These days the Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a soft top. That’s a lot of soft tops considering that Jeep is breaking sales records this year. Fiat Chrysler sold almost 30,000 in March of this year alone!
However, not all Jeeps come with a soft top these days. Buying a soft top is a way of giving your ride a custom look, just as outfitting your Jeep with decals does.
So if you happen to be one of the Jeep owners with a hard top, there is no better time than now to embrace the Jeep lifestyle. A soft top gives you the greatest amount of flexibility for enjoying your Jeep.
1. Not All Tops Are the Same
There are bikini, safari, and unlimited versions of the Jeep soft top. This useful guide goes into detail about the different styles and what to consider when making your choice.
Another thing to consider is skipping the top and simply going with a “bed cover” of sorts or storage box. This won’t give you protection from the elements but will give you some security and storage space for your stuff.
2. What About the Windows
The windows help give you that feeling of open air while still having the option of sealing up your Jeep. Check the quality of the window zippers and ensure that they are self-correcting.
The highest quality tops will let you remove the windows while leaving the top on. They will also be a UV resistant vinyl.
3. You Need to Maintain It
This is not a set it and forget it kind of thing. For your top to really last, you need to clean it regularly. You also need to lubricate the zippers so that they continue to glide smoothly.
The best method for cleaning soft tops is by hand. Use a rag or foam brush to remove dirt and debris from the top and windows. Just take care with the windows so that you don’t scratch them.
Make sure to rinse the top right away. This will prevent the soap from drying on the top. You’ll need to dry the windows right away if you want to prevent water spots. Use a soft dry cloth to wipe the windows down.
Never for any reason dry wipe dirt or mud off your soft windows. This will scratch them. Always use water or a damp cloth to rinse the dirt off.
4. You’ll Have to Decide Between Frameless and Framed
A framed top is going to be more stable as it has an aluminum frame that attaches to your roll bar. There are clamps and anchor points that secure the top into place.
While these tops are strong and secure, they are also harder to put on and take off. Plus they have a lot more bulk when you put them down. This makes getting in your cargo area harder.
A frameless top also uses rails that attach to your roll cage, it does so in a less secure and skeletal method. The top also attaches to these rails in pieces.
The great thing about this setup is that you can remove pieces of the top as you wish. This makes removal much easier and faster.
Storage, when you take it down, is much easier and less bulky. The downside is that it could be time-consuming to take all the individual pieces down. It can also be harder to have a sealed up and secure fit.
5. Your Soft Top Has a Use Limit
A soft top is only going to last you for so many years. The length of time yours will last depends on how often you drive your Jeep, how often you take it on and off, and how well you maintain your top.
As a very general rule, you can expect your soft top to last your about 3 to 5 years.
6. It’s Worth Spending Some Money
When it comes to Jeep tops, cheaper isn’t always better. You want a top that will be easy to take on and off while still providing adequate protection.
You’ll want a top that seals well to be waterproof. Otherwise, what is the point of even having the top?
As a general rule, there is a reason that some tops are more expensive than others. So be sure to do your research and determine what quality of top you can afford.
7. You’ll Need to Winterize It
When you use your soft top in winter, there are a few things you should not do. Let’s start with that you should refrain from putting it up and down, just put it on and leave it alone.
Once the temperature drops below 41 degrees, the material will contract and become less flexible. So this will increase the risk of damage as you try to put the top up and down.
Freezing temperatures also make your windows delicate. If you hit them trying to knock the ice off you risk punching a hole in them.
If your winters bring snow you’ll need to brush that off the roof. Otherwise, the snow weight will weigh on your soft top stretching the material.
Ditch That Hard Top for a Soft Top
Knowing which Jeep soft top to buy really depends on your budget, style, and intended use. Think about the amount of protection that you want from the elements.
Once you decide what type of top you want, you need to make sure you take the time to maintain it. You’ll want to care for the windows so they don’t become hazy and scratched.
Maintain the zippers so they don’t freeze up on you. This will keep your top in full functioning order.
Before you start any work on your Jeep, you need a repair manual to help guide you.