How to Install a Jeep Wrangler XJ Soft-Top (Step-by-Step Instructions )

Jeep soft tops have come a long way since granddad’s CJ-3A. Gone are the days of old snaps and metal zippers used on earlier Jeep models. These are the days of high tech Smittybilt winches and massive off-roading tires with menacing tread patterns.

Now back to the soft tops: improvements in soft top technology and materials have helped to reduce noise and now provide sealing attributes comparable to hard tops. Soft-top Jeep Wranglers have been and continue to be Jeep’s best-selling short wheelbase model for a very good reason: there’s nothing quite like roaming the open trail with the wind in your face.

Jeep Wrangler
Step-by-step Jeep soft touch installation instructions!

The canvas and vinyl of a soft top, however, will eventually begin to show wear after years of exposure to the elements. Fear not: you can replace your stock factory top fairly easily and inexpensively, with more aftermarket options.

Without further ado, our 20-step instructions follow – good luck!

How to Install a Soft-Top on a 1987 Jeep Wrangler

Step No. 1

Jeep Soft Touch

Out with the old and in with the new. The first thing to do is to remove all of the original top hardware from the body as your new Supertop comes with its own hardware. Be sure to remove the old bow assembly, windshield retainer, tailgate bar and, on YJ models, all belt rails.

Measure both sides of the vehicle between the top lip of the windshield to the top outer edge of the body to 75 1/8 inches on both sides as shown.

Step No. 2

Jeep Soft Touch

Next, uninstall the two Torx bolts (#40) securing the sport bar to the windshield frame and slide the supplied windshield bracket into place as shown.

Reinstall the Torx bolts and torque to 17 foot-pounds, then repeat this step on the other side of the Jeep.

Step No. 3

Jeep Soft Touch

Place the two windshield retainer halves on top of the windshield frame. The retainer holes match up with the OE holes, so drilling should not be necessary.

If yours do not match, or if you are installing a new windshield frame, then mark, punch, and drill with a 1/8-inch bit using the retainers as a template.

Be certain to drill one hole between the two retainer halves for a total of 11 holes, then install the retaining screws.

Step No. 4

Jeep Soft Touch

Position the side belt rail and line it up with any existing holes. Once aligned, use it as a template to mark any necessary new holes. Center punch and drill the required holes with a 3/8-inch bit.

When you are done drilling, insert 5/16-inch Phillips head bolts into the rearward two holes only and loosely secure same with washers and tapping plates. Do the same thing on the other side of your Jeep.

Step No. 5

Jeep Soft Touch

Position the corner rail onto frame. If your Jeep already has two top holes, attach the corner rail with the supplied 5/16 Phillips head bolts, washers and the tapping plate.

If the inboard OE screw hole does not match up with new corner rail hole, then mark, center punch and drill a new one (1/8-inch bit), install the #8 x 1/2-inch panhead screw (that is what’s being done in picture here).

Repeat this step on the other side.

Step No. 6

Jeep Soft Touch

Next, install the vertical retainer mount, then loosely install two sets of bolts, washers and tapping plates.

Repeat this step on the other side.

Step No. 7

Jeep Soft Touch

Though instructions say to keep the white packaging tape in place, lay the bow assembly halves on the body, place the bow mounts over the third and fourth holes in the side belt rails, then loosely secure the front bolt/washer/retaining nut assembly only.

We found it easier to prop the bow halves upright, then secure. Repeat this step on the other side.

Step No. 8

Jeep Soft Touch

Lift the top bow halves and insert the male end into the female end. Push, pull, twist and/or do whatever it takes to fully seat these two halves together.

Tolerances on ours were tight and it took a lot of heaving & grunting to get them together. In retrospect, we should have done this with the bow halves lying down, not upright (chalk that one up to a late night install job).

Once mated, slide the foam pieces together and tighten all bolts in the belt rails.

Step No. 9

Jeep Soft Touch

Raise the bow up, then slide the two bottom bow halves together (again, avoid doing it like we did).

Try doing this with the bow halves resting in a lying down position.

Step No. 10

Jeep Soft Touch

Lift the bottom bow to access rear bow mount bolt hole and install the bolt, washer and the tapping plate.

Repeat this step on the other side.

Step No. 11

Jeep Soft Touch

Insert the vertical rod into the vertical rod retainer with the bows in an upright position.

Repeat this step on the other side.

Step No. 12

Jeep Soft Touch

Secure the horizontal rod to the windshield bracket by inserting the bailhead stud into the bracket hole and then turn the pin clockwise, ensuring that they are securely locked together.

Do the same thing on other the side.

Step No. 13

Jeep Soft Touch

Position the top fabric onto the frame of the vehicle. Insert the plastic strip on the leading edge of the top underneath the windshield retainer.

For a proper fit, the top must be centered on the retainer. Also, the space between the top and the windshield flange need to be equal on both sides.

Step No. 14

Jeep Soft Touch

Connect the two rear flaps (three snaps each) to the snap studs on the rear bow from the inside of the vehicle.

Move the bow forward to put enough slack in the top to secure the connections.

Step No. 15

Jeep Soft Touch

Tuck the rear corners of the top under the corner belt rails.

Next, raise the rear bow up on to the front bow, inserting the bent tab on to the rear bow and into one of the four holes in the front bow.

Step No. 16

Jeep Soft Touch

Install side curtain by starting at top and rear zippers, then inserting lower plastic strip under side retainer. Close the top and side zippers.

Wrap the forward vertical flap around vertical rod (not front bow), securing it with hook and loop fastener. Wrap top flap over door opening around horizontal rod. Same on other side.

Step No. 17

Jeep Soft Touch

Install the rear curtain retainer onto the tube located on the bottom of the rear curtain as shown in the supplied instructions.

Secure your baseball cap firmly on your head, because soon (in just four more steps) you will be on your way down the road in your new soft top. This is a true story.

Step No. 18

Jeep Soft Touch

Our 1987 Wrangler came with button snaps for the upper door half instead of the belt rails found on preceding models.

Our conversion involved replacing OE button snaps with a set of 1988 to 1995 model year rails.

Step No. 19

Jeep Soft Touch

Wrapping up the upper door halves is a cinch. Insert three pins into the adjoining door sockets. Minor adjustments can be made by raising or lowering the supplied adjustment collars.

Finish by slipping the plastic strip under the door retainer.

Step No. 20

Jeep Soft Touch

Close the door and test for proper fitment. There should be a good seal all around.

If necessary, the doorframe can be bent inward or otherwise adjusted to eliminate any gaps.

That’s it! You are now done and ready to hit the road in your Jeep with its new soft top roof.

Steve Cooper

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