How to Drive a Convertible Top Down Year Round

Love the view, wind in your hair (such as it may be), connection to the environment, and striking appearance of a convertible? Here's how to enjoy it all year round!


  1. Image titled Drive a Convertible Top Down Year Round Step 1
    Protect your eyes, ears, and skin. The more you ride in an open vehicle, the more you'll expose them to wear and tear, so a few precautions are in order.
    • Eyes: Wind can carry small particles and water around the windshield. Liquids (generally water, fortunately) and objects (generally small, fortunately) can fall from structures overhead. So, protect everyone's eyes with glasses. Particularly the driver's, because momentary distraction or blindness could cause an accident.
      • Prescription glasses are a good start, so long as they are plastic, not glass.
      • Wraparound plastic glasses are better. Some sit close to the face for sleek appearance and sealing out wind; others sit further away to accommodate prescription glasses underneath and not brush against eyelashes. Some come with, and most can be equipped with, an elastic band between the ear pieces to keep them handy after brief removal. Polarized sunglasses block direct sunlight and its specular reflections ("glare") much more than other light: light-colored ones are great for morning, evening, and leaving midday light bright but not too bright. These types are often sold for fishing and are inexpensive.
      • Snow and ice treatments leave many small particles on the road for winter and spring.
    • Ears: Wind and traffic can be loud, which means music loud enough to drown them out would be very loud.[1]
      • Slow down. Turbulence, and thus noise, increases disproportionately to speed. 70 MPH (112 km/h) will be much louder than 55 or 60 MPH (88 or 96 km/h).
      • Reduce turbulence and wind noise. Putting the windows up reduces turbulence within the car interior; even a light covering such as earmuffs or a cap reduces turbulence around the ears a little.
      • If you listen to the stereo, choose something that is enjoyable even if muffled, and don't turn it up loud enough to drown out the road noise entirely. Try country, pop, rock, news, or talk, not classical. Turning up the treble may make it more understandable at a given volume setting.
      • You could try hearing-protection equipment such as earplugs, but make sure you can hear the ambient environment, just not as loudly. If you use them, leave the stereo off lest you make it unbearably loud for others in the vicinity.
    • Skin. The main risk is sunburn. The sun shines just about as brightly when it's cold as when it's hot, and much of its damaging ultraviolet radiation can penetrate haze and clouds. You might also get dry skin or chapped lips but those are rarely serious, difficult to treat, or a long-term danger.
      • Keep sunscreen in the car for everyone to apply before a long trip, or even a shorter trip if prone to sunburn.
      • Choose a variety that does not irritate the eyes. Sweat, wind, and rubbing around eyes after not washing hands will inevitably get a little sunscreen in them.
      • Apply it most carefully to whatever exposed skin faces upward: bald head, bald spot, part line, forehead, nose, upper cheeks, ears, collar area, shoulders, chest, forearms and thighs.
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    Keep comfortable in the cold. It can be done as follows:
    • Insulate your torso and cover extremities. Protection from wind is more important and comfortable than bulky insulation. A little ventilation is nice, though.
      • Jacket. A nylon windbreaker or leather jacket is a good start.
      • Earmuffs. The behind-the-head kind is arguably more stylish, or at least less noticeable.
      • Gloves. Check dexterity and grip. Dense synthetic fleece may provide these satisfactorily, and is washable.
    • Use the heater. It uses only a part of the car's waste heat, so it's free. Set it to blow toward the footwells, from which air circulates out less rapidly, as well as the upper body. More heat can be used if it is not directed straight at the driver's bare knuckles.
    • Reduce drafts. Put up the windows, the rear screen (if the car has one), and/or block the gap between headrests with a clear plastic shield (may interfere with reclining) or elastic cover that goes over both (confirm adequate rear visibility).
    • Use heated seats, air deflectors[2], neck ducts[3], a heated steering wheel, and other special features if you have them.
      • If you use an aftermarket electrical heating device, make sure it can't run down the battery, or at least that you have a jump starter box (with its own battery) to use if you do happen to exhaust the battery.
    • Use a personal air duct. These are commercially available under the brand "CoolCop".[4] You attach its cup over a dashboard air vent, close the other vents, and it blows the air through a vacuum cleaner hose and through a soft, flexible vinyl U-shaped nozzle down your collar. Your body will distribute the heat.
      • This item is extremely effective, though probably not practical for more than the driver and front passenger (using the two center vents, which typically have the most direct air paths). You may not need to put the windows up. Protecting extremities from the cold would still be wise.
      • Attach the dash cup to the car carefully and be gentle with it once it is attached so as not to damage the vent. They were developed for Crown Victorias, tough full-size sedans.
      • You may need extra foam rubber to eliminate gaps between the dash cup and dash.
      • Support the nozzle comfortably near your collar by hanging it over the seat belt.
      • Distribute the heat well while avoiding overheating by turning the fan up most of the way, and turning down the temperature.
      • Don't use a personal air duct if you have poor circulation or temperature regulation (you could burn yourself, overheat your core, or fail to heat your extremities) or a manual transmission (the hose could interfere with shifting). Consider its use carefully if you are particularly small (an airbag would hit it and you harder).
    • Avoid frostbite and hypothermia. If a body part becomes painful or numb or you feel chilled or oddly tired overall, put the top down and warm up. Do not drive with the top down in cold weather with passengers particularly vulnerable to chilling or likely not to complain about warning signs, such as anyone sleeping, very old or very young (who shouldn't be in a convertible with the top down anyway because they might not fully understand the need to stay inside).
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    Keep comfortable in the heat. It's easy for a short time in moderate heat: put down the top and drive! For higher heat and longer periods:
    • Drink plenty of water. Cool, cold, or even warm, as you prefer: water absorbs much more heat by evaporating as sweat than by simply warming up inside the body.
    • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
    • Some cars may have very powerful air conditioning that can keep the interior area cool with the windows up but the top down in hot weather.
    • Use a personal air duct such as a CoolCop, ideally with a light but long-sleeved shirt to hold in the cold air. It probably won't be as surprisingly effective for cooling as heating, because cars throw off huge amounts of heat but have to work to make limited amounts of cold.
    • Avoid heat stress. Avoid driving with the top down in temperatures well over 90ºF/32.2ºC except, possibly, with exceptionally powerful air conditioning or a ventilation duct (for everyone). The temperature near a road will be higher, and the hot wind can quickly dehydrate and overheat you. Do not drive with the top down in very hot weather with anyone sleeping, very old, or very young.
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    Know when to give up and close the top.
    • Rain or snow. A convertible interior is generally as vulnerable to water as a regular car's. The top generally can't be closed when the car is in motion–the wind would rip it off–so, when rain threatens, give yourself plenty of time to stop in a safe place and close it.
    • Fatigue. The wind and noise make driving with the top down more tiring.
    • Crime. Close up the car before going through a questionable area, particularly after dark or where stopping might be likely.


  • Don't worry about a used convertible being less fashionable than a brand-new convertible. Any convertible with the top down will attract more admiration than pretty much any other kind of car.
  • Exposure to the elements is very harsh to car interiors.
  • Always close your convertible when you're not using it.
  • Wind can tangle long hair, severely damaging it and aggravating its owner over the course of a year. Braiding or covering it helps, but both together is best. Choose a light-colored, breathable wrap for warm weather.
  • A folding hard top generally does not improve rollover protection. That's what a roll bar is for. Some expensive convertibles have ones that pop up automatically, like airbags.
  • If you plan to drive a convertible top-down most of the time, buy a used one that seems to have been driven mostly top-up for many miles so that you don't waste money consuming the useful life of the interior long before the useful life of the mechanics and body.
  • A soft top's smaller storage-area requirement may be better than a folding hard top's quietness and weather-resistance if you plan to drive your convertible top-down most of the time and store it in a garage.


  • Although tempting, never stand up while driving to get a better view over the windshield.

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