How do I prevent a vinyl top from mildewing in a wet climate?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

I live in Florida and own a car with a vinyl top. How do I keep the top from mildewing? The car is parked outside all the time. -- Arthur

TOM: Mildew is not a topic we're overly familiar with, Arthur, living in the great frozen North as we do. Up here, those people with vinyl tops tend to be concerned about things like ice dams.

RAY: But we have a few ideas for you. I would stay away from bleach, even diluted in water. Aside from discoloration, bleach can, apparently, cause vinyl to dry and crack by removing its natural oils.

TOM: If the mildew is still mild (i.e., still basically two-dimensional), you might start by trying a common all-purpose cleaner such as Fantastik or 409. If that doesn't work, there are some vinyl-specific cleaners on the market, but you might not find them very easily.

RAY: One we know of is called Meguiar's #39 Heavy Duty Vinyl Cleaner. It's a specialty product available at auto-body supply houses. If you call Meguiar's at (800) 347-5700, they can tell you where to find it in your area, or they can sell it to you mail-order.

TOM: Whatever you use, it should be done a couple of times a year to keep the mildew under control. And it makes sense to follow it up with a vinyl conditioner of some sort. Meguiar's makes one called #40, or you should be able to find any number of them in your local auto-parts store or the auto-parts section of your favorite discount megastore. Good luck, Arthur.

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