One of the things we love most about living in San Diego is the temperate climate, which demands a convertible. The awesomeness of cruising around with the top down is priceless, and we picked up a great deal on a '98 Cabrio.

Like most used cars, it had a couple signs of use - the worst sign of wear was the top. As vinyl tops age, they shrink and become brittle; rips and holes are accelerated by putting the top down. Most owners just stop using them to avoid taking on the cost of replacing a top. Seriously, it should be a crime to drive a convertible with the top up in San Diego. :-)

The estimates we got for replacing the top ran from $900 to $1500. I'll show you how to replace your top for . . .


(Prices may vary for your model.) The actual cost was $259, but you'll also want to get canvas cleaner and have to pay for shipping and tax.

With a single weekend's work and patience, our Cabrio (AKA Mirthmobile) now sports a new top.

Warning: This project requires employs sharp instruments and power tools, requires a familiarity with working with automotive  tools, and a **really** positive can-do attitude that will get you out of trouble when you encounter problems. If you don't possess all of these, pay the $1500 or more to replace your top.

The top you will order comes with full instructions, but this instructable is presented to inspire you. YOU CAN DO THIS! :-)

Materials needed for this instructable:
- 1 replacement top for your model of vehicle. Do some searching online - the best deal and selection we found was here:
Convertible Top Guys
Kit will include the top, pop rivets, staples, new hold-down cables, and glue you need to do the job.
- (If you have a glass window with rubber trim) Tube or strip of windshield sealer (not included in kit)
- One sunny weekend without rain (Not a tall order in San Diego)
- Silicone spray for trim re-installation

Tools needed for this instructable:
- Basic automotive tools (open/box end wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, etc.)
- rubber mallet
- drill and 1/8" bits
- Pop rivet gun
- Screw gun and fine Phillips tips OR torx tips - there are LOTS of screws in this project, don't try it with manual screwdrivers. Torx screws are special "star" shaped counter sunk head screws, similar to Phillips but straight-sided and deeper. See if your model uses them and have a set on hand (the Cabrio uses these.)
- Staple gun - preferably a pneumatic staple gun (you might be able to rent one) but we managed our project with a standard staple gun and gentle tapping
- Center punch
- Utility knife
- At least a 6-8 foot length of 1/8" - 3/16" nylon rope
- flat plastic tool
- Helper (second person) for the window and trim stick in and out
- Mechanical ability

Step 1: Remove Interior Panels to Expose Top Fastening Points.

Required for this step:
Screwdrivers/screw gun
Large flat screwdriver

Of course, you shouldn't start removing the old top until you have the new top in hand and have reviewed the instructions in the kit. :-)

The general procedure will be to remove the old top, working from it's outer edges inward, then the window, then the main fastening areas of the old top. Check out your top and see where it disappears under the interior panels, these will all have to be removed to gain access to the edges of the top. This will vary for your model, but in our Cabrio, I found it helpful (a step later than I should have) to completely remove the back seats and side and back side panels.

Removal of these will vary for your model. Sometimes they are screws. Sometimes they are "pop out" plastic fasteners, in which case you can gently lift the edge of the trim and work a flat screwdriver toward the fastener, then twist when the tip is close to the fastener. Usually you can hear them "tick" as they start to slip out, but often they will break, so be prepared to buy new ones.

The rear side panels in the Cabrio are pretty clever. There is a single screw into the body that goes into a bar that holds the whole thing in. Access the screw from the front after the seat is removed.

Remove all the rubber trim around the edge of the frames. Once the trim is removed from the rear frame member, you can see where the edges of the top are glued to the frame. Generally you can (gently!) lodge a screwdriver under the leading edge of the trim and work it upward and out of the frame, then "peel" the trim out. They don't go back in quite as easy. :-)

The goal in this step is to just expose where the top is fastened - don't be concerned with the rear trim stick yet, but when you remove the rear inner panels, you should see where the rear trim stick is fastened to the rear of the body by bolts.

The good news: if your model has a headliner (it should,) you generally won't have to remove it unless it's rotted or moldy.
<p>Nice instructable! Might you be able to give me an estimate on how long everything took to do, without installing the window?</p><p>I'm in desperate need of doing this project but can never seem to get 2 decent weekend days in a row to do it. So, I'm thinking I will replace the top first and then cut out the window/install the window at a later date.</p>
<p>Most of the work is the top itself, I started Saturday morning and got to step 6 by Sunday, so you'll probably still need two days. It can probably be done faster, but the worst thing someone can do is hurry, that's how errors happen. The window itself was only a couple hours. If you have bad weather just get a good tarp and alternate transportation for a day or two, there's always a way. :-D</p>

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