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Mustang Convertible Tops Explained

Written By: Dylan Abbott

Shop Mustang Convertible Top Parts

Replacing a torn or worn out convertible top can take a large chunk out of an otherwise fun weekend, but the refreshed look of your Mustang will make it more than worth it. Replacing or repairing your top will also preserve the interior by preventing leaks, and damaged parts will no longer get in the way of you enjoying a bright summer day to its fullest.

Shop Convertible Top Parts

Convertible tops offer a whole new level of enjoyment to the Mustang experience. Nothing beats hitting the open road with the top down, the wind in your hair, and the sunshine shining. There are lots of different parts to the convertible top and they need to be periodically maintained and replaced to keep your Mustang in tip-top shape.

Parts of the Convertible Top

• Convertible top cover assembly - this is the skin of the convertible top and includes the rear glass. When replacing the skin or the glass, it is a good idea to replace them both as an assembly.
• Frame bows - The convertible top cover attaches to the frame bows. The bows provide support for the top and cover.
• Frame Side Rails - Frame side rails run the length of the convertible top and form the side structure of the top. They act as attachment points for the frame bows and convertible top cover. 
• Top Latches - The latches secure the top to the header panel on the windshield. This is to prevent the top from moving when it is in the closed position. 
• Header Panel - the panel that runs the length of the windshield on a convertible Mustang. The latches secure to the header panel and the panel supports the front of the convertible top.
• Headliner - provides additional insulation from the elements and exterior noise. Attaches to the frame bows.
• Hydraulic pump and motor - provides hydraulic pressure to the lift cylinders. The pump feeds pressurized fluid through hydraulic lines to the lift cylinder, which raises or lowers the top.
• Stay pads - stay pads protect the top from sharp metal edges when it is being raise or lowered. Without the pads, the top can be damaged during normal operation.
Weatherstripping - seals the top against the vehicle and windows, providing a weather-tight seal against rain, snow, or other moisture.

Fox Body Exposed Convertible Top Parts

How Does the Convertible Top System Operate?

Mustang convertible tops are operated by a hydraulic pump system The hydraulic pump is used to pump fluid to the lift cylinders, raising and lowering the top. Power to the pump is supplied through a switch operated by the driver of the vehicle. The first push-button convertible top system was implemented in 1983 with the release of the Fox body convertible. Since then, Mustang convertible systems have remained largely the same. 

In order to lower the top in your Mustang, you must make sure the car is at a complete stop because the top is unable to be raised or lowered while moving. First, disengage the latches that lock the top to the header panel of the windshield. After you’ve released the latches, roll down your windows to prevent interference or damage when lowering the top. Once the windows are down, press “lower” portion of the convertible top switch. This will activate the pump, lowering the top. When it’s time to raise the roof, make sure the windows are down, press the “raise” portion of the switch, and lock the latches once the top has come to a complete stop.


2011-2014 Mustang with the Convertible Top Down

Common Problems with Convertible Tops

The most common problems that afflict convertible tops are tearing of the top or the separation of the rear glass from the top. When the glass separates from a stock top or when it breaks, it’s almost impossible to prevent the top from leaking, which can lead to a moldy Mustang. Fortunately, there are many quality parts available that can get your Mustang sealed up and back on the road. Replacement tops can be purchased with or without glass installed, so you can save some money if your glass is still in good shape. That being said, it is a good idea to purchase a top with the glass pre-installed. Getting the glass properly installed and sealed up can be difficult, so pre-installed glass and can prevent some headaches. Convertible top installation should almost always be performed by an experienced professional since it can be tricky to get the top installed correctly. It is also incredibly time-consuming, so having a pro do it for you can save you a significant amount of time and hassle. 

Aging convertible top systems also experience lift cylinder and lift pump failures. After years of service, the hydraulic components eventually wear out and fail. These components are much easier to install for the average person, so they can usually be replaced quickly and easily at home. When replacing the lift cylinders or pumps, it is important to bleed the system. Bleeding a hydraulic pump purges all the air from the system, preventing overheating and ensures proper operation. Without bleeding, the fluid level could drop too low and ruin your new parts! Once the system is bled and checked for leaks, you should have many more years of trouble free operation.


1994-1998 Cobra
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