How To Change A Hard Top Jeep To A Soft Top [And Vice Versa]

Jeeps are built to handle all terrains and can be customized to handle them with a more personalized flair. Depending on your Jeep, you will likely want to know whether you can change your Jeep from a hardtop to a soft top and vise versa.  You will also likely need to know the necessary steps to do so.  We have done the research and have the answer to the question.

Jeep hardtops can be converted into soft-tops and vice versa as long as the mounting components are removed, replaced, and installed per the manufacturer's instructions. The steps to convert a hardtop to a soft top vary slightly between models and after-market makers; but, a general step-by-step approach has been listed below to provide a reference point to build upon. It is also important to note that many Jeeps are now made as transition or dual-top ready, which can simplify the overall installation or modification process. The steps, unless noted otherwise, are as follows:

  1. Remove Paneling Attachments
  2. Unscrew Hard Top Fastening Bolts
  3. Disconnect Electrical/Component Wiring
  4. Lift/Remove Hard Top
  5. Install Soft Top Mounting Hardware & Frame
  6. Align/Connect Soft Top Cover
  7. Latch/Tighten/Secure

With the steps to swap provided, let's get into the specifics of safely changing out your Jeep tops from hard to soft. So be sure to keep reading. 

jeep wrangler hard top on a orchard road with trees. How To Change A Hard Top Jeep To A Soft Top [And Vice Versa]

Hard Top To Soft Top Conversion Steps

Before we begin, it's important to remind ourselves that the steps to switch your hardtop to a soft top and vice versa will vary depending on the top and hardware you purchase. Some setups may have greater or fewer setup steps; either way, they work functionally the same.

If at any point during your swap you believe you are damaging components, pause and attempt to further research or get troubleshooting help from a certified or familiar professional.

Let's get into our steps!

1. Remove Paneling Attachments

There is an interior paneling feature specific to 2007 and newer Jeeps that allows for quick, open hardtop access. These are known as freedom panels, located in the roof above passenger and driver side doors. They need to be removed as part of the hardtop assembly and are the first component that needs to be disconnected to make certain hardware visible. Be sure to store these safely when not in use as to avoid bending and alteration to the shape.

2. Unscrew Hard Top Fastening Bolts

There will be fastening bolts located on the interior and exterior of the hardtop. You will need to remove all of these to raise your hardtop high enough to get to the next step. There should be at least 12 bolts being removed. As they are removed, be sure to use the available onboard storage system for convenient access when they are needed again.

Jeeps come with the required tools provided to manage all the bolts related to the doors, tops, and windows, but if they have been misplaced, purchase a replacement kit. The bolts in Jeeps are Torx bolts so you will need to be sure to have the correct bits to successfully remove the top. The Torx kit is relatively inexpensive and is a good long-term investment and handy so long as you continue to own a Jeep.

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3. Disconnect Electrical/Component Wiring

The newer the model, the more likely there are some electrical components routed through the hardtop. Be sure to disconnect all these components before completely removing the top. Defrosters and water hosings are two things that you should be extra mindful of when disconnecting. The disconnected lines should have an alternate plug-in point in the rear of the vehicle, so no loose cords are flapping about aimlessly.

A little extra caution will go a long way as you definitely want to avoid hastily removing and potentially damaging any components as they can be costly repairs or replacements.

4. Lift/Remove Hard Top

Now you should be able to raise the top off of the vehicle. While the hardtops are not excessively heavy, they can be cumbersome, so it's always a good idea to enlist help from someone to simplify the removal, at least the first time.

If you regularly swap out between hard and soft tops, it may be savvy of you to look into a pulley removal system. The pulley system can double up as the long-term storage, as you can keep the top hoisted until it's time to reinstall. There are many brands and after-market makers, but Hoist-A-Top makes a strong, sleek design.

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5. Install Soft Top Mounting Hardware & Frame

Depending on the soft top you have selected, there may be some changes in the hardware provided. In any event, connect the mounting points along the Jeep body to follow all instructions closely to ensure proper installation outcome. Be sure components are firm but not overtightened to prevent stress on the gaskets and hardware. If it is an after-market design, you should always double-check the compatibility for peace of mind.

6. Align/Connect Soft Top Cover

With the mounting hardware in place, you can align and connect the soft top system to your Jeep. The ability to complete this effort solo will be dependent on your comfort level, but many feel that the first few times require a second set of hands to help with the placement. When the soft top has been connected and bolted into mountings, you can unravel and make sure the top is lined up appropriately. This will then lead you into the final step.

7. Latch/Tighten/Secure

With the soft-top unfurled and lined accordingly, you can latch in and tighten the top in place. The rear side window and rear back panel will likely be either a click-in or slide-in, but regardless should be connected as needed. As long as all the components have been connected correctly, your soft top should now be successfully swapped. This process works the same in reverse for a Jeep owner looking to swap out their soft-top to a hardtop. 

How Heavy Is A Jeep Hard Top?

Depending on the material and design, the weight of a Jeep hardtop ranges anywhere between 150 and 300 lbs. After-market makers and special custom hardtops stand to weigh more than factory standard issues, so that is something to be mindful of depending on the type of use you are looking to get out of your Jeep.

Vehicle weight can impact performance and function, so avid Jeep offroaders closely track component weight. 

Are All Jeep Hard Tops Interchangeable?

Jeep hardtops are all interchangeable across all trims, particularly great for those who like to customize their Jeeps. There have been minor design and layout changes over the last 20 odd years.

Venting ports and window sizes are some of the more notable changes, but the bolt configuration has remained the same. This aspect provides added convenience and gives a little more flexibility in terms of cosmetic customization. 

Where Should I Store My Jeep Hard Top?

If removing your hardtop, you should be sure to find a safe storage place. Tops are costly, and you do not want to ding and damage unnecessarily. If you do not have a garage with a pulley storage system, there are a few other alternatives that you can enlist for your storage needs.

Inside climate-controlled spaces work best, so if you do not have space in your garage, perhaps some raised storage area elsewhere would suffice. If your hardtop needs to be left outdoors, you should absolutely invest in a cover, a stand, or ideally both. 

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Are All Jeep Wrangler Soft Tops Interchangeable?

Jeep soft tops are also interchangeable across all trims and models. Depending on the type of outdoor person you are, there may be certain styles of soft tops that more closely meet the terrain and local weather needs. The most visible difference between versions and styles is the way the hardware connects to the roll bar and mounts.

How Do You Store A Jeep Soft Top Window?

Whether you choose to keep the soft top windows in your vehicle or at your home, you should keep them safely protected in a window bag. The bag serves to protect from scratches and uncommon exposure to damaging surfaces. By keeping them in a bag you can increase their longevity and ultimately minimize the amount you could spend on replacement windows in the future.

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Can You Leave A Soft Top On A Jeep In The Winter?

Yes, you can leave a soft top on your Jeep in winter with relative ease. Lay to rest any concerns that soft tops and their limited insulation would make for an overly cold winter experience. The opposite is true because Jeeps are renowned for their vehicle heating systems. The heating more than compensates for any possible discomfort created by the thinner layer of separation. This does mean that there must be a little extra diligence with HVAC maintenance prior to the winter months. 

How Long Do Jeep Soft Tops Last?

Your Jeep soft top's longevity depends on the level of care you take over its usage. Typically a soft-top lasts 3 to 5 years. This can, of course, be aided and prolonged by doing a few maintenance things over its life. Applying soft top protectants and strategic garaging can improve your soft top's life by upwards of one year.

When using the protectorates, be sure to closely follow the instructions provided; otherwise, chemical damage can occur and hasten the degradation of the materials. There are many brands out there, but Bestop is repeatedly returned as the user's favorite selection.

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In Closing

Whether you choose to go hard top or soft, it's always good to be familiar with the options available. Should you choose to make them, you can rest assured that both options are great and will serve you well. Always be sure to properly size, store and maintain your Jeep gear to be operating within the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations. 

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