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How To: Convertible top replacement (Long!)

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  1. #1
    Junior Member traumadog's Avatar
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    2004 Pontiac GTO/Monaro

    How To: Convertible top replacement (Long!)

    Just did this on my Camaro - figured I'd post a how-to.

    Replacing a Camaro/Firebird convertible top

    Items needed:
    Phillips screwdriver
    4mm hex wrench/Allen key
    10mm socket (6-point preferable)
    T50 Torx socket/bit
    Large flat screwdriver or straightedge
    Large staple gun, with 3/8” and 1/4” staples (I used Arrow T50 #506 and #508)
    Sharpie pen, crayon/chalk

    It’s also best to keep track of where the screws go – they are different throughout the top

    Removal:
    1) Disconnect battery.
    2) In trunk on driver’s side, turn the top pump valve fully clockwise (should be about ¼ turn).
    3) Unlatch top, push back about halfway. Top mechanism will be stiff, but moveable.
    4) Fold the rear seat flat.
    5) Remove the inner rear quarter panels – you will need the T50 Torx for the seat latch bolts. There is also a screw outboard of the front seat belts, only easily accessible with the top folded back. Once those two are out, the panel can be rotated upward and forward – just be careful of the quarter-panel light connector inside.
    6) Lower the top again – but you don’t have to latch it. It will be easier to get to the rear bolts, etc.
    7) At rear of car by each side of the window, remove the two short Phillips screws holding the back of the headliner in place. If you have a defogger grid, also disconnect the wires and pull them out of the top.
    8) There will be a set of 10mm nuts holding the back of the top to the rear of the car. This strip runs to just behind the door on each side. Some of the bolts are hidden by trim pieces. You can remove them – I just bent them out of the way.
    9) Dislodge the rear strip (known as bow #5 in the parts diagrams) This will pop free – but may be a bit tight to get out. It’s easier to do the center from inside, while the sides are easier from outside.
    10) Push up the top halfway. Remove the weatherstripping from both sides – the top piece pulls right out (it’s just glued), while the rear piece has a screw at the bottom, underneath the black triangle trim.
    11) There is an additional screw holding the top fabric next to that one, under the black triangle trim. You can remove that one now, too.
    12) The weatherstrip holders are held on with long screws too – three for each piece above the window, four along the back.
    13) The headliner door trim is held on with three smaller screws – remove those.
    14) The inner headliner to header bow trim is held on by screws as well. Once that is loose, the headliner will come down. It’s also clamped/clipped on to the next two bows – they just pop off. The rear edge of the headliner is held on in a channel, and can’t be removed as easily. I left it to the end.
    15) The sides of the headliner (sail panel, next to the door glass) are held on by Velcro/snaps. That can be undone, as well as the pair of short screws up by bow #3/#4 at the top.
    16) The black triangle trim can be removed by reaching inside the sail panel behind the piece, and undoing the two 4mm Allen screws that hold it on.
    17) The top itself can be removed from the back, going forward. I left #5 bow attached to see where the rest of the parts fit. #4 bow can also be detached with a pair of short 4mm Allen screws on each side. Note, the rear window and the back of the headliner are attached to #4 bow via tongue and channel. I popped one side of the headliner free (the last attachment is down by the mechanism hinge deep in the quarter panel – kept in by a pushpin) and pulled it out sideways from the channel.

    Note: if you can do this without pulling that headliner pushpin out, do so. It’s a pain to put it back into place.

    18) There is a reinforcement (looks like nylon belt webbing) stapled to bow #4 and running forward. Mark this location and remove the staples to it to free the bow.
    19) Once the top is past #3 bow, you should see the top cables in place on each side, above the windows. Undo those (sometimes one, sometimes two) screws holding it in place. The top also has tongues of fabric glued to #3 and #2 bows. This can be peeled off.
    20) At the front edge of the header bow, undo the screws holding the front plate in place. At this point, the front is glued on – peel that off, and the top should be free. I left the top cables attached to the header bow.


    Replacement:

    I marked all of the locations of the fabric under-pieces, reinforcements, etc using a sharpie on bows #5 and #4 before removing the top from them. It makes it easier to re-staple them in place later. The new top should have extra fabric sewn to it which will attach to the bows in some way.

    1) Remove/replace rear window in channel on bow #4.
    2) Staple the tongue of fabric at the back of the top cover to the top of bow #4 using the short staples. Be sure to center the top to the bow. Also, there’s a reinforcing side piece that also has to be stapled to bow #4 on each side of the top. This side piece has some elastic attached to them to keep the top down over the window.
    3) Measure the length of the old rear window to gauge the length on the new one. Staple the new rear window to bow #5. Be sure to keep this centered as well. Also, trim the rear window fabric some to clear the slots.
    4) Staple the rear sides of the top to bow #5 – it’s best to start from the front and work backwards, keeping the fabric tight. Also, be sure to staple the bottom part of the reinforcing side pieces along with the rear window. Expect parts of the top to be thicker – by the front corners as well as where the layers overlap. Here you will need the longer staples.

    Note: I started the fabric about ¼” back from the bow end to keep it from wrinkling on mine. Fabric patterns might differ slightly. Also, trim where the slots are here as well.

    5) Once that’s in place, the assembly goes back to the car. Reattach bow #4 using the pair of 4mm Allen screws. I put the rear headliner channel back into place here too.
    6) Working from back to front, reattach bow #5. It may take a bit of work to get the bow back on the studs.
    7) Re-staple that heavy nylon strap reinforcement to bow #4. Lower the top, but don’t latch it. Make sure everything is snug, not tight.
    8) Slide the top cables along the sleeves in the part of the top above the windows, and secure the cables in place w/ its screws.
    9) Lay the top out over the rest of the frame. Pull the sides down behind the windows and you can pop one screw in to hold the fabric down. (This is the one under the black triangle trim.)
    10) With the top down, fold over and mark the front edge of the top on the fabric.
    11) Raise the top again. You can reglue the top into position at this point (I just used the screws and plate to hold it in place. Be sure to pull the top an additional 1/4 to 1/2” or so past the mark you made, to get the top tight. Once all the screws are in place, you can lower the top again. Check to see if the top is tight.
    12) The tongues on the top fabric then can be re-glued to bows #3 and #2 – I just held them in place with the headliner clips.
    13) Replace the headliner, first with the screws between the sides of bows #3 and #4, then the rear screws, then the clips going forward. Replace the headliner/header/door trim pieces (all three) to finish that off.
    14) Raise the top halfway again. Be sure the top material is tight enough in place along the vertical part of the top. Trim holes for the screws along the back of the window. Replace the black triangle trim with the 4mm Allen screws. Replace the weatherstripping channels as well. The rear weatherstrip channels will also help to hold the top in place.

    Note: if you’ve been having problems with window sealing, you can shift the weatherstripping channels a little outward – the screw holes are slotted.

    15) Once the weatherstrip channels are in place, replace the weatherstrip. I used a large flat-bladed screwdriver to push the weatherstrip into the notches holding it in place – just be careful not to rip it.
    16) Snap/Velcro the last bit of headliner into place along the sides.
    17) Replace the inner quarter panel pieces (don’t forget the light connectors).
    18) Lower the top and latch it into place. It should be VERY tight. At this point, expect not to undo it for a couple weeks to let it “set”.
    19) Turn top pump back on (counterclockwise), and reconnect battery. Also reconnect the defogger wires if you have them.

    That’s it. Took me a week (about 8 or so hours alone) to do this.



    Here's where I started:




    In progress:



    Finished product:

  2. #2
    Senior Member bigrondownhiller's Avatar
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    Wow that top was in bad shape. How did it get like that? Just age? Nice writeup. Where did you get the replacement top?

  3. #3
    Junior Member traumadog's Avatar
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    Got the replacement off eBay. And yea, the white's vinyl, not cloth. So I think it's just age.

  4. #4
    Member c5z28's Avatar
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    On your ass flashing
    my highbeams

    I sense a new sticky

  5. #5
    Member c5z28's Avatar
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    On your ass flashing
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    good work man

  6. #6
    Member 99'CajunFirehawk157's Avatar
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    Bright Red
    99 Firehawk #157 Roadster

    I had mine done for $500 labor, is it worth it to let them do it next time or DIY?

  7. #7
    Junior Member traumadog's Avatar
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    Eh - it wasn't hard (meaning complicated). Just a pain in places. And you don't need a ton of tools to do it (you see my list). Whether it's worth $500 plus top to replace or DIY is up to you. Best to have a warm place to do it though.

  8. #8
    Member DaddySS's Avatar
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    Very nice work and thanks for taking the time to write it up. BTW, RAGG top protectant is used and recommended by the original manufacturer, works great and will keep that top looking new.

  9. #9
    Junior Member traumadog's Avatar
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    Here are some detail pics for those that are interested.

    1) shot of the corner (this one's driver's side) - you can see the screw that holds the back of the headliner to bow #5


    2) shot of the other nuts holding in bow #5 - this is the driver's side


    3) pic of the upper screws holding in the headliner at bow #4 (looking back from the front edge of the sail panel)


    4) screws for the weatherstrip underneath the triangle trim. Note there's another spot under the front edge - but I didn't have screws there.


    5) with the top off - you can see the nylon webbing reinforcements on each side. Note, bow #4 is already off here.


    6) staples along bow #4 (rear of top to top side #4) as well as the top of the rear window. Also note in the upper-right-hand corner of the pic (by the red sharpie marks) - I had to drill out a rivet that held the old window in place.


    7) Here's a shot of the over-the-door part weatherstrip holder


    8) This is a close-up of one of the screws - you can see the hole it's in is slotted. I pushed the holder out as far as it would go to help with window sealing.


    9) Here's a shot of the door trim screws - you can only get at these when the weatherstrip holder's off.


    10) Here's a shot of the header bow - the yellow crayon marked the original edge where the fabric was pulled when first laid out - pulling it down and forward keeps the top tight. You can see how much the top material stretches by how much I pulled this forward.


    Hope this helps. If there are any questions, feel free to pm me.

  10. #10
    Junior Member traumadog's Avatar
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    For those that care, I've also come across some diagrams:






    Last edited by traumadog; 04-24-2009 at 05:24 PM.

  11. #11
    your parts guy!!! 1fastcamarosss11's Avatar
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    trans am 00 ws6
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    great write up, and great work.
    i'll try to get this a sticky.

  12. #12
    Gold Member - fadjur
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    2002 Trans Am Convertible

    You are the MAN !!! thanks -- my cloth top is just starting to get little tears. probably got 1-2 years left so I'm going to download/save off this page.

    Thanks,
    Tony

    2002 TA Convertible
    Space Coast FL

  13. #13
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    1995 Z28

    nice work man ... my cloth top is brown an
    the sun is starting to get to it . so im planning
    on going to a black top soon good write up man

  14. #14
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    white
    1994 camaro

    hey wats goin on man i am having problems with my convertible i have the exact same camaro as u just in white..if u look at the picture between number 9 & 10 you will see the arm that has that little spring on it the screw came off on the right side of the are(if u r looking at the picture) that rod goes to the actual top. and also i am missing that skinny rod that connects the same arm that i lost the screw from that connects to the top arm..that rod snapped off at the threaded part with the 2 nuts on top...any idea where i can get those parts because with out them my top is useless..i really would appreciate some help..

    thanks!!

  15. #15
    Senior Member bigrondownhiller's Avatar
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    Try gmpartsdirect.com. Otherwise a junkyard.

  16. #16
    Junior Member traumadog's Avatar
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    Sala, iIf I'm getting what you're asking, That arm is part of an assembly - part # 12369565, I believe. And the bolt # is 12456253.

    You might want to double-check on the parts .pdf that's floating around - it's in Group 14 (page 1297-1299 on the .pdf)

    And yes, you're probably looking at a junkyard (and most likely the entire frame if you do) or something like GMPartsDirect.com.

    Hope that helps.

  17. #17
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    1997 Camaro Z28

    In pictures 7 and 9, where can I get the bar that is parallel to the window seal, on my top both of them bent and snapped off.


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