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Volkswagen Cabrio Convertible Top Problems

Me and my Cabrio live in Florida and the heat is a little hard on convertible tops. My top opened up at the 4th rib where the factory heat seals it and there is no stitching. I am looking for the best and most economical approach to it's replacement because there is no one who repairs these seams even though the rest of the the top is just fine. I have called an auto upholstry business here in Orlando. They told me the dealer would charge $4500.00 and they want $1900.00 to replace the top with one like the original . I found I can purchase a top on line, made of the same fabric, with a glass defroster window. This was about $675.00. I called another auto upholsterer nearby and they want $250.00 to install the top. I would like to hear from anyone who has changed their top and would appreciate any advice offered. In the meantime I have stitched it with fishline. Got the idea from this blog. It's OK for now but our afternoon monsoon rains have leaked through a little and I need to replace asap. Thanks,Jenni


  • lylasxolylasxo Posts: 2
    I have a 2001 cabrio aswell and actually i live in orlando too! My top is also coming up where there is no stitching.. i've found that boat glue..used on the tops of well for holding the top together.
    has anyone had any problems with the power windows no working? i've had to change the motor 3 times already.

    i've about had it with my cabrio. even though i love it i feel like its a hassel compared to other cars...especially in florida, my cabrio doesnt seem to like heavy rain falls. It breaks down and the windows leak! :(

    Good luck! :confuse: :(
  • I live in Orlando as well. I just bought a 96 cabrio for my wife. It too needed a new top. I found a place in kissimmee that ordered and replaced it for around 550 to 600. It isnt the original fabric used on the top. But for the price alone, its well worth it. If you two check this post and want to know where its at, email me and Ill find the name of it. The guy did a good job. my email is [email protected]

    Hope this helps!
  • Well, I'm in New Jersey, and I own a '98 Cabrio. I had to replace the top this July because it split just down that seam that you mentioned. It was the original top. It started to split on the right side first, and then it happened on the left side as well. both of the splits were on the curved part of the top, where the "roof" would meet the side panel. I took it to the place the dealer recommended, and i paid $950, for a supposed top of the line, Stayfast II top. Last week the top just collapsed inwards, on that same back right seam. The guy who fixed the top thinks that one of the boughs might be broken. Have you had any experience with this? I really don't want to get ripped-off or pay extra money to have this fixed.

    My top shrunk which is why it originally split. If you know your car well, you can feel that the top is shrinking b/c it gets harder to close the top after time.

    I do have a big problem with air-draft noise sneaking through the front gasket headliner. Does anyone else have this problem? I feel that i've actually lost hearing b/c in order to hear the radio while on the highway, i have to turn the volume way up. It's really annoying and replacing the gasket is expensive b/c only VW makes the part. Do your tops fit snuggly into the front gasket? When you go to put your top down, how much space is left in between the car and the top before you anchor it into place?

    Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  • Lylasxo,

    Where did you get the boat canvas glue. What's the name brand. We have the same problem, also with the drivers and passenger windows on a 2002 Cabrio.

  • On a 2002 Cabrio. Power windows don't work. Took door apart and found a plastic wheel had broken and the stell cable that pulls the glass up had come off the plastic wheels.
    Would VW repair, they should!

  • I was wondering if anyone has any info on replacing a 99 cabrio convertible top... my GF's car was part of a stupid car theft attempt but thank god for VW ingenuity he couldn't get it started however he mad a nice hole in the convertible top... I have found a top for about 250 dollars but would rather not spend another 500 on installation... if anyone has any information on either installing the top or at least knowing where I could find that information would be greatly appreciated... Aaron
  • I have a 2002 VW Cabrio with an automatic top. When opening and closing the top on my car the top moves about 3 inches before it stops. When I turn the car off and on again it repeats another 3 inches. Right now I repeat this until the top is completely closed or open.

    Does anyone have any ideas on what I can do to fix this problem?
  • I have a 1985 volkswagon cabriolet and i would like to know if there is another type of pad that can be used for the convertible. The pad is located in between the headliner and the top. Please email me or just repost the answer thanks very much.
  • Here's what we did with our 1990 Cabriolet. I found a new top with the bars,etc.on Ebay for just over $200.

    My husband, daughter and some friends downloaded directions from the internet (free) and then they set out to change the top. It took a couple of days, but they followed the step by step directions and completed the job for a fraction of what it would have cost to pay someone. It turned out beautifully.
  • My 2001 Cabrio is also coming apart at the seam. Spoke with a local upholstery guy, he offered me 3 options. 1. He can glue it ($40) 2. I can remove top and he will sew the seem. 3. If he removes the top cost would be about $250, he said removing and installing the top is the headache. Personally, I'm going with the glue, then sell the car as soon as possible, before anything else happens to it. It is a shame that VW built these nice little car with so many problems. VW made a smart choice by stopping production when they did.
  • Bought a 98 Cabrio recently. Traded in a 98 Jeep Wrangler Sport for it. Had a jeep for about 5 years and did nothing but complain about the top. The person who designed that top should be tested for drug addictions. I was miserable. Traded one jeep for the 98 with a hard top....great for noise reduction but impossible to take off alone. Then theres the problem of where to put it. Daughter has a 98 cabrio and I drove it off and on. Love the top simple up and down, love the way the car handles. Whole lot better gas mileage. The 98 cabrio I bought had a bit of a gap between the top and the front rubber boot. There were two adjustment slots available on the top closer hook. I adjusted one slot and the noise is now minimal. Haven't noticed any splitting of top yet on mine or my daughters.
  • Does anyone know where I can purchase a new snap for a 99 Cabrio Boot cover? This snap is used to secure the boot in place when the top is down.
  • Hello,

    Do you happen to still have the instructions for replacing the top? Or do you happen to remember where you got the instructions?

    Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated!


  • I will keep looking, not sure if I saved it or not. We just did a google search, "how to replace a v.w. convertible top. The directons were really good and easy to follow.
  • caligcalig Posts: 1
    Can some one please explain this to me!!! I can't find a satisfactory explanation online anywhere!

    I want to replace my top, it's ripped all aong the top of the back window. It's a manual top btw.

    Why are 2000 and previous models around $250 and the 2001 top is about $700?!?!

    My window is fine and doesn't need replacing. Can I use an older model? Am I incredibly stupid and missing something here???

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  • mpls66mpls66 Posts: 2
    I would also very much appreciate it if you could tell me where you found those instructions. I've googled and searched for a while now and have not found any. Thanks.

    Forrest King
    Warning: Any attempt to repair you car may cause problems. I am not responsible for your car, your errors, or your economic losses resulting from your use of this information.

    Ok folks, I drive a 1991 Cabriolet that originally came with a dark blue canvas top. After sitting for a few years while the previous owner was inn possession, the top was a bit dilapidated. The canvas was torn left to right all the way across the top at the first fold point (about 1 foot aft of the header). I shopped around in my region and was quoted astronomical prices for the replacement of just the outer 'shell', anywhere from $675 at an upholstery shop to $1300 at Brad Noe VW in Tulsa, OK. After peaking with one of the local upholstery shops on the phone I stopped by to check out their operation and let them see the tops actual condition. This is when I decided to replace the top myself- the guy was going on and on about how much experience you need to do this repair and how VW tops are by far the most difficult, and then I met his shop help. The shop help was 17 and was in desperate need of some education, he had been working for the guy for 2 weeks and was in the process of replacing a Mustang top- alone.

    PREPARATION (physical and mental)

    Some required knowledge: The VW top is held on by three cables, one at the back and two on the sides. The side cables must be replaced and are available at your local VW Dealership for about $11 US. The rear cable can be reused and you will most likely want to do this as it costs $93 US at your dealer. The best place to learn about the VW top is the replacement top. I suggest you lay it out on your living room floor and just take it in for a few minutes. You will notice that there is no hole for the rear window, DO NOT TRY TO MAKE ONE NOW. You will also notice that there is a 'pocket' at the front of the new top, this is where the top is slipped over the frame on your car, it is the attachment point for the front of the car. You will see a thick bead stitched into the rear of the rear of the replacement top, this is where the rear cable runs and is the attachment point for the rear of the top. The sides have slots that run 1/2 the length of the entire top, or the area over the windows if you can picture this. These slots are for the side cables, these cables and their accompanying springs are the attachments for the sides of the top.

    I searched locally and on the internet for other people who had replaced VW Cabby tops themselves and found a few great references, I will include these links at the end. After viewing their reports I created a list of tools that I would need, it included all of these:
    * Screwdrivers, Phillips and flat
    * Utility Knife (or razor)
    * Craftsman 9mm/10mm offset ratcheting wrench (pt # 43367)
    * Wooden clothespin
    * Spray Glue, 3M or other reputable brand, get the strongest bond.
    * Pliers, needle nose preferably
    * Electric staple gun (with staples and extension cord if needed)
    * Roll of nylon string- not cotton and not rope
    * Miscellaneous other hand tools, including wrenches and sockets.
    A critical tool in the replacement of my top was the Craftsman Offset Ratcheting Wrench, it brings a certain amount of ease to a horribly difficult situation. Read On.

    To start, remove the lower bench of the rear seat, it is held in by 2 screws on the front lip of the seat- that's all. Remove the package tray, that is the piece covered in carpet that hides the contents of your trunk. Fold down the rear seat, you do this by pulling the knob hidden under the trunk door and then pulling the strap located on the side of the rear seatback near the top. Leave the trunk lid open. The seat back should fold down nearly flat. Removing all of these components will create more working area in your car and give you places to contort your body while attempting to remove the rear cable. Now look under the package tray sides (the parts that remained in the car), you will see the headliner is stretched over some points to hold it tight. Grasp the headliner and pull is firmly but gently in the direction of the points to remove it. After you do this to all of the points the headliner will hang loosely from the top. Roll down all of the windows. Pop the latches for the top but do not fold the top yet.

    Now is a good time to look at the side cables of your top- study them, make drawings, take pictures- whatever you need to do in order to create that same setup later.


    Note: In this section I am going to cover the removal of the top. The VW Cabby top goes on in exactly the same manner that it comes off, so once again study, take notes or take pictures. I found the best way was just to look at how the pieces worked and understand the system of parts.

    First, the rear window must be removed. This is a very simple use of brute strength. Crawl inside the car and have a friend stand outside of the car at the rear window. Place the palm of you hand, with as much surface area of your hand contacting the glass as possible, on the rear window at the upper corner. PUSH. The glass will slowly start to come out of the seal and will come right out after you release the initial hold of the seal. Have your buddy catch the window if you become overzealous in your pushing efforts, otherwise have him gently tug at the glass to free it. Now pull the window seal out and set it aside. Get your flat head screwdriver and remove ALL of the staples that hold the old top to the rear window frame (yes folks, they stapled it together). Once you remove the staples you can look around the inside of the top- study up.

    Next, remove as much of the top as you can with your handy utility knife. To remove the center section would be more than enough. Remember you are throwing this old top away, so feel free to sacrifice it in order to learn as much as you can. I suggest cutting it from about 1 foot behind the header, down the seams along each side, and across the back just below the rear window frame.

    At the front of the top there is a metal bar that crosses the header, it has some brackets that hold the corners on also. Start by removing the brackets at the corners and placing the hardware in plastic zipper bags, or visually separating them on a counter or other work surface. Remove the corner brackets and then remove all of the screws holding the header bar. You should then be able to pull the header bar off, taking care not to bend it. Now move you focus to the sides of the top. You will notice that there are rubber seals covering the area where screws would be. These rubber seals slide out of their brackets, but be very careful as they are no longer available from the dealer and are very expensive to locate. Once you have slid out all three of the seals on each side you will see the metal brackets that hold the seals and you should be able to see the screws that hold the bracket to the top frame. On
  • corresponding nuts. Boy you are screwed if it starts raining.


    You are more than half way done, if you have taken the time to observe the methods used to attach the top you will have no problems from here on out.

    Now take the top and put it over the empty frame. Do not try to put the frame in the pocket, or do anything right now, just place the top on the car and visualize what you are doing. It looks nice doesn't it.
    To start the operation you will need to put the top back on the ground. Go find the side cables you saved from earlier, and the new cables you bought at the dealership. The new cables came straight (not pre crimped). Take this time to put a crimp on the ends of the cable and fish a string or fish tape thru the slot in the replacement top. Tape the end of the new cable to the fish tape and pull it thru. Let the cable sit there quietly for now. Place the new top back on the frame, this time seat the frame in the pocket of the top. Now is the time to attach the header bar. Be careful and try to get the front bead of the top to sit flat against the windshield frame. If you mess up don't worry, you can re do this later to get the front edge of the top to seat correctly. You will most likely be doing this while standing on your front seats with the top in a half open position. Leave the top in this half open position and head to the back of the car. You are now going to thread the rear cable through the slots in the top and into the body of the car. This step is frustrating because the top can pop out of position and be generally difficult, if your helper has not consumed all of your beer use him to hold the top and cable in place. You may find it easier to thread the cable through the top on one side only and then slip inside of the car and screw a nut on the end of the cable just a few threads. You can then return outside and continue trying to line up the top and the cable. The idea here is to have the cable sit just above the bead on the rear of the top and directly over the groove. If you can get this to line up you are doing great. You will then want to slip the other nut onto the other end of the cable (if you have not already done this in the course of trying to line it all up). Using the backup wrench and the ratcheting 10mm put a small amount of tension on the cable. The Physics of tightening the cable to draw the top into the groove are all wrong. YOU WILL BREAK THE CABLE IF YOU TRY TO PULL THE TOP INTO THE GROOVE BY SIMPLY TIGHTENING THE CABLE. Use the end of the wooden clothespin to get the top and cable into the groove, a rubber mallet will help too, but don't tap the clothespin hard enough to tear the top. You can also position the clothespin on the cable, then you have to worry a little less about tearing the top, but it requires more force to seat the cable if you choose this manner. I suggest you start in the center and work your way to each edge. Have your friend keep an eye on it, too, and make sure the top does not go on crooked. Once the entire cable/top/groove system is seated you will need to return to the inside and tighten the 10mm nuts, using the backup wrench, tighten this up until you are worried. The tighter the better, unless you get it too tight and then you have to buy a new one... The sides and rear should all tuck in nicely as you tighten this cable, have your now drunk friend gently use the clothespin to insure it all fits. Now, drink a few Dos Equis yourself, that nut on the cable is a bear. (you should be at 3 beers in about 4 hours so far.)
    Now is the time to close the top. You want to make sure when it latches that it pulls the wrinkles out of the top and looks good. The sides should still be hanging loose at this point. Look at the front of the top, where the bead of the top contacts the windshield frame. You want that bead to be flush and uniform, so get your Phillips screwdriver out and make a few adjustments and see if you can get it to look nice.
    The sides are relatively easy. If you did the rear cable then you can do heart surgery and ice sculpture- the sides should be a piece of cake. Attach the side cables to the front attachment point and then re-assemble the spring tensioner assembly. Refer to your pictures, notes or beer bottle diagrams at this point to ensure correctness.

    Glue time. Get the upholstery glue that you purchased, it should be a strong glue that has a high release point temperature- 3M is good, but avoid their 77 and Super 77. Use a piece of cardboard to shield the interior of your car and spray small amounts of glue to the frame rails. You are applying glue to the part where the seals and seal brackets mount, NOWHERE ELSE. After you apply the glue pull the flaps on the top around the frame and stick them to the glue. Follow the Glue Manufacturers directions in regards to if you should place glue on each piece to be assembled, or just on one. Once you have satisfactorily positioned each of the three flaps you are going to install the seal mounting brackets. These brackets act as a clamp to ensure that nothing flops loose at 75 MPH. You will attach all of the brackets making sure to place them in the correct position and side from which they originally came; NO, they are not all the same. Once you have attached the brackets you will want to use the utility knife to remove the excess material on the inside of the bracket. Taking your time and cleaning up really pays off here, under the hood it doesn't matter too much, but in upholstery work cleanliness counts towards functionality.

    The seals slide into the seal brackets. Using Vaseline or another lubricant is helpful. Silicone spray is always a good bet when trying to lube rubber parts. Take care in replacing the rubber seals, think $$$$. I have seen a used set of these sell for $200+.
    After you have replaced the side rubber seals and are happy with the way the front fit you are going to want to trim the material from beneath the header bar. Take care to not cut through the headliner and really foul things up. You should be able to at this point, close the top and get in the car. You should be able to roll up the windows, and sit in peace within the confines of your car and drink another Dos Equis.

    While you are consuming the adult libation you may notice that you can't see jack out the rear window. This is because the rear window is sitting on the love seat in the family room. You can drive your car at this point and it looks really cool. It appears to be a mix between the European Golf Vans and a Cabriolet.


    The rear window is an easy installation. If you stopped and drove your car for a few weeks like I did then this additional step should take 45 minutes including setup and installation. If you are continuing on then it should be another 30 minutes or so.

    Feel around the rear window to figure out where the frame is, you are going to have to cut a hole inside the dime
  • Vans and a Cabriolet.


    The rear window is an easy installation. If you stopped and drove your car for a few weeks like I did then this additional step should take 45 minutes including setup and installation. If you are continuing on then it should be another 30 minutes or so.

    Feel around the rear window to figure out where the frame is, you are going to have to cut a hole inside the dimensions of the rear frame without getting even the slightest bit out of the lines, I suggest you cut small and then staple. Yes, staple.

    You should cut an X shape through the top within the window frame, you are going to need to make relief cuts in the top material at the corners in order to get it to lie down without wrinkles. THE TOP MUST BE CLOSED AND LATCHED COMPLETELY BEFORE CUTTING OR STAPLING. Be sure to not cut a circle out as this severely limits the amount of material you have left to tug on. You will pull the material taught and then use the electric staple gun to fire staples through the top material into the frame of the window. The frame is wooden if you are wondering, they just paint it black to match the interior. Now that you have stapled all the way around the frame taking care to use at least as many staples as the factory did you are read to pop the rear glass in place. If you have ever installed a wind shield into a gasket type setting then you are used to this. If not, read on.

    Take the rear window gasket and install it onto the rear window. Get a roll of nylon string and wrap the string around in the seal groove at least twice, if not more. If you have never done this before you will be wrapping the string and trying over, so don't fret. If you complete the following steps twice without success drink Dos Equis and then come back to it.

    You have the string wrapped around the seal, so set the window up against the outside of the car. Have your slowly sobering buddy hold it in place. Crawl inside of the car and find the END of the string (not the beginning...), gently pull the string at a 90 degree angle from the plane of the glass. This will roll the lip of the seal in and allow the whole thing to seat nicely. You wrapped the string twice or more so that parts of the gasket do not roll in on the first lap around the window they will have another chance on the next lap. VW windows fit well and this should be easy for anyone who can butter bread.


    You are now finished replacing the top. Congratulations. Send me pictures: [email protected] preferably of each step and the completed deal. Put your tools away and then go inside and apologize to your significant other. You are a touch too tipsy to drive so maybe have a nice dinner at home or have the previously mentioned significant other drive to dinner.

    I hope this helps. If you have problems with my spelling or grammar feel free to make a contribution towards my tuition: Forrest King, 1807 S. Jackson Ave #A, Tulsa, OK 74107.

    Top: World Upholstery, 1-800-222-9577 . Please tell them I sent you. The lady who answers the phone is a RUDE, but the product is amazing and fits perfectly. Better quality than JCWhitney. I paid $218 shipped for a vinyl cabriolet grain top in a custom blue.

    Wrench: Sears. Buy the damn wrench. You will thank me.
  • Sorry this had to be broken up in three sections..too long to post the entire thing.
    My husband found these directions to be very straightforward and easy to follow.
    They replaced the top on our Cabriolet and it really looks nice, very professional.

    Good luck, plan on this taking more than one day.
  • mpls66mpls66 Posts: 2
    Thanks a lot, I appreciate the effort. Hopefully I'll have the same results as you.
  • Hello,
    Iam looking to replace the rag top on a 93 Cabriolet. Are there any recommendations on any brands, cloth vs vinyl. Any help is appreciated.
    Thank you
  • Hope I'm not too late but I just happened onto this site. This past summer I put a new top on my wife's 1997 Cabrio. After much anguish over which top to buy, I settled on a Robbins. Most dealers wanted $400+ for this top but I found a site where I got one for $230, so it pays to shop. I can't say enough about the quality and fit of this Robbins top. It's perfect. Would recommend it to anyone. The Robbins company was very helpful in picking the correct fabric and color.
    Buy a Bentley manual for your car. It will give you very detailed and easy to follow instructions for top replacement besides being a complete shop repair manual. With a digital camera to take pictures of how things fit and some patience and common sense the top went on simply. Be careful, follow directions and as you remove the old top take pictures of how things look.
    Good luck.
  • See post #24. Cloth or vinyl? I did a bit of research on this also and discovered the following:
    Cloth (canvas) looks better.
    Cloth costs nearly 2x more.
    Cloth needs to be waterproofed yearly at least.
    Cloth needs more drying time before it can be lowered.
    Vinyl just needs to be cleaned once in a while and treated with a preserving agent.
    Both have about the same life cycle if cared for correctly.
    Vinyl is a better deal and easier to care for besides being original equipment on my car.
    I chose vinyl. The Robbins company tops look nearly exactly like the original, fit perfectly and are made with original vinyl. There are great tops. You won't be disappointed with the top but you need to install it correctly. A poorly installed top will look bad no matter who made it.
  • Thanks for the reply. could you tell me where you got yours from? thanks
  • I've just got a vw cabrio1998, :shades: almost everything original and working. I'd really like to know how to preserve the top and install sub woofers and amplis... :blush:

  • danas200danas200 Posts: 2
    I just pick up a 1996 CABRIO, it has some damage to the rear trunk cover, but the trunk opened while I was buying it but now I can't get it open! I'm new to VW cars so am having a time dealing with this. my key turns to the left and only halfway to the right. the button push's in without catching hold of anything just air. The rear seat is locked from inside the trunk so no way to enter it that way. I ran it by the guys at VW last night and they tried and failed to find a fix. The key is an after market type if that means anything. I was told to book it into the shop so they have tools to deal with it. Any ideas how to open my trunk? :confuse:
  • hallkanehallkane Posts: 20
    HI -
    The hydraulic motor on my 1999 VW Cabrio GLS convertible power roof must be a goner. I merely clacks when I want to put the roof down.
    I'm trying to get a handle on replacement options and cost.
    Anyone got an idea what the cost of just the part (motor) is?
    Anyone got an idea how involved it is to replace the motor? It seems relatively easy...but the huge VW service manual offers no discussion about the motor.
    We've checked the obvious (fluid on motor is ok, fuses not an issue).
    Or anyone got an idea of what a garage/VW Repair will charge?

    Thanks for any help.
  • vlbjunkvlbjunk Posts: 1
    I just had my car in the VW shop last week for my broken automatic roof on my 2001 Cabrio. I was informed that I was lucky b/c only some lever thingy on the driver's side of the roof was broken. Repair cost = $900!! I was "lucky" because if the entire hydraulic compressor was broken, the repair would be $3,000! Anyway, I asked the guy if my automatic roof could be converted to manual and he told me it could. I was told that there is a release for the hydraulic compression, but I picked my car up, drove it home without checking the top (dumb me) and found that I am not able to push the top down manually. I've been calling the dealership ever since without a return phone call. Service at my VW dealer is horrible! If anyone has info on whether an auto top can become manual, please let me know.
  • My 99.5 Cabrio auto convertertible top went out a few years ago. I did not look too deep into the options of getting it repaired or replaced. I was just glad I had the option to make it manual. Having logged a few years with the top automatic and a few years as top manual I can honestly say I prefer the top in manual mode. This is because you can just disengage the clasps and throw the top back in a 2 seconds vers 25 seconds. Doesnt sound like much but it is to me. The only minus is when it is time to put back up you have to get out of the car then back in to turn the engine off and roll up the windows. I pretty much keep the car in neutral to turn avoid engine on, off again cycle. Take all things into account I prefere manual.
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