The Basics of Changing a Jeep Hard Top To a Soft Top

One of the beautiful things about a Jeep is most of them can have their hardtops converted to soft tops and vice versa. You can make changes in the appearance and functionality of your Jeep so it is uniquely yours and it can be your fun toy or weekly transportation/

Making The Change

Changing a Jeep Hard Top To a Soft Top

Changing your hardtop Jeep into a soft-top Jeep is not as complicated as you might think. You are going to have to make some hardware changes so get ready to do a little drilling to help you install the necessary mounts and brackets.

What You Will Need

  • A drill. A cordless drill is easier to use in this conversion process.
  • A Phillips screwdriver
  • A T30 Torx or Star Driver for the removal and installation of the 6 pointed fasteners.
  • A pair of locking pliers like Vise-Grips.
  • An adjustable spanner wrench
  • A pair of safety glasses
  • A little patience

Remove The Hardtop

Before you can change the mounts and brackets and install the soft-top you have to remove the hardtop.

  1. Remove the paneling brackets or freedom panels. If your Jeep was manufactured prior to 2007 you may not have freedom panels. These panels are on the roof positioned above the front doors.

When removing these panels there are going to be a lot of bolts. You should take out at least a dozen. Hang onto these bolts in case you ever want to put the hardtop back in place again.

  1. Another dozen bolts are used as fasteners and positioned on the exterior and interior of the vehicle. You will need a Torx driver or Star driver for this. Once again, save the bolts that you remove.
  2. The wiring that powers some of the door components in the later model vehicles must be removed. The typical components are power window controls and defrosters. You will also need to disconnect any speaker wires if you have speakers in the door of the automobile. Take the time to place the now loose wire connections in the alternate plug-in point you will find at the rear of your Jeep.
  3. You are now ready to lift the hardtop off of the vehicle frame. Before you do this you should call a friend to give you a hand. The top is not really heavy but it is large and cumbersome and an extra pair of hands makes the work much easier to do. A lot of people set up pulley systems in their garages so they can easily lift, and store their hardtops from their Jeeps.
  4. Install the mounting hardware needed for the soft-top. You will find complete mounting instructions are included with the hardware. You MUST be sure to tighten the screws enough that the hardware stays firmly in place without over-tightening them and creating stress on the gaskets or hardware pieces.
  5. The alignment of the soft-top is the next step. You may want to call that friend back because an extra pair of hands during this process makes everything go faster and smoother. Take your time and make sure the top is positioned properly. Once the top is in place you can start to latch it in place. 

When you decide that you want your hardtop back in place simply do everything above in reverse.

How Much Do Soft Tops for Jeeps Cost?

If you did not get a soft top when you bought your Jeep you can buy them later. You can buy OEM soft-tops or aftermarket soft-tops. The only problem with any aftermarket item is making certain it is designed to fit the vehicle before you pay for something you may not be able to return.

Soft-Top Prices By Chart

Smittybilt Black Demin Soft TopStarting at                        $299.99
Smittybilt with no upper windows Starting at                       $199.99
Bestop Supertop NXStarting at                   $1,349.99
Bestop Trektop NX Glide in Black TwillStarting at                     $1749.99
Bestop Trektop Ultra Soft Black TwillStarting at                   $2,999.99
Bestop SupertopStarting at                $1,049.99

The Prices of Soft-Tops Are Going to Vary Greatly Depending On

  • Who manufactured the top
  • The material the top is made out of
  • The windows that are included with the top
  • Whether the windows included are tinted or not
  • Whether you have bought a complete installation kit or not

Tips From The Pros

  • The entire process of installing the soft-top will probably only take about 1 to 3 hours. You will get faster as you get more experienced with doing this.
  • Get your tools out and ready before you start removing anything
  • Always, always, always store any screws you take out so you have them when you want to put the hardtop back
  • Read the installation instructions thoroughly before you start to remove anything
  • Watch YouTube videos to help you gain more familiarity with the procedure
  • Be careful when installing the metal frame. The metal can be bent or distorted if you get rough with it. 
  • If the frame of the soft top is not locking into position check the frame and make certain it is secured into the slots at the windshield and rear of the vehicle
  • Carefully place the soft-top on the frame. Take your time and do not jerk and snatch.
  • If you rush trying to place the soft-top on the frame you can damage the top, cause rips and tears, or damage the frame.
  • Securing the soft-top is done from the inside of the vehicle.
  • Clean your window and door zippers periodically to make sure they fasten easily and close completely.
  • A soft-top that is not properly secured can fly off while you are traveling

If you have any problems installing your soft top it is best to go ask a pro to demonstrate the installation for you. Once you have learned to do this you will become an old pro quickly.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Soft Top and Hard Top

Soft-Top Benefits

  • Create a unique appearance
  • Allow you to not feel as closed in as you do with a hardtop in place
  • They allow the vehicle to be lighter so you use less fuel when driving
  • They allow you to have increased rear space for groceries, luggage and such
  • They do not cost as much as hardtops

Soft-Top Cons

  • They are easy to tear or damage
  • They let thieves get into your vehicle easier
  • They are loud when you are traveling at speeds greater than 30 mph
  • Sun and natural elements will damage them
  • They need to be replaced more often than hardtops
  • They tend to leak more than hardtops do

Hardtop Benefits

  • There is less noise when traveling with a hardtop
  • They are more protected from wind, rain, and sunlight
  • Vehicles with hardtops are harder to steal things out of
  • You can add roof racks to increase cargo space drastically
  • They are warmer in the winter because they do not let so much heat escape
  • They allow the cool air from the air-conditioner to keep the vehicle comfortable
  • They are easy to clean
  • You do not have to change them frequently due to deterioration or damage from the elements

Hardtop Cons

  • They are heavier than soft-tops so the vehicle uses more fuel
  • They reduce interior cargo space
  • They are harder to remove when you want to drive topless
  • When removed they are harder to store

More Jeep Hard Top And Soft Top Related Articles You May Like
1. How to Fix Jeep Wrangler Hard Top Leaking
3. Cleaning Jeep Wrangler Soft Top & Windows (Complete Guide)


Can You Add A Hardtop To A Soft-Top Jeep?

This changeover will require you to change some hardware but it is completely doable on most Jeep models.

Can You Drive a Jeep With A Soft-Top for Day-To-Day Driving?

You can use a Jeep with a soft-top for your daily driving needs. Do remember that the soft-top Jeep is harder to air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

Which Is Better A Hardtop or A Soft Top?

This is going to depend on where you live, how you drive, and what image you are trying to present. For super cold climates with a lot of snow or heavy rain, you will like the hardtop better. If you spend a lot of time on outdoor adventures and driving along the beach you will likely like the soft-top more.

Final Thoughts

The interchangeable tops for Jeeps are just one of the fabulous features that convince people to buy these vehicles. Soft-tops are seen as the perfect “play” tops while hardtops are viewed as the best when you face cold weather or you want to travel at higher rates of speed for long distances.

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