Replacing the Rear Plastic Screen

A beautiful clear April morning - not too cold - drop the hood? - go for it - crack! The rear screen was just a little too brittle.
For several years I had always unzipped the screen before dropping the hood, but with the addition of rollbars, this became a little more awkward, so I opted for the lazy way, okay in Summer, but not so good in Spring.

The only solution is to replace the plastic, and this can be done several ways.....

1. Get someone to do the whole thing at a cost of about 175 including VAT ( April 2006 )
2. Remove the screen and surround yourself and get a new plastic section sewn in for about 105 including VAT ( April 2006 )

I opted for method 2, but remember, some firms operate an exchange system, whereby they send you a refurbised part and you return your damaged one. If this is the case, you need to make sure that either you send the whole section includig both halves of the zip, or you ensure the zip halves match - Over the years, different sizes have been used. It's a lot more work to remove the top section of the zip.

I found a local firm that could provide the correct plastic - 1mm thick and tinted pale green - with a quick turn around.

Wessex Car Trimming Works , Southampton, Tel 023 8001 7295


Now I'm not the only person to have done this repair, and since Jim Prior has covered the topic so well, he has kindly allowed me to include his page within mine. If you want to check for any updates Jim may have made, go to http://leisure.prior-it.co.uk/replace-mgf-window.shtml or visit his whole site at Prior I.T.

Just a couple of extra comments...............

Click to enlargeThis is the repaired screen, still covered in cling film to save it getting scratched. You can see the section that is removed with just the lower half of the zip.


Click to enlargeWhen replacing the pop rivets, start with the one in the centre of the back rail, and line up the rail by temporally inserting a rivet in an adjacent hole.


Click to enlargeWhen you come to fit the rivets at each end, be careful not to trap the roof material under the insert strip.



Click to enlargeMaterial specification of the new window, and a very sound hint !



Click to enlargeNice and clear ! Mind you, the old one was not too bad, after a great deal of Greygate polish and elbow grease!



Below are the full instructions, courtesy of Jim Prior: (as of 22 April 2006)

Introduction

Introduction

What you get: In this project I explain with photos how to replace the rear plastic window of a Rover MGF. The job can be done in a long afternoon, and is sure to save you money. The most difficult part is likely to be obtaining the correct replacement window in the first place. Also at the end of this page I give a warning about scams when selling your car on the Internet. PLEASE READ IT FOR YOUR OWN SAKE !!

Disclaimer:I am not a professional, and what I explain here may be performed better by a garage, however the job is reasonably easy and straightforward when the right tools are used. I accept no responsibility for any damage that may result to your vehicle as a result of this article. Just take your time and be careful and you'll be fine.

Overview

Did you know that the correct way to fold down the convertible roof of an MGF is by undoing the zips inside the rear window, pulling it apart at the velcro fastenings and laying the window down flat into the rear parcel shelf - before you fold the roof down?

Well to be honest I also knew that - but I never bothered, because its easier to just bend the window inwards and fold the roof down in one step, rather than having to get into the car and do all that unfastening stuff (made more difficult if you also have the rear fold-down windshield as well).

But the window gradually becomes stiff and more brittle with age, until one day when you're in a hurry, and don't take care with lowering the window, the plastic creases just once too often, and....

...damn it!

A split appears.

Also sometimes the hood frame seems to get itself in the wrong order when lowering the hood, it gets stuck and this prevents the hood from lowering properly.

Don't force it !!

The trick is to lift upwards the middle frame hoop as you lower the main uppermost frame hoop, then it will lower nice and smoothly. So use both your hands. Try it and you will see what I mean, particularly if you look inside the hood as you lower it. I think what happens is that the middle hoop sometimes gets "inside" the lowest hoop, and this stops it collapsing down properly. So by simply holding the middle hoop up a bit as you lower the whole frame prevents it from getting caught.

It happened to me, just as it has probably happened to countless other MGF owners.

And I was intending to sell it fairly soon.

Another reason to replace it is simply because with age it has become crazed and scratched, and you can longer see through it. Not that us MGF drivers have ever really used the rear view mirror that much, and tend to rely mostly on the side mirrors when driving!

Its funny but a split is one of the things that prospective buyers will notice instantly and causes them to "prefer" the other MGF they saw earlier in the day.

Well I knew it was a job that had to be done, and I wondered how easy it would be, so I had a look around the Internet and found another couple of pages that gave the procedure that I followed - but while I was doing it, I took several photos for you to follow too, and hopefully my page will fill in any gaps that were missing from the instructions that I found.

Here is a link to the original page that I found. I recommend you get that page and print it off because it gives some additional details.

http://www.mgfcar.de/softtop/replacement.htm

Another page which also gives (brief) instructions, and offers replacement windows or a complete fitting service can be found at:-

http://www.softtopwindows.co.uk

Special Note: My photos and instructions cover replacing only the rear window (and one half of the horizontal zip), so leaving the other zip half attached to its black felt covered zip retainer on the canopy frame. This is why when you order a replacement you must make sure the zips are of the correct type, so you can zip the new one in place correctly. If your zip is damaged, you will need to make sure you get a complete new zip set which includes the black felt zip retaining strip too. The instructions at the MGFCar.de web site (1st link above) do detail the complete fitting, but it is more involved and sounds potentially more messy. If you can get away with doing just the first half of the job, it will be quicker and easier.

Main Tools Required

  • Electric drill capable of slow-drilling, with 3.5mm drill and others like a 3mm, 5mm and 7mm drill.
  • Hand riveting tool with front insert for 3.5mm blind rivets
  • Hoover, brush
  • Large thick work-cloth or blanket to protect the paintwork.

Main Parts Required

  • A new rear window screen
  • Little tin of matt black paint (to get rid of the shine on the new rivets)
  • Pack of 3.5mm pop blind rivets (flat head/aluminium/stainless steel) about 20 will do. Main shank of rivet needs to be 17mm from top of head to bottom of pin before "popping", actual rivet length must be 15mm. Any shorter and it won't go far enough through the frame to grip properly because it has to clamp both the metal strip plus the material of the window. Finding the correct rivets was quite frustrating because they aren't quite a standard size like you often get supplied in pop-rivet gun kits.
  • You might be best to have some slightly larger diameter rivets on hand too, in case you can't help making a larger hole when drilling out a stubborn rivet. Same rule applies though - minimum length of 15mm.


Its best to get this pop-rivet exactly. Most rivets you get that come with pop-rivet gun kits have the right
diameter (3.5mm), but just aren't quite long enough. You've really got to get this exact rivet to do the job well.

Obtaining the Correct Replacement Rear Window

I found the official MGF web site at http://www.mgf.co.uk

From there I was able to find a dealer who supplied me with a replacement window.

I paid 80 for a second-hand window, including shipping. I guess this was probably sourced from old stock, or a scrapyard.

This was not without its problems though. Apparently there are two types of MGF window. The Mark 2 newer soft top from 1997 on has a different sized zip. So make sure you ask for the correct window. A good supplier should know the differences!

Also ask whether the replacement window you are getting is a genuine MGF window....

The first window I was sent had been refurbished with inferior quality plastic, and although it was nice and clear, it was more flimsy (thin PVC) and I was sure that although it might be more flexible, it would very soon get worn through. It was stitched into place in the window surround, but had obviously been done by hand, and the stitching itself was a bit dodgy. Also the horizontal zip on it had smaller teeth, and when I offered it up, it would not marry up and zip into the other half of the zip still fixed into the fold-down roof.

I sent it back (extra postage costs) and asked for the proper one! The guy was quite apologetic and it was no problem to send the older style with the larger zip, and this time it was also the genuine article.

Also if they are sending the window in the post ask the sender to pack it well to avoid it being bent or damaged in
the post, i.e. preferably carefully rolled up and sent in a large tube, or protected by plenty of bubble-wrap, cardboard packaging and

If you decide to get a professional window replacement company do it for you, I would expect a top-notch job and the condition of the window to be immaculate. You should ask to see the quality of the window before it is fitted. If it has scratches or appears to be a bodged reconditioned window I would try elsewhere.

Useful Resources

Official MGF web site: http://www.mgf.co.uk

Original window replacement page: http://www.mgfcar.de/softtop/replacement.htm

Offers replacement windows or a complete fitting service: http://www.softtopwindows.co.uk

Very useful MGF Maintenance site is Tony's Green Bullet, which provides a wide variety of maintenance jobs, complete with photos: http://www.apttony.co.uk/

Getting Started

Before you start here are a couple of tips:-

  • Choose a day with good weather. The job from start to finish took me about 4 hours, but this was partly because of faffing around when I didn't have the right rivets, so might take less time for you. Not a problem if you have enough room inside a garage, but I prefer to spread out and did the job on the drive.
  • Get a good thick blanket or dust cover to prevent swarf (from drilling out the old rivets) from scratching the paintwork.
  • Also as you lean over the back of the car while working, don't lean too heavily or you may dent the boot.
  • You may find like I did that the previous owner had already replaced the rear window, so the pop-rivets have been drilled out once already - so particular care is required when drilling the rivets out, not to widen the holes even more.
  • You need the help of a mate (its a no brainer so a wife or girlfriend will also do, te he), simply to hold the rear frame up while you are drilling the old rivets out, and to make a mug of tea at regular intervals! :o)


Inspecting the rivets revealed they had been drilled out and replaced once already!
(2 rivets to the left, if they were original they should be black)

Lower both of the windows and open the doors wide. Turn on the stereo with some good sounds!

Release both the front hood catches at the top of the windscreen just to release the tension on the roof, but don't lower it down yet.

The hood well carpet covers the retaining clips.......

Notice in my car the original rivets are silver, indicating they have been replaced once already!

Close-up of one retaining clip......

Pull back the rear edge of the hood well carpet to reveal the 5 clips......

Just lift up each clip to release, then drop it down. Make sure ALL the clips are properly released.

Now get outside the car, and you should find that the rear of the hood will now fold/pull upwards to release it from the body. It may require a bit of a firm but gentle tug........

Lift it evenly across both sides, it should now freely lift up and down.......

Inside the car again, undo the window zip......

You should now be able to lay the window flat down inside the hood well (just like you should do normally when lowering the convertible roof - but probably didn't coz its too much trouble and which is why the window split in the first place!). Now the whole rear canopy is free to lift upwards......

Before you get started, take a look at the existing rivets to see what needs removing. In this photo you can see 3 rivets, two in the middle of the photo, and one just below my thumb.....

Here is the same piece, folded down where you can see another silver head rivet just to the left of the velcro strip.....

Next, cover it all up with a good thick layer of cloth......

Now you need to drill out the old rivets. This is actually simpler than it sounds, but it does require a lot of care because if you widen the original holes, the new rivets will not be able to grip properly, and you will have to use a larger diameter rivet.

This bit is also best done with someone else firmly holding the rear canopy frame up, while you drill.

I used about a 7mm drill bit, and I set my drill on a very slow speed. I mean about 1 or 2 turns every second which I can do because it has a smooth power trigger. All you need to do is drill off the head of each rivet, so go real slow and gentle, press very lightly - you DO NOT want to go all the way through with this 7mm!!!. Its only alumnium, which is a nice soft metal and each head should come off quite easily after only a few turns of the drill. If you do not have an adjustable speed drill you might be better just to use a 3mm drill because if the larger drill bit bites and goes through you would end up with a widened hole - not what you want!

The idea is that once you've "beheaded" each rivet, you can simply use a punch or screwdriver to knock them through. However you may encounter a couple of stubborn ones which will require drilling through. So swap to a smaller drill like 3mm, and just be extremely careful when doing this not to widen the hole more than necessary.

In this pic you can see the head of a rivet still stuck to the drill bit......

The first rivet has been beheaded, and knocked through, so releasing the metal clip holding the hood. Now you can get at the steel retaining strip......

Caution: Note that the metal retaining strip is made of steel and may cause your 7mm drill bit to catch. It might be wise to swap to a smaller drill bit. You do not want to widen the slotted holes in the steel retaining strip, because the new rivets would not be able to hold it when popped in.

Carry on beheading the rivets all the way around the hood frame......

Now you're at the other side. You can see clearly in this photo the slotted steel strip and the beheaded rivets. Like I said be careful when drilling out not to widen the slots when drilling......

A close-up of one of the central rivets that was holding the steel strip in place.......

Once all the heads have been drilled off, the metal retaining strip can be lifted clear and the rear window can be released from the velcro strips at each side, and pulled clear of the car...........

Now you see it, and now you don't.......

OK - So far, so good - Take a break!

Now the next steps if you were completely removing the other zip-half as detailed in the MGFCar.de instructions involve the black felt strip. I did not need to do this step. You might not need to either. However I have included these photos for reference in case you need to do the complete job.

My finger is pointing at the position of the first of 7 nuts hidden underneath the black felt. This is where you would slit the felt where the nut is located in the hood bow. You can feel it by pressing on the felt.

And here my thumb is pressing where another nut is located.

Not quite sure why I've put the next photo in! Maybe its useful?

This just shows some of the roof tensioning webbing passing through the bow frame.....

And this is Bobby next door trying to be helpful.....!!!! He's a wag isn't he?!

OK. Tea-break over, time to get on.

First I recommend you clean up because we're about to fit the new plastic window and you definitely don't want swarf scratching that shiny new window. Remove the cloth with all the swarf on it, and shake it well somewhere that you can sweep it up. You don't want your dog or kids to go treading on it with bare feet.

Its also best to hoover any swarf out of the rear hood well too.

Make sure there is no swarf still stuck to the cloth, and put the cloth back in place to cover the car again.

Put the new window in place. You may need to use a sharp pointed instrument to punch holes through the new window cloth material in alignment with the steel retaining strip. It might be best to do this with the window out of the car, on the ground. But it may already have suitable holes in it. Mine did.

Once everything seems ok and lines up, start pop-riveting the new rivets into place, starting at the centre of the frame, and working outwards to each side. This way you ensure an even tension.

Learning to Pop-Rivet

Have you pop-riveted before? If not, well its dead simple. I recommend you try popping a rivet into nothing first so you see how much pressure you have to apply to actually pop it.

First make sure the correct nozzle size is installed in the gun for the size of pop-rivet pin we are using.

Keep your fingers out of the way of the handles when popping the rivet or you might trap them.

Its quite a considerable amount of pressure because you are effectively trying to stretch the pin to breaking point. You will also see how the pin squeezes up into the body of the rivet causing it to bulge and expand. When it has gone as far as it can, the pin reaches breaking point, and "pops". Don't point it at anyone when you do this because the rivet might fly off (because its not actually in a hole yet).

Just put a rivet in the gun (slide the pin of the rivet into the nozzle of the gun), grip the lever gently and squeeze just sufficient so it grips the pin of the rivet. Push the body of the rivet into the retaining strip, and through into the hole. Push it nice and hard to make sure its squeezing the parts together. Do not squeeze the handle to "pop" it just yet.

Get a hammer and give the top of the gun a couple of knocks to make sure the rivet is as far into the hole as it will go....

Now, while holding the gun firmly against the parts, squeeze the gun handles together hard. As explained above this takes considerable pressure because its got to pull the pin up into the rivet, which squeezes the rivets sides outward to grip the hole, and then you keep on squeezing until the pin under extreme tension, "snaps" off, so releasing the gun from the rivet.

Finally you pull the handles apart to release the spent pin, ready to insert a new rivet........

Here is the side clip all riveted up......

With everything neatly riveted together, you can lift the hood right up, remove the blanket, and hoover the hood well carpet again....

Lift up the hood well carpet and give a good hoovering under there too.

Finally lower the rear hood (paint the outside of the rivets beforehand if necessary) and do up the clips on the inside, making sure the hood carpet edge is pushed back neatly behind the rubber flip seal again. Check all the way around to make sure its all neatly in place.

Note: Inside, the shiny new rivets stand out against the black frame, so you might want to paint them with a small modelling brush and matt-black paint so they are less noticeable.

The new rivets even show up from outside, so you might want to give their outer faces the same matt black treatment.

On my car the zip fastener hangs down at one side, and when travelling at speed with the windows open this would tap annoyingly on the metal frame........

.....so I fastened some velcro to it so as to hold it up out of the way.

LAST THING - DO UP THE FRONT HOOD CATCHES BEFORE YOU DRIVE !!!!

Hooray - job done!

Now I can valet the car, and get it sold.

What a pity - She looks so damn good!

And she's gone now :-(

 

Thanks Jim