How To Restore and Protect a Vinyl Top Using 303 Products
There’s a lot of products on the market for cleaning, conditioning, maintaining and protecting vinyl surfaces and along with all these products there is a lot of misinformation and confusion.
303 Convertible Top Cleaning and Care Kit for Vinyl Tops and Tonneau Covers
Like any surface that is exposed to the elements, besides using quality products and proper techniques it’s just as important to regularly maintain surfaces exposed to the elements. All too often people will apply something to protect their vehicle’s vinyl shortly after the purchase but then it falls off the radar screen. A typical scenario goes like this,
- Do nothing. With this approach, vinyl appearance and integrity of the material goes down hill with exposure to sun and wet weather.
- Try to salvage the vinyl before its completely toast. This means the owner will try to find a miracle product to restore and salvage their car’s vinyl so they won’t have to replace it.
Just like most car related maintenance, performing some type of procedure on a regular schedule ensures you’ll get full service life out of the vehicle as well as enjoy its appearance value. When you properly clean your vinyl using 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner and then regularly apply an application of the 303 Aerospace Protectant, you will be doing everything you can to protect your vehicle’s vinyl surfaces.
Now let’s take a look at how to properly use 303 products to clean and protect your car’s vinyl.
1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 2-Door with Factory Original Vinyl Top
Our demo car is a mostly original 1970 Cutlass; this car has less than 30,000 miles on it with the factory original vinyl top. The car has been re-painted using the period-correct single stage enamel paint, so it’s a great original driver for car enthusiasts.
The top, while still intact with no visible tears in the material, looks dull and lifeless; there’s no record of what’s been used on it over the years or when the last time anything beneficial was done to the vinyl.
There is what looks like some stains in the driver’s quadrant of the top but these stains have penetrated below the surface and into the vinyl material itself so it’s highly unlikely that these stains can be removed. Because the rest of the vinyl is a uniform color and appearance the owner does not want to replace the top but keep it original.
This approach to maintaining the original vinyl top is similar to the ideas presented in my article,
Taking your car’s paint to its maximum potential
Only in this case we’ll be,
“Taking your car’s vinyl top to its maximum potential”
4 Easy Steps
1: Wash vinyl top using 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner to remove loose and/or embedded dirt and contaminants.
2: Remove water and dry vinyl top by patting material with quality drying chamois.
3: Apply ample 303 Aerospace Protectant and work into and over the surface.
4: Wipe off excess 303 Aerospace Protectant until top is thoroughly dry.
Now let’s look at these steps in detail…
1: Wash vinyl top using 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner to remove loose and embedded dirt and contaminants
Best Practice: Always work on a cool surface in the shade.
For some applications you can simply spray the 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner onto the surface, massage the cleaner into and over the vinyl and then remove the product before it dries.
For applications where there’s a grain or texture to the vinyl like we see with the vinyl top on this Cutlass, it’s better to rinse the top after cleaning with a source of free flowing water. To use 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner as a washing solution, mix 1 cup of 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner to water to make approximately one gallon of cleaning solution.
First spray the vinyl top with water to rinse off any loose dirt or dust.
Next, using a soft brush, apply the 303 and water cleaning solution and gently agitate the cleaning solution over and into the vinyl top. Before the cleaning solution can dry, spray the cleaning solution and any dirt, dust and other air-borne contaminants off the top with a strong spray of water.
2: Remove water and pat vinyl top dry
Remove any left over water by gently patting the top using a clean, soft microfiber waffle weave drying towel. After any excess water has been removed, allow some time for any residual water to evaporate so the top is completely dry before you apply the 303 Aerospace Protectant.
3: Apply 303 Aerospace Protectant and work into and over the surface
Apply the 303 Aerospace Protectant to a small section of vinyl at a time and this is key, this application needs to be a very wet application, that is you really want to saturate the vinyl with this product and then work the product over and into the vinyl using overlapping motions.
4: Wipe off excess 303 Aerospace Protectant until top is thoroughly dry
After you have thoroughly worked in the protectant, now use a clean, soft, absorbent microfiber towel to remove any excess and this is key, it is the wipe-off process where the magic happens.
Clean vinyl will only absorb and hold so much protectant, once you hit the max ability for the 303 Protectant to penetrate and coat over the vinyl, any excess must be removed. When you rub a dry cloth over the vinyl top, the wiping action will,
- Aid the protectant to chemically bond to the vinyl
- Remove any excess protectant off the vinyl and onto the cloth
- Convert the 303 Protectant that bonds onto the vinyl top into a repellent coating
This repellent coating is dry to the touch, not greasy and this is where the extra benefits kick in.
Dry Repellent Coating
303 Aerospace Protectant leaves a dry repellent coating on the surface. Because the surface is dry to the touch, air-borne dirt, dust and other contaminants will land on the vinyl but will not stick to it. When you wipe the surface completely dry with a dry cloth you change the wet finish to a dry repellent coating.
Applying more 303 Protectant is unnecessary, unwanted and it won’t properly bond to the newly applied 303 Aerospace Protectant anyway.
This is a case where more and more product is not better and better but instead, properly and thoroughly applying ONE application is the correct procedure. Then with time and wear-n-tear, simply repeat the process.
Wet Build-up Products
Some products for vinyl on the market are build-up products, that is the manufacturer recommends applying multiple applications of their product for more and better protection. These types of products are typically oily and they don’t completely dry to the touch. This leaves the vinyl wet or moist on the surface and air-born pollution, dirt, dust and other contaminants will stick to the vinyl and create a soil build-up which will accelerate deterioration.
Breathability is defined as the ability to dissipate heat into the air. It does not mean the vinyl breathes like a human breathes in an out air using their lungs. Vinyl has within it plasticizer oils which add fluidity orflexibility to the vinyl material. This flexibility allows the vinyl to expand and contract with temperature changes.
Wet Build-up Products restrict the breathability of the vinyl and thus holds heat in and overtime this deteriorates the vinyl material. 303 Aerospace Protectant will not hinder breathability.
Protect the Protective Top Coat
Plasticizers are volatile, that simply means they can and will evaporate or become a vapor at normal temperatures and atmospheric pressures. The plasticizers are added to the vinyl material and then a protective top coat is applied to the vinyl to better to lock or seal in the plasticizers. So the ideal goal in maintaining vinyl is to protect the original top coat on new vinyl and this will protect the vinyl material under it.
As the top coat is degraded or worn off, the plasticizer oils will out-gas and this will leave the vinyl hard, rigid and brittle and this is when you will see vinyl crack or fracture.
To protect the top coat you want to stick with cleaning agents that take this top coat into account, this is where we come full circle to the beginning of this article where you are recommended to use the 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner to clean vinyl surfaces as it is specifically formulated to clean will causing no harm to the top coat.
Things to avoid getting onto vinyl are substances and solutions that can harm or degrade the top coat, this would include oils or oily products, fats, harsh detergents, and things like suntan oils on your skin in the case of things like seats, both car seats and boat seats, as well as any place skin would touch.
Best in Class UV Protection
303 Aerospace Protectant is recognized by leading manufacturers of vinyl, rubbers and plastics for providing the maximum level of UV screening protection. Exposure to the sun’s rays will fade and deteriorate vinyl topping, clear vinyl windows and other plastics & rubbers, By regularly using 303 Aerospace Protectant you’ll be doing everything you can to block out harmful UV rays and extend the service life as well as the appearance of your car’s vinyl top.
How to tell when it’s time to re-apply 303 Aerospace Protectant
After 303 Aerospace Protectant is applied water should and will bead up on the surface, as you see water beading ability diminishing over time repeated washings and exposure to the elements, simple repeat the washing, drying and application steps. Another way to maintain a max level of ultraviolet protection and repellency is merely to re-apply 303 Aerospace Protectant sufficiently often enough to keep up the like-new appearance it imparts to the vinyl.
303 Convertible Top Cleaning and Care Kit for Vinyl Tops and Tonneau Covers
The demo car used by Mike Phillips: a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass with less than 30,000 original miles
The original vinyl top is intact, with no rips and in good overall condition except that it is dull and lifeless looking.
There are two in-grained stains over the Driver’s section of the roof, the stain has penetrated into the vinyl material and cannot be removed without damaging or replacing the vinyl.
To use 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner as a washing solution, mix 1 cup of 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner to water to make approximately one gallon of cleaning solution.
Pour the straight 303 Fabric/Vinyl Convertible Top Cleaner into a clean bucket and add enough water to make 1-gallon of cleaning solution.
Using a soft brush, apply the 303 and water cleaning solution and gently agitate the cleaning solution over and into the vinyl top. Before the cleaning solution can dry, spray the cleaning solution and any dirt, dust and other air-borne contaminants off the top with a strong spray of water.
Gently scrubbing the vinyl using a 20 inch brush Montana Original Boar’s Hair Wheel Brush
Gently scrubbing the B-Pillar using a Natural Horse Hair Interior Upholstery Brush
Remove any left over water by gently patting the top using a clean, soft microfiber waffle weave drying towel like the Guzzler. After any excess water has been removed, allow some time for any residual water to evaporate so the top is completely dry before you apply the 303 Aerospace Protectant.
Only the front half will be treated to demonstrate how 303 Aerospace Protectant restores a vibrant, new appearance to old, worn and faded vinyl.
Dampen an applicator pad like this Cobra Microfiber Applicator Pads with 303 Aerospace Protectant.
Then spray a wet application of 303 Aerospace Protectant onto the vinyl top.
Now work the product into and over the grain of the vinyl thoroughly using overlapping motions.
Using a clean, soft dry microfiber towel, remove any excess product, fold to a dry side and wipe the top till it’s dry to the touch.
In this article I’m repeating the process to the other side, in the real world you would repeat the process to the rest of the top.
After applying a wet application of 303 Aerospace Protectant, wipe the surface till it’s completely dry. Fold your microfiber towel 4-ways to give you 8 sides to wipe with and re-fold towel as needed to provide you with a dry wiping side.
Here are the results, you can clearly see how the 303 Aerospace Protectant has brought out the richness of color of the blue pigment in the vinyl top.
The left side is treated, the right side is un-treated
Extreme close-up of the natural factory grain in the vinyl top
Then after taking pictures we finished the back half…
The results are a like-new factory appearance that’s not greasy, wet or oily
303 Products when properly used will protect your car’s vinyl surfaces as well as maintain a factory new appearance.
Natural Horse Hair Interior Upholstery Brush
20 inch brush Montana Original Boar’s Hair Wheel Brush
Cobra Microfiber Applicator Pads
All Purpose Microfiber Towels – 3 Pack
have a72 cutlass vinyl blue top fading dull and shine in spots any suggestions
protect looks good who sells it?
Hi. 303 Products can be found in most automotive stores, marine retailers, and online retailers such as our own. If you need assistance in finding a place to purchase it locally, simply go to the product’s page and click on “Buy in Store” below the “Add to Cart” button. Hope that helps!