2001 Toyota Solara - Replace Convertible Top?

My 2001 Solara’s roof just lost its rear window, shattered as it fell thru. Repairman pointed out where at the base of the soft-top it is pulling away from the vehicle. He quoted me $1,895 all included to replace the roof. I’ve googled around, and I can buy a new roof for about a 3rd of that cost. My question is, how difficult is it to replace? I’m really just have simple entry-level mechanic skills, although like most people I have a few friends who are quite skilled.

Looks like you need to be familiar with a staple gun and glue but most of the job is taking apart the old top and putting the new one carefully on so it fits correctly. I believe you can read an overview of how it works on this site. They include most everything a DIY user would need including detailed instructions. Sounds more detail oriented than hard.


I’d be reluctant to replace a top as a DIY job. Now if you have someone who has done a few tops to consult perhaps I’d try it - but not if everyone has never done one before. The issues are getting it on so there are no wrinkles in the up position. Making sure all the gaskets on the window frames are not damaged and line up properly.

A well done job would look smooth in the up position, and you’d have no excessive wind noise, and no leaks when it rains. A poorly done job could be loose and have wrinkles, flap in the wind, be noisy at freeway speeds, and leak water around the windows and into the trunk.

In the 40’s, 50’s, and '60’s convertible tops lasted about 5 years. They weren’t that easy to replace then, but they were easier than current convertible tops. Those old tops had some pads, but were otherwise pretty basic. Now, convertible tops are fully lined, and the sealing systems are much better, but proper installation and adjustment is the key to getting it to work properly as a system. Also modern tops last much longer 10+ years is more the norm now.

With fewer convertibles on the road a shop with guys who know how to do the job right is getting harder to find. I’d really worry less about the price and more about how good is the installer? Not a DIY job in my opinion. It is worth a shot if you can live with imperfection, and/or you don’t mind tossing away the cost of the top it you botch the job to the point you have to have another top installed by the pro’s.

I’d pay to have an expert do it, avoid issues with bad fit, leaks, frustration, etc, etc…the car repair shows that have included replacing a convertible top made it look like a LOT of work.

After you do about 3 of them and acquire some special tools and skills, they are not too bad…But that first one, that can be a nightmare…You will need a new rear window, that does not come with the top…Top have several price points, depending on the quality of the fabric you choose…You said “repairman” quoted $1900 for the job. Is this a “top shop”, a business that specializes in replacing convertible tops and usually other interior work? I would try and get another estimate or two…Sometimes there are “back-yard” people who do work like this at a fair savings…You can search online for “How To Replace A Convertible Top” video to see how the job is done and whether or not you want to tackle it…

As others have already pointed out…this is not a first time DIY job for the average person. You need skill and patience to do the job right.

I recommend a professional shop. My roof was damaged on our Chevrolet Impala. The insurance said that the whole car would need repainting and the fix would still show. Instead they offered a padded vinyl roof, popular then.

They designated two top rated shops to do the work and it was at least factory quality. This same shop put a ski bag through the rear seat of my wife’s Nissan. They cut a small patch out of the rear seat and formed that into an arm rest; the hole became an upholstered in vinyl pass through for the skis. As good as in any German car.

I would not dream of trying to put a new convertible top on a car by myself.

It wouldn’t be something I would tackle. It might be worth a trip across the border to have it done professionally a little cheaper. Remember American Graffitti? A friend had his whole interior done pretty cheap.

Do it in warmth and sunlight to stretch the fabric. An upholstery shop will do it right. I’ve seen a few jobs that were semi-done by owners and the job was never finished. A tarp was needed. I also saw some really ugly tops that looked like children did the job while taking a break from building a tree house. They had 45 minutes to get it done.

You might show the available video’s to your friends who will be helping you, see if they feel confident doing the job, if not then get another estimate from the pros

If the car is in excellent shape and you like it, an expert is the way to go. If it’s deteriorated to a project car and you have enough money to burn just to teach yourself a new skill, go for it. Personally, I let the experts do difficult jobs I would only do once in a life time.

The car is 12 years old. Get it done right once, and you will never have to do it again. And when you sell it, the top won’t be a problem that you lose value on.