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Old 12-18-2014, 04:52 PM   #1
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Default Changing top in the winter

I've got a replacement top I've been meaning to install, but I put it off way too long.

It's friggen cold, but I've got a shop to work in. I don't really have a way to soak the top in the sun to help soften it up, and I likely won't for a few months.

Any advice? Deal with the little bit of snow/water I've got leaking, or try to stretch the thing on? Am I asking for trouble trying to install a top in 65 degree shop climate?

If I can install half the top, I can leave the miata inside with a space heater for a few days, hopefully let gravity slowly work the top out.

I've never done a convertible top before, don't really want to do one twice either!
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Old 12-18-2014, 05:18 PM   #2
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65 degrees will be pretty tough, but doable. I believe 55 degrees is the standard "don't touch it" temperature for the vinyl top, as you risk the vinyl cracking and it's just too difficult to stretch.

Can you crank the heat up for a few hours while you do it?
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Old 12-18-2014, 05:25 PM   #3
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I would, but I've never had my heat turned on before. I'd have to call and get gas service first, kinda trying to avoid that since I've never needed it last year.

I can lay the top out in my little office and run space heaters rather easy, if I get it ~75 degrees I wonder if it will hold heat long enough for me to finish.
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Old 12-18-2014, 05:38 PM   #4
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You'd be amazed at how quickly the vinyl cools down.
Another idea could be renting/borrowing a space heater for the duration instead of dealing with the gaseous company.
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Old 12-18-2014, 05:45 PM   #5
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What these guys are saying - you wanna make sure to get it warm, and install it while its warm, otherwise you're gonna have a heck of a time with it. I was really surprised at how much the typical vynil top expands/contracts from heat/cold.
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Old 12-18-2014, 05:53 PM   #6
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I've installed several vinyl tops with the temperatures cooler than that without too much hassle. Maybe high 40's? You have to be patient and not get pissed off. The only point where it becomes a real PITA was when it came time to close it after complete installation.

I leave some space heaters sitting in the footwells with the windows up, and some weights (small sandbags) on the front bow to help slowly pull the top down as it warmed. Eventually they come down far enough to close.
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Old 12-18-2014, 07:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by deezums View Post
I can lay the top out in my little office and run space heaters rather easy, if I get it ~75 degrees I wonder if it will hold heat long enough for me to finish.
Not a chance. You need the garage to be 75 to get it on the frame if it's vinyl. No chance of stretching it at less then that. You risk tearing window seams much below 55. Either heat that garage up to sauna temps, or gorilla tape the old one and deal with it until warmer weather.
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Old 12-18-2014, 08:12 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by sharkythesharkdogg View Post
I've installed several vinyl tops with the temperatures cooler than that without too much hassle. Maybe high 40's? You have to be patient and not get pissed off. The only point where it becomes a real PITA was when it came time to close it after complete installation.

I leave some space heaters sitting in the footwells with the windows up, and some weights (small sandbags) on the front bow to help slowly pull the top down as it warmed. Eventually they come down far enough to close.
This is the plan to do it easily, letting the heat and weights take care of the initial streching. 65 degrees isn't bad at all though. I think I did my last one when it was about 40 outside.

Also don't forget to adjust your latches out as far as they will go for the first day or so, the new vinyl will be stiff and even with the latches set out as far as possible, it can still be a bear when its cold. You can adjust them enough to seal properly after it isn't drum tight anymore.

Good luck, it isn't too hard, just plan appropriately to give yourself the time and when frustration hits, grab a beer. Haha I think my top was only a 3 beer job, it wasn't bad at all, just take your time.
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Old 12-18-2014, 08:37 PM   #9
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I think I may give it a go, I can leave the miata under cover for a night or two if I need to let gravity and some space heaters work out the last bit of tension. If I get real hung up, I'll try and borrow some of those big propane space heaters.

Thanks guys!
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Old 12-19-2014, 02:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deezums View Post
I think I may give it a go, I can leave the miata under cover for a night or two if I need to let gravity and some space heaters work out the last bit of tension. If I get real hung up, I'll try and borrow some of those big propane space heaters.

Thanks guys!
I found one of the contractor "cannon" heaters for like 30 bucks on craigslist a few weeks ago. I would look around there for a bit.
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Old 12-19-2014, 09:28 AM   #11
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I've never had to use it, but perhaps something like a hair dryer could help soften up the vinyl in specific areas if you're really struggling to get it to stretch over certain mounting points.

Obviously be careful not to melt your ****.
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Old 12-19-2014, 11:22 AM   #12
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Running the car with the windows up and the heater at full blast would help, but you need to be able to get to that stage in the first place.
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Old 12-19-2014, 11:39 AM   #13
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Just leave the car outside in the sun. It's like 72 degrees outside. Sheesh!
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Old 12-19-2014, 11:46 AM   #14
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Reverse the digits and that's the temp here.
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Old 12-19-2014, 11:48 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rleete View Post
Reverse the digits and that's the temp here.
Yeah, I really need to replace the original (albeit cloth) top on my '04, and managed to procrastinate for so long that I'm now gonna have to just hope that it lasts until spring.
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Old 12-19-2014, 03:16 PM   #16
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I am planning on doing mine in my garage this winter. Its CT and the garage gets down to about 50. I think I am going to borrow my dads Torpedo Heater and cook the garage to about 85, LOL. That thing is good for a 3000 sq ft uninsulated house, I swear.
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Old 12-20-2014, 08:28 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sixshooter View Post
Just leave the car outside in the sun. It's like 72 degrees outside. Sheesh!
I used to live not far east of you, kinda miss it this time of year!
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Old 12-21-2014, 09:45 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dustin1824 View Post
This is the plan to do it easily, letting the heat and weights take care of the initial streching. 65 degrees isn't bad at all though. I think I did my last one when it was about 40 outside.

Also don't forget to adjust your latches out as far as they will go for the first day or so, the new vinyl will be stiff and even with the latches set out as far as possible, it can still be a bear when its cold. You can adjust them enough to seal properly after it isn't drum tight anymore.

Good luck, it isn't too hard, just plan appropriately to give yourself the time and when frustration hits, grab a beer. Haha I think my top was only a 3 beer job, it wasn't bad at all, just take your time.
+1
I installed mine last year at around 40, and it wasn't too terrible.
Just let out your latches all the way, set the latch on one side and let it stretch for a bit before you move to the other side, then do the same when you close them.
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