Instructions: Removing and refitting a Cariolet hood.
Unless you've had your hood replaced, odds are that the rear screen in your Cabriolet is a bit milky by now. Mine was in tatters, so after getting a few hefty quotes for getting mine fixed (plus they'd need the car for a few days) I decided to do some of the donkey work myself. Happily, a friend of mine has an industrial sewing machine and I managed to get a new bit of window plastic for £20, so he said "Bring the roof and the plastic and we'll sew it in shall we?" If you don't have an upholsterer friend, you'll find the quotes will be less than half than for a full removal job if you bring the hood to them.
So I set about taking the roof off. The good news is that it doesn't need any special tools or expertise. The bad news is that it's quite long-winded and you have to be absolutely meticulous about storing screws separately and generally being very methodical indeed. If you leave something out then odds are you'll have to take half the roof apart again to fix it, and if the roof leaks your relationship will be ruined! It should only take two hours to take it off and another two to replace it though. So here we go:
A doormat, to put on the bonnet for laying tools on.
A wide, blunt flathead screwdriver.
A wide, sharp flathead screwdriver.
A ratchet screwdriver with Posidrive and Allen bits. You could use an old-fashioned screwdriver but there are so many damn screws your arm might drop off! Use an electric one for extra luxury but make sure it has a strong magnetic bit.
Spray-on upholstery glue. Ask at the shop about its temperature tolerance; cars get hot in the summer.
Plastic spring-clips. You know the ones - they're like clothes pegs on steriods.
10 feet of rope or hefty string.
A pair of scissors.
Needle and synthetic thread.
Wash and dry the car. You’ll be rubbing up against it a LOT, and you don’t want to be rubbing grit into the paintwork. And if you're working indoors, sort yourself out with a clip-on inspection lamp. You'll be working in a few dark corners today.
REFITTING: This is broadly the reverse of removal, just substitute "Glue On" with "Prise Off". The spray glue I used was tacky within 20 seconds, which was a blessing A glue that takes longer will significantly slow down the refitting process. This is where your plastic spring clips will come in very handy.
- Remove the 6 screws that hold the leading edge interior plastic trim. Don’t try and disassemble this trim, or remove it from the car. Just leave it dangling from the T-handle, it won't get in the way. Keep these screws separate.
- Under the plastic trim is a full-width metal strip that holds the weather seal on. Remove the screws and gently prise it off.
- Sit inside the car and look up. There are two metal strips that hold the front edge of the headliner in place. Remove them.
- Now get your rope and use it to tie the roof into its ready-to-stow position (both the fromt and rear sections vertical).
- Go to the back of the car. There is a long, wide metal strip (incorporating a rubber seal) along the trailing edge of the cabrio hood. Remove it.
- Use your blunt screwdriver to prise away all the fabric under this metal strip from the frame of the hood. Be careful not to slip and pierce the fabric! When you’re finished, the hood, headliner and frame should all be separate.
- There is a fiddly little screw at each side of the back of the hood now. Their job is to hold the rear back corners of the headliner in place, as well as a couple of tensioning strips. I wish I had a photo! Remove these screws. You have to work your screwdriver a little to get at them.
- Behind the rubber weather seals that cover the rear electric windows are two aluminium strips. Remove them. This job will be made easier if you partially stow the hood. Note that the big shiny screw goes at the bottom, and the hole (not the slot) also goes at the bottom. This will save a little guessing when it comes to refitting them.
- At the bottom of each of these aluminium strips, you’ll see that a metal tab on the frame tucks into a fabric pocket in the bottom corner of the hood. Untuck it from both sides.
- You’ll see that there are now two elasticated strips riveted to the frame that are still holding the hood on here. I chose to cut these with the idea of re-sewing them later. You –could- drill out the rivets but I wouldn’t recommend it.
- Now go to the front of the car. Above the front windows you’ll find another two of those thick aluminium strips. Remove them both.
- If it hasn’t just dropped off of its own accord, you should now be able to un-peel the front weather strip from the hood. Do it.
- Now use your blunt screwdriver to prise all the fabric away from the metal all the way along the front edge of the hood here.
- There are two braided steel cables running the length of either side of the hood, just behind the gutters. Trace them back to the rear part of the hood, remove the Allen screws, and un-thread the cables from the hood. Again, partially stowing the hood will help you get at these.
- Hop into the car quickly and pull the headliner all the way off, starting at the front. It’s on plastic clips, thankfully.
- Running along the top of the hood frame above the driver and passenger seats you’ll see a strip of seatbelty material on either side. Remove the 6 screws from each side that fix it to the roof bars.
- Now take your fat, fresh flat-bladed screwdriver and unscrew the large hinge screws from ONLY the first two horizontal roof bars. There should be six screws in total, as the front bar has two per side to remove. REPLACE these screws after you have removed the roof bars, if you lose them you’re lost!
- Moving rearwards, the hood is glued to the next horizontal bar. Prise the hood material away from the bar.
- Tucked under the headliner on the shoulder piece of the hood (the wide, 4th bar from the front) you’ll find another metal retaining strip. Hop into the back seats, remove it and prise both layers of fabric away from the metal frame.
- VICTORY! You should now have the hood separated, with two of the horizontal roof bars still in it. These didn’t cause a problem for my upholstery guy, as they should fit under the arm of anything but the smallest of industrial sewing machines.
There are some important things to note when refitting the roof. I’ll cover them in reverse order, the numbers refer to the relevant removal step:
19. This retaining strip secures both the headliner and a flap of fabric which is attached to the hood itself. Make sure you get them both.
18. Before replacing these screws, make sure the seatbelty strips are laying on top of the lateral roof bars and not caught underneath.
17. Get your thread-locking compound onto these.
13. Don’t glue this edge back yet. Do it when you get back to Step 3.
11. It’ll be plain from the wear pattern on the aluminium where these were positioned before the screws were tightened at the factory. Make sure they both go back in the same place, or your windows might leak.
10. Sew these strips back together with your needle and thread.
9. Remember to tuck these back in before proceeding.
7. These fiddly screws secure both the headlining –and- a fabric strip, make sure you get them both.
6+5. First, fit the fabric over the metal. Now, raise and lock the hood to fully tension the whole roof assembly. This will pull the rear edge of the hood into its fully seated position on the metal. Line up all the screw holes in the fabric with those in the metal before gluing or screwing anything! Don't be afraid to bash it a bit.
The rest is easy. When you’re finished, raise and lock the hood and then go over your new rear screen for five minutes with a hairdryer and make it nice and warm. This will help you get the right tension and chase away any creases. Finally, leave the car running with the heater flat-out for ten minutes to settle everything in.
All done! I have pictures of most of these steps, PM me if you'd like copies.