The Care and Feeding of your Convertible Top
For many people, an Alfa Spider is the first convertible theyve ever owned. While the Spiders top is relatively trouble-free, there are some basic care tips that a Spider owner should know about.
One of the biggest shocks that first time convertible owners receive is that driving one with the top down in the summer is HOT. I often wondered what the point was in installing air conditioning in a convertible. My first drive to Houston Texas (in the southern US) showed me.
It is very easy to get sunburned in your convertible, especially in the spring when most people dont have much of a tan. During high summer it is quite possible to experience "sun poisoning" severe sunburns and heat exhaustion. Always be careful, bring sunscreen, and dont be too proud to put the top up on a really brutal day (it actually makes a pretty good sun shade).
Be very careful during late fall and early spring. Many times, the days will be just warm enough to put the top down, but nighttime temperatures will get very cold. The rear window "glass" gets brittle when it gets cold, and trying to put the top up in cold weather can result in severe damage to the window. It cracks and tears rather than flexing and folding. If you must put the top up after the temperature drops, do it VERY SLOWLY. This should allow the material time to flex properly.
Convertible tops tend to last about three to five years, depending on care, the quality of the top itself, and use. Many times, the top itself will be fine but the glass will be torn or clouded to the point of opacity. I have heard of places that offer to replace just the window, but it requires removal of the current top (no easy task without damaging it), and I have not been advised of the results. I have heard reports of people attempting to put zippered windows in the tops, but have not heard of any of those results either (the "glass" on an Alfa Spider is a lot bigger than most other tops, making zippers impractical).
Make the "glass" last longer by keeping it clean. Try dusting it off with a soft cloth before you put it down. Dont get armor all or other vinyl preservation products on it these seem to soften the material and make it more vulnerable to scratching. There are special cleaners designed exclusively to clean the sort of clear vinyl that makes up your rear window. I have been told that they are quite effective. Contact your local auto body supply store for more information on these products. Glass cleaning products seem too harsh and tend to cloud the window a bit. Be careful the back shelf is clear before you put the top down, or you may punch a hole in the window when it hits whatever is down there. It is possible to repair small boo-boos with clear packing tape, but large tears or holes will ruin the top.
Always buy a high quality convertible top. The cost usually runs about $250 for vinyl, and about twice that for cloth (however, Caribou products produce a cloth top for ~$200 US, and come highly recommended). Im not sure what advantages there are in owning a cloth top, and it seems that the cloth tops are prone to fading. Many parts places that specialize in Alfa Romeo carry an installation book for convertible tops. This is taken from a factory shop manual. Get this book and follow it religiously if you want a leak-free top. Always replace the windshield-to-top gasket every time you replace the top.
Other than that ownership is similar to other cars. Wash it when its dirty, change the oil regularly, follow a maintenance schedule religiously and your Spider should last a long, long time.
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By Scott Johnson - Copyright © 1996 - Third Edition, Released August 2001 - All Rights Reserved.