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Volkswagen Cabrio Convertible Top Problems



  • 90k75s90k75s Posts: 1
    OK, here is what I have found so far.... The top does NOT want to move under power. I can hear the motor trying to function. ALL fluid was missing from reservoir. I got the hyd fluid at NAPA (for a quick $23 per Qt). I removed the 13mm bolt in the top of the motor (not a 1/2" but a real 13mm). A small metal funnel was too big to use plus the design of the oil can didn't allow me to effectively use it. The hole in the top to fill with oil is pretty small and I tried a 60cc syringe. I put some in a very small can, draw into syringe, slowly put in reservoir. This oil did NOT like the rubber of the syringe (started to deteriorate, getting harder to use with each draw). I filled it to the full mark. Tried to lower top with power. Motor was running, fluid slowly draining. I was guessing the lines needed to be primed. repeated this three times. Fluid was still draining out each time but would stop when the motor was stopped. Hoses looked good, very good. Felt pliable, no residue came off, no signs of liquid ever being present in area under motor. I will pull spare tire later this week and inspect that area next. I am getting a clymer manual this week to read up on HOW to do this. Also going to junk yard to get broken hoses, drop them by a hyd shop to see if they can replicate them ($40 vs $350 each!!).
  • i have a quick question my top is leaking in the seem between door and top right near the drivers seat i recently cam to my car in the rain and the seat was soaked.

    Anyone have this problem
  • hallkanehallkane Posts: 20
    Yes, our 1999 Cabrio GLS has the same driver's door problem.
    We've tried a few things.
    1. the rubber "tubing" along the top of the door area sometimes folds over so there is not a good seal to keep out water. Keep an eye on it as you close the door. That's one problem.

    2. Another was we found rain runs along the metal cowl (sp?) over the windshield, along the front edge of the convertible top until it finds a place to escape. It was over the driver's door. We have rust in the area of that cowl where water keeps accumulating.

    Good Luck.
  • thank you very much i will check that for rust spot. i will tell you if i come up with a solution :sick:
  • skmikulaskmikula Posts: 1
    I am having the same problem on my 99 cabrio top. I can hear the motor but the top is not moving. Happened yesterday, read how to get it up from the trunk. Is yours fixed and can I do it myself without having to take it in somewhere? I would appreciate any help. Thanks
  • hallkanehallkane Posts: 20
    When we heard the motor click-click-click for the convertible top, and nothing moved, and found it wasn't a fluid issue, and then found it was $800 ish to replace the motor, we did this:
    - in the manual you can "release" something, can't recall right now, to make it a manual top.
    - once in manual mode it was still very very stiff to raise and lower due to the hydraulics still trying to do it's job.
    - then we drained fluids from the motor, and left one of the screws "out" to let the vacuum escape (if memory serves), and that made it much much easier to raise and lower manually. The gist is, even after draining fluids, you still have to let the vacuum escape -- or something...anyhow once that happened it was a breeze to raise and lower. Never tried to replace the motor.
    Good Luck.
  • rhody3rhody3 Posts: 2
    My top went down with a little hickup at the start but would not come back up. No sound what-so-ever. Does anyone know where the fuse for the top motor or the relay switch is located?

  • ClairesClaires Chicago areaPosts: 1,222
    Rhody3, one of our members says there's no fuse associated with the roof motor, but you might find a fix in this group of posts: Re: Replacing 1999 Cabrio Power Roof Motor - Cost? [ambrocked] by hallkane

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  • rhody3rhody3 Posts: 2
    I checked the hydraulic fluid in the trunk and it was fine. I then took off the plastic cover to the motor seeing if there was corrosion or something on the connectors (reset all connections). Low and behold the top started working again. I reassebled the motor and put the top up. A week later same problem, so I disconnected the plastic cover and got it to work OK, so just left the cover off. I can't seem to find where the cover causes a short or disconnect.

    Rhody 3
  • pbeallpbeall Posts: 1
    Have been using Gorilla Tape to keep the top together since the seams split. Worked great..until I went thru San Joaquin Valley during hot daytime...needless to say the glue melted! My question is Canvas or Vinyl for replacement? Don't know how much longer I can afford the car since I'm now on my 3rd transmission . Any help would be awesome. Thank you.
  • I have the same issue, here is what I have found...

    After experiencing similar symptoms, I disassembled the back seat and side panels in order to access the hydraulic rams for the convertible top assembly. I found one of the lines is leaking at the hydraulic fitting on the passenger side ram. I will be removing this line to see if it can be repaired or if a new fitting can be installed. The line, itself, is in great shape and the hydraulic pump works fine. Hopefully I can find a local resource to repair the line/fitting. If you are going to inspect your lines, you will be spending a good amount of time removing the back seat and panel assemblies as well as the trunk carpeting to expose all of the lines. Good Luck!

  • If you are not going to keep the car long, then I would go with the cheaper option for the new top. I'm fixing my Cabrio up for my Step-Daughter so I'm saving money for a decent top. I'm still getting the car back to tip-top shape, but I'm almost there. Question for you though, why are you on your 3rd transmission? Do you drive it like you stole it or do you not get the transmission serviced or have you just had bad luck with it?

  • llg5llg5 Posts: 1
    just bought a used 2001 cabrio yesterday, last nite showing the car to a friend took down the top, then went to put it back up and lo and behold the passenger side hold cable lever not there and the cable just came out!!!!!! car is sitting in driveway not registered so can't take it to a repair place yet. Can the cable just be replaced?????
  • Hey I just want to say thanks catspaw - this post really helped me - I had a window worked on and after that the roof did not work. Your answer saved me a trip back to VW. They must have switched it to manual mode while working on the window and I really did not want to have to shell out anymore $$. So I turned the metal switch to the right and Viola roof closes again automatically.

  • I'm having the same problem.
  • I disagree with the advice that the vinyl top would be a better choice. Mine is a Cabriolet, not a Cabrio, so perhaps the puffier design of the Cabrio is better suited to the vinyl than the relatively rectilinear design of the Cabriolet. . .

    But anyway, I bought my '85 Cabriolet after a freak hail storm (in central Virginia, which normally has lovely weather) had shredded its current vinyl top to feathers. Having already replaced the top once, the owner didn't want to do it again. I was a student, so I never considered getting the canvas top: I installed a brand new vinyl top, doing all the work myself. It was a pain, because I had to do it on a warm day, so that the vinyl would be ductile enough to stretch around the frame--which was no problem--until it cooled off in the Fall and suddenly the vinyl tightened up and my front cross bow began bowing in the opposite direction, so that there was no longer a seal above the windshield. (In the installation process, I also inadvertently bit a couple of holes into the top where I had used towel-wrapped vice grips--to give you an idea of the fragile quality of vinyl during manipulation.) And over the next year, the cheapness of the material really came to shine through, with creases and incidental holes popping up.

    When I finished school, I decided to replace the top with canvas, and it has been worth every penny and the two days of installation. The whole top moves more fluidly--not hindered by the weirdly rigid "fabric"--and there have been no issues with inappropriate tension arising from the canvas like there was with the vinyl; plus it didn't stink like the brand new vinyl does. For all the cost and trouble of having the top replaced, it is decidedly worth the extra $150 to have a high-quality, durable roof on your car. If your transmission is idiosyncratic, maybe your car's on the way to a junk yard (I buy these old cars because the West German engineering and parts are more reliable and easier to repair than contemporary VWs, so I'm at a loss for the overall quality you're dealing with), but if there's any chance that you'll have it for over a year, your best bet is to replace the top properly.
  • nealc1nealc1 Posts: 1
    I have a 1999 cloth top and repaired the split seam on both passenger and driver sides (the glued one between the rear window and the uppermost top) by stitching with a leather sewing awl, a heavy duty sewing machine needle, and some UV resistant black thread. I repaired the seam over two years ago and it is still sound and doesn't leak. If I hadn't tried to glue the seam, it would look almost professional. (The glued seam split and you can see the glue residue that smeared.) Also I didn't have to take the top off the Cabrio to stitch.

    Once you have these items here are some tips.

    -Read the directions on how to use the awl to sew. I replaced the needle and twine that came with the awl with the sewing machine needle and thread since the originals seemed like they would make too big a hole in the cloth wouldn't look good. Check out a local awning, tent, or tarp company for different color threads. UV resistant thread will last longer.
    -You have to be able to get one hand behind the material you are sewing. I was able to do this by lowering all the windows and unfastening the fabric bands that hold the interior liner to the top's metal frame. (The bands are just under the liner by the passenger windows.)
    -Partially open the top to take tension off the material so you will be able to overlap the edges of the seam as they were before the seam split.
    -When I sewed the passenger side seam I reached through the passenger back window with my right arm and held the awl in my left. To sew the driver's side seam I reached with my left arm and kept the awl in my right. With the tension off the roof material you should be able to pierce the top layer of the overlap and use the needle to pull it to properly overlap the under layer.
    -Because of the way you use the awl you'll have to do all of the passing of the thread through the awl loops by feel. I didn't get someone to sit inside and pass the thread because it seemed more trouble than it was worth.
    -I started my stitching at the end of split nearest the side of the car and worked my way up and over the curve of the roof. Begin your stitching in the undamaged section of the seam an inch or so away from where you'll have to pull the two pieces of material together. Finish your stitching about an inch into the undamaged section of the seam.
    -Because access to the interior of the roof is difficult and you probably haven't done this often, expect this to be slow. It's also slow since you want to make small (1/8 inch) even stitches to ensure strength and good looks. The splits in my roof seam were each about 10 inches long, 5 inches on the top portion of the roof and 5 on the vertical side portion.
    -Stitching the first 5 inches probably took me twice as long as entire split on the second split. Overall it probably took me 4 hours to stitch all 20 inches. Be sure to pull both the interior and exterior threads taut for each stitch before going on to the next stitch.
    -Rest assured that you will get knots, tangles, loops, etc in the interior since you are working blind and have to have a fair length of thread to sew with the awl. When this happens I just tied off that length of stitches and began a new series of stitches.

    This wasn't an easy process. I completed the sewing over two afternoons, but given the cost of having someone put a new roof on or take the old one off, repair and replace it, it was well worth it. I was told everything from $800 for a repair to $800 to put on a new vinyl top (not including the price of the top), I think it was well worth the time and effort.

    I'll see if I can figure out how to post some photos.
  • What the chance of sending a pic of the awl and needle or a reference on where one can obtain the awl, needle and thread?

    Much apprecaied...
  • Thanks so much for your detailed instructions! I had concluded that sewing the seams was the answer but wasn't sure what kind of needle and thread to use. ANy pis of the awl and needle would be helpful.

  • I do not usually post anything. But, so many people have the "split seam" problem on convertible tops, I could not resist. There is a very simple fix for most such problems. Use McNetts Seam Seal. You can get it at outdoor stores such as Gander Mountain, Marine supply stores or on-line for about $10.00. This stuff is clear and was designed for such things as tents and backpacks. It will hold up in extreme temperatures and should be stored in a freezer after being opened. For a VW Cabrio, the problem seam is across the top of the rear window continuing down both sides to the body. First put the car in a garage and raise the top to about 45 degrees. The likely separation is probably from near the top to part way down the side. That is caused by the top folding back and forth in that location. With the top part way down you can easily manipulate the separated pieces. Use a cheap artist type small paint brush to paint both surfaces, that have separated, with Seam Seal (Do not get any on the exterior area of the top). Let it set for a couple of minutes, then just fold the pieces together tightly and clamp them together with one inch spring clamps from Lowe's or Home depot, if the separation is short. Continuous clamping is necessary for the repair to look right. If the separation is longer than a few inches you may have to use other clamping methods or do the repair in sections. Let the repair cure overnight. When you put the top up it should look like new. Even better, it will be weatherproof and will last when you put the top up and down. This has worked well for me on a 2002 VW Cabrio GLX.
  • joesfjoesf Posts: 1
    Thanks for the great tip about McNetts. I bought a tube of it at REI and it worked like a charm to fix the split seam on my Cabrio's top :) .
  • Hi dear,
    I believe in your hardworking,and I wont fix hardtop too,almost split complete.
    Please if You can send some picture or where I can buy instructions to take off
    and saw that on professional machine. Thanks,
  • dumkofdumkof Posts: 1
    I am currently troubleshooting my hydraulic leak problem on my 99 cabrio.

    I have my rear seat and the carpet in the trunk. I have remove the screws and clips to remove the rear side panels but I am having trouble removing them. I do not want to damage the panels so is there a book or someone to explain the removal process.

    Thanks so muck

  • reyes271reyes271 Posts: 1
    I have 1999 VW Cabrio. Hydraulic pump on the convertible top is leaking under the passenger side, what do I do?I have a 99 VW Cabrio. The hydraulic pump for the top is leaking under the passenger side. What can I do to fix this? Can you change it from an automatic top to a manuel?
  • hallkanehallkane Posts: 20
    Greetings. The motor for my 99 GLS (cloth top) convertible died a few years ago. Luckily for me, it did not leak. Yes, you can convert it to a manual convertible top. I had to drain the hydraulic fluid out of the motor, and leave out the "plug screw (?)" in order to raise and lower the top. Putting the plug in made the pistons work too hard. Now, (without the plug or fluid) it can be raised and lowered by one person. My 19 year old daughter, now the principal driver, does it all the time. Good Luck!
  • fowveyfowvey Posts: 2
    My 1999-1/2 Cabrio GLS just developed a similar problem--
    --Roof motor will NOT retract roof (only a clicking sound of motor running)
    --Roof motor WILL raise roof without problems

    Any chance this could be an issue with the hand brake not indicating that it's set?
    Any chance that there's an electrical fix that doesn't involve replacing the roof hydraulic motor?
    Any other ideas that would lead to a less expensive fix?

    At least I now have the top in manual mode and can put it up/down by hand.

    Thanks for any assistance.
  • hallkanehallkane Posts: 20
    Hi Fowvey-
    Wish I could offer more help. Worth it to check handbrake issue. Sounds logical. You might get lucky. Your problem sounds different than mine. I had my local VW Mr-Fix-it to investigate my problem, verify motor issue and provide a quote for replacing it. That's when the $800+ parts price tag arrived and decision to live with manual operation. Junk yard could offer no help for part.

    Just looked in my VW Repair book for you (Bentley Publishing), could find nothing detailing parking brake link to convertible top motor. Sorry.
  • fowveyfowvey Posts: 2
    Thanks Hallkanea...I appreciate the response.
    I'll keep looking into this and let everyone know if I figure it out.
  • lauryn_flauryn_f Posts: 1
    I have a vw cabrio and we are looking for a convertible top motor. We have been unsucessful in finding one and we need it within the month. Please help!
  • You can find the convertible pump motor on eBay. You can also find the hydraulic rams on there to. If you hear the pump running when trying to activate your convertible top, and nothing happens, check to make sure you have enough fluid in the pump. If its low, you will need to find the leak.
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