Troubleshooting Convertible Top Problems DIY Guide

Owning a convertible vehicle can be fun and exciting until you start experiencing problems with the convertible top. One day you press the top switch in the center console and nothing happens. diy convertible top problem switch not working doing anything

The convertible top won't go down. If you are lucky you may be able to open convertible top by pressing the switch several times. 

This article, we will show you how to troubleshoot some of the most common convertible top problems. Convertible tops can seem complicated, but the hydraulic system is very simple regardless of what make and model you have.

convertible top mechanism repairAll hydraulic convertible top system function practically the same, no matter if you own a Mercedes-Benz convertible or a Mazda, Chrysler, Toyota, Porsche, BMW or Lexus.  

To pinpoint the problem and fix it properly takes patience and requires some knowledge of how convertible tops work.

Common Convertible Top Problems

  • Convertible top won't open or close
    • Can be caused by a bad fuse, relay, top motor, lift cylinder etc. Read this article to find out. 
  • Convertible won't move or gets stuck
    • Broken cable or lift cylinder
  • Convertible top won't go up / down
    • The same causes as described above.
  • Convertible top moving very slowly
    • Often caused by a weak lift cylinder.
    • It can also be caused by binding or convertible motor failing. 

If a convertible system may seem complicated at first, don't let fear stop you from carrying a few basic troubleshooting steps yourself.

This troubleshooting guide provides instructions and detailed steps that you can follow if you are experiencing problems with your convertible top. If you have any tips that we may have missed, please add them in the comments section to help future readers.convertible top lift cylinder

Top 5 Convertible Issues

Let's look at the most common problems that cause the convertible top to operate proper. 

  1. Defective bad switch,
  2. Convertible top motor (pump),
  3. Weak lift cylinders
  4. Binding in the mechanical parts,
  5. Blown Fuse or bad relay

convertible top lift cylinderIf you can't get your convertible top to go ur or down double check the instructions in the owners manual. 

Next, perform a visual inspection of the top to make sure there are no fluid leaks or broken cables. 

Troubleshooting Convertible Top Problems

To troubleshoot your convertible top problem, we assume you already know how to locate and check fuses, relays, convertible top components such as lift cylinders, convertible module, and pump.

If you are having trouble finding these parts visit your dealer; most dealership parts departments are kind enough to print the convertible top diagram for free. 

Required Tools: 

Trunk Compartment Divider

Make sure to pull the divider from its stowed position and hook the pins into the designated brackets.

The trunk compartment divider is there to ensure that there is enough room to lower the top into the trunk. The convertible top won't operate unless the compartment divider is in the correct position. 

One of the main problems that can prevent the convertible top from going down, is the micro-switch that detects if the compartment divider is pulled/engaged. convertible top switch not working stopping top from going up

The switch for the cargo divider fails frequently. Use a multimeter to test this switch.testing convertible top microswitchIf you find that the switch has failed to replace it with a new one. These switches are very inexpensive and can be purchased from your dealer or online. 

Watch this video on how to test convertible switches using a digital multimeter

Check convertible top fuses and relay

check convertible top fuse

Checking the fuses is easy and you can complete this step yourself. Locate the fuse box and look for the convertible top fuse.

Depending on the model, the fuse box is located on the side of the dashboard or under the hood in the engine compartment.

Pull the convertible top fuse. If the fuse is blown replace it and check if your convertible will operate normally. If the fuse is ok, check the relay. The relay can not be inspected visually, but there are ways to test them.

One trick that you can try is to locate an identical relay in the fuse box (keep note which system it serves) and swap it with the convertible top relay. If the relay and the fuse are not the problems, move to the next step. 

How to check fuses

Check convertible fluid level

convertible top motor pump

A considerable number of convertible top problems are caused due to low hydraulic fluid level. If the level drops below the MIN the convertible top will either not operate at all or move to slowly, not close or stop halfway.

Locate the convertible top motor. In most convertibles, it is located in the trunk behind the lining. Also, check near the spare tire or behind the rear seats.

If you look at the fluid reservoir, you should see a MIN and MAX on the side. MAX in some cases is not marked because it is the same as the fill hole. You can't fill them past the filler hole since the fluid will leak out, which is by design. 

If the fluid level is too low the convertible pump operation completely to protect the motor and the hydraulic system components. In some cases the pump does work but air may be introduced into the hydraulic lines.

In return, not enough pressure will be built-up to operate the convertible up and down. If you suspect there is air in the system operates the convertible top three to five times in order to get the air out of the lines. Check the level again. 

Check Convertible Pump Operation

convertible top latch

The following video shows a convertible top motor running. Pay attention to how the pump sounds. While the pump is running the hydraulic system has air trapped in the lines.

Also, this system has a major hydraulic fluid leak, and for that reason, the level drops below the MIN mark. As the level drops the convertible struggles to move up and down. 

 

Check the operation of the convertible pump motor. Turn ignition on but engine off and press the convertible top switch to retract the top.

Check cylinders for fluid leaks

soft top won't go down

Another common reason why convertible tops fail to operate is due to leaks at convertible lift cylinders.

The hydraulic cylinders move the hardtop or soft-top up and down. They have seals and o-rings that shrink and crack due to age.replacing convertible top lift cylinderWhen this happens, they start to leak and over time the convertible top fluid drops below the required levels and the convertible stops working.

You can visually inspect all the cylinders for leaks by manually opening and closing the convertible. convertible hard top won't go up downAt first the leaks will be minor but over time they will get worse and you will eventually see leaks on the trunk floor or a stained convertible top.

Have a friend help you during this process so that the top doesn't fall on you. 

Find out how many cylinders operate your convertible top. Inspect all of them carefully for any fluid seepage.

Convertible top leaks are quite obvious but in the early stages, they may difficult to locate. By the time your convertible top stops working, the leaks should be easy to identify. 

Inspect the hydraulic lines. Make sure they are tightly connected.leaking o ring lift cylinder top going up down slowlyThe hoses should not be cracked or leaking. Address any leaks that you may find at the pump, cylinders, or solenoid.

Replace any damaged or leaking o-rings. 

installed o ring in lift cylinder

You can get an o-ring assortment kit online and replace any damaged gaskets.

Lift cylinder gaskets can't be replaced easily and either need to be replaced or be sent to a shop that does convertible top repairs.replace damaged leaking top lift cylinderThey can often refurbish them. 

If you have a very minor leak you may be able to get away with just adding hydraulic fluid. Make sure to use the recommended fluid and don't use brake or power steering fluid if not approved by the manufacturer.

One of the most commonly used convertible top fluids is the Pentosin CHF 11Show to fix convertible top problems

Verify that convertible top motor is getting power

Use a digital multimeter to check the lines feeding the convertible top motor. Every time you press the convertible switch, you should read between 11-13 volts at the pump.

If you are not getting any current at the hydraulic motor, you may have an electrical problem or a defective switch. 

Inspect the micro switches

top won't go open close when pressing the switch

There are between 4 and 10 micro-switches installed in your convertible required to run your top. If one of them fails your top will stop working. 

Check for binding

install lift cylinder

The last step is to manually operate the convertible so that you can inspect it. Look in your owner's manual for the instructions on how to operate the convertible top manually.

Almost all convertibles tops can be operated manually if the automatic top operation fails.

Operate the convertible top up and down a few times and inspect for binding as you do this. You may find that there may be a bent arm or a broken cable that is stopping the top from operating properly. 

Make sure that joints that move are lubricated. Excessive friction can overload the pump which in return can cause the convertible top fuse to blow.

Check the hinges and linkage and compare the left and right side.lubricating convertible top links jointsMake sure they are aligned properly. There shouldn't be any loose linkages or broken cables. lubricate convertible top

Apply lithium grease on the joints, pivot points and cable. spray liquid grease on pivot joint

Conclusion

We hope that this guide helped you troubleshoot your convertible top problems. If your top won't work properly you need to identify if the problem is mechanical, hydraulic or electrical related.

Follow the steps in this guide to eliminate some of the most common convertible top problems.

In the majority of cases, convertible top problems are either causes due to electrical problems or low hydraulic fluid level caused by a leak. 

check cableKeep in mind that the Power Top Control Module (PTCM) (Convertible Top Control Unit) monitors and controls lowering and raising of the convertible top.

A series of micro-switches verify that operations are complete before allowing the next stage of lowering or raising operations such as deck lid unlock, convertible top fold, deck lid open, deck lid close. 

Hydraulic convertible systems use the same principle regardless if you drive Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Porche, Lexus, Mustang, Chrysler, or Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Let us go over the list of most common convertible top problems:

  • Low Hydraulic Fluid Level
  • Failed convertible top pump/motor
  • Broken or bend top armor cable
  • Low fluid level in the top pump reservoir
  • Poor Ground Connection
  • Air in the System
  • Weak Cylinders
  • Defective micro-switches

Buying Convertible Top Parts

Don't spend a fortune on convertible top parts. If you need replacement convertible top parts,  you can find new and used convertible top parts online at a fraction of dealer prices.

We would recommend searching the following site for cheap convertible top parts 

FAQ

best lubricant for convertible topThis is typically due to a weak motor or worn out convertible top cylinder. To confirm this, have a helper aid the convertible top as you try to make the convertible top go up. Don't need to push the convertible top very hard just provide a little bit of help during the operation and your convertible top will most likely close.

Reset Convertible Top Module These instructions vary depending on the make. Turn the Ignition Switch OFF and then ON 5 times with a 10-second pause between each ignition cycle. Clear all Power Top Control Module DTCs

 

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check the convertible to fluid level

Comments

Behram, 2017-06-16

My convertible top on my Mercedes CLK had stopped working. It turned out to be convertible top fluid. Added fluid and now it is working. The system has slow leak somewhere but I would rather live with that instead of spending thousands to fix it.

joebo07002, 2019-07-04

Do you know where the leak is?

This is long post but very helpful. I have a SLK320 right now that the convertible doesn't work. The pump does not run at all.
Visitor, 2018-04-20

I have a Merc SLK 320 convertable 2001 model and Im having trouble with the trunk closing when the soft top roof is fully opened, it will close when I fold the roof down, has anybody got any idea as to what it could be, appreciate any help Thankyou

Dewayne , 2018-05-19

On my 2007 CLK 350.. The top will go back & retract in the compartment, but the top cover lid won't go down to cover the top. The dash says, the partition needs to be close, but I can't open the trunk because the top cover is in the way.

Ms.BMW, 2018-05-21

Good morning all, I have a 2008 328i convertible BMW. I was super excited when I purchased this car. I've had the car for year now and yesterday was the first time I experienced this problem. I was putting the top down to enjoy the beautiful weather and it stopped in mid air...like everything was open put I couldn't get it to go up or down completely. After about 15-20 mins it went back up like normal. .. Thus of course silly me thinks it's back to normal and proceed to put it down again. Of course we know the outcome...stuck again. This time when I get it back up. I noticed that only the passenger side went completely in and the driver side isn't completely close as it should be. . I inquired some information on that and was told to wait about an half hour and try again... worse mistake . Now the top is stupid in the air, windows are stuck down as well and can't open the trunk. Of course all this happened on a Sunday after hours.. Had to go and buy a car cover, only have driveway, no garage.😣😣😣😥😥😥😥... If anyone can help please, it would be greatly appreciated. I haven't tried anything about. So I will try that first, the fuse,etc... Hopefully it can be fixed with just changing the fuse. Thanks for reading and if I find a solution I will posted in case someone else needs it!!

If your convertible operates then it stops, I don't think you have a fuse problem. If it was a fuse issue, the top will not move at all.

The first thing that I would check is the convertible top fluid reservoir. If it is low, add to bring it between the min and max level.

My guess without looking at your car is that it is either low on fluid or that the master cylinder has failed. If the cylinder has failed, you will need to replace or rebuild the cylinders. A new convertible top cylinder can be purchases from your dealer. If you are looking for a cheaper fix, look a company that rebuilds convertible top cylinders. You will need to remove your cylinder and mail it in for repair. I can't think of any specific copany off the top of my head but I would simply search on eBay. Many companies sell the service there.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=convertible+top+cylinder+reapir+&_sacat=0&_blrs=spell_check

 

Good luck and I hope your system is just low of fluid. A compatible BMW convertible top fluid used on many models

Pentosin 1405116

 

 

Jennifer, 2018-05-21

I have a 2005 VW Beetle convertible, the top will go all the way down until it's time to hook the stop down. But it won't go back up either. If I let it set for several hours it will go up. It's very agrivating

I have a 2012 e550 amg convertible. My husband has checked all fuses, relay switches, the switch that controls the top, hydraulic fluid leaks, and trunk pull down switch. How can we find out if it is the computer or the motor? We do not hear any noise when ignition is on and the car not running. The convertible top motor not making any sound at all. Thank you so much.

If you don't hear anything from the motor then you may have a bad switch, relay, convertible top module or bad convertible top motor.

You need to get the car scanned with star diagnostics scanner. Have you done that yet? 

Regarding the switch, leaving the trunk open or the partition not in proper placement it shows on the dash that it is aware when he hit the switch. He has moved relay switches and fuses around and still no luck. Please tell me more about how to tell if it is a module. And we were wondering if it were the motor or computer. Please tell us how to achieve this Star test?

Star diagnostics scanner is the tool that the dealer uses. Some mb mechanics have it as well. You can even get one yourself but it takes some time getting used to it. 

From what you describe the convertible top module is at least responding so that may not be the problem. I am leaning towards the motor being bad but of course you need a good scanner to try activate and test it.

You are welcome. Please consider posting a comment on this when you sort out the problem as it can help others in the future.

Good luck! 

LEONARD , 2019-06-04

AFTER OPENING HAND ROTATOR LOCK WINDOWS CLOSE AUTOMATIC TOP WILL START SEQUENCE OPEN BUT STOPS MID MOTION IT WILL ONY START AGAIN IF I CYCLE KEY SWITCH OFF-ON IT TAKES 9- 10 TRIES WITH SAME KEY CYCLE THING THEEN PUSHING DOWN SWITCH. BUT TOP DOES OPEN AND ALL OTHER TOP FUNCTIONS WILL COMPLETE IT DOES THE SAME THING WHEN COLSING WITH MULTIPLE KEY SWITCH CYCLES FOLLOWED BY TOP UP SWITCH PUSHBUTTON PRESSED BUT WILL EVENTUALLY CLOSE AND REAR WINDOW WILL LOCK

Joe007002, 2019-07-04

without operating, the convertible top's hydraulic fluid is leaking as seen by the oil puddle behind left rear tire. filled the reservoir and without operating the roof, it continues to loose fluid after about 2 weeks. Could it be the reservoir is leaking or somewhere else...and when not in operation, are the lines still under hydraulic pressure?

Mike Kelly, 2019-08-06

Hello, I had a bad hydrolic motor and have a replacement. I am unsure on how to get the hydrolic lines out of the motor. I am just not sure if they simply pull out or do they have to be unscrewed?

Thanks for any info you can provide.
Mike

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