Today I decided to finally work on a project I’ve been planning for a long time now. For those of you who know me it comes to no surprise that I adore my jeep, and therefore I’m always trying to get the most out of it whether that means adding a tow hitch or customizing my interior. Since my wrangler has the hard top (with no soft top substitute), for any nice days that pop-up I’ve had to commit to lifting the top up and off with the help of a friend to two. This project was inspired by my hope for a quicker, easier, single-person alternative that could expedite the whole process.

Winch
A simple, 900lb hand winch from Harbor Freight Tools.

Many companies and sites are willing to sell hard top lifts, hoists, and systems of all types and flavors, but I prefer the cheaper, DIY solution to any commercial products. After perusing the gambit of commercial products, as well as some DIY rigs that are posted online, I set out to construct my own hoist. I found a compact hand-winch at–what might be my favorite store–Harbor Freight Tools. Next I pieced together a pully setup to mount to the ceiling joists of the garage. The attachment mechanism and setup took the most thought and a trial-and-error approach.

In order to distribute the weight evenly, and to ensure one-manned operation,  I went with a two-strap, front-to-back strap setup.

Here is the attachment point of the hoist with the hard top.
Here is the attachment point of the hoist with the hard top. Two cargo straps help prevent damage to the hard top.

These cargo straps would wrap around the hard top and connect up to a crossmember that would hookup to the winch hook. Down in the basement I found a three foot length of inch and a half dowel that looked like a good candidate for the crossmember. To prevent any catastrophic instability issues stemming from a poor balance point, I decided to use some paracord ties to connect the crossmember to the winch hook. See how the paracord provides a lot of lateral stability by moving the center of gravity away from the connection point?

The setup itself takes care of the side-to-side stability, but the front-to-back tilt is not. In order to combat the top from slipping forward or back you must take care in attaching the crossmember at the proper location. The balance point is very far back on the top (due to the heavy rear window), and once prepared the entire top will stay balanced and flat throughout the lifting.

The entire removal process takes about the same amount of time as before, but only requires one person and is much less physically demanding. It is actually quite fun to remove. While time is not saved in the removal of the hard top, it is certainly saved in replacing it. Since the straps and everything is already in place, there is nothing to do but raise and lower the top when putting the top on (so long as you can backup in line with the top).

All toll I spent no more than 40 for a rig that is comparable with a system you can buy for100. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.