Tempermental convertible top...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a question regarding the only decent thing I got from my divorce--a 1974 Delta 88 Convertible that runs great! But sometimes, the electric top doesn't work at all. Keeping in mind that the top is in bad shape and I'm not willing to spend much money, what is the cheapest way to make this functional?

TOM: It just so happens that I have a 1974 Chevy Caprice Convertible, Brigid, so I'm intimately familiar with temperamental tops. I also happen to be an expert on being cheap! If it doesn't do anything at all when you throw the switch--if it doesn't even make noise--then it could be something as simple as a bad fuse or a broken switch. Fixing either of those would be within your budget.

RAY: If you hear the motor grunting and straining to work, there are a couple of other inexpensive possibilities. The joints in the convertible top's frame could simply be stiff. At this age, convertible tops begin to get the equivalent of arthritis. If you spray all of the joints with a dry silicone lubricant, you may be able to loosen them up. The other thing to check is the system's hydraulic fluid, which could be low.

TOM: Those are the cheap fixes. You get into more expensive repairs if the top's electric motor needs replacing, or if the hydraulic system itself is failing.

RAY: And in all likelihood, it's not any one of these things, but a combination of all of them. Unfortunately, fixing it will probably run into money. Luckily, there's always my brother's method.

TOM: Here's what I do. I Get a 25 foot length of rope with a grappling hook on each end. I hook one end to the convertible top, one end to a fire hydrant, then I back up. It works almost every time!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter