temporarily in many instances. However, if the issue hasn’t improved after testing the switch a few times, a larger issue likely exists.

Keep in mind that the best way to pinpoint the problem is to gain an understanding of how convertible tops work. The good news is that all hydraulic convertible top systems share the same logic behind their functionality. Once you learn it, the make and model of your specific vehicle is far less relevant.

All convertible tops work in much the same way. Let’s look at the most frequent problems with convertible rooftops and explain the system in a bit more detail.

  • If a convertible top simply doesn’t go up or down when you engage the switch, the cause may be a bad fuse, lift cylinder, or relay.
  • When a convertible top gets stuck in the process, it is most likely caused by a lift cylinder or a broken cable.
  • Another frequent problem is when a convertible top moves very slowly, which is typically caused by a weak lift cylinder. 
  • When the issues mentioned above don’t seem to be the cause, check the electric motor that operates the soft-top or hardtop roof. 
  • Ironically, sometimes the issue simply lies in a broken switch. 

Repairing A Convertible Top 

If you don’t know what the following components look like and how to locate them, you’ll have to learn a bit about some of the vehicle’s fuses, relays, lift cylinders, and pumps. This task may be daunting for some who are inexperienced with the various mechanical elements of their vehicle. If you find yourself unsure about locating or servicing these parts, we suggest you perform an online search or visit your local dealer and request a convertible top diagram of your car.

Once you have secured the diagram in some form, try to investigate the following problems, one by one, until you find the cause for the malfunction. 

  • Check if the trunk compartment divider is in the correct position. All the pins have to be hooked into the brackets for your convertible top to engage correctly. While you’re there, check out the switch for the cargo divider by using a digital multimeter. Replacing a broken switch is simple, cheap, and you can likely do it entirely on your own. 
  • Locate the fuse box, then find where the convertible top fuse is by utilizing your diagram. Once located, remove it from the fuse box. In some instances, the problem may be caused by a blown fuse that just needs to be replaced. 
  • If the fuse seems to be in working order, check the relay, which can also be found in a fuse box. Swap it out with any other functioning relay and see if the top begins to work properly. 
  • When the hydraulic fuel level is low, you may face a number of problems. Find the convertible top motor, where there are markings for “min” and “max” on the fuel reservoir. Fill the reservoir, and see if it fixes the issue. 
  • Fluid leaks on lift cylinders can also cause some trouble. Inspect all the cylinders. Leaks are quite obvious, and you can often see the drips on the floor of the trunk. In that case, replace the damaged o-rings and add some hydraulic fluid.
  • Take your digital multimeter and check if the convertible top motor is getting power. In most instances, the value displayed on the multimeter should be approximately 12 volts at the pump. If there is an electrical problem, your multimeter will show no value. 
  • Check out the microswitches too, because all of them have to be fully functional for your top to work properly. 
  • Make sure that all moving joints and hinges in the frame of the convertible top are lubricated.
  • Operate your convertible top manually a few times and observe its movement. If a bent arm or broken cable is present, it may keep the top from moving. 

When To Turn To A Professional

As much as you may be capable (or even enjoy) the DIY process, there are some situations where you may reach an impasse and require the skills and expertise of a professional. 

  • While small tears or cuts can be patched with relative ease, leave larger cracks and lacerations to the professionals.
  • If the rear glass is coming off the fabric on the convertible top, there’s nothing you can do to reattach it. In this instance, your convertible top will likely need to be replaced.
  • Installing a convertible top requires both patience and precision. If you feel unsure about your knowledge or capabilities to perform a repair, you should probably turn to a professional.


In many cases, repairing a convertible top is relatively simple - if you know what you are doing. Take your time, do your research, and learn as much as you can about your convertible top before engaging in any repairs. It is not always easy to figure out the issue, and it may take some time and persistence to locate the problem. But with the information outlined in this guide, you should be armed with the necessary insights to explore solutions to your problematic convertible top and get you back out on the open road in no time!

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