Seeing The Sun: Installing A Bestop Sunrider For Hardtops

LEAD-BESTOP-SUNRIDER-FOR-HARDTOPS

One of the greatest things about owning a Jeep Wrangler is the convertible top.  Quick access to open air is incredibly freeing. With that quick access, though, comes some drawbacks. The additional noise in the vehicle is one of the first things you’ll notice. You’ll also remember that the easy access for you also means easy access for anyone who wants to get inside the Jeep. Many JK Wranglers come from the factory with a hard top now, security and noise being some of the main reasons. Jeep did have the amazing idea of the Freedom Top panels, though, which is a great way to get some open air without having to remove the entire hardtop.

We kept hearing that Jk owners wanting an easy way to get open air and thus came the Sunrider. – Garret Graubins, Bestop

The Freedom Top panels are handy, no doubt about it, but they are large, unwieldy and hard to store. Thanks to Bestop, there is a perfect solution. Bestop has been using their Sunrider design in their soft tops for years, decades even. Flip a couple factory style clamps at the windshield and fold back the front section, giving open air without having to drop the whole top. Earlier this year, Bestop took that design and adapted it to hardtop model JKs, revolutionizing the hardtop Jeep experience.

“We spend a lot of time talking with Wrangler owners,” Garett Graubins of Bestop explains. “We kept hearing that they wanted an easy way to get open air without having to remove their entire hard top and replace it with a soft top.” Graubins also gave us some extra insight into the development of the Sunrider for Hardtop, “[customers] also shared that they like the Freedom Panels, but the time required to remove them and then the awkwardness of stowing them was sometimes a deterrent. The solution was the Sunrider for Hardtop, a convertible for your Jeep Hardtop. In a matter of seconds, you can unhook the top and throw it open. BAM! Open-air relief and lots of sunshine!”

It took about a tenth of a second to know exactly which Jeep we wanted to install it on, the Anvil colored JK Wrangler Unlimited you’ve seen through these pages many times. Previously, we had installed Boom Mat’s Leather Look Headliner Kit in the rig, which dramatically cut down on noise factors. Here’s the scoop on swapping the Freedom Top panels for the Bestop Sunrider for Hardtops.

Installation

First thing’s first, get the Freedom Top panels out of the way. There are a series of levers that need to be pivoted and a couple knobs that secure the back portions of the panels to the roll bar. Save the knobs, they’ll get reused. Once the panels are off, it is a good idea to clean the gaskets all around the area. Over time, dirt and crud can wiggle its way in there and we don’t want to smash that stuff in with the new Sunrider for Hardtops. Bestop recommends using warm water, soap, and a soft cloth, then rinsing with clean water. Make sure the gaskets are dry before you start the installation.

Release the levers and knobs holding the Freedom Top panels. Then, clean the gaskets all around the area.

Installation takes about an hour and only requires some basic tools. The door rails are modeled after the factory soft top pieces for a perfect fit with the roll bar and door. Four door models need to have an incision made for the rear knob to pass through. By feeling along the top of the bar near the back, you’ll feel where the hole is on the roll bar. Carefully slice the roll bar cover. Then, install the door rails using the knobs provided in the Bestop kit, only install the front knobs at this time but do not tighten all the way yet. The knobs pass through the cover, through the bar, and out the other side where they screw into a nutsert built into the door rail. Take care to position the front of the rail carefully, making sure the weather stripping is not crimped or folded. Do not remove the foam padding from the door rail. It is there for proper door sealing.

On four door models, feel along the roll bar cover and locate the hole in the bar. This is where the rear knob will pass through. Then, install the door rails using only the front knobs. Do not tighten yet.

Grab a buddy and place the Top Deck assembly of the Sunrider on top of the Jeep. Position the deck assembly so that the molded portion is to the back of the Jeep. Grab the other two knobs and attach the assembly to the roll bar. Bestop notes that a small screwdriver may be helpful when trying to get everything aligned. The instructions also mention, “be sure to inspect and align the pieces and press up from below when installing the knobs.” Leave the knobs loose.

Have a friend help put the assembly on top of the Jeep.

Thread the rear knob through the roll bar to the nutsert built into the door rail.

Install two Allen bolts from the inside up through to the Sunrider assembly as shown in the Bestop instructions.

From inside the Jeep, reinstall the original factory knobs through the roll bar, up into the Sunrider assembly. On either side of the Jeep, from the bottom, install one of the provided bolts through the door rail up into the Top Deck Assembly. Tighten these screws at this time.

The rear brackets help to ensure the Sunrider assembly stays tight to the Hardtop.

Grab the rear brackets and the last four bolts provided in the kit. There are two holes on either side the brackets bolt into. Using an Allen wrench, thread the bolts through the brackets and into built-in nutserts in the assembly. When tightened completely, these brackets will help clamp down the Top Deck Assembly to the hardtop.

Go through and double check your alignment all the way around. Once it is in place, tighten all six knobs. Fold the Sunrider towards the windshield and down into the closed position.

After tightening all the knobs, fold the Sunrider assembly toward the windshield and down into the closed position.

Open up the header channel clamps and engage the hook end to the footman loop. Pivot the handle downward; these clamps work exactly the same way as the factory pieces on the Freedom Tops. Inspect the top from the exterior and interior to make sure nothing has shifted and gaps are even. Opening up the top is incredibly easy. Move the visors out of the way and undo the windshield clamps. From the side of the vehicle, lift up on the windshield header channel and pivot the system towards the rear of the vehicle.

The windshield clamps work exactly like the factory pieces. Pivot the handle and extend out the hook end so that it engages the footman loop bolted to the windshield. Removal is the exact opposite.

Bestop provides a pair of optional tie-down straps with each kit. These straps are completely optional and more recommended for off-road driving or any other situation where the Sunrider may be inclined to bounce and fold forward. The straps wrap around the Sunrider arm twice and secure using hook and loop attachment.

The safety loop is optional and is recommended for offroad use or other situations when the Sunrider may bounce forward.

With a hardtop, fresh air and sunny skies have never felt so good! The ease of operation is a massive plus. No more fumbling with where to put the Freedom Tops, no more stressing about leaving them at home to open up cargo space and then getting caught in an unexpected rainstorm.

Cleaning

Having built soft tops for Jeeps nearly as long as Jeeps have been around, since 1954, Bestop has become the largest Jeep soft top manufacturer in the world. Their prowess in the market was even recognized by Jeep and since 1986, Bestop has been the sole supplier of factory soft tops for Jeep Wranglers. There aren’t many cases where the aftermarket outshined the factory and the factory switched gears to have an aftermarket company become their supplier.

Bestop has a large product line for many vehicles. The line-up also includes cleaners and protectants for soft tops.

The Colorado-based company may specialize in soft tops, but they also have a wide range of other quality products. Bestop also offers a full line of cleaners and protectants. Keeping your top clean is imperative to it lasting, even when it is the best top you can buy. To show off these cleaners and protectants, we sent the Anvil JKU out to get dirty; it didn’t take any arm-twisting to make that happen.

Pressure wash the dirt and crud off the top. Then take the cleaner and scrub it into the material. The cleaner gets in deep to get all the junk out.

Step one, pressure wash the big stuff off. Might as well give the rest of the Jeep a wash while you’re at it. Open up the cleaner and thoroughly apply it to a soft towel. Scrub the entire soft top surface, then wash off. The cleaner is designed for a deep clean, getting all the dirt and debris out and off of the vinyl material. Bestop offers a different cleaner for Twill material tops.

Thoroughly rub the protectant into the material. The protectant will help fight against mildew, grease stains and damaging UV rays.

Next, grab a fresh towel and the protectant. Thoroughly apply the protectant to the towel and spread liberally around the material. The protectant is designed to prevent color fade and material degradation from the harsh UV rays of the sun. The protectant is also helpful for combating grease stains and potential mildew in wet climates.

The cleaner and protectant pack, shown above, also comes with a window cleaner. Though this top doesn’t have any windows, the window cleaner is especially helpful for removing minor scratches and haze in the vinyl windows. The window cleaner has a built in protectant to help against UV damage as well.

Head over to Bestop’s website to see more of what they offer for your vehicle.

About the author

Jake Headlee

Jake's passion started at a young age wrenching on cars with his Dad. Obtaining that glorious driver's license sparked his obsession with grease and horsepower, and the rest is history. Soon, he was a general mechanic and suspension specialist, and currently designs and modifies products for the off-road industry. Jake enjoys rock crawling, desert racing and trail running, and writing in his spare time.
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