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New Soft Top Canvas

 
Old 01-17-2016, 12:03 AM
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New Soft Top Canvas

So 8 hours in the garage today and I am 75% done installing the new canvas. As with many A209's my soft top seam failed. I did a temporary fix this summer with Shoe Goo "Boot and Glove" contact cement. It has held for months, but looked ugly because it's nearly impossible to do a decent repair with the top in place.

I ordered the canvas from convertibletops.com. I went with the Robbins brand top which uses same Haartz Sonnenland A5 fabric as the original. Cost was $1,006 delivered. I had also checked with some Robbins authorized installers in the area and got quoted $2200 for the labor! Needless to say, this became a DIY job. I bought the necessary rivets and rear glass seal from my local MBZ dealership. I know that I could probably use generic rivets, but the genuine ones aren't very expensive. I tried to order the OEM staples for the zippers, but they never came in after three weeks. They are basically just staples anyway.

I used the WIS documentation as instructions and it's adequate at best. As is typical with WIS, you really need some decent skills an experience to follow it and the photos are "almost" helpful. Obviously, removing the old canvas is much easier than installing the new one. The top is removed from front to back. There are several zippers and straps that hold it in place. The most complex part of the job is around the rear glass.

One thing that WIS mentioned, and of course I did not completely follow, is to remove and replace one side, then remove and replace the other side. Why? Well, there are a bunch of little fabric straps that are riveted in place and it's helpful to have a reference (i.e. the other side) to look at to know how everything fits. I realized this after removing everything but about half of the through right rear section and stopped. I probably spent about two hours trying to "remember" how everything went back together. Had I left that right rear section in place, I could have just referred to it visually.

I haven't taken hardly any photos of the job. It's just too hard to stop and do that, plus, I really think it would not be very helpful. This is one of those things you need to put your hands on to do. I do have some photos of the new top seam vs. the old one, specifically showing the seam. The original canvas seam was only glued, where the Robbins top is also stitched. For the most part, the Robbins top seems to be of decent quality. I will say that the water bag section of the original top seems much more substantial, as does some of the rear attachment points. Given that the MBZ top is about 3x the cost of the Robbins, I can live with that!

I anticipate another 4-6 hours tomorrow to finish the job. I'll give an update when I'm done!
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Old 01-17-2016, 10:16 PM
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Job finished (for the most part)! I started at noon today and was done around 6:00pm. The right side around the glass went much more quickly. I had assumed that the rest would be easy, but boy, was I wrong! I spent an hour cleaning the old gasket off the rear glass, but the kicker was the damned zippers. Three that run transversely across the top and then a longitudinal zipper on each side above the rear side glass. These are "raw" zippers with no tab for starting them. The new top did come with one "zipper slider to use. It's a real PITA to start a zipper without those little metal tabs on the ends! Once zipped, each end gets secured with a small little staple-like clip

I had ordered these clips from the dealer, but they never came in (still on a ship from Germany). I improvised by using my own staples. It was really hard to get them in place - not much room to work under the zipper.

Everything else went as expected. I did have an issue with the plastic piece on the top that snaps onto the side rails right behind the front windshield. I could not get is fully snapped into the channel on the frame. It's secured, but there is a small bump/pucker there. This is pretty easy to access, so I'll work on it another time. I also noticed the canvas on the right side of the rear glass is not quit right - I can see the edge of the seam sticking out. I may just need to adjust a strap under there, but again, it's a minor issue. I may wait until a warm spring day when the canvas is more pliable to work with.

All in all, I spent about 12 hours. I am sure I could do it again in less - easily 10, maybe 8. There is no way this should cost $2200 in labor at a shop with all the proper tools and expertise! So, my final cost - $1007 for the canvas, and about $60 in other parts (window seal and rivets). I have a few photos I'll post, but nothing terrible interesting.
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Old 01-17-2016, 10:25 PM
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Photos:




Failed seam on the original top - the glue just gave up!




Notice that the seam on the new top is stitched AND glued!




First part of the top being removed - there's a tension cable that runs along each side.




First zipper exposed
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Old 01-17-2016, 10:38 PM
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Just a few of the many dozen things that connect around the rear glass.





Old top still attached on the right side, new top in place ready to install on the left side.
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Old 01-17-2016, 10:39 PM
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Finished!




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Old 01-18-2016, 04:19 PM
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Wow! This is amazing! You did a great job here! Everything looks so tight and right. Very good job!
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:54 PM
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Awesome, luckily I have a coupe but at some point I'm gonna have to do the wife's Z3.
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Old 01-19-2016, 11:37 PM
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Thanks guys. I really have to give credit to the top manufacturer, Robbins. I have heard that there are some really crappy aftermarket tops out there, but the consensus seems to be that Robbins is the best. You can skimp on fabrics and save maybe $180, but in the big scheme of things, that's "pound foolish and penny wise" as the saying goes.

Comparing the original top to the Robbins, the fabric was identical, but they use some different materials elsewhere. The only place where I thought the Robbins seemed inferior was in a few of the plastic panels that attach to the frame. The OEM parts were thicker and more contoured, where Robbins used a simple piece of plastic. The weak point would be where this plastic is stitched to the canvas, and the Robbins stitch work seemed as good or better than OEM. A somewhat confusing things is that some of the straps are much longer than needed, so you have to decided where to attach them and cut off the excess. I just measured the old straps for this.

Finally, I can't stress how hard it is to get those damned zippers started! If you look at a jacket zipper, it has little pins to help align it in the guide. There are no such guides - just a "raw" zipper. And it needs to be started evenly so the top stays centered left-right. Theses zipper really just hold the canvas to the inner pad so that it folds correctly. I think Velcro would have worked just as well!

If anyone wants to try this, I'd say it's one of those things that's easy in terms of skill - all you need to be able to do is knock of rivets, and put in new rivets, remove and replace nuts and bolts, and do some pulling and tugging. Oh, and deal with the damned zippers! Beyond that, attention to detail and "puzzle solving" are other skills needed. As the instructions recommend, work one side at a time so you have the other side as a template. The problem is, that removing the rear glass requires some bilateral work. Really, I'd recommend enlisting a helper to take a photo of every rivet, bolt, hook, screw, tab, and strap you remove.
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Old 01-20-2016, 09:18 AM
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That does look good. Do you only have to remove the headliner at the rear, or do you have to pull it off entirely? Regarding the looseness around the rear window, does it still use the cables in the pockets around the glass?
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Old 01-20-2016, 10:02 AM
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Rodney, great job, looks perfect!
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Old 01-20-2016, 10:31 PM
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@Airmousam: Thanks! I am very proud of the job. I do have to give much credit to Robbins - the top they sell is great quality and an excellent fit. As a side benefit, the new top is nice and tight and has quieted all the squeaks and rattles from the frame and dry rubber seals. I have a vial of the MBZ special lubricant for the seals but haven't bothered to use it this winter yet.

@Yidney: The headliner only has to be removed from around the rear glass. It has a sewn-in plastic strip that snaps in between the glass and the frame, The headliner actually wraps around the frame and thus neatly covers the row of nuts that hold the rear glass in place. The headliner also has some straps and tabs that connect to the articulating part of the frame. There is a hard steel cable that it sort of "rolls" over to give it the proper shape along its bottom edge at the "C" pillar when it's closed.

As I mentioned, I should have followed the instructions more closely and done one side at a time. The problem is, before I could work on the left side, the rear glass had to come out, which meant dismantling about half of the right side. A lot of that was with the headliner. That was where I had a big challenge in having to solve the puzzle of how everything was to go back together. It uses a large triangular fabric tab that rolls over that steel cable, another strap that pulls through an eyelet and another tab that all eventually meet in the same rivet on the frame. It seems overly complex, but the movement of the water bag, soft top canvas, glass and headliner as the roof articulates is itself quite complex. It's actually pretty interesting to watch, knowing how all of this works together.

The cables around the glass are only for the water bag, and the Robbins top comes with a new water bag and cables pre-installed. That doesn't affect the canvas fit around the glass, though. It is determined by the tension on a few straps. I can still see the stitching at the edge of the glass frame so I might go back and do a little adjustment on the straps. Then again, maybe I am just being OCD about it. No one else may ever notice it!
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Old 01-21-2016, 09:31 AM
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Nicely done!
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Old 01-23-2016, 02:49 PM
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Wow Rodney, that looks great! Dont know if I would have the cahoonas to tackle that! Im gonna be fixing my seat belt and I'm sweating that. Now, replacing a suspension, no problem!
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Old 03-04-2016, 12:18 AM
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2008 clk350 Cab 112k miles. 1998 E300TD 237k miles
Removing clk top

I have the seam splitting problem above the rear glass on my 08 CLK350 Cabriola. Thought about gluing it but took it to top shop with good reputation. They will remove top, glue and stitch the seam and reinstall the top. Also will clean and retreat canvas for $400 complete. They do new tops for $2000 parts and labor. For $400 now way will I DIY. I garage my car so top overall is in good shape only seam cloning apart.
Just food for thought if your seam is coming unglued.
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:08 PM
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For $400, that is a no-brainer! Getting to the seam is not too bad. You detach the header, remove three zippers and two straps. I'd say overall, it's about 20% of the labor of a full canvas replacement.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:55 AM
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Clk A209 cab

Hi, my problem is the headlining around the rear window is coming unattached down one side. I have clicked it back in place once but it keeps coming loose. Any tips would be great. Thanks
Originally Posted by Rudeney View Post
For $400, that is a no-brainer! Getting to the seam is not too bad. You detach the header, remove three zippers and two straps. I'd say overall, it's about 20% of the labor of a full canvas replacement.
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Old 02-28-2019, 02:43 PM
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Great Job mate look like coming out of the production line
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Old 02-28-2019, 03:10 PM
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Dave in Spain That sounds like the water bag is not pulling back in. There are a couple of elastic straps that pull it in as the rear window closes. They are riveted to the frame, and one has probably broken away from its rivet. It's simple repair, but getting a tool in that tight spot to rivet the strap back in place can be tedious. Of course you can refer to the other side to find the loose strap.
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Old 05-27-2019, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Rudeney View Post
So 8 hours in the garage today and I am 75% done installing the new canvas. As with many A209's my soft top seam failed. I did a temporary fix this summer with Shoe Goo "Boot and Glove" contact cement. It has held for months, but looked ugly because it's nearly impossible to do a decent repair with the top in place.

I ordered the canvas from convertibletops.com. I went with the Robbins brand top which uses same Haartz Sonnenland A5 fabric as the original. Cost was $1,006 delivered. I had also checked with some Robbins authorized installers in the area and got quoted $2200 for the labor! Needless to say, this became a DIY job. I bought the necessary rivets and rear glass seal from my local MBZ dealership. I know that I could probably use generic rivets, but the genuine ones aren't very expensive. I tried to order the OEM staples for the zippers, but they never came in after three weeks. They are basically just staples anyway.

I used the WIS documentation as instructions and it's adequate at best. As is typical with WIS, you really need some decent skills an experience to follow it and the photos are "almost" helpful. Obviously, removing the old canvas is much easier than installing the new one. The top is removed from front to back. There are several zippers and straps that hold it in place. The most complex part of the job is around the rear glass.

One thing that WIS mentioned, and of course I did not completely follow, is to remove and replace one side, then remove and replace the other side. Why? Well, there are a bunch of little fabric straps that are riveted in place and it's helpful to have a reference (i.e. the other side) to look at to know how everything fits. I realized this after removing everything but about half of the through right rear section and stopped. I probably spent about two hours trying to "remember" how everything went back together. Had I left that right rear section in place, I could have just referred to it visually.

I haven't taken hardly any photos of the job. It's just too hard to stop and do that, plus, I really think it would not be very helpful. This is one of those things you need to put your hands on to do. I do have some photos of the new top seam vs. the old one, specifically showing the seam. The original canvas seam was only glued, where the Robbins top is also stitched. For the most part, the Robbins top seems to be of decent quality. I will say that the water bag section of the original top seems much more substantial, as does some of the rear attachment points. Given that the MBZ top is about 3x the cost of the Robbins, I can live with that!

I anticipate another 4-6 hours tomorrow to finish the job. I'll give an update when I'm done!
Hi Rodney,




I am looking to replace my soft top ( CLK 550 2007 ), but i can't keep the front top on the vertical with the engine off, it close after seconds, do you know if is possible to keep it on the vertical with the engine off ?




Thanks,

Bernardo
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Old 05-29-2019, 10:13 PM
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You need to release the valve on the pump and the locks on the cover struts and then operate the top manually. Basically, the first 1:30 iof this video:

http://benzbits.com/w209/soft_top/ManualClose.wmv

You may also need some pieces of wood to prop against the top and its cover to support while working.
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Old 05-31-2019, 02:10 AM
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Thank you so much, lot of your tips are helping me, I am almost done, this video below is very good to the rear part and can help somebody else too!

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