By on January 13, 2014

Josh writes:

Sajeev –

Great news! After research, waiting, and a little bit of compromise, I have finally bought my first ‘real’ car. Last month, I bought a ’05 BMW 645i convertible with very low mileage and a clean bill of health. It is wonderful and brings me a little joy every time I start it.

Bad news! The country is currently gripped in a cold snap the likes of which we haven’t seen in 2 decades, and also, by the way, I live in Denver.

While I am more than comfortable with RWD in the snow, and I am getting used to not having a real spare tire, I realized that I had not considered maintenance of the top in cold-weather conditions. It is currently parked outside, and while a carport is available if I want to go that direction, I am more concerned what the combination of H2O and low mercury will do, at least until I move to a place with a real garage again.

Any suggestions how I can extend the joy and minimize loss when it comes time to sell? Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Minimize the loss when it comes to sell?  Be more concerned with the litany of possible BMW E63 gremlins to keep at bay before selling it on to the next fan of such “real” cars.

And keeping the interior in tip-top shape, especially if you run everywhere with the top down.

But let’s talk about snow and convertibles: it could be a problem, considering last week’s polar vortex.  If wet snow and/or ice breaks tree branches and collapses roofs, they could bend your convertible’s metal frame.  Perhaps you could scratch plastic rear windows (not applicable here) with your ice scraper, too.

My advice is to keep the top free of snow accumulation so you’ll never worry about bent frame supports when hitting the switch.

Everything else?  Well, if you keep it around for years with no garage, the top’s gonna need replacement no matter what.  And considering the price of a re-pop top, there are far scarier powertrain/suspension/electronic replacement items on this Bimmer that I’d be worried about.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Do not leave valuables inside your car in plain sight!  A bad idea with any car, but even worse  in a drop top.  Taking a brick to your window to steal your iPod  is one thing, but a knife to your fabric roof to grab spare change on your console is another.  Hell, I’d consider leaving your convertible unlocked so someone can easily open it, look around for something to steal, find nothing and NEVER slap you with a $1000+ repair bill for fitting a new top! 

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: Fabric Tops vs Polar Vortex?...”


  • avatar
    racebeer

    Definitely keep the top clear of any accumulation, and by all means take advantage of the carport if at all possible. The less you have to remove buildup, the longer the top will last.

    And, take it from a guy who has a convertible … just keep the top down in the summer and remove all valuables from sight. I’ve been doing that for years, and have had no vandalism problems.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      But he might encounter saliva problems with a BMW 6.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        It’s purely speculative, but I feel like I’ve gotten WAY more ‘Nice Car’ comments on the road in the 6 than I would have gotten in the SL.

        While the rear-end is still pretty controversial, the side and front treatments are pretty scrumptious.

    • 0 avatar
      HeeeeyJake

      Leaving the top down with nothing of value in the car is good for avoiding vandalism but…

      (And it’s not someone spitting i’ve worried about or had to deal with.) It’s bird sh!t.

      Trying to avoid damaging UV while parking with the top down draws one to shade, and in many places, the only shade is trees, which are full of birds, and so on.

      As Sajeev implied, a repop top is cheaper than many things, which i would think includes fitting a new interior to replace the cracked, UV damaged one, and sure beats cleaning birdsh!t off of a date’s seat.

      I have an E46 conv. now, but even when I had a sebring conv., the insurance agent recommended leaving it unlocked and free of valuables…which included locking the under-stack cd changer magazine in the glove box or center console and hoping thieves didn’t realize you could open both of them even while locked just by yanking the lids because all the mechanisms were plastic.

      FYI the birds preferred the Sebring, sh!tting in it 3 times compared to, ironically, none for the “BM”W

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Somebody cut the window in my ’02 Wrangler to try and get in, but whatever they were using was dull and it just made a gnarly hole. Stupid thing was that there was a zipper 6 inches away that would have let them in freely. Leaving the doors unlocked is no guarantee that your thief will be thinking about what he’s doing.

  • avatar
    ash78

    There’s a triple entendre joke in here about ten below zero and “pricks on the inside” but it’s too early for me to craft it.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Ragtops & brain dead thieves ~ Argh .

    I didn’t put a radio in mine and just to be safe (I live in Los Angeles) I kept my folded up road maps in the radio hole sticking out with some random yellow wires hanging out and I never locked it.

    Nevertheless a dypshyte slashed the brand new $2,000 HAARTZ top directly above the driver’s door one fine night and ruined it .

    Enjoy your new Bimmer , remember to keep the top well vacuumed if it’s a cloth top , vinyl doesn’t matter as much but cloth , the dust chews it up quickly .

    -Nate
    -Nate

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    +1 to all the comments about leaving the car unlocked… as mentioned, it is not a sure fire way to ensure that a “stupid” criminal still doesn’t cut the top… but it helps.

    I speak from experience. I lived in a major city and parked on the street for years. One night, I had the top slashed on my 3 series convertible. There wasn’t anything in it, but the criminal didn’t find that out till after wrecking the top. It was a bad experience and very disheartening. Ever since, when I parked it, it was unlocked. It worked on at least 3 other occasions (that I know of) where the car was rummaged through (maps, tissues and registration in the glove box thrown onto the front seat) and left because I literally kept NOTHING in the car.

    Now, we live in the burbs and its a 3rd car which is garaged except on nice days, so the worry about this problem is largely & thankfully gone.

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    I rented a convertible a while back that had a trunk release button on the dashboard (not even inside a locked glove compartment). So in that case, you can’t leave any valuables of any kind in the car ever. Who designs these things?

    • 0 avatar
      racebeer

      Interesting … My T/A has that button on the dash as well, but it is controlled by the retained power module and de-activates in about 3 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Granted I don’t daily drive a convertible, but my Alero is apparently very easy to break into and also had an electronic trunk release in the door panel, in plain sight. To give myself a safe place to store valuables, I removed the switch and used a black piece of plastic in its place. I feel pretty confident now that the only way to break into my trunk is to cut through the back seats, or force the latch from the outside. Having a secure storage is worth losing the trunk release, I just hit the remote on my keys.

      • 0 avatar
        supremebrougham

        Fellow Alero owner here…

        There is a lockout switch for the trunk release located around the striker plate in the trunk. At least there is in my Alero!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      My M has this feature right now. Left side of the dash, under the power mirror adjustment. But I’m not sure it would work if you didn’t have the key in your pocket. If I’m in the car, the exterior button on the trunk doesn’t work.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice N-body/carriage roof combination.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    My mom drives an 07 Audi A4 convertible in Winnipeg, and she has had no convertible top/winter problems. The only issue I ever noticed driving it in winter was that because the glass rear window is inset, snow couldn’t slide off the window because of the lip where its inset into the top’s structure, which is pretty minor.

    So, enjoy that ‘vert and take the noted precautions against theft.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    My neighbor can’t wait to get rid of her E63 coupe. It spent 5 of the last 12 months in the shop – the car is bleeding her dry.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      I am quietly optimistic – the single-owner old-lady corporate lease ’05 I got has less than 45k on the odo and very good maintenance records.

      While I have every intention of moving on from it in ~36 months (I didn’t want to get the M6 up front,) I wrenched my own e38′s and know of most of the impending gremlins. The 3-year warranty helps quite a bit too – the biggest problems under 75k are the Dynamic Ride Control actuator and the rear suspension mount issue, and they are both fully covered (I was pretty anal about the warranty when I bought it.)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    1st World Convertible Problems (should be the title of this post). :P

    I’ve got a 1967 Mustang convertible but never would have chosen the convert if it hadn’t been a family heirloom full of nostalgia and intrinsic value, and that’s because of all the issues you all have listed.

    Having said that, owning a convertible is a little like having a boat. It ain’t cheap but those “days on the lake” make you forget what it costs.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I would never choose a convertible which was not a metal folding type. It just seems like you get all the + with few -.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The Mustang in question has been in the same family for 46+ years. That factor outweighs all others. I was not about to let it disappear into the hands of someone else.

        Now if someone invents a time machine and I can go back and convince relatives to choose a hardtop over a convertible before they walk onto the lot of Jim Roof Ford circa 1967…

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Of the three vehicles I own, the 6 auto Mustang,vert is by far my favourite car. I try to park it in the garage whenever I can. If were on a road trip, I’m very carefull where I park it. I’ve driven it 25 thousand klms through 8 states and 6 provinces. As of yet, its never been slashed.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    When I was shopping for my ridiculous, hole-in-the-head car 2 years ago I purposefully avoided convertibles because I knew it would have to spend its whole life outside. I am meticulous when it comes to maintaining my fleet, but a convertible top outside should be considered a wear item. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • avatar
    2KAgGolfTDI

    The mile high summer sun will kill the top more so than the little snow we get in town in the winter. They say 300 days of sunshine a year in Denver.

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    Believe it or not, it’s illegal to leave your car locked in some locales. I believe I read about the police going down some neighborhood in the pacific northwest, Seattle, or maybe Portland, after midnight. They checked all the parked cars and gave tickets, and locked all the ones that were unlocked.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Is the car pictured a Skylark?

  • avatar
    Dave in Toronto

    Keep your top very clean.

    Especially if not black.

    Once dirt sits on it for weeks/months, it will be very difficult or impossible to clean off again.

    Related story:

    There is a fellow in my neighborhood with a red Boxster. Nice car. Always absolutely, completely, like surgically clean. Wondered how he managed it.

    One day I walked by, he had obviously just washed the car.

    He was lint rolling the cloth top.

    Like with a sticky-tape pet hair roller.

    And, it looked great I have to say :-)

  • avatar
    Reino

    Denver? Come on man, it was 50 degrees last week!

    How to deal with snow in Denver:

    1. Wait five hours for sun to melt it away.
    2. If sun does not appear in five hours, get a broom.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Snow will not harm the top but sun will dry it out. There are a few companies that sell special cleaning liquids and sealers for convertibles. I have been using them for years with good results. The least you can do is keep the top clean and free of dirt. If you have a plastic back window fold the top with the window clean and covered with a towel. Enjoy, Nothing like a top down convertible on a warm summer night.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    Also, never have an umbrella in a convertible. That is how Peter Brady was in trouble with his dad and spoiled Greg Brady’s date.


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