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Convertibles are iconic and classic vehicles, associated with warm weather and a carefree, luxurious lifestyle. There’s nothing like cruising down the coast with the top down while your favorite tunes are blasting, the wind is blowing through your hair, and the smell of saltwater is all around you.
That is of course if you can get your top down. Every convertible owner can relate to that moment when they flip the top switch only to realize they’re suddenly in need of convertible motor repair.
So what happens next?
Keep reading to learn more about the most common convertible top motor issues, how to troubleshoot them, and where to go when you’re in need of a convertible motor repair specialist.
Let’s Look Under The Hood with European Motors…
Convertible Top Motor 101
Whether you drive a VW, BMW, or a Audi convertible, your convertible top motor serves one purpose. That purpose is to help raise or lower your convertible’s top. While that sounds simple enough, there’s a bit of physics involved.
The convertible motor is attached to a pump and is fitted in the trunk of your convertible. The motor drives the pump which is also attached to a hydraulic fluid reservoir at its opposite end. There are also two cylinders mounted to both sides of your convertible. The pump is what pushes the hydraulic fluid to lift the cylinders to move the convertible’s top.
Convertible motor pumps typically generate pressure between 300 and 450 psi, allowing for the slow and steady release of your convertible top. There are also rubber grommets attached to the pump to secure it as well as provide cushioning to minimize the noise.
So, when the convertible top motor switch is turned on, it begins to power the pump. The pump begins to pressurize the hydraulic fluid, pushing it towards the top and then the bottom of the cylinders. When closing the convertible top, the fluids are pushed in reverse from bottom to top. Once the convertible top is fully closed or open, the hydraulic fluid flows back to the reservoir.
Of course, when the convertible top motor is damaged, the movement of the top will be affected. For example, the top may become stuck while opening or closing. In some cases, it may not even move at all. Usually, when this happens, it’s time to call a convertible motor repair specialist.
The Most Common Convertible Top Issues
Fortunately, there are only so many things that can go wrong with your convertible top. Unlike your car’s engine or heating and cooling system, there’s only a handful of moving parts to account for. If you’re dealing with convertible top issues, chances are, it’s one of the following:
The Top Is Moving too Slow
There are several reasons why your convertible top is moving like a glacier. Your lift cylinders may be worn out, you could be low on hydraulic fluid, there might be air in the lines, or your convertible top motor could be on its way out. There’s also the possibility that the cables attached to the motor and pump mechanism have become entangled or bound.
Another culprit is a weak car battery. Of course, if your car battery is the problem, you’ll notice issues in other areas of your car, especially during startup.
The Top Won’t Raise or Lower
If your convertible top won’t raise or lower, it’s likely because the pump is broken, damaged, or not getting enough power. Pump issues usually crop up if your relay fuse has gone bad, your motor switch has gone bad, or you have a misaligned or broken hinge.
The Top Won’t Go Down at All
If you can’t get your convertible top to go down, or even move, you may have a burned-out motor. Other causes for this include a bad limit switch, low hydraulic fluid levels, or damaged hinges and linkage arms.
The Top Gets Stuck
If your convertible top gets stuck mid-opening or closing, it could have something to do with any of the issues listed above. Additionally, it could be due to a broken or damaged cable or one or both lift cylinders.
The Beck Lid Won’t Open
The beck lid is what covers your convertible top once it’s been put down. Think of it as the storage space for your top. Not every convertible has one, however.
If your beck lid won’t open to allow the top in or out, it’s likely due to a bad limit switch. The culprit may also be low hydraulic fluid levels, a defective deck lift solenoid, and a broken or damaged pump.
Convertible Motor Repair: How to Troubleshoot
To round off the most common convertible top issues, here are the most common underlying problems that cause them:
- A bad motor switch
- A broken or damaged pump
- Worn-out lift cylinders
- Blown fuses or a bad relay
- Binding cables and mechanical parts
- Low fluid levels
If you’re looking to troubleshoot your convertible top problems, you likely already know how to locate and check each component. If you’re unfamiliar with your convertible motor setup, you’ll want to head directly to your dealer or specialist to diagnose and repair the problem.
For in-depth troubleshooting of your convertible top motor problems, you’ll want to have a digital multimeter and some lithium grease handy. For basic troubleshooting, here’s what you’ll want to take a look at in order:
- Fluid levels. Low hydraulic fluid is the number one cause of some significant convertible top issues. Check the level of the fluid and check for leaks due to aged seals.
- Limit switches. You’ll find limit switches all over your convertible. The one you want to zero in on is the limit switch for the trunk divider. When this switch fails, it’ll stop your convertible top from working completely. Check for corrosion, detachment, and any signs of damage.
- Hydraulic pump. It’s more than possible that your pump will fail, eventually. When evaluating the state of your hydraulic pump, you’ll also want to check the fuse and relay first. If they’re fine, then the issue is your pump.
- Lift cylinders. Lift cylinders wear down over time, especially with excessive use. Assess the state of your lift cylinders and make sure they’re not leaking. If your convertible top moves slow, and your cylinders are worn down or leaking, you’ve found the problem.
- Rust. Always check for and eliminate any rust you find. When left alone, rust can and will ruin your vehicle.
Topping of your hydraulic fluid and replacing relays and fuses are manageable tasks. The rest is best left up to a convertible motor repair specialist to avoid risking further damages.
Convertible Motor Repair in Los Angeles
Your convertible top motor is probably the most overlooked mechanism in your car. However, it should be given the same care as every other moving part if you want it to continue to work properly.
We’re all for getting the job done yourself. However, not every car is designed for at-home tinkering. This is especially true for European cars such as VW, Audi, BMW, Porsche, and so on.
If you’re in need of convertible motor repair in the Los Angeles area, don’t hesitate to contact us right away. Our auto repair shop has been serving the LA community faithfully for 100 years, and our certified specialists have the skills, experience, and the finesse to provide you with outstanding service.