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Old 08-17-2018, 08:17 PM   #1
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Soft top plastic window R/R while on frame.

Like many of us I was overwhelmed with the task of replacing that Fugly Green cloudy mess of a plastic window after 16 years. As a SoCal car it's rarely up but when it is its horrid. I finally gave in and thought I'd share what worked for me in case someone else may want to take on this task in the future. The good news is you can do it in a day or less once the materials are obtained. This is if you have a partner be it girlfriend,wife, whomever. This job is better done with a person above and below. The tools used were a stitch awl from EBay, thread, Basting tape, and many little pins/clutches.

Firstly, remove old stitching, plastic window, and use your old crappy window as a template to trace onto new plastic. There is a backing on the inside of window that holds the stitching and you will reuse that. Add a 2 inch margin around the plastic then cut. It makes it easier for pushing the awl through as you have extra material to hold onto. Now glue the backing onto the inside of new window with fabric glue and let dry. The plastic I purchased was a Regalite 40 mil DOT for automotive use in clear. Next, you will apply basting tape to the outside perimeter of the new window just outside the window opening where you traced. With partner hold up new window to canvas and now pin/clutch the plastic. You may have to move and re pin several times to even out the canvas so as not to end up with many gather points. Try to keep softtop extended fully during this time.

Now decide who wants to be on top! Missionary position actually works best. One person pushes the awl in through the existing holes as partner below uses either his fingers or tool to hold the canvas taut as she's thrusting down. All the person does below is keep threading through the loop created by the awl. Once you get the hang of it, rythem, it just took about 6 hours total. You will be quite surprised how fast it can go. My biggest fear about this entire project was that it might gather so much in many places and end up with creases once extended but to our amazement it didn't. Those pins/clutches really did the trick. It's really not that daunting a task but allow a good day.
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Last edited by Lapister; 08-17-2018 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 08-17-2018, 08:53 PM   #2
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Soft top plastic window R/R while on frame

Finished soft top
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Old 08-17-2018, 08:56 PM   #3
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Soft top plastic window R/R while on frame

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Old 08-20-2018, 03:19 AM   #4
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Nice job! I chickened out with mine and went the expensive route and replaced my entire top with a 2003 glass window set up.
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Old 08-22-2018, 02:48 PM   #5
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Nice job!
Do you think one person could do this job?
If so, what would you suggest from your experience?
Thanks
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Old 08-22-2018, 05:10 PM   #6
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Novus makes a series of products designed to deal with the problem of cloudy and rough surfaced windows (if you already have it) and to prevent it in the future. The Novus 1, 2 and 3 products consist of bottles of plastic cleaners in decreasing levels of abrasiveness. The three products are sold in a kit with several microfibre polishing cloths for about $25.

If the top is new, only use #1. But if the top is already discolored, you start with the most abrasive cleaner, Novus #3, and a clean rag (I use a cotton washcloth) and you rub it on the surface as if you are polishing the window. Do the outside of the window first, then do the inside. Keep it off the top (but if it gets on, just wipe it off quickly). Let it sit for a while. And then take another clean rag and polish it off. Then do the same using the mildly abrasive #2. And finish up with the non-abrasive #1 which is more of a polish than a cleaner. You should only have to do this once.

In addition to cleaning and polishing the surface of the window, these products seem to put some sort of oil into the plastic that allows them to increase their flexibility and thus resistance to cracking.

For maintenance, I use Novus #1 about once or twice a year.
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Old 08-23-2018, 05:18 AM   #7
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Double post.

Last edited by robdelorenzo; 08-23-2018 at 05:24 AM.
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Old 08-23-2018, 05:22 AM   #8
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My window is cracked and currently sealed with Gorilla Tape.
It's beyond the cleaning point.
I ended up putting a tarp over the car on the few days we did have rain here in SoCal this last "winter" and that got me through.
The rest of the top is in good shape and I really hate to have to replace the whole thing.
But finding someone who can sew in a new window while on the clamshell has not gotten me anywhere.
I know I need to deal with this sooner, rather than later.
I am just a bit intimidated to try it myself, as I would be doing it alone.
That $150 immobilizer box looks like a wise investment new window or not.
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Old 08-23-2018, 08:44 AM   #9
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You would think that this day in age someone would have invented a hand stitcher that would sew these from one side of the soft top but apparently not. You can do this alone but it would take a very long time and that is with softtop/frame off the car. With 2 people it goes rather fast. The awl stitcher tool is the easiest to use and saves your fingers as well from punctures. Hand sewing a needle thru 40 mil plastic and canvas can be very labor intensive. The awl on eBay goes for about 10 dollars or less all day. The pin/clutches about $6 for 20 count, basting tape for another $9, and the new Plastic window about $30.
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Old 10-19-2018, 12:59 PM   #10
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I'm back again and it's new top time.
My question is whether or not a glass window affects the level of access to the top of the engine compartment as opposed to a plastic one.
The plastic one folds nicely and can be raised up from the rear and I am wondering if that's the case if I go the glass route.
Thanks.
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Old 10-19-2018, 07:12 PM   #11
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Yes, the glass window will not fold and makes access to forward engine bay a bit of a PIA. Also the aftermarket glass tops are bit smaller and aesthetically not as pleasing as a true factory 03,04 top due to the 4th bow in the frame. Just after I repaired mine I found a Glass top cover. The original plastic window frame looks better on a 02 car. Just my opinion.
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Old 10-20-2018, 07:58 AM   #12
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Thanks Lapister, you confirmed what I had concluded from my research.
Now the only question is whether or not to go with a green window or clear.
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