Fixing A Torn Top And Saving $600
It wasn't too long ago that we put a new top on Red, our '01 TJ ("TJ Top Replacement," Sept. '07). Well, it always seems we do something boneheaded right after we've spent the money to put a new component on the Jeep.
About a month after we put the top on, we were in a parking garage we'd been in many times before and exceeded the minimum height in a big way. That air duct in the lead photo is at 6 feet 6 inches, the clearance is rated at 6 feet 5 inches tall, and Red is about 6 feet 7 inches tall (we knew none of this before). We hit the duct and managed to make it under, but not before cutting a 3-inch slit in the brand-new top that separated about 6 inches of seam and bent the middle hoop that holds it up.
Well, we didn't panic because we've done it before-tree limbs, parking garages, falling shingles, and falling tools have all taken their toll on our Jeep tops over the years. We figured this would be a good time to give you the basic steps to fixing your top if your luck is as bad as ours.
Clean the top: Adhesive needs a good, clean surface to stick to.
Stitch the top: Sew up any long rips with a baseball or crisscross stitch pattern. Overlapping seams can be stitched like a seam on a pant leg. Pay attention to areas that are stressed when driving, and add stitching if necessary. Stitch with E6000 where possible.
Seal the top: Do this by using E6000, a section of old top, an iron-on patch, tent seam sealer, and spray-on waterproofing. Use any combination of the items listed.
Needle and thread: Stitch the hole first; double the thread over, and use pliers to push/pull the needle through the top if needed. Don't use mom's good needle because the pliers will destroy it. We normally use some heavier-duty cotton thread and whatever heavy-duty needle can be found at the local fabric store.
E6000: This glue stays flexible when dry and sticks like mad. We've had really good luck with it when fixing tops. Use it between any two layers of fabric to help seal and bond, and don't get it in your eyes because it burns. If you get it on your fingers, let it dry and then rub it off. It's somewhat sensitive to UV, so use sparingly on areas that are exposed to sun.
Krazy Glue: This is used to keep the edges of the new hole from fraying. Don't use too much because it dries hard and makes putting the top down difficult. You can also use the Krazy Glue on the knots in the thread so it doesn't unravel (a little can go a long way). Don't get it on your fingers because it won't rub off, and don't get it on thread you haven't stitched with yet because it'll become hard to pull through the fabric.
Old top material: Keep your old top or cut up an old bikini top or something-the material is great for patches. Cut to size and then apply a thin layer of E6000 to the bottom of the patch. Stitch patches over the affected areas. The patch should be about 1 inch bigger than the hole in every direction.
Iron-on patch: Think about the patches your mother used to iron onto the knees of your pants as a child; these same patches can be used on Jeep tops. If you can't find any old top material, this can be found at the local fabric store. Be careful if applying to the outside of the top because the surrounding material doesn't like the iron and will show melted marks where it rests.
Seam sealer: Apply seam sealer anywhere you've had to stitch through the top and the threads are exposed to the elements. This seals the holes where the thread goes through as well as the thread itself, and apply it to all thread visible inside the top. Seam sealer can be found at most camping stores.
Water proofer: We'll usually use this inside the top in the general affected areas (about a 6-inch radius around the hole). If you're using an iron-on patch, soak it in this stuff after it has been put on. When stitching on old top material, we'll usually lightly cover the entire stitched area with it. Waterproofer can be found in most sporting goods stores. Depending on how much rain you get, how often you clean it, what you use to clean the Jeep, how much mud it sees, and the alignment of the stars, you may or may not have to recoat the area with water proofer to keep it from leaking.
We put a patch on inside and outside for this fix. We also had to stitch the seam and the area where the tabs attach to the bow with snaps for reinforcement. Although it won't win any beauty contests, it is waterproof, won't come off, and saved us about $600.