Are Convertibles Cold in Winter? Tips for Driving All Season

Are Convertibles Cold in Winter? Tips for Driving All Season

Many convertible owners face a winter dilemma if they can drive their open top cars when it’s cold outside? While the majority of modern cabriolets have sufficient insulation to keep you warm, there are certain preparation and maintenance tips to make them just as comfortable and safe as cars with metal roofs.

This article debunks the myth they’re unsuitable for cold weather. Learn winter driving tips, top protection steps, maintenance guidelines, and products to keep your convertible in perfect shape. 

Quick Answer:

No, it’s not cold in a convertible in winter if your A/C heater is on, you may need to set a higher temperature since not all cabrio tops have excellent thermal insulation. In other words, they maintain the warm temperature for a shorter period of time, because heath dissipates faster through the fabric top. 

Key Takeaways

  • Modern soft tops provide sufficient thermal insulation to keep you warm
  • Check A/C & heater functionality before the cold season
  • Dress up in something warm and don’t forget about the hat & gloves
  • Only lower the top when dry and temperatures are 45°F or above
  • Frequently apply protectants to the soft top
  • Lubricate zippers, latches, and hydraulics
  • Check seals and rear window for any wear or cracks
  • Remove snow carefully with a soft brush and park covered when possible
Winter roadtrip in a convertible car
photo by Clarisse Meyer

To Drive or Not to Drive

The debate on whether to drive or store your convertible in winter depends on several factors:

Driving Pros

  • No need to use a second vehicle
  • Can take advantage of warmer sunny days (depends on your climate zone)
  • Enjoy your favorite car all year long

Driving Cons

  • Increased wear and tear in harsh conditions
  • Higher risk of corrosion and top deterioration
  • Potentially decreasing the resale value
  • Need to invest in winter tires or use all season tires versus dedicated summer tires or performance tires.

Storage Pros

  • Maintaining good condition of the the entire vehicle
  • Allows for maintenance, repairs, or restoration
  • Keeps the mileage low and preserves the resale value

Storage Cons

  • The need to use a second vehicle
  • Upfront cost for a storage facility
  • The need to recharge or cycle the battery to maintain normal operation

Assess your convertible’s condition, garage space, driving needs, and budget to decide to drive a convertible in winter or to store it makes the most sense.

How Cold Temperatures Affect Your Convertible

  • Top and window seals contract, allowing drafts and leaks. Regularly lubricate seals.
  • Soft top fabric becomes less pliable. Treat more frequently with protectants.
  • Plastic and rubber components get stiff. Gently warm interior before driving.
  • Moving top parts may freeze up. Don’t put the top down when it’s cold or wet.
  • Paint and metal are more prone to chipping. Never scrape ice off paintwork.
  • Interior materials become less supple. Condition leather and use protectants.
Christmas Tree in a convertible car
photo by Thanos Pal

Convertible Care Products for Winter Use

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Using quality care products specially formulated for convertibles is important for proper maintenance and protection all winter long:

  • Convertible Top Cleaners– Remove dirt, grime, salt stains, mold, and more from the soft top fabric. Use a mild cleaner and rinse thoroughly.
  • Protectants and Conditioners– Seal in moisture and prevent UV damage to the convertible roof. Helps keep fabric pliable. Should be applied every 1-2 months.

Using these specially formulated products will help extend the life of your convertible and keep it looking great despite heavy winter usage. Consult your owner’s manual for any additional recommended products.

Preparing Your Soft Top for Winter Driving

Convertible soft tops can become vulnerable to tears, cracking, and accelerated wear when exposed to harsh winter elements like snowfall, ice, rain and UV rays. Here are some tips to protect it:

  • Treat with protectants – Use products made to protect the soft top fabric. Do this before winter months and again during.
  • Remove snow carefully – Use a soft brush, not an ice scraper, on the top to avoid abrasions.
  • Park covered when possible – Gets your top out of the elements. A garage is ideal if available.
  • Don’t lower your top – it’s not recommended when the temperatures are low or if it’s wet.
  • Inspect seals and gaskets – Replace any that are worn or cracked to prevent leaking and snow intrusion.
  • Invest in a breathable car cover if stored outdoors.

Taking the time to care for your convertible’s soft top will help it withstand the harsh conditions and avoid damage.

PrecautionDetails
Inspect the soft topLook for any cracks, tears, or leaks that need repairing.
Check fluid levelsTop up the antifreeze, washer fluid, brake fluid, oil, etc.
Install winter tiresThe tread and rubber compound give better traction.
Test the battery and charging systemCold weather is demanding on batteries.
Lubricate gaskets and sealsHelps keep the top aligned and prevents leaks.
Clean and protect the soft topRemove debris and apply a protectant.
Vacuum interior and clean carpetsRemoves leaves, dirt, and moisture that can freeze or mold.
Check wipers and defrostersEnsure they are in good shape for snow and ice removal.
Examine seat belts and latchesMake sure these are functioning well. Cold can make them stiff.

Completing these inspections and tasks ahead of winter will have your convertible ready to face the cold, snow, and ice with no issues.

Snow

  • Remove snow ASAP if accumulated on soft top – With a soft brush, not scraper.
  • Take care when lowering top – Snow can tear the fabric. Go slowly.
  • Don’t let snow pile up and freeze in latches/seals – Could prevent opening the top later.
  • Check that the top drains are not clogged – Prevents water leaks into interior.
  • Use touchless or hand washes only – Avoid automatic car washes to prevent top damage.
  • Vacuum out interior frequently – Melting snow leaves lots of moisture behind.

Ice

  • Start the car and turn the heat on high. Let it run for 10-15 minutes to help melt the ice.
  • Avoid using any sharp tools to chip or scrape at the ice. This could puncture or tear the convertible top material.
Driving a cabriolet on winter roads
photo by Kevin Solbrig

Parking 

Safe parking and storage practices are crucial for your convertible car care during the cold winter season.

Where to Park Your Convertible in The Winter

If still driving the vehicle in bad weather, choose parking spots wisely:

  • Garage – The ideal option to keep snow, ice, and road salt off your auto.
  • Under a carport – Not as enclosed but still provides some covering.
  • Tight spaces – Park away from plowed snow piles which often contain road treatment chemicals.
  • Sunny areas – Helps snow melt faster so it doesn’t accumulate as much. The sun also helps dry any moisture faster.
  • Near buildings – Creates heat islands that melt snow quickly in commercial areas. But avoid spots by vents that could leak corrosive exhaust.
Winter parking for convertible cars
photo by Asael Pena

Modern Studies and Researches

Look up more statistical data in convertible car related studies and researches in our special feature. CabrioNation also conducted a survey of convertible car storage. You can view the results and recent information on safety, production numbers, drivers demographics, and impact on our emotional state: Beyond the Buzz: Facts, Studies & Researches About Convertibles.

Winterizing Your Convertible (When Not in Use)

For convertible owners who won’t be driving their cars in winter, proper storage and winterization is crucial to prevent damage. Here are the steps to safely store your convertible for the cold months:

StepDetails
Clean inside and outRemove all dirt, debris, and wax/protectants from the paint and soft top.
Check fluid levelsTop up wiper fluid, coolant, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, etc.
Fill up the gas tankThis minimizes condensation in the tank. 
Disconnect the batteryOr use a trickle charger to maintain charge if stored connected.
Lubricate cylindersOil can help prevent brake cylinder corrosion and seize-ups.
Use jack standsTake weight off tires and suspenders to prevent flat spots.
Choose a covered storage locationPrevent exposure to the elements. Use a car cover as well if stored outside.
Use ventilated storage bagsProtects the interior from mold and mildew.
Consider climate-controlled storageKeeps the car at a constant temperature and humidity level.

Proper preparation prior to storage followed by periodic inspections during winter will keep your convertible protected and ready to go when spring arrives.

BMW 6 convertible in parking garage
photo by Timou Turner

Expert Opinion

As a convertible owner for over 10 years now, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to drive these fabulous cars comfortably even when the temperatures really start to dip. While your first instinct may be to park your convertible for the winter, with the right preparation, maintenance, and equipment, you’d be surprised just how often you can still safely enjoy topless driving all season long.

First things first, make sure the heater blows hot air and the entire cooling system of your car is in good condition. During the old days you would rely on it heavily!

See Also
Are Convertible Tops Waterproof? Fabric vs Vinyl

Maintenance is crucial before and during winter. Check those fluid levels, battery, seals, latches, and test the soft top repeatedly to make sure everything is in good working order. Protecting the fabric top with frequent cleaning will help prevent tears or leaks. And don’t skimp on washing the road salt off – it can seriously damage your paint and metal components if left on too long.

Convertible Ford Mustang in snow
Mustang convertible with soft top in ice

Finally, just use common sense when driving in cold weather. It makes sense to put the roof down when it’s warm and dry. Take it slow on slippery roads, leave plenty of distance for braking, and always have an emergency kit on hand. If snow starts to stick, gently brush it off with a soft brush. And find covered parking whenever possible.

Follow this advice and there’s no reason not to drive your convertible year round. Trust me, breezing down an empty backroad on a crisp cold day with the top down is an experience every enthusiast should have. Just use caution and keep up with preventative maintenance. Don’t park that convertible yet – winter road trip, anyone?

Fiat 124 Spider winter driving
photo by Luca Beani

Conclusion

While convertibles require some extra consideration during winter, with the proper preparation, maintenance, and careful driving, they can absolutely still be enjoyed year-round. Don’t let common myths convince you to park your convertible for the entire cold season. Instead, take the necessary steps outlined here to winterize your car and make open-air drives feasible even when temperatures drop. For more tips on convertible maintenance and operation in all seasons, be sure to check out our other resources dedicated to convertible ownership.

FAQ

What temperature is too cold to drive with the top down?

Generally speaking, any temperature below 45°F will start to feel quite cold with the top down, especially at highway speeds. Use your discretion based on weather conditions.

Is it OK to use an ice scraper on my convertible’s soft top?

No, never use an ice scraper, as it can damage the fabric. Use a very soft brush to gently remove snow.

Should I wax my convertible before winter?

Most experts recommend removing any wax or protectants before storing for winter. However, a fresh coat of wax before winter driving can help protect the paint from salt and weathering.

How often should I start and run the car if it’s stored?

If garaged, start the engine and let it warm up every 4-6 weeks. This prevents fluids from deteriorating and keeps components lubricated.

Can I put my convertible through an automatic car wash in winter?

No, automatic car washes with spinning brushes can damage your convertible roof. Use touchless washes only.

How can I prevent my convertible’s interior from getting musty?

Using moisture-absorbing bags and ventilating the interior regularly helps prevent dampness that leads to mildew and mustiness.

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