Fall is a good time to check soft tops for cracking and leaking. Much better, said Scott Matthews, an owner in Bob's Top Shop, than when cold winds blow in or water begins to seep through the cracks.

That's why he suggests checking, and replacing if necessary, vinyl and convertible tops now.The problem with vinyl tops is that as they age and wear they begin to crack and peel. Water seeps between the breaks and stays there to rust and damage the top.

There are, said Matthews, preservatives that can be placed on the top to help prolong its life.

With convertible tops, he said the most important thing is to make sure they are kept clean . . . "By washing them with soap and water, at last once a week."

He pointed out, also, that the popular look right now is the convertible. There are even simulated convertible tops that can give a hard-top car the removable top look. Matthews said they have been popular back East for many years, but are just now starting to catch on locally.

The convertible look is a factory option on new cars, but suggested that those in the market buy the car and have the top added later. "It's a lot less expensive to do it that way and the final results are the same," he said.

He also noted that convertible owners can change windows these days without having to change the whole top . . . "with either glass or plastic."

Matthews pointed out that interiors can be patched and repaired also.

He explained that it is no longer necessary to replace an entire seat covering when a panel is ripped or burned or stained.

He said he can order in and replace just the panel that has been damaged.

Another area of expertise is in building up seats. Matthews said that today's car seats are not as comfortable as they might be. New seats don't have springs, but simply padding.

"What we do is take the seat apart and then rebuild it so that it's more comfortable," he said.

On Nov. 1, Bob's Top Shop will move to a new location, 54 Cleveland Ave. - between State and Main Street at 1445 South.