Change a Hard Top Jeep to a Soft Top + HOW TO GUIDE

Are you considering a hardtop to a soft top conversion on your Jeep? Is it a DIY job or a specialized conversion you should leave to a professional? Are there any miscellaneous parts needed and are the two tops interchangeable? These are some of the topics we’ll cover in this article, so stick around.

Yes, you can convert a hard top to a soft top by removing all the hard top mounting components and replacing it with those specific to soft tops. The two are not interchangeable.  

There are advantages and disadvantages to converting to a soft top. We will get into some of the benefits such as weight reduction, aesthetics, and ease of use as well as which option is best suited for your needs.

Can You Change a Hard Top Jeep to a Soft Top

Yes you definitely can do the switch. However there is a certain amount of skill required. There are quite a few brackets, mounts and drilling required in the installation, so you’ll need to be quite a DIY type person. We have attached a complete DIY guide with images and step-by-step instructions.

When doing the switch you need to completely remove all the hard top components and replace them with the soft top mounting system. Same applies when swapping back to hard top, all soft top components needs to be removed first. It’s not recommended to fit the hard top over your soft top.

Let’s now highlight some of the pros and cons of each top.

Is A Hard Top Or Soft Top Jeep Better?

There are a variety of frames and top available, ranging from framed or frameless soft tops, modular soft tops, bikini tops, flip tops and more.

Whatever your reason for converting from a hard to a soft top, may it be better visibility, versatility or just that extra cool factor, there are some considerations to be aware of. Security definitely is not improved with a soft top and you’ll need additional lockable boxes and fixed trunks to keep any valuables safe from prying eyes.  

Let’s first look at some of the disadvantages of a hard-top

  1. Bulky and heavy
  2. Requires 2 people to remove and refit
  3. Longer fitment times
  4. Can’t go topless on the fly
  5. Dedicated storage space is required when removed

What are some of the advantages of a hard-top?

  1. Better security
  2. Quieter road noise
  3. Better insulation from the elements
  4. No flapping noises at high speeds

What are some soft top Advantages?

  1. Ease of use
  2. Easily stored
  3. Light
  4. Not prone to leaks
  5. On-the-fly topless option

Disadvantages of a soft top

  1. Very low security
  2. Wind noise and flapping
  3. Can tear/rip
  4. Drive-through car washes are risky
  5. Weaker insulation to the elements

Now that we know the advantages and disadvantages of each top, let’s look at what is required to converting your hardtop to a soft top.

Hard Top to Soft Top Conversion

Fortunately we have a step-by-step guide available to guide you through the entire process, including images.   You don’t require any specialized tools.

The conversion process is moderately difficult and requires a bit of skill

Fortunately there are many aftermarket kits available which comes pre-packaged with all the necessary hardware and miscellaneous components.The conversion process is moderately difficult and requires a bit of skill to do properly.

When converting to a soft top, remember, the cheaper kits come with thinner fabric. Always opt for a thicker sailcloth that helps keep the road noise down much better than the cheap soft versions.

Installation Process

The time required to do the installation is roughly 4 hours.

You will need the following tools

  • Drill
  • #2 Phillips Bit
  • #2 Phillips Screwdriver
  • T30 Torx Driver
  • Vise-Grips
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Safety Goggles

The entire process comprises of 22 steps. Below is a quick overview of the steps to install the soft top on a 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler JK. For more detailed information with images, download this guide to installing a soft top on your Jeep JK here 07-Current

Step 1Install Bow Mount Brackets
Step 2Install Door Rails
Step 3Install Top Arch
Step 4Install Tailgate Bar Mounts
Step 5Attach Side Bows to Header/Fabric Assembly
Step 6Place Fabric/Header/Side Bow Assembly onto Jeep
Step 7Install #2 Bow Assembly
Step 8Secure Header/Fabric/#2 Bow/Side Bow Assembly to Door Rails
Step 9Assemble Rear Bow and Attach to Bow Mount Bracket
Step 10Attach Stay Straps to Rear Bow
Step 11Attach Bow Flap to #2 Bow
Step 12Drape Fabric over the top of the Jeep and Attach Bow Flaps to Rear Bow
Step 13Fold back Header/Fabric assembly and attach Cable Springs to #2 Bow bracket
Step 14Attach Foam Seal and Foam Tape on inside of Header
Step 15Secure Rear Corners of Fabric to Jeep Belt Rail
Step 16Close Front Windshield Header Latches
Step 17Install Rear Window
Step 18Install Side Window left
Step 19Install Side Window Right
Step 20Install Tailgate Bar
Step 21Snap Tailgate Bar Onto Tailgate Bar Mounts & Secure Bottom Corners of Rear Window
Step 22Folding the Top Down

So there you have a general overview of what the fitment process entails. For more detailed information with images, download this guide to installing a soft top on your Jeep JK here 07-Current

Are Jeep Wrangler Tops Interchangeable? Soft Top to Hardtop

It is not recommended to fit a hard top directly over your soft top cover. There are specific mounting points for each top which is designed to seamlessly secure the top to your jeep.  Fitting a hard top over your soft top cover will damage the sailcloth and all the associated mounting points.

Can you add a hard top to a soft top Jeep?

There are many aftermarket hard top kits available which are year and model specific. The mounting system differs from a TJ to a YJ and a JK 2-door and 4-door models. It is possible to mount a hard top on any Jeep provided the hard top is specifically designed for your year and model Jeep.

How much are soft tops for Jeeps? (Cost comparison)

Have you ever heard the expression, “you buy cheap, you buy twice”. That principle definitely applies in this case. There are cheaper alternatives on the market as well as the higher end products. If the product is on the upper end, there is usually a reason for it and you can expect a higher quality product. Opt for a make that offers a decent (2+Year) warranty and go with a brand that offers a good after sales service. It’s always good to get opinions of discussion forums first and to read a few product reviews before you commit.

ModelMakeSoft topPrice Range
YJRampageDenim$605-$710
YJRugged RidgeVinyl Coated Black Diamond Polyester And Cotton Fabric$329-$425
YJBestop SupertopFabric Is Mildew-Resistant, Contains Uv Inhibitors And Is Offered In Factory Original Colors$849-$949
TJSmittybiltVinyl$214
TJRugged RidgeVinyl Coated Polyester & Sailcloth Fabrics$445-$593
JK 2DrJeep Mopar Sunrider Design Soft Top KitStandard Fabric For An 07-15 Wrangler Jk.$1466
JK 2DrRugged Ridge Xhd Replacement topVinyl Coated Polyester & Sailcloth Fabrics$765-$787
JK 4DrBestop NX Replacement TopFabric Is Mildew-Resistant, Contains Uv Inhibitors And Is Offered In Factory Original Colors$649
   
JK 4-DrJeep Mopar Sunrider Design Soft Top KitBlack Standard Fabric$1374.99

Resources

guide to installing a soft top on your Jeep JK here 07-Current

Soft Top Replacement Black Denim | 1997-2002 Wrangler TJ, 13703.15

Jeep Rampage Factory Replacement Soft Top With Soft Upper Doors & Tinted Windows, Black Diamond |

Jeep Bestop Replace-A-Top For Trektop Nx, Black Denim | 1997-2006 Wrangler TJ with Trektop NX

Jeep Smittybilt Premium Oem Replacement Canvas Soft Top With Tinted Windows, Black Diamond |

Conclusion

Jeep Wranglers have always been known to be one of the most enjoyable and adaptable vehicles to own. The ability to transform your vehicle according to weather conditions and recreational activities gives it a huge advantage over other brands. Modifying your Jeeps soft top with a 3rd party replacement can drastically improve the aesthetics and cool factor of your jeep.  There are many sort after accessories and soft top variations to choose from with a wide variety of prices ranging from a few hundred to over 2 thousand dollars. Make sure you choose the correct style and material type best suited for your specific driving activities.

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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