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Hoods Published: 28th Aug 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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With apologies to Jerry Keller who had that 1959 hit; “Now let the sun shine bright on my happy summer classic car”. It will – if you look after its hood!

At this time of year a lot of hoods are coming out of winter hibernation from underneath hardtops or out of the garage. If we have a great summer (please Lord!) you’ll be the envy of your street – but be careful the first time you lower the hood. Vinyls, in particular, need to be coaxed out of their slumber. Don’t rush it as it could be brittle to the point where it will split when disturbed.

If your car’s hood is electrically operated, you may want to switch it, if possible, to manual operation on this occasion for much the same reasons. That way you have total control over the speed and force at which it is raised into the fully closed position so can prevent any damage. And this advice holds true to sunroofs, too. Here’s some other words of wisdom to safely go topless this year!

Remember that old adage, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it? The fact is that the longer any roof, be it a hood or a sunroof, is left inoperative, then the more chances there are of it jamming and failing. Open and close it at least once a month to keep the mechanisms free for this summer.

Perspex windows should be given extra-special care lest they crack and tear. One tip is to operate the car’s heater before attempting to raise the hood after winter hibernation so that everything under the hardtop warms up nicely and makes it more supple. That should help prevent any ongoing problems.


Hoods don’t last forever and it’s common for them to require replacing every five or six years, especially if it is made of vinyl (Stayfast and Mohair can last quite a bit longer, which is why they are more expensive). But by treating it with proper care you can make hoods last a fair bit longer. There’s nothing worse than poseurs who buy a convertible and yet drive around during a heat wave with the hood still up. Similarly, there will be days when you will be caught out when the hood has to be put up in the rain – and down again. And this is where the problem starts because you shouldn’t lower a wet hood and certainly not leave it like that over long periods (such as overnight) as it will lead to creasing and shrinking, especially the vinyl types. For this reason the hood should be fully erected to keep the skin tight. Plus dry it off, not simply with a cloth or chamois but with some heat, too if possible, such as a hair dryer. Sounds extreme but it can prolong the life of a hood.


Not literally you understand but certainly carrying one around with you will certainly prolong the life of your classic’s hood. How? By simply folding the hood back and allowing the plastic rear screen to fold against itself or the vinyl cover will lead to creasing and marking. However, a towel separating the screen will prolong its life. Also, many hoods feature a zipped rear screen and many enthusiasts wrongly assume that it’s only for ventilation. Actually, it’s also there to allow the screen to stay flat when the hood is lowered. So use it for what it was designed for.


Not in that sense but if you don’t look after the hood’s frame (or ‘tent’) it can cost you. Regularly inspect it, checking for wear, rust, ageing and deformity. Apply some lubricant on pivots, latches, adjusters etc and work the hood regularly. Don’t go daft here as you can overdo things resulting in oil finding its way onto the hood material and is especially true with aerosol-type lubricants.

If properly looked after, a frame should last virtually the life of the car but on some designs like Porsche’s Boxster and the MGF, the frame becomes a tad lazy. However, a cheap cure is to fit helper straps for around £10.


A tatty hood, like dirty wheels, spoils the look. Don’t use washing up liquid as it contains salt plus some detergents can dry out the skin, so employ a dedicated cleaner. For vinyl, a normal bumper and plastic dressing not only gives it that ‘new’ look but also feeds the top and helps keep it pliant and supple. Fabric hoods such as mohair are best cleaned by first brushing the cover to agitate the dirt before hoovering. It can be washed with mild soap and water, although a specialist cleaner is always best. Actually car care expert Autoglym even says its normal engine cleaner spray works fine here but don’t be tempted to use vinyl cleaner/re-proofer on a fabric/mohair hood or vice-versa.

Another word of caution here for those with mohair hoods: If you want to avoid your top looking as if it has chronic dandruff, don’t use a normal sponge or fluffy/microfibre cloth on it because tiny parts of the sponge/cloth will become trapped in the fibre of the hood and will be practically impossible to remove even after much effort.
But whether your car has a vinyl or mohair roof, never ever be tempted to clean it with a powerful jet wash as you could well do irreparable damage to the fabric and the frame.

If the hood has been neglected and the colour has faded, that too can be simply rectified by using commonly available products to re-dye it. A bit more elbow grease is required but again the results will be pleasing and cheaper than a new hood. As a rough guide, it should cost you around £50 for two treatments a year.

A milky, opaque, plastic rear window need not be a candidate for the bin. You can buy proper renovators for this such as Renovo (see our ad pages) and they work very well and at just over £10 a treatment good value, but we’ve heard of owners also having some success with a mild metal polish like Brasso. You can only go so far before it’s a waste of effort and a new window will be required.


Check the rubber seals around the hood edges to make sure they are sound and undamaged. Wipe with a damp cloth to get rid of any dirt and dust before giving them a light rub over with a silicone lubrication spray. Again, don’t go too mad.

Disconnect the latches and pull the hood back a little to reveal the many exterior nooks and crannies, particularly under the rear window, which accumulate dust and dirt. Best way to tackle these is with a vacuum cleaner extension hose and, for stubborn deposits, a soft brush. Again, don’t be heavyhanded here.

And finally make sure the rainwater rails and drainage holes are clear of any obstruction. One useful tool for clearing the drainage holes is a simple length of plasticcoated curtain wire. Around three metres long, it costs the princely sum of £1.20 from supermarkets.


Unless you cosset your classic or are extremely lucky, there’s a good chance the hood will become damaged. Some repairs can be done at home while others are best left to the pros, but either way the critical thing is not to let damage linger as it will worsen.

Localised repairs can be effected by all sorts of materials; Duct tape (we’ve all see hoods plastered in this), simple material patches which can be stitched, glued with contact adhesive or hot glued – and even tyre puncture repair patches! But like a bike’s inner tube there are only so many repairs you can carry out before it’s best to replace it.

Installing a new hood can be a home job, but we’d sooner entrust the job to an expert as the secret is in making the hood fit tight to the frame to avoid leaks, excessive wind noise and even chance the roof becoming detached at speed.

Bodge the job at home and you may damage the hood and its assembly. Sunroofs, where correct alignment and tension is critical, should be treated the same.

One of the biggest causes of damage is the incorrect use of the hood – perhaps you weren’t shown how to do it properly in the first place? Modern designs, such as the type on MX-5s, are child’s play. Not so older hood designs fitted to the likes of MGBs and Triumph Spitfires however, where if you don’t unclip the rear first of all, it can jam or rip the hood.

So if you are buying a rag top and new to the model, then ask to see how the hood operates – could be that the seller has been doing it wrong all the time and trouble possibly looms as a result!


Much of this feature applies to sunroofs. Ageing vinyl coverings can become loose when they should be almost drum taut. In extreme cases, as happened to us many years ago in an MGB GT, wind can get underneath it at speed and literally peel back the outer cover; it sounds like an engine going bang by the way! Tudor, Hollandia and Webasto were some of the major names when sunroofs were popular back in the 1960s and 70s but parts obtainability can now be hit and miss and it may be easier to have a new roof installed. The same can be said of the glass potholes that became fashionable in the mid 1970s.


This is having your cake and eating stuff, more so with metal roofs as it makes the car an all weather friend. Like normal hoods, trouble can rear its ugly head simply due to lack of use over the winter; always work the hood at least monthly to reduce this risk.

On most designs, the hood folds into a concealed enclosure; with the rear canopy open check the frame and operating links and mechanisms for condition and any hydraulic leaks. Most power hoods are generally very reliable; the only common faults can be a defective motor and lazy operating struts causing the rear of the hood to foul the raised canopy at halfway point. It can cost £3-400 to fix such problems depending upon car, as CM was quoted for a 1996 BMW 3 Series. If this occurs, manually helping the hood by tugging on the frame will get you out of trouble but things will only get worse and a repair will be needed. If you are purchasing a classic so equipped, insist on seeing the hood operate first.

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