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Can You Take a Convertible Through a Car Wash? Factors & Safety Tips

man pressure washing his black car

Riding a car with a foldable top is one thing, and washing it is another endeavor. Considering that the rooftop of a convertible car can let in water, would it be possible to take it through a carwash? The answer is yes, because most modern cars are car wash friendly. All hardtop convertibles can be cleaned in a car wash. If it’s a soft-top car, however, several factors determine whether it can be taken through a car wash or not.

In this article, we look at those determining factors and recommend the best way to wash a soft-top convertible without putting the car’s major components at risk. Let’s explore together.

car and road divider

The 3 Factors That Determine Whether You Can Take a Convertible Car to a Carwash

1. Manufacturer’s Recommendation

All vehicles are tested for the efficiency of their features and components before they are released to the public market. If your user manual advises against taking your convertible through a carwash, it’s because the manufacturers carried out a water-tightness test on it.

In fact, it might surprise you that Audi, Buick, and Audi convertibles can be washed in an automatic car wash without damaging the rooftop material.

2. Type of Convertible

Convertibles are often distinguished by their rooftop designs. They can either be soft tops or hardtop convertibles.

  • Soft-Top Convertibles: The most common roof materials used in soft tops are PVC and canvas cotton. Sometimes, they might be too weak to withstand car wash pressure when it’s applied to them. They tear and allow water to penetrate the roof, potentially damaging the car’s engine and electrical system. For this reason, some manufacturers advise their customers to hand-wash their soft-top convertibles instead of taking them through automatic car washes. We will address how to do it in our subsequent sections.
  • Hardtop Convertibles: Hardtop roofs are made of plastic or metal, meaning they are barely different from standard cars. Most of them are safe to take through the car wash except if they are too old to have leaking frames. Otherwise, hardtop roofs wouldn’t be damaged by a high-pressure car wash machine, nor would they let in water.

You just have to ensure the roof is perfectly closed and you are good to take your car through an automatic car wash.

3. Type of Carwash

You can’t just take your convertible to any other car wash. Depending on their cleaning methods, tools, and services, car washes can be classified into the following types:

  • Automatic Car Wash: Also known as a touchless car wash, an automatic car wash uses detergents, high-pressure water, and high-pressure air to clean. It’s their high-pressure attribute that makes it unsafe for washing most soft-top cars. Before driving your car to a touchless car wash, you must ensure the roof doesn’t have any tears, or else they will be worsened by the spinning brushes and pressure sprays.
  • Self-Service Car Wash: This type of car wash is very ideal for owners who want to control how their convertible is cleaned. When you drive there, you are handed all the cleaning equipment, which includes water, a spray machine, wax, soap, and a foam brush. Then you wash your car the way you like.
  • Hand-Wash Car Wash: In this setup, a hand brush, water, and detergents form the cleaning tools. The car wash experts take your car through a detailed hand washing experience, cleaning both the exterior and interior of the car. It is an ideal type of washing convertible because it guarantees no risk of damage to the roof and the interior components.
Image By: Karolina Grabowska, Pexels

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Take Your Soft-Top Convertible to a Car Wash

It’s essential to understand the risks involved in taking a soft-top convertible through a car wash. Despite the variety of cars and car wash types available, some of the risks your car may be exposed to in any car wash include the following:

  • If the spinning brushes scratch the roof material continuously, it may lead to wear and tear.
  • Excessive pressure and scratching by brushes may contort the frames, resulting in problems when folding and reattaching the roof.
  • Corrosive detergents can damage the roof material
  • In convertibles that have windows (such as a Jeep Wrangler), harsh chemicals may damage the window frames.
  • High-pressure washing may chip out the paint.

Fortunately, not all car washes pose the risks mentioned above. And that’s why we will show you how to carefully wash your soft-top convertible.

What’s the Best Way to Wash a Soft-Top Convertible?

Most soft-top convertibles may be eligible to be taken through a touchless car wash and traditional automatic car washes. However, the best way to wash a soft top is by handwashing. While this may not be a fact for all soft-top models, you should consult your driver’s manual for a better decision.

Ensure you do the following when washing your soft-top convertible:
  • Use a soft bristle brush to remove large dirt particles from the roof. This prevents them from scratching the roof later. You can even do it better if you use a vacuum cleaner.
  • Before adding any cleaner, you should rinse the roof and wipe the entire surface with a wet cloth.
  • Follow the directions written on the cleaner container while applying the cleaning chemical to your car roof. If they are too harsh (contain high alcohol, vinegar, or chlorine-based bleaching agents), you should avoid them since they may damage the canvas if used over time.
  • Scrub the roof in circular motions while using a soft bristle brush. If you decide to use a washing cloth, ensure it doesn’t leave any lint on the surface.
  • Remove all the cleaner from the roof by rinsing with low-pressure water. Scrub with a brush and rinse again to ensure you get off all the cleaners.
  • Dry the surface using a microfiber piece of cloth. Ensure it doesn’t leave any lint behind. Alternatively, you can let the car dry by itself, but some water spots may take too long to dry out.

Tips for Taking a Soft-Top Through a Car Wash

When you don’t have any choice but to take your soft-top convertible through a car wash, you should take note of the following tips to help keep your car in the best condition possible:

  • Consult your owner manual before washing your car. It should contain a section that outlines the best car wash practices and the type of car washes that best suit your car model.
  • When you visit a car wash, you can ask if there are any special packages for convertible cars. Such packages are always common since convertibles follow distinct washing guidelines.
  • Always double-check to confirm whether the cleaning chemicals are good for your car’s rooftop or not. Some chemicals are corrosive to the canvas if used continuously.
  • Before driving your car to the car wash, you must inspect it with scrutiny to ensure it doesn’t have any rips. Do not disregard even the tiniest tear since a high-pressure spray can make it worse.
  • You should consider changing or adding to the roof fabric of your convertible car to make it car wash-friendly. Although it can be quite costly, you can transform your cabriolet fabric to make it safe for washing in the car wash again.
  • You should ask the car wash attendants to turn off the top brushes before washing your car. This is especially important when you notice the washing brushes are dirty and may end up scratching your car.
  • Do not drive your car away until it completely dries up. If you do, the water spots and undried cleaning material can leave permanent stains and water rings.
Convertible Car
Image By: Pixabay

car and road divider


Convertibles are stylish because of their foldable roofs. But what happens if they get damaged due to careless washing? Well, it won’t be pretty.

As much as most convertible cars can go through a car wash, it’s necessary to keep in mind factors such as the type of car roof, the type of car wash, and the manufacturer’s advice. Also, as a rule of thumb, you should not take a soft-top convertible to a car wash unless the owner’s manual advises so. Hand washing is the foolproof choice for cleaning such cars because it guarantees no damage to the roof material.

If you are going to place a rag top on your roof, ensure it’s leak-proof to keep out water from damaging the car’s interior. We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Good luck washing your convertible!

Featured Image Credit: Ethan Sexton, Unsplash


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