Convertible Rear Window Buyer’s Guide
- People who own convertible vehicles are quite familiar with the high maintenance nature of a convertible. One part that usually needs regular maintenance is the convertible rear window.
- These days, there are two main types of materials used for convertible rear windows: glass and plastic. Glass windows are more expensive upfront, but they have a longer lifespan. Plastic windows are more affordable, but they will need replacement sooner than glass windows.
- Common convertible rear window problems include: the window becoming unglued or unbonded and cloudy, faded or scratched rear windows.
- On average, soft tops last about 10-12 years before needing replacement. The rear window, on the other hand, lasts about 60% of the lifespan of your top.
- You can get a replacement plastic rear window anywhere from $100 to $500. On the other hand, glass convertible rear windows typically cost about $300 and above.
Because of their stylish look and luxury feel, convertibles, also known as cabriolets, remain highly sought after despite their higher sticker prices. Driving a convertible with the top down on a nice sunny day is definitely an amazing experience, especially if you are driving a powerful sports car.
Although there are a lot of perks to driving convertibles, there are some downsides too. People who own convertible vehicles are quite familiar with the high maintenance nature of a convertible. For instance, driving with the top down exposes the interior of your vehicle to damage from the elements. Constant sun exposure can cause your car seats and dashboard to become worn out. Another aspect of convertibles that usually needs regular maintenance is the convertible rear window.
Convertible Rear Windows vs Regular Car Windows
There are two types of convertibles: soft-top convertibles and hardtop convertibles. Hard tops are typically more expensive, but they are also more secure and more structurally sound. Soft tops are more affordable, but they can be thief magnets because it’s easy to slash a soft top to get access to the cabin. However, many convertible enthusiasts still prefer soft tops because they have a nice, sporty look that is unique to soft-top convertibles. Soft-top convertibles also have a unique rear window.
Compared to regular car windows, soft-top convertible rear windows are typically glued onto the canvas top rather than attached to the car’s body itself. This means that they are smaller than regular car windows, and they can come loose more easily as the top becomes worn out.
Types of Convertible Rear Windows
The first convertible rear windows were thin sheets of clear plastic that were zippered or sewn into the convertible top. Over time, automakers developed sturdier materials for convertible rear windows to improve security and structural integrity.
These days, there are two main types of materials used for convertible rear windows: glass and plastic. Here are the main differences and the pros and cons of each type.
Glass Rear Windows
Glass rear windows are more common among luxury convertibles because they are more expensive. The main advantage of glass rear windows over plastic ones is longevity. Glass windows don’t get cloudy or faded, and they are much more resistant against scratches. Glass can also endure constant exposure to heat and cold better than plastic, so they just generally have a longer lifespan. There are even heated glass windows available for soft-top convertibles, which makes it easier to defrost or defog them during the cooler months.
The downside to convertible glass rear windows is the price. Glass windows are more expensive across all aspects, from the replacement rear window itself to installation costs because the glass will need to be heat-sealed to the top.
Plastic Rear Windows
Plastic rear windows are more common compared to glass rear windows. The main reason for this is that they are generally more affordable compared to convertible glass rear windows. The downside to plastic rear windows is their shortened lifespan.
Modern plastic rear windows are made with DOT-rated durable vinyl, typically 40-gauge plastic. While they are tough enough to endure constant exposure to the elements, they are still bound to become worn out sooner than glass rear windows. Plastic rear windows can become faded, scratched, or cloudy overtime, which usually means that it’s time to replace them.
Common Convertible Rear Window Problems
The most common problem that convertible owners deal with when it comes to their rear window is the glass or plastic becoming unglued. The glue that bonds the glass or plastic to the fabric material of your top can become unglued. There is a wide range of recommended adhesives to repair this issue ranging from silicone sealant to weld-bond glue. There are also certain adhesives that are especially made for this purpose including some that are sold directly by your dealership. For glass rear windows, glueing the window to the top is usually just a temporary fix. This is because car manufacturers use a special bonding process to ensure that glass rear windows are secure and to minimize the risk of leaks.
For plastic windows, another common problem is the discoloration or fading of the plastic. There are some ways to fix this problem including using special vinyl or plastic cleaning kits to restore the clarity of the plastic. However, for plastic rear windows that are too scratched up or cloudy, it’s better to purchase a replacement rear window instead.
When to Replace Your Convertible Rear Window
On average, soft tops last about 10-12 years before needing replacement. The life of your cloth, vinyl, or canvas top depends on how well you maintain it, how much usage it gets, and how you store it. The rear window, on the other hand, lasts about 60% of the lifespan of your top. At this point, your convertible rear window will either require repair or replacement.
Should You Replace or Repair a Damaged Convertible Top Rear Window
Choosing to replace or repair your convertible rear window depends on the extent of the damage. After all, there’s only so much a convertible rear window repair kit can do. If your window has only become loose, you can use a special convertible top glue to reattach it to your rear window. This is a pretty easy fix to do.
If your rear window is made of glass and it has some hairline cracks along the edges or anywhere else, it has to be replaced. Plastic windows that have become faded, cloudy, scratched, or warped will have to be replaced. Otherwise, you will have a serious safety issue when driving with your top up.
How Much Does a Convertible Rear Window Replacement Cost?
Plastic convertible rear windows generally cost less than glass. You can get a replacement plastic rear window anywhere from $100 to $500 depending on your convertible’s exact make, model, year, and trim. Take note that not all convertibles have available replacement plastic rear windows for the original glass part. On the other hand, glass convertible rear windows typically cost about $300 and above.
Glass vs. Window: Which Convertible Rear Window is Right for You?
The rear window plays an important role in providing a better rear view for the driver. Convertible rear tops are useful whenever you want to park on tight spaces that require complicated manoeuvres. It gives the driver a better perspective on the back of the car not to mention that stylish look you've always wanted. Generally, convertible rear windows are made from either plastic or glass which makes it hard for car enthusiasts to choose which one is better. To help you out, here's a short guide on what to expect from the ideal convertible rear window.
Convertible glass rear windows
A great thing about convertible glass rear windows is that its clarity takes a long time to fade compared to plastic rear windows that appear foggy after months of weathering. Like standard vehicles, glass windows provide the driver a crisp view of what's outside the vehicle.
The only concern for glass windows is that they are a lot heavier compared to plastic rear windows. Heavier materials are harder to install as the rubber cement might not be enough to hold it in place. New developments in glass technology are aiming for lightweight glass materials, but you can bout that the price will definitely be steep.
Convertible plastic rear windows
Plastic-based convertible rear windows are usual for most convertible cars. Plastic rear windows can be an advantage as they are functional, highly flexible and weighs as light as a feather. Plastic rear tops are also easier to install compared to rear windows made from glass.
However, plastic-based rear windows tend to get discoloured or appear foggy over time which entails a more costly maintenance and replacement. Discolored plastic rear windows can become terrible eyesores so if you're the type of driver who is meticulous when it comes to your car's appearance, then convertible plastic rear windows might not be the right choice.
5 Steps to Replace a Broken Convertible Rear Window
Of the many things that a car driver will ever need, visibility is probably one of the important things to ensure. Frontal visibility is not a problem as every car has a front windshield that provides the driver a wider range of visibility of his front. When it comes to rear visibility, the convertible rear window is a must. Convertible rear windows provide the driver not only a sleek car exterior but a wider visibility at the back of his vehicle whenever the window is unlatched. Broken convertible windows can be a terrible eyesore so make sure to replace them immediately. It's easy to replace your own rear window, here are the tools you'll need and the steps you need to take to replace your car's convertible rear window.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Tools you'll need:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Flat head screwdriver
- Double-sided tape
- Window trim removal tool
- Rubber cement
Step 1: Unfasten the broken rear window and raise it a few inches away from the rear windshield. Insert the window trim removal tool in the middle of the rear window and the black trim that holds it in place. Move the window trim removal tool carefully around until you can gently pop it out of place.
Step 2: Remove the metal clip which can be found placed in the bottom center of the rear window using a flat head screwdriver. Release the clip supporting the rear window from inside the car. Once the clip has been removed, slowly detach it from the outside.
Step 3: Apply rubbing alcohol on a piece of cloth and scrub the rims where the rubber cement used to hold the convertible rear window. After cleaning, dry it off with a clean rag.
Step 4: Attach the metal clip included in the convertible rear window set you bought onto the place where the former clip was located. Ask for assistance as you'll need someone outside the car to hold the replacement rear window in place while you fasten it from the inside.
Step 5: Install the support plate from inside the car and use tape and rubber cement to hold the entire trim in place. Shut the newly installed convertible rear window and leave it to dry for 24 hours until the rubber cement adheres.