Jeep Soft Top Cleaning & Maintenance
If you are the owner of a Jeep Wrangler with the soft-top option, one of the biggest challenges you likely face is how to keep the vehicle’s soft top clean. Over time, environmental elements, road grime, and the sun’s UV rays can have a harmful effect on the material on the soft top. Bird droppings, tree sap, road tar, and mildew can also damage or destroy the material and the plastic windows.
In time, the sun’s UV rays can also cause the color to fade, the clear plastic windows may yellow and become hard to see through, and the threads used to hold the material together may degrade. When the material reaches a point where you can’t repair the damage, you often face no other choice but to replace the top. But hope is not lost! The right type of care can help you get many years of service out of your soft top.
Frequency and the Right Cleaning Supplies
Washing your Jeep and its top once or twice a year may not be enough to keep your vehicle and the soft-top material in good shape. If you resort to a limited cleaning, you can expect your soft top to have a short lifespan. Along with developing and maintaining a regular cleaning routine, you should also plan to invest in a range of quality cleaning products, such as those products from Mopar, Bestop, and Raggtop, as they come highly recommended by Jeep owners.
Even if you cannot find or afford these products, you can use a mild dish detergent to gently wash the outside of the soft top. Start with warm water and a cleaner or dish detergent mix applied to a soft cloth. This type of cleaner will help remove dirt and other contaminants without risking damage to the soft-top material, threads, or plastic windows.
Another benefit to these types of cleaning chemicals is that these products do not contain any oils that will be left as residue. Many other soaps and cleaners contain protective oils that, when left on the surface of your soft top, attract and keep the grime you want to remove.
The Right Tools for the Job
For the most part, a soft cloth is all you should need to remove light soil and grime. However, if you have allowed your soft top to become heavily soiled, a cloth may not offer enough cleaning power. Think twice before you use a stiff-bristled brush: This brush type may damage the material and can cause significant damage and scratches to the window plastic.
Instead, use a soft-bristled brush to gently apply the cleaning solution and lightly scrub away dirt and grime. Remember, you want to loosen as much surface debris as you can from the material. Once you have loosened the surface debris, use a soft cloth to finish the job. Rinse the roof and all windows with a strong stream of fresh clean water to remove the cleaning solution from the soft-top material.
Special Cleaning for Vinyl Windows
Once you have removed most of the grime from the vinyl windows, you will need to use a cleaner and protectant designed specifically for this material. Specific cleaning methods are included with the product you choose. Follow the product directions carefully to make sure you do not damage the vinyl or cause the material to become yellow prematurely.
Maintaining the Condition of Your Jeep’s Soft Top
Cleaning your Jeep’s soft top is only the beginning of its care. Even if you wash and clean the top regularly, you’ll need to do some more maintenance to prolong the life of the soft top.
First, apply a protectant product to the material regularly. The length of time depends on the brand of protectant you decide to use. Some manufacturers recommend applying the product every 30 days while others allow you to go as long as 90 days in between applications. You may also need to vary this time frame based on your local weather, the season and your driving habits.
Apply the protectant product in a shady spot when possible to reduce the chances of the product drying out before you spread the protectant properly over the entire area of the top. Most manufacturers recommend applying their products using a circular motion to spread the product evenly over the surface of the soft-top material.
Second, while you should focus most of your efforts on the outer surfaces of the soft top, you should also clean and protect the inside as well. While the inside does not receive as much exposure to outdoor elements, you should clean the windows and protect the windows on both sides of the plastic to maximize their lifespan.
Your Jeep’s soft top has several zippers for installing and removing the cover. To keep these zippers operating smoothly, keep a few special care needs in mind. You can buy a special zipper cleaner and oil product for this job. Typically, this type of product has a small brush attached to the bottle that you can use to scrub the zipper and apply the lubricant to the zipper, significantly extending the zipper’s lifespan.
You don’t need to expend an excess amount of effort to protect the soft top of your Jeep, however, you need to dedicate at least some time to maintenance if you want your soft top to give you many years of flawless and leak-free performance for you and your passengers.