A convertible car is a type of automobile which has a retracting or folding, soft or collapsible top. If the top is made out of steel, it is called as a retractable hardtop and not a convertible. A convertible top is made from a flexible material, such as vinyl or canvas, and is made to fit over an articulated folding frame which is made out of steel, aluminum or rigid plastic. The folding design of the frame is elaborate and can vary. An electrical retraction mechanism can be designed to fold and unfold the frame which is also known as a power top. Before a manual top can be lowered it must be un-fastened from the windshield frame before it is retracted. A Convertible car in Europe is known as "cabriolet" and a retractable hardtop
is known as a "coupe convertible" or "coupe cabriolet"
Initially when convertible cars began to be manufactured they were made with two doors. Only a few cars had the option of four doors. The production of convertibles boomed in the 1950s to 1970s. Owning a car was more of a luxury at that time and was only used for special occasions. Tops have been made more durable and the plastic rear window has been replaced by heated glass which improved clarity. Structurally the vehicle top is the most important part of the car. The frame or chassis of a convertible car is built more rigid to keep the vehicle from flexing in normal usage. Convertibles cars weight more than fixed roof cars due to the added steel. The automatic convertible top system involves motors
, switches and sensors. The latching and unlatching is performed automatically.
Possibilities of failures and issues with convertible tops are vast. It is good practice to watch the top while in operation. Any kind of irregular motion or snagging is an indication of a malfunction and should be repaired.
It is recommended that the convertible be hand washed. Special vinyl cleaner is available for cleaning vinyl tops. Warm water with mild soap should be safe for washing. If your water is hard, a water softener should be added to avoid spotting. Wax should never be applied on a convertible top. Soft tops should be protected using scotch guard and can be softened using a liquid fabric softener. The top should be cleaned in its entirety; spot cleaning can leave spots or rings. If the windows are made out of plastic, they should be cleaned on a regular basis with water and mild soap. Do not use an abrasive cleaner or cloth; they can scratch the plastic surface. Cleaning in a circular motion should be avoided and a side to side or top to bottom motion should be adopted. Never retract the top when wet without raising it at a later time to avoid mold. Mold can discolor the top and lead to replacement. The top should always be free of objects; even a small item such as a beach towel can damage the top.