Tech Column by Paul Reinmann

SOFT TOP REPLACEMENT

So, this top replacement was actually done by a shop in Wilmington. If anyone wants to know how to do it yourself there are lots of videos on the Miata Forum. Most admit it takes over 20 hours with no prior experience. Mine took two hours; one hour to drop the car off and one to pick it up…

I decided my 2008 Miata was ready for a top replacement when I had patched many spots on my original vinyl top and then when removing a leaf at the rear edge, put my thumb nail partially thru the fabric. This showed me how degraded the material was. While it still did not leak during rain I decided to replace it now before it did.

First I visited my trusty Miata Forum for tips, not just how to replace the top but for the right materials too.

I chose to use a cloth top instead of vinyl mainly to give it a try. It will require treatment with water repellent every 6 months or so using a

product called 303 Fabric Guard or equivalent. Some people I talked to said that a cloth top was better at opening and closing in cooler weather than vinyl. I read differing opinions. Some said Robbins was the best while others liked EZ Top better. Upholstery 1 Trim told me they use both and didn’t see a difference. I think mine is a Robbins top.

I don’t have indoor space and replacement takes a few days, so I decided to use a local shop. I contacted four shops with prices ranging from $1,300 – $1,800. All these shops are experienced in this work, so no first timers. I chose Upholstery 1 Trim located in Dutch Square in Wilmington. When I asked them how many Miata tops they have done they asked: “In this year?” They have done about 10 just this year and have been in business 30 years.

I dropped the car off on a Monday morning and they had it done the next day at 3pm. All looked good and they cautioned me to not open the top for 2-3 weeks because the cloth material needed to stretch out. I did wait two weeks. When opening the new top it was a bit tight, but not so bad closing. I assume it will loosen a bit more over time.

While the replacement was at the half way point I visited their shop to clean my rain drains and take some pictures. They allowed me in and also let me use their shop vac. My rain drain areas have a blue filter material installed by Stevenson Mazda. This was required when I experienced problems with a soggy trunk and interior floor areas which were caused by rain drains clogged with tree debris. Apparently the previous owner parked the car under trees. These drains were filthy dirty. I removed these filters and ran a coronet brush down the drain tubes as far as I could. The brush wasn’t long enough to poke out the bottom. I have heard a trombone brush is the

thing for this job. Anyway, we blew compressed air down the drains and also vacuumed all around the drain areas before reinstalling the filters.

They finished the installation and water tested the top area prior to calling me to pick her up. All done in little over a day and a half. So far it has been a month now with no problems. Please see the pictures showing drain location. The big area circled is the whole drain on the right side. The smaller circle is the top of the drain tube.