Have you just noticed the first bug of the summer season splat against your jeep’s windshield? While you might lament its untimely demise and the mess you’ve now got to clean off the glass, admit it, you can’t help but feel that zing of elation at the sign that summer is finally on its way.
At last, after all those months of cold weather, you can actually start to think of stripping back to basics. Which doesn’t mean wandering around in your underwear in the sunshine, but rather taking your jeep hardtop off and putting it in storage for the duration.
Removing and storing your jeep hardtop doesn’t sound overly complicated, does it? If you think it’s just a case of whipping it off and stashing it in the garage wherever it fits, just take a quick look at how much a replacement one will cost you. Once you’ve got over the shock and realised it’s really a good idea to do the job properly to save any expensive accidental damage, you’ll be on the right track.
Storing your jeep hardtop is basically a simple operation if you think ahead and are well organised. One extra thing you might want to check before you go ahead and remove the hardtop is the long-range weather forecast. Is that being negative? Not really. You’ll kick yourself if it rains the first time you go for a drive al fresco.
A jeep hard top, once you’ve got it off the jeep, is quite a bulky item and can take up an awful lot of space. If you’ve been tinkering around in the garage all winter for want of something better to do, then you’ve probably left stuff lying about all over the place. If you have, there’s only one thing to do and that’s get on and tidy it up or you’ll be storing your Jeep top in the living room.
What you need to aim for is clear access to the back of the garage. Why the back of the garage? Once you do get the top correctly stored, you’ll want it to be well out of the way of any vehicle you might need to park inside. If you’ve got youngsters in the family, you really don’t want them to discover it and turn it into a Wendy house when you’re out with the Jeep off-roading. Believe it, it can happen and much worse besides. The dog might decide to use it as a temporary bed. You’ll need a certain amount of space to manoeuvre when moving the jeep top too, so make sure the access alley you clear to the rear of the garage is wide enough and free of all that winter debris which might trip you up.
Removing the hardtop from the jeep isn’t a one-man job unless you’ve invested in a hardtop hoist. Yes, it’s time to find an extra pair or two of hands to help you with the job. So get on the phone to a couple of buddies. You can always pay them back by reciprocating if they’ve got jeeps too. That’s what friends are for. You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right tools for the job as well. Some jeep manufacturers are kind enough to provide a special toolkit, but if that’s not the case for you, you’ll need a torx bit socket wrench.
No matter whether you have a two or four-door Jeep, the first part you’ll need to get off are the front freedom panels. If you’re not sure where they are, sit in the driver’s seat and look up. Yes, they’re those two sections above your head. Depending on the model of your jeep they could be held in with levers or bolts. If they’re held in with levers, just flip them open and push the panel out. If not, locate the bolts which hold each panel in, unbolt them and lift them out. Put the panels somewhere safe where you won’t stand on them or trip over them. Once you’ve got the front freedom panels out of the way, you’ll be able to see the bolts which hold the rest of the top in place.
Before you stuff the bolts you’ve taken off the front panels in your pocket, walk round to the back of the jeep and have a look at the shelf in the cargo compartment. See all those holes you thought were there for decoration? The clever manufacturers put those there just to store your hardtop bolts in. The bonus is, they’ll still be there at the end of autumn and you won’t have to go searching the garage for them. Simple, but genius.
So now you’re ready for the big job. You’ll likely have spotted the bolts you exposed when you removed the front freedom panels. If not hop back up and have another look, you’ll soon spot them. There’s one either side. Time to put your Torx bit to work, unscrew them and store them.
Don’t Bolt Off
Now jump up back, but before you get busy unbolting, the first thing you need to do is disconnect the windshield wiper cable and the wiper fluid pipe. It really is just a case of unplugging them from the connectors on the hardtop. Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is remove the screws on either side of the jeep body. There’s mostly only three each side so it won’t take a lot of doing. Make sure you store them in the back with the rest.
You’re now ready to lift the jeep hard top off. Okay, if you’re man mountain and as agile as a mountain goat, you may be able to do this solo by getting in and lifting in on your back. Stepping down from the jeep while balancing the hardtop on your back is the tricky bit. It’s not good for your spinal column either so this is where your buddy gets to participate. Good teamwork and timing make for a clean and co-ordinated lift. Yes, that’s one, two, three, up. Lift it clear and carry it away from the jeep.
Now you’ve got the hard top off, it’s time manoeuvre it to its storage location, drop it down gently, close the garage door and go for a drive.
Another option, or if you are on your own, is to install a lifting hoist in your garage. These allow you to easily remove your hard top “single-handed”. If you have space then you could always leave the hardtop in place on the hoist but it may be more secure to remove it and store it elsewhere. Just check you have enough ceiling height in your garage an that the joist are secure enough to fix the hoist mounts. A hoist kit worth considering is the Harken Hoister.
Cart It Around
While the hardtop is probably going to be safe enough where it is, you might want to consider investing in a hardtop cart or dolly (check out this heavy duty storage cart from Bestop). They’re small, don’t take up much room and make it incredibly easy to move your stored hardtop from one place to another if you need to. It’s amazing just what difference a metal framework with four casters can make to your life.
Yes, acquiring one does require some level of investment, but your hardtop will be well stored and you can move it around the garage without any stress or strain. There are also models which will hold the hard top and two or four doors as well as the freedom panels. Which, if you like things to be well ordered are absolutely ideal. You can also purchase covers for them which will keep the hardtop and doors dust free all summer. They are well worth taking a look at. This cover from Bestop is a good recommendation, it’s not cheap but will provide some useful protection for your top.
If a hard top dolly is out of your budget range, then start forward planning for those long winter nights when you’ve got plenty of time on your hands. Consider making your own hardtop dolly with a wooden frame. Uncomplicated designs which are easy to follow are available on the internet. You don’t even need to be that much of a handyman to make one. The basic structure is simple, add some casters, a few pieces of foam or carpet for protection and you’ll be ready for next summer before it’s even spring.