Can You Put a Convertible Top Up While Driving?

Can You Put a Convertible Top Up While Driving?

The short answer is yes, you can put your convertible top up while driving, but there are important safety issues to consider before doing so. Most convertible manufacturers allow operating the top while driving under 15 mph. However, it’s not recommended to put the top up or down when traveling faster than this due to the associated risks.

Putting the top up requires a series of mechanical movements – frames have to lock in place, the top fabric needs to extend and stretch into position, and latches must securely fasten. Doing this while driving diverts your attention from the road and could lead to an accident. Additionally, raising the roof at faster speeds may cause damage due to excessive wind force on both fabric and metal tops.

So while you technically can put the top up when moving, it’s best to pull over or keep speeds very low whenever operating the convertible roof. Read all manufacturer instructions – most specify a 15 mph maximum speed for safety.

Mercedes SL roadster nardo grey soft top convertible
Photo by Dmitriy

Risks Associated with Operating Convertible Tops While Driving

There are a few key risks to be aware of if putting the convertible top up when the car is rolling:

  • Taking your attention away from driving – During top operation you may need to remove a cover, press control buttons, observe the folding mechanisms in action
  • Potential car accidents from distraction
  • Exceeding the safe speed causes excessive strain on mechanical parts
  • Fabric top damage when raising at high speeds due to wind force
  • Possibility of components not locking securely in place when moving
  • Invalidating your convertible warranty due to improper operation

To avoid these dangers, pull over completely before raising or lowering the roof whenever possible. 

Key Takeaways
Manufacturers allow raising convertible tops at speeds under 15 mph
Operating the roof diverts attention from driving leading to accident risk
Exceeding the safe speed limit can damage the fabric and components
It’s best to pull over completely before putting the roof up or down

The Correct Way to Operate a Convertible Top While Driving

If you get caught in a surprise downpour and absolutely need to raise the convertible roof while in motion, follow these guidelines for correct technique:

  • Slow down first – Before touching the top control switch, decelerate to under 5-10 mph
  • Pay attention – Keep your eyes on the road while pressing buttons to open the rear portion
  • Observe motion – Occasionally check that the mechanism is lifting smoothly into place without issues
  • Listen for locks – Many folding roofs make an audible click when latches close securely
  • Test stability – Lightly tap the top when fully raised to ensure the frame is rigid with no loose areas
  • Secure locks once stopped – Pull over to complete fastening latches as needed

Rushing the process can lead to accidental damage. By driving slowly and carefully observing progress, you can safely operate the cabrio top while in motion as long as manufacturer limits are respected.

Mazda Miata NA with manual folding soft top
Photo by Wil Stewart

The Impact of Speed

Driving speed has a major impact on safely and effectively raising or lowering your convertible roof. As mentioned previously, most manufacturer operating manuals specify a 15mph maximum speed for opening or closing the top while driving.

This limit exists because at faster speeds:

  • Strong winds exert excessive force on the folding roof components
  • The convertible top frame may twist or contort when popping up
  • Fabric can stretch uncomfortably over the straining mechanism
  • Components struggle to smoothly extend and latch at racing speeds

Additionally, danger grows when your attention is divided between monitoring the convertible roof motion and focusing ahead on the road. The faster the car is moving, the quicker the driving situation can change and lead to an accident.

By capping the operational speed at 15 mph or lower, you enable safe convertible top movement without overtaxing the equipment. The vehicle remains stable, components can secure properly, and your eyes stay on driving as much as possible.

Speed Limits for Operating Convertible Tops

Here is a quick summary of appropriate speed limits for operation:

  • At a stop – The optimal and safest speed for opening or closing the roof
  • 1-10 mph – Opening or closing operation can be performed cautiously
  • 15 mph – Never exceed the maximum limit advised by your owner’s manual
  • + 15 mph – Extremely dangerous due to loss of control risk

Avoid lowering or raising the convertible hood while traveling down highways or changing lanes on busy roads. Only consider operating the top when conditions are low speed with minimal traffic distractions. Follow the manufacturer limits at all times.

Key Takeaway: Speed Limits
Most manuals specify under 15 mph for top operation
Lower speeds are safer – open or close between 1-10 mph
Never exceed your owner’s manual limit to avoid damages

What Happens When You Exceed the Speed Limit While Operating the Top

Ignoring the maximum speed warning when operating your convertible convertible can cause major consequences like:

  • Roof damage from whipping winds – Possible tearing of fabric or warping of panels
  • Broken interior consoles or supports due to excessive vibration
  • Failed locking mechanisms and unsecured latches leading to openings
  • Loss of vehicle control while manually adjusting loose top components
  • Accidents due to diverted attention as you attempt to restrain the whirling convertible top

At best, you’ll have a distorted top needing repairs and replacements. But at worst, a flying convertible hood can fully obscure road visibility leading to a major collision. Always adhere to the manufacturer operational speed limits when opening or closing a power roof in motion.

In summary, being aware of safe speed limits, risks, and proper technique is crucial for smoothly managing your convertible’s folding roof while driving. With increased diligence and following operational guidelines, you’ll be able to confidently control your car even when caught in sudden downpours. Stay safe and happy motoring!

Black Porsche 718 Boxster spider with open top
Photo by Chad Newton

Expert Opinion

As a proud convertible owner for over a decade, I’ve learned a thing or two about operating my car’s folding roof safely while driving. Even though most manuals say you can raise or lower the top at low speeds, I don’t recommend it. In my experience, it’s best to pull over completely before touching that roof control switch. 

Attempting to open or close the convertible roof while moving, no matter how slow you’re going, is an unnecessary risk. Despite following the step-by-step instructions, I’ve had a few close calls with latches not catching properly or fabric getting stuck. And don’t get me started on the heart attack I almost had when my rear view was completely blocked mid-turn!

See Also

Take it from me – just find a safe spot to park before adjusting your convertible’s top. Turn on your hazard blinkers, securely set the brake, and only then should you start the process. Trying to multitask road navigation while components click, whirl and seal is a recipe for distraction disaster.

In short, ensure ideal conditions first, expect potential motion resistance, and stop completely before operating your convertible roof. Prioritize safety over convenience. Follow my veteran advice and you’ll avoid damages, accidents, or worse!


While most convertible tops can technically operate at low speeds, it’s always safest to pull over completely before raising or lowering the roof. Attempting to multitask road navigation and top adjustment risks distraction disasters. Follow all manufacturer guidelines, drive at cautious speeds, and fully stop before touching the control switch. Prioritizing safety over convenience prevents accidents, injuries, and damage over time.

For more tips on using and maintaining your beloved drop top, explore the wealth of other resources on our site. And happy open air motoring to you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it illegal to put the convertible top up while driving?

No, it’s generally not illegal as long as you follow manufacturer guidelines and local road rules. Most automakers allow top operation at very low speeds only. Carefully read your owner’s manual to determine the appropriate parameters for your vehicle model.

What is the number 1 risk when operating the top in motion?

The greatest risk is becoming distracted from actively driving and crashing from diverted attention. Keep eyes focused ahead as much as possible and pull over completely if you need to visually guide latches into locked positions.

Can a partially open convertible roof safely drive at highway speeds?

Absolutely not! Never attempt to drive fast with the cabrio roof partially opened. An unlatched soft top frame will quickly warp and distort under pressure from strong winds. A partially open roof risks severe damage and loss of control.

How slowly should I drive with the top down in the rain?

If raindrops begin falling with the roof lowered, reduce speed to a maximum of 35 mph in a straight line and find a safe area to pull over. Use flashers, grip wheel firmly, and make gentle maneuvers only. Never operate the top controls in heavy rain while moving.

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