Subject: Care and Feeding of Cabrio Tops

   By Larry Reynolds
   The feeding of your cabrio top is a relatively simple process, just
   place a handful of shredded 100% cotton towels in a suitable ceramic
   dish (preferably with the car’s name on it). Set the bowl on the
   garage floor and allow your top to feed. A side bowl of warmed cotton
   seed oil should round out the menu. Be careful not to over feed your
   top and also be aware that nylon blend towels may cause your top some
   digestive problems.
   Seriously, the care of your top is a little more involved. The OEM
   cabriolet top is cotton canvas with cotton thread stitching. There is
   no polymer coating to help waterproof or provide protection from
   damaging ultraviolet light, acid rain and everyday dirt. Any bird bomb
   hits should be removed as soon as possible, as they are highly acidic
   and will quickly damage your top. Any product used to clean should be
   gentle and any product chosen to preserve your top should be
   specifically designed for a canvas top. You do not have to use car
   wash on the top every time you wash the rest of the car. Plain water
   will usually suffice. If the top is dirty, then use a gentle, pH
   neutral car wash (such as Sonax Gloss Shampoo) and rinse thoroughly. A
   sticky paper tape clothing lint roller is an invaluable tool to help
   maintain your cabrio top. It is great to remove dust and lint from the
   top and clean the plastic window without scratching.
   About twice a year (less, if your cabrio never sees the great
   outdoors), you should thoroughly clean and protect the top. In my
   humble opinion, the best time to do this is the beginning of Spring
   and start of Fall. This way the top is prepared for the harsh sun of
   summer and the ravages of winter. To clean your top, use a
   specifically formulated cabrio top cleaner such as Tunap Cabrio Top
   Cleaner or Sonax Soft Top Cleaner. Park your car in a shady area and
   insure that the surface is relatively cool to the touch. Do not clean
   in direct sun. Wet the top thoroughly, spray a light coating of the
   cleaner evenly across the top, and GENTLY work into the weave using a
   soft sponge or very soft brush. Once the top has been completely
   cleaned, rinse with lots of water. I find that using a hose without a
   nozzle, allows the gentle flow of water to rinse out the cleaner as I
   gently brush the surface. Continue rinsing until the top stops sudsing
   and the rinse water runs clear. At this point, I like to take a very
   soft brush and "brush" the nap of the top in one direction. A ladies
   facial or complexion brush is usually soft enough. Buy one for your
   car and don’t "borrow" one from the medicine cabinet and try and
   return it before the owner notices it’s missing. This can lead to
   sudden marital discontent (voice of experience).
   Now that the top is completely clean, we come to the protection part
   of the process. Tunap makes a Cabrio Protectant Spray that helps
   waterproof and protect the top. This stuff is expensive! But, when you
   consider the cost of a new top, it falls into the category of cheap
   insurance. I have tried to find comparable products, but have been
   unable to do so with confidence. I believe it is based on Scotch
   Guard, but do not know for sure. The ingredients listed on the can are
   "mixed and natural stuff" (no joke, that is exactly what the can
   says). This aerosol spray should be applied just after cleaning, when
   the top is just "damp" dry. I use the top drying time to mask off all
   the glass, paint and the rear plastic window. This masking process is
   an important one. The Tunap Cabrio Protectant Spray will not
   supposedly hurt the paint, but you will need a belt sander to get it
   off the paint when it is dry. Loosen the windshield catches, lift up
   the top and slide newspaper between the windshield frame and the top.
   Refasten the top. Lower the side windows and slip newspaper between
   the top and the glass. Raise the windows tightly to hold the newspaper
   in place. Mask off the paint with a quality paint type masking tape
   and newspaper. Do not use scotch tape, electrical tape or duct tape,
   etc., as these products may develop a lifelong affinity for your
   paint. When you try and remove these types of tapes, some of your
   paint may choose to join it’s new found friend. Mask off the rear
   plastic window with masking tape and newspaper. All this is time
   consuming and tedious, but well worth the time. Use additional
   newspaper and tape to cover any other areas of the glass and paint
   that remain exposed. I find that one width of newspaper works well on
   the sides, but use additional paper to cover the hood and trunk. If
   you are working outside and it is a windy day, you may consider
   masking the entire hood and trunk, as the overspray travels quite far
   (there is no such a thing as over masking).
   Once the masking is completed, the top will probably be almost dry,
   yet have a slight dampness left. Before applying the protectant,
   insure that the top is clean, as any dirt or "bird offerings" will be
   sealed in by the protectant. Spray one coat along all of the seams,
   then spray an even coat over the entire top. An even coat is easy to
   maintain, as the top will darken slightly as the protectant is
   applied. Do not apply so much that the protectant forms "wet spots".
   Remove all your masking as soon as possible and then allow the top to
   dry in the raised position for at least 24 hours.
   The last item on your agenda is the clear (or maybe not so clear)
   plastic rear window. Do not use glass cleaners on a plastic window as
   they are too harsh and may actually damage plastic. There are several
   cleaners and polishes on the market that are specifically designed for
   plastic windows. Of the many that I have tried, the Mequiar’s
   products seem to work the best. I have found that Mequiar #18 Plastic
   Polish will help maintain a plastic window in top shape. Make sure
   that the window is clean and free of dust, spray a thin coating on one
   third of the window and immediately spread out with a 100% cotton
   terry towel. Turn the cloth to a dry section and buff out using linear
   strokes, left to right, right to left. Don’t go around in
   circles, as the resulting swirls are very visible. Repeat the process
   for the entire window. Once the window is done, rebuff with another
   soft cotton towel. If there are scratches or discoloration, try
   Meguiar #17 Clear Plastic Cleaner and follow with Meguiar #10 Clear
   Plastic Polish. This two stage cleaning/polishing will usually remove
   most light scratches. If not, you may have to resort to a more
   aggressive cleaning product. I have found that 3M Imperial Hand Glaze
   will remove almost all deeper scratches. If the discoloration or
   scratches resist the Meguiar or 3M treatment, try adding a small
   amount (about the size of your pinkie nail) of Blue Magic Metal Polish
   to a cloth saturated with 3M Hand Glaze. Mix together on the cloth and
   gently rub the window in a linear motion and buff out. Follow with
   Meguiar #10 and you are done. If none of the above work, it may be
   time to call 1-800-new-window.
   One of the problems many cabrio owners encounter is a crease in the
   plastic window from repeated folding. The easiest way to prevent this
   problem is to use a baby receiving blanket. The are super soft cotton
   blankets that are just the right size. Place the blanket over the
   window as your fold the top down. The thickness of the blanket
   prevents the plastic window from creasing and also keeps the two
   halves from rubbing against each other.
   Cabrio tops require a little effort to maintain, but there is nothing
   like cabrio cruising. If there are any questions on cabrio top care,
   or you can not find the product locally, please do not hesitate to
   give me a call.
   Larry Reynolds Car Care Specialties, Inc. Distributors of Quality Car
   Care Products Post Office Box 535 Saddle Brook, NJ 07663-0535 Phone
   (201) 796-8300 Fax (201) 791-9743 E-mail