While the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are primarily known for being the most accessible off-road machines available on the mainstream market, part of their charm is the appeal of open-air cruising. For as long as there have been Jeeps, there has been topless Jeeping.
As the company's small 4x4s matured, they grew more sophisticated. They sprouted metal doors and were endowed with fancier roof coverings. Dropping the canvas top on a CJ or early Wrangler remained at least fairly trivial, but with each successive generation, the intricacies of both the soft and hard tops seemed to make them less and less convenient to remove and replace. To mitigate this, Jeep found new ways for owners to at least partially open up their roofs, but there's something about having nothing but open air and some minimal roll protection that simply can't be replicated by what amounts to a canvas sunroof.
Fortunately, Jeep has taken these quality-of-life concerns to heart, and the latest Wrangler and Gladiator models boast body panels that are beautifully simple to remove. In fact, all but the rear clamshell piece on this Gladiator's hard top could easily be removed by one person. With some common tools and accessories (such as a roof hoist, which is sold by just about any 4x4 outfitter), one person could potentially remove just about every panel on a hardtop Gladiator (or Wrangler) in less than an hour.
What's even more impressive, though, is the fact that every Jeep is delivered with a toolkit that includes everything you need in order to do it, and it will fit in your front pocket.
Skeptical? That's understandable. We wanted to see just how practical it is to use only the provided tools to take the hardtop off the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, and it fell to me to see just how easily it can be done.
Spoiler alert: It's really stinkin' easy.
Now, full disclosure: I own a Wrangler. It's a 2011 Sport with the soft top and basically no other options. I've never owned a hardtop, nor have I ever helped anybody remove one, but I'm familiar enough with the fundamentals of Jeep tops to have a bit of a leg up on a freshly minted Wrangler owner. Believe me, though, it's exactly as easy as this video makes it look.
As you follow along with this process, note that Jeep put a small hardware container under the rear driver's side seat. Lift the seat base and you'll see it; open it up, and it has little retention holes for each bolt you've removed. Reference the diagram on the lid of the box to see what fits where.
You might as well start with the doors. Roll down the windows first, because that way you can use the upper frames to lift the doors off their hinges once you have them un-bolted and disconnected. Next, you want to remove the retention bolts that are threaded into the bottom of each door hinge. The torx bit necessary for this is provided. Take special care not to ding the paint when loosening the bolts in the upper hinges; the lower ones have more clearance.
Next, you'll want to move inside and remove the door check rods and straps (which also house the wiring harnesses for the door locks and power windows, if applicable). The kick panel next to each strap pops off with a gentle tug, and the harnesses are connected with small clips. You can easily lean into the footwell to eyeball the connectors; removing them will be straightforward. The front connectors have swiveling retention clips; you need only push the small tabs on the rear connectors. Once you have these disconnected, you can slip the fabric straps off their retaining hooks and stuff the harnesses into the door pockets to keep them from getting banged around.
Now, the only thing keeping you from lifting the door off will be the door check rod. Unbolt it from the body and the door can be lifted free. Be careful to leave these rods extended. If you accidentally shove them into the door panel, they can be tricky to extract again. Don't worry if you mess this up; you didn't break anything. Just stick a screwdriver through the bolt hole at the end of the arm and grab both sides to pull that sucker right back out. At this point, the doors will lift free. Store them somewhere where they can't slide around or fall over; you don't want to bang them up.
All that is left now is the roof. Start with the front panels, which are incredibly light and easy to remove. Undo the tabs and windshield frame clamps and lift them free; your Jeep should have come with a storage bag for them, but you can stick them with your doors if you like.
Now, it's time for the big enchilada. I strongly encourage you to recruit a friend or family member to help with this. They need only be tall enough to lift the clam shell slightly off the body of your Jeep; physical strength is not really necessary. Like the front panels, it's quite light.
There are eight torx bolts holding this in place. Six are behind the rear seats (you may need to fold down the backs for access depending on what configuration you have); the other two are in the roll hoop above and behind the front seats. They're on top of the hoop, so you need to stand in the front footwell (or kneel on one of the front seats) to get to them. They were exposed when you removed the two front panels. Remove all eight bolts, then locate the box with the electrical connection for the rear window/defroster. On the Gladiator, it's behind the rear passenger seat at the base of the clam shell. Pop the top off and un-clip the harness.
Your rear shell is now free, and you can simply lift it right off the back of the truck. Note that when you set it down, it will likely tip forward, so plan its storage location accordingly.
And there you have it. With nothing more than the small pocket-sized toolkit included with your Jeep, you've removed the hard top. Happy Jeeping, and don't forget to wave!
Related Video of a different Jeep Roof:
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