Springtime is when most convertible owners take out their beauties out in the sun, away from the dark garages.
Or maybe you’re a lucky owner who stays in a place with gorgeous weather all year-round-either way your droptop is likely to gather dust and dirt and will need a proper wash ever so often.
If it were just any car, you might have gone to the automated car wash without a second thought. But when it comes to a soft-top convertible, you might have second thoughts due to the high-pressure water, fast-spinning brushes, and machinery involved.
In this article, we’ll discuss if it is safe to take your convertible to a car wash and alternatives available.
Wrangler Soft Tops
Convertible tops are of two kinds- soft and hardtops. Soft tops are made of flexible, fabric that can contract and extend without taking up a lot of storage space.
They tend to be cheaper, are easier to replace and tend to last for 3-5 years. Soft tops used to be made of canvas but have graduated to vinyl, butyl rubber, and latex.
Today the most common ones are made of PVC and cotton. Soft top vehicles can provide more versatility compared to hardtops but cannot offer the same level of protection.
If you own a Soft top convertible, you would know that they are easy to remove and are lightweight which means it’s easy to put and remove the top quickly.
If you’re on the trails, off-roading and you suddenly see thunderstorms, a soft top can be quickly rolled up, thus saving your seats and preventing you from getting wet! Even though soft tops are flexible they are also less insulated.
This means cold air can seep from the top into the car during the chilly season. You’ll also have to be careful not to allow snow to weigh the roof down.
Can You Take a Soft-top Through a Carwash?
There is a divisive debate among automobile experts on if you should take your soft-top convertible to the carwash (unless of course, there’s large openings like a bikini top or sunshade). The issue is that a soft-top convertible is more delicate and temperamental than a hardtop and cannot hold its shape the same way as the latter.
If you are taking the automatic carwash route, do a bit of research ahead of time and see if they have special means to clean a soft top.
All the convertibles by Mercedes Benz are safe to take through a car wash as mentioned in their handbook. Buick’s convertible is also built to handle automatic washes like a champ.
It’s best to not take chances and rely on your own judgment alone. You should go through your owner’s manual or talk to the customer support of your manufacturer to find out if the soft top can handle the pressure of a car wash.
The car wash industry generally agrees that automated car washes are safe for most convertibles. Millions of convertibles are washed every day successfully and are designed to do so without damaging the car.
Eric Wuf, CEO of the International Carwash Association CEO Eric Wulf stated that high-pressure water is directed at the door handles and beneath the car.
This means that the top will be unharmed as long as it is not naturally weakened or worn out due to overuse. Most car washes use spinning brushes made from cotton which means there will not cause any scratches or harm to the car.
Touch Less Car Wash
Just like the name suggests, in a touchless car wash nothing will touch your jeep other than soap, water, and high-pressure air.
The high-pH soap is sprayed on your vehicle followed by a low pH one. This combination sloughs off the dirt and dust thus eliminating the need for foam rollers.
Brushless car washes are also superior in the winter as snow, rain, and salt on the roads can damage a convertible. Cleaning it thoroughly in the winter is even more essential at this point.
This is the latest technology of vehicle washing and will not cause any scratches or damage to the exterior of your car.
So if you’re not sure of how well your soft-top convertible can handle a normal carwash, a touchless car wash is the best bet.
Keep a few facts in mind though, a touchless carwash takes longer than a normal wash and since it relies on chemicals, get it done by a trustworthy station for safety reasons.
I would recommend that you hand scrub areas of the jeep that are very grubby as touchless washes will not provide enough friction for your vehicle to be spotless.
If you don’t have access to touchless carwashes and have to bank on ordinary car washes, not to worry, keep in mind the following tips in mind to get the shine without damaging your soft top.
- Check the Condition of Your Vehicle: Take your jeep/convertible to a carwash only if it is in a good condition. If your cover is torn/ripped (even if you’ve duct-taped the cover), do not risk it being completely damaged. Repair the cover well or invest in a new one before getting it washed.
- Take Care of the Undercarriage: While cleaning the top is important, the undercarriage is an area that is often neglected. Make sure that the dirt, dust, and grime are taken off the undercarriage.
- Treat The Windows Separately: In an ordinary car, washing the windows is as normal as the rest of the parts. However, in a convertible, focus on your glass yourself with a towel and a window cleaner.
- Check the Weather Stripping: One the carwash is completed, the wash is done, take a look inside your car to see if water has seeped into the seals. If it has indeed seeped, then this is an indication that you need to replace weather strips.
- Cool Water & Frequency: Wash the soft top once a month if it is dusty or dirty and once every 2 months if you don’t drive it as much. If not, the top will absorb oil and be super dusty. Use cool plenty of cool water and a special soft top cleaning kit and a microfiber towel to wipe it down.
How to Wash a Soft-Top at Home
You can wash the car out of your driveway with a few suppliers for better peace of mind. The procedure to clean a soft top convertible is the same whether you have a fabric top or a vinyl. The only difference is in the last step.
- Brush the surface off with a soft brush to get the obvious and large dirt that can be seen
- Vacuum the top to clean with more precision
- Wet the surface with water as you cannot use an all-purpose cleaner on a dry surface.
- Rinse the top with water and take a soft bristle brush so as to not damage the natural finish
- Spray the all-purpose cleaner all over the top and let it soak for a few minutes.
- Use circular motions and scrub the top clean. Harsh materials like alcohol, detergent, and vinegar are highly acidic and may deteriorate the canvas. So choose a mild cleaner with non-toxic ingredients. I recommend using a soft scrub brush which will not leave lint on it or damage its surface
- Wash off the cleaning agent with a garden hose or a power spray on a low setting.
- Let the top air dry by leaving the car out overnight but you can speed up the process by pressing down a lint-free microfiber cloth on the top to wick the moisture away.
Having a convertible means that you probably get envious looks everywhere you drive! Keeping it clean and shiny without risking its safety is super important in increasing its longevity.
Not to mention, a clean car with a good finish will fetch a better resale value than a dingy one.
Ultimately it is your choice to go for an automatic car wash or a touchless one but keep the above tips in mind and do not hesitate to talk to the car washers first.
Nobody would mind giving you advice when it comes to an expensive soft-top convertible.
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