If you’ve ever had to deal with a hole in your soft top from either that low- hanging branch on the trail, by misjudging that parking garage, or that psycho ex-girlfriend (I’ve installed cameras, Shelly!), then you know there are plenty of patch kits out there but that none of them are geared towards actually repairing tops. After plenty of time searching the Interwebs, I mostly came up empty handed. What I did come up with was patch kits for hot tub covers. With the exception of those ’80s hair-band limos that are as long as a full city block with a hot tub full of scantily clad groupies in the back, I’ve never seen a spa do 80 mph down Sunset Blvd. Seeing as I have way more time than money, I like (if you can’t already tell) to do everything myself. One of the few things my dad taught me growing up that actually stuck is that you never pay someone to do something you can do yourself.
Step By Step
I’m not a fan of new Jeeps—They’re made out of tinfoil, have extremely underpowered motors, and a list of electronic gizmos that would rival the NASA Space Shuttle. In my older CJs. a little water isn’t too big of a deal, but as Editor Trasborg found out the hard way, a slight change in humidity in his JK caused the CANBUS to flip out. Imagine what his JK would do with this much standing water in the floorboard.
Not only am I a hoarder of Jeeps, I’m also a hoarder of stuff. Instead of shopping for the right kind of material that would hold up to the elements, I just dipped into my hoard of top parts and made a patch from a chunk of top I keep in my Jeep to use as a trail creeper. The best adhesive for this type of repair is black silicone. Silicone works great as an adhesive, as well as a sealant. The best part is it stays flexible after it sets, which is exactly what you want for your top.
The previous owner of this jeep had used duct tape to seal up the top a few years ago. The downside of him using duct tape is that, when the tape started to dissolve, it left behind a sticky nasty residue that was hard to get rid of. The trick I found was that a good degreaser actually removed the majority of the nastiness. After prepping the surface, I used fishing line to stitch the top back together. I didn’t make it a tight stitch because the line would actually rip through the slightly crispy edges around the rip.
The whole reason for patching our top was to keep the rain out. When prepping our patch, it was necessary to heat it up to make it pliable. The final step was to add a healthy bead of silicone around the perimeter and down the center to keep out water and to also help reinforce the area around the rip. I wish I had picked up an extra tube of silicone, but one tube got the job done.
Just for good measure after the silicone had set, I stitched all the way around the patch and added an extra bead over the stitching. The final product looked a bit like a Van Gogh painting, but I was more concerned with strength than appearance.