There is nothing quite like putting the top down on a scorching summer day and feeling the wind whipping through your hair but owning a convertible can be a lot of work. Most people take their vehicle through a carwash without a second thought, but if you own a convertible, you may find yourself wondering, can I take a soft-top through a carwash?
The best carwash for a soft-top vehicle is a handwash, however most soft-top vehicles can be taken through a touchless carwash if handwashing is not an option. It does depend on the make and model of your vehicle, and you should consult your driver’s manual.
Keep reading to learn more about how to take your rag-top through a carwash safely, as well as the best ways to wash your convertible by hand.
Why Shouldn’t You Take a Soft Top Through a Carwash?
Before deciding to drive your convertible through a carwash, you should understand the risks involved in doing so. Although each car and carwash are different, some of the things that can happen to a soft-top include:
- Brushes may scratch or wear the roof, especially if the brushes are dirty.
- Top brushes may apply too much pressure to the roof, causing the frame to become misshapen, which can result in problems closing it in the future.
- Harsh chemicals can damage the material of the roof.
- If the soft top includes windows (such as a Jeep Wrangler), brushes and chemicals may ruin the windows.
- If the roof or seals are worn, water may seep in and cause damage.
- High water pressure may cause rips or tears to worsen or paint to chip.
- The brushes may not cause damage instantly but could contribute to faster wear over time.
Although these risks sound daunting, you should know that not all car washes will damage your vehicle to this extent.
Types of Car Washes
There are several different types of car washes available and knowing more about each one can help you decide which one you want to use. While we will not spend a whole lot of time discussing each one, the basic feature of each type is listed below.
- Conveyorized: This refers to a carwash in which your vehicle is loaded onto a conveyor and guided through the car wash. They typically consist of detergent applications, brush systems, and a dryer. However, exactly how each one works will vary, so make sure you ask about the process before taking your vehicle through one of these.
- Full Service: This refers to a carwash in which your vehicle is cleaned top-to-bottom, inside, and out. Exactly what service is included may depend on the location you choose and the package you buy.
- Self Service: This refers to a car wash in which you do all the work. They typically include a hose with several different pressure/soap options. This is a desirable choice for convertibles because you control what is cleaned and how.
- Touchless Carwash: This refers to a carwash in which brushes are not used. Instead of brushes, the wash relies on water pressure and detergents to clean your vehicle. If you choose to use a touchless carwash, make sure the water pressure is not too high or aimed directly at the top of your car.
- Brushless: This refers to a carwash in which brushes are not used. While touchless and brushless are often similar, the main difference is that a brushless wash might still use cloths instead of brushes with bristles.
Now that you know more about the types of carwashes that are available, you can decide which one is the best choice for you.
Tips For Taking a Soft Top Through a Car Wash
We understand that there may be times when people do not have any other choice but to take their soft-top through a car wash, which is why we have included some important tips for convertible owners.
- Check your vehicle’s owner manual. Most manuals will include a section that explains how to care for your soft top properly and may even tell you what types of car washes are safe to use.
- Since so many people have roof racks or cargo boxes, many car washes can turn off the top brushes if you ask in advance.
- You can always call ahead and ask about the distinctive features and chemicals that are used in the car wash.
- Depending on where you go, you may be able to choose from different packages. Employees may not offer different options to every single customer they serve, so make sure to ask if there are special packages for convertible cars.
- Always ask about the chemicals being used and double check that those chemicals can be used with your soft top.
- Inspect your roof before going through any carwash because even a tiny tear can allow water in. Additionally, the water pressure and brushes may make a small rip much worse.
- Make sure the top is clean and dry. Leaving pools of water, or cleaning products that were not rinsed off can result in stains or water rings.
- Ask if it is possible to see the inside of the carwash in advance. If the brushes or cloths look dirty, it may be best to avoid that car wash. Dirt can often cling to the cloths and may scratch your vehicle.
How To Wash A Soft Top Convertible By Hand
Despite many manufacturers claiming that it is safe to take their vehicle through a car wash, washing by hand is always the best choice, when it is done correctly. Below you can find some tips and tricks for washing a soft-top convertible by hand.
- With a soft bristle brush, brush any large particles off the roof to prevent them from scratching the vehicle later. A vacuum can also be used for this step and may work better.
- Rinse the roof and wet the entire surface before putting any cleaner on.
- Follow the directions for the cleaner that you are using when applying it to your roof. Try to avoid cleaners that contain harsh chemicals such as alcohol or vinegar because they may deteriorate the canvas over time.
- Use a soft brush and circular motions to scrub the roof. A cloth may be used for this part as well. However, if you do use a cloth, make sure to use one that will not leave any lint on the roof.
- Rinse the roof with low water pressure, making sure to get all the cleaner off. It may be a clever idea to do a second scrub to ensure all the cleaner is loosened from the roof.
- Use a lint-free microfiber cloth to dry the surface. You can also leave it to dry naturally but drying it yourself will help to avoid water spots and it will allow you to catch if any cleaner was left behind.
Please note that the instructions above are just a general description and you should always follow the directions of the cleaner that you are using to ensure you get the best possible clean without damaging your vehicle.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.