Convertible Top Questions



Tops generally last 10-12 years depending on care, storage, maintenance, and amount of use.  That being said, we have seen tops that are 15 years old that still look good so there are many factors.


Making handmade tops are one of our specialties!  We normally do about 5 or more a year on all different kinds of cars.  If it has a top frame, we can pattern, sew, and install a top on it.  Whether it is exact originality on an Antique car, or a custom made convertible top that you are looking for, we can do anything.  (We do not make non-convertible cars into convertibles, however.)  See our photo gallery for examples of the tops that we have done and give Convertibles Only a call to discuss your project!


Every year thousands of cars are vandalized, broken into, or stolen in the Seattle area. We repair and replace on average of 50-75 convertible tops a year due to thieves and vandals slashing into them.


  1. Call and make a police report.
  2. Call your insurance company and discuss the best option with them. You will need to find out what your deductible will be and how this will change your rates. If you wish to have them cover the repairs, file a claim.
  3. Give us a call if your top has been slashed, we can help you with the insurance process. You can bring your car to us anytime during business hours and we can TEMPORARILY PATCH YOUR TOP WHILE YOU WAIT.  If you put down your deductible with us, the patch will be no charge. The patch will prevent any water getting into your car and creating further damage and you will still be able to use your top until the new top arrives at our shop.
  • You have the right to choose where your vehicle is repaired, not the Insurance Company. A lot of times, your Insurance Company will tell you to take it to a body shop of their choice to get an estimate and that body shop will take it to an upholsterer and upcharge your insurance. Cut out the middle man and bring it directly to the ones who will be doing the work, the convertible top installer of your choice.

Yes we can!  Plastic windows generally last about 60% of the life of the top, sometimes longer if the car is stored inside.  All plastic is going to deteriorate over time due to the sun’s harsh UV rays, dirt, and general exposure to the elements.   We can remove your top, or in some cases just the rear window and install a new piece of plastic by sewing it in. There is not a basic price for this since all convertibles are different and have different labor hours for the job, give us a call and we will give you a price for your specific car.


In most cases, we can re-bond the glass to the material.  We need to see your top to determine the price and if it is possible.  Sometimes we can re-bond the glass with the topping still attached to the car, other times we need to remove it and get it on the bench to re-bond.  Most shops do not offer this service, so call Convertibles Only and we may be able to save you money and get more life out of your top!


There are 2 different ways a glass window comes installed depending on what kind of car you have.  Most convertible tops have a glass window that is heat bonded by a machine from the top manufacturer into the top.  We cannot just replace these glass window, we would need to order a whole part, either a rear glass curtain (2 piece top) or the whole top (1 piece).   Certain Saab, Mercedes, and VW models do have a glass window that gets reused and attaches into a frame.  In that case we could replace just the glass.  We can install a TEMPORARY PLASTIC window onto your top in most cases just to make your car water tight until we can get the correct part in.  This process takes about 2 hours and would be no charge if you are putting down a deposit for the new glass.


We fix convertible leaks all the time and there are multiple reasons a top can leak.  Sometimes water gets in between or underneath the top seals, and they can be adjusted or worse case, replaced.  There are drains in your car that can get clogged with debris.  If your top is aged and worn, water can leak directly through the fabric or the seams.  We do a leak test on the car to determine the exact problem.  If your car has had a lot of water leak into the car, we can remove your seats, pull up your carpet and dry out with heaters.  We also have a machine that kills all bacteria and mold growing in the car if it has gotten to that point.  We do not detail interiors but can give a great recommendation, or if you like have a mobile company perform the detail at our shop while it is here.


No, but we can recommend a company who does.


No, we do not. If you have an older retractable hard top convertible (like a Thunderbird or a Lincoln) we can refer you to someone that works on their complex electrical systems. If you have a newer retractable hard top convertible, we would recommend taking it to an auto repair mechanic that specializes in electrical issues.


More Information on Convertible Tops


Understanding Your Convertible Top

Convertible top is either power or manual, which means you either push a button or put your top up or down by hand. Most power tops operate with a hydraulic system powered by a small motor and hydraulic lift cylinders called rams. Replacement component parts are readily available if they fail, although they may be rebuilt for less than replacement cost.

There are two types of convertible top materials, vinyl or cloth. Either will last about ten years under normal conditions (see Care Tips for more details). Windows are either glass or 40-gauge clear vinyl (plastic). A plastic window lasts approximately 60% of the life of the top and can be replaced with either the standard clear vinyl or a much tougher and durable scratch-resistant clear vinyl. A glass window should be replaced when the surrounding vinyl top to which it is bound deteriorates or fails (or obviously, when it is broken).

The top material below the rear window is called a window skirt. If it becomes damaged or its bond to the window fails, the skirt can be re-bonded or replaced. (Most shops can’t do this kind of repair, though.)

Convertible top pads are 6-8 inch-wide strips visible from inside the car. They run from just above the visors to the rear bow above the window. Their function is to hide the top center deck seams from view and hold the convertible top frame mid-bows in place, as well as to provide support to the top.

Foreign Tops

What distinguishes most foreign car tops from domestic tops is styling and materials. Most foreign car tops have a finished and bound edge surrounding most (if not the entire) top. The rear part of the top (below the window) usually rests on top of the car body and is finished with a bound edge. For years, many foreign convertibles, such as Jaguar, Saab, and Volkswagen, have incorporated headliners into their top systems. Headliners are relatively new additions to domestic convertible tops.

A common material used on foreign car tops, such as BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, and Saab, is cloth. Cloth convertible tops are more expensive than vinyl, but cloth’s advantage is that it is generally more durable, longer lasting, and looks newer longer.

Installing tops on foreign convertibles has its own unique challenges and complexities because those tops, with finished and bound edges at specific points, have to fit exactly on the frame and there is little room for adjustments. Installing a foreign car top calls for exceptional skills, since attention to details makes a big difference in the final fit of the top.

Domestic Tops

Domestic car tops are probably the hardest tops to install. What distinguishes them from foreign tops is styling and materials. Domestic convertible tops have become more complex over the years, but the fundamental design is still basically the same. Most domestic convertible tops are configured with the back attached to the body of the car. The front, usually wrapped around the front of the top frame, is often finished with a ½ inch round seal made of convertible topping called a wind lace. Most domestic tops are stapled to tack strips on the top frame and attached to the car body. Because they don’t have a finished, bound edge, they are less a technical installation (as with foreign car tops), but more an art form. The placement of the top and the tensions across it are up to the installer’s skills and interpretation. A good installation requires patience, persistence, and intuition for the perfect fit.


Custom Tops

Factory or aftermarket tops may not be available for some cars such as rare replicas or those that have been converted from hard tops. In these cases, tops have to be patterned and then made by hand. These tops require the most skill. The design, patterning, cut-out, and sewing as well as installation are solely dependent on the skills and expertise of the craftsman who makes and installs them. If originality and accuracy is desired for a collector car (or a show car judged by those standards), and you choose to have one handmade, we will be glad to work together to bring your concept to completion.


Convertible Tops Care Tips

The average life of a convertible top is about ten years, depending on its exposure to the elements and usage. Vinyl tops age differently than cloth tops. A vinyl top loses its flexibility with age and when it is exposed to cold temperatures. As a vinyl top ages, it develops cracks at the key folding points. An older vinyl top is vulnerable to cracking if put down in cold weather. Vinyl windows are especially vulnerable to weather. Do not put your vinyl top down when the temperature is below 40 degrees F.

Cloth tops age more internally than externally and tend to look newer longer. Cloth tops are less vulnerable to cold weather; however, it is not a bad idea to keep the top up if the temperature is below 40 degrees F. Always store your top in the up position to retain its fit and shape.
To clean your top, use a cleaner specifically formulated for convertible tops; a mild car wash soap or dish washing soap will work, too. Use a sponge or a piece of boat cushion foam (polyether foam or poly foam) to clean your top. Wash your top in the shade whenever possible. If you have a clear vinyl window, wash it first, the top second, and rinse well so your sponge doesn’t pick up dirt from the top and then scratch the window!

The two most damaging things to a convertible top are sun and dirt. There are cleaners available that are specific for vinyl or cloth tops. Using a cleaner that has a UV protectant in it is a good idea or follow cleaning with a protectant specifically for UV.


Convertible Tops Warranties

Convertibles Only stands behind our work and backs it up with strong warranties. All tops and rear windows come with a 5-6 year manufacturer’s warranty. The length of the warranty will vary, depending on the manufacturer of the product and material.  Our labor is covered under a 5 year warranty.



Interior Questions



Yes!  One common misconception with us is that we ONLY do convertibles.  We work on all makes and models of vehicles.  We do complete interior upholstery; seats, carpets, door panels, headliners and more.  From custom designs to original style upholstery, we do it all!


Yes, we can replace just the damaged part of your cloth, vinyl, or leather seat and repair or replace the foam if it is deteriorated.  The easiest way for us to give you an accurate price is to bring the car to us for a free estimate and we can match up the material and give you a quote.  Often the backrest or bottom side bolsters wear out due to getting in and out of the car and rubbing on those areas the most frequently.


Yes we can.  The driver seat takes the most abuse and the backrest and seat bottom foam can deteriorate over time.  We can rebuild the foam back to original and in some cases protect from future wear by adding reinforcement material to the bottom of the foam.  In some trucks and SUV’s we can get completely new replacement foam as a cost effective option.


Unfortunately there is not an easy fix once your material has started to deteriorate.  Most headliners are a foam backed material and over time, the foam will break down and crumble, causing the cloth adhered to it to fall and sag while still attached in other places.  We need to remove the headliner, remove the material and clean all of the old foam which can be quite a mess, and install new material.  Give us a call and we can give you an estimate!

Understanding Your Convertible Top


Understanding your cars interior

There are three basic types of seats:

1) Bucket seats are individual seats, most commonly found in sports cars. In high performance sports cars, bucket seats are very contoured and form fitting, with built-up sides to support both driver and passenger during sharp maneuvers.
2) Bench seats, commonly used as rear passenger seats, span from side to side and are non-adjustable. Some rear bench seats, contoured to give the appearance of bucket seats, match the styling of bucket seats.
3) Split-back bench seats are front seats with individual backrests that tilt forward to allow passengers to get into the back seat area.
Regardless of style, all seats are made of individual sections (panels) that are sewn together. Typically, the parts of the seat closest to the door wear out first. When this happens, an individually sewn seat panel can be replaced without having to replace the entire seat’s upholstery.

There are two types of door panels:

1) The older panel board style is distinguished by its flat appearance (with the exception of the door pull/armrest and window crank). This door panel style often has a strip of carpet on the lower half and can easily be reproduced or just the individual vinyl cover or carpeting can be replaced.
2) The molded door panel is distinguished by its contoured shape and its incorporation of a door pull/armrest. These panels, usually made of plastic, need to be replaced in their entirety when damaged. Some molded door panels have a vinyl insert or cloth section that can be replaced without replacing the entire door panel.

There are three styles of carpet:

1) The panel-style carpet, often found in European cars, is made of individually bound sections. Often the floor pieces are removable for cleaning. Panel-style carpet allows easy repair, since each section can be replaced separately.
2) Cut-and-sewn carpet, often found in pre-1960 domestic cars, covers the entire floor with one or two pieces of carpet. The carpet has been cut-and-sewn together in various places, so it covers the different shapes and contours of the car’s floor plan.
3) Molded carpets came into use in the 1960s, replacing the cut-and-sewn style, due to their ease of manufacture. Like the cut-and-sewn, molded carpets cover the entire floor with one or two pieces of carpet but with no seams. When either cut-and-sewn or molded carpets become worn or damaged, the entire carpet usually needs to be replaced. In some cases, if a carpet becomes soiled or faded, it can be re-dyed rather than replaced.


Foreign Interiors

Older European cars feature fairly complicated styling and construction for seats and interiors, as well as more expensive cut-pile and square weave carpets. Modern European cars carry on the styling traditions of the past, but are less complicated. Asian car interiors have come a long way from their early generic vinyl only/heat-sealed seamed interiors to today’s more intricate leather/cloth-sewn interiors. We can duplicate all of these interiors in both materials and style.

Domestic Interiors

Most early cars had wonderfully handcrafted leather interiors and leather-bound cut-pile carpeting. Re-upholstering one of these cars takes a high skill level in not only leatherwork, carpet patterning, and finishing skills, but also metal fabrication and carpentry. Cars of the ’50s and muscle cars of the ’60s turned to a production-friendly interior, incorporating more streamlined, simple vinyl seating, molded acrylic and nylon loop carpeting, as well as heat-embossed vinyl upholstered door paneling. Modern cars have returned to leather interiors and added seat designs to support occupants more efficiently, plush cut-pile carpeting and molded contoured door paneling. We can reproduce these interiors-from early to modern car interiors.


Custom Interiors

This is where the fun is and where fabrication skills and imagination come into play! Limited only by a trimmer’s imagination and skills, the basic shell of a car to an entire interior can be built from the tires up. Using metal fabrication, carpentry, fiberglass, foam, and plastic fabrication techniques, then topped off with handcrafted upholstery, a car’s interior can be transformed into seats, consoles, and panels of wild colors and sexy shapes with plush, sporty designs. These interiors can truly be works of art, usually take time, and are very rewarding.


Interior Warranties

Convertibles Only has a 3 year labor warranty on our interior work.
Warranties on upholstery kits, door panel kits, headliners, and carpet kits vary, depending on materials and manufacturers.
Regardless of the manufacturer’s warranties, all installations are covered by Convertibles Only 3 year labor warranty.

Interior Care Tips

Interiors are made of vinyl, leather, or cloth. Your convertible’s interior will be exposed to damaging UV sunrays if you enjoy your convertible properly!

Cloth is not common in convertible interiors, but if your seats are cloth, it is a good idea to treat them with a UV protectant.
Vinyl interiors are very easy to maintain. There are several products on the market specifically designed to clean and protect vinyl interiors from UV rays.

Leather is wonderful with its comfort and “breathe-ability” however, leather is expensive to repair or replace compared to vinyl or cloth interiors. Leather needs special care. The sun shrinks and hardens leather. Use a good leather conditioner- often! Clean with mild soap or special leather cleaning products.