Convertible Top Repair
July 29, 2007 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Convertible Top Repair: Possible?

My '01 Miata sat for a year while I was in China. Pulling the top down the first time led to a bunch of small holes above the rear window. Over the past month, it's become a straight up tear. It'll likely get bigger. On the inside, there's still cloth between the rip and window. Outside, it's right above the rubber lining to the rear window. The top is vinyl.

I'm selling. It looks horrible. A new top is ~$1000 installed and shops don't want to patch it up beyong pouring silicone glue on in, which doesn't last when the top comes down.

What can be done to save the top for another six months to a year and let me sell my otherwise flawless car for what it's worth?
posted by trinarian to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it sat for a year the car likely needs more serious (and possibly costly) attention than just the top...
posted by wfrgms at 8:00 PM on July 29, 2007

I'm pretty sure you can get a replacement window for this model year that has material attached to it (you have someone local sew it in), or maybe, this.
posted by 517 at 9:38 PM on July 29, 2007

Oh, and now I see you said you said '01.
posted by 517 at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2007

Look in your Yellow Pages under vinyl repair. (I used to do this for auto dealerships). If there is no one in the yellow pages, there still may be someone who does the work for larger used car dealerships in your area. Ask the Used Car Manager for a phone number.

A vinyl repair tech can fill the tear with a toothpaste like material that turns into flexible vinyl when heat from a heat gun is applied. The pattern of the vinyl can be pressed into it, or it may just look smooth. The color is then sprayed back over the area (on a miata, black - I assume). It will be good for making it saleable, but if the original vinyl is going bad then fixing one area will just make it stress on an ajoining area so new cracks/tears will probably eventually form. But vinyl repair will the cheapest way to make it saleable (probably under $100).
posted by spock at 10:38 PM on July 29, 2007

Where are you now (your profile still says China), and how handy are you? I've replaced the top on my 01 two times in the 10 years I've owned it.

You can buy a replacement top for around $300 and it's a six hour job if you are very leisurely about it.

If you just want to get through a year you could do what I did to get through a poor period. It ain't attractive but it'll keep you from being rained on. Ready?

Black duct tape and contact cement.

Really you could use any appropriately flexible waterproof fabric - using the contact cement makes the glue on the tape irrelevant. However it was the cheapest option.

I simply cut strips of the tape and put the contact cement on the sticky side, then laid it out to dry to a light tack (how you're supposed to use contact cement. Then I put the cement on the areas of the top I wanted to patch up and let it dry as well. Once they were dry I applied the tape. You have to get it EXACTLY RIGHT ON THE FIRST SHOT since contact cement sets immediately, but with small enough strips this wasn't a big deal.

It worked well until I replaced the top but you're not going to win any awards. It may or may not impact your ability to sell it - people buy convertibles all the time knowing they'll have to replace the top but the ghetto look of the tape could subconsciously put people off.

If you feel like you might want to undertake this project yourself feel free to drop me an email and I'll give you some more detail.
posted by phearlez at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2007

517's link would be a GREAT solution, by the way. Removing the whole top assembly is pretty easy and you could probably put the assembly you've taken off up on for sale for $25-$50. The hardest thing about that swap is the close quarters you have to do it in.
posted by phearlez at 9:51 AM on July 30, 2007

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