DIY: Electric Hard Top Hoist

MileHigh

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Let me start off by saying, I realize there are many different ideas, videos and posts about hoists for your hard top. I realize that there are store bought options as well as DIY versions. A store bought may be best for some, and a DIY one may be good for others. When I started this project I researched the options thoroughly and I feel this was the best set up for my ability, garage set up and what I wanted to achieve.

Note: The ideas and concepts in this hoist were not all my idea. I watched other videos and took ideas from them and added to it to give me the best design that I thought worked the best for me and was the easiest to use. In addition, this, I believe, is probably one of the most simple designs out there.

This is an electric hoist that utilizes a Harbor Freight 2500 lb ATV winch along with the Roller Fair lead. I wanted a hoist that would suck the hard top up to the rafters of my garage to get the top as high as possible. The rafters in my garage are relatively high and if yours are lower then you will definitely want to get it as high as possible. As you can see I also have an open attic with my rafters exposed. This allowed me to raise the Roller Fair lead higher and you'll see why in pics lower down. The winch runs off of 12 volts. I extended the leads on the winch with an old 14 gauge extension cord. I then added medium size alligator clips to attach the winch to the battery of the Jeep. The winch is controlled from a small wireless remote control. It's small enough that you can operate the winch with the remote in one hand while also using that hand and your other hand if needed to help guide the hard top up and down. It's quite slick to use actually.

In the pic below you can see the hard top sucked up against the ceiling rafters.
20200314_175635.jpg


The picture below shows the Carrier that attaches to the hard top. Between the carrier and the hard top is just an old egg crate foam topper for a double bed. It was in the garage and worked quite well for this application. I'll probably cut in down in the future and fit it a little nicer to the carrier. For now it's just sandwiched between the carrier and top.

Notice the 3/8"x6" long bolts that attach the front of the carrier to the front of the top. They slide into the slot that is utilized (I believe) by the Freedom Tops when they're on. They work well for bolting the top to the carrier. This is done after you rotate the hooks in the back. More on the hooks below.
20200314_180028.jpg


The pic below shows the Eye bolt attachment. The carrier is made up of 2x4's with a 3/4" piece of plywood attached to the frame. The eye bolt is attached to the 3/4" plywood. The eye bolt only goes below the plywood by the thickness of the nut. This keeps it from hitting the top since the plywood is 1.5" off the top, the thickness of the 2x4. I added an additional nut above the plywood to act as a jam nut. I don't want the eye bolt to be able to slide down through the plywood and hit the top of the hard top.
20200314_180042.jpg

The pictures below show the hooks used at the back to attach at the back of the hard top. In order for these to work they need to rotate. They just screw in like a lag bolt. In the first pic notice how it's rotated so that it can hoist the top. In the second pic it shows the hook rotated so that you can lift the carrier off the hard top. As you rotate it it moves the carrier to the rear. NOTE: You need to rotate these hooks into position to lift the hard top Before you attach your bolts on the front of the carrier and the hard top. So, keep in mind (if you were to do this build) that before you drill your holes on the carrier for the front bolts that you need to position these first. The bolts then keep the carrier from being able to slide back or forward.

In the third picture notice how the hook is positioned (in the position to raise the carrier and not the hard top) to clear the hinges on the back window. The hook can clear the hinges and allow the carrier to be lifted to the ceiling and out of the way.
20200314_175956.jpg
20200314_180527.jpg
20200314_180546.jpg


The below pics show the Winch and Roller fairlead mounting. In the first pic it shows the complete set up. Notice the winch is bolted to two 2x4's stretched across the top of two rafters. They are screwed to the rafters. On the right is the fairlead that directs the cable downward. In the second pic you can see the fairlead better. It is bolted to two 2x4's just like the winch but with a larger gap between the 2x4's to allow for the cable, hook and eyebolt. Notice the two 2x4's on top of the rafters to lift the fair lead higher. Why? I wanted to allow for the hook and eyebolt on the carrier to come up higher to allow for the carrier to suck tight up against the rafters. Now, I could have hung the winch higher and mounted it directly up above the lift point and not used the roller fair lead. However, I felt this was a better system for what I was trying to do and hey, the fair lead came with the winch, why not use it! If you have a closed in ceiling with drywall but still have access to your attic then this system would work great for you. All you would have to do is create a hole in the drywall to allow for the hook and eye bolt. The rest of the system could be hidden. (You would need to run power as well)

The third pic shows the winch mounting as well as the control box. Very simple set up!
20200314_183354.jpg
20200314_183438.jpg
20200314_183448.jpg

The pictures below are of more of the carrier. The last pic shows the carrier hanging without the hard top attached. When I lowered the hard top back onto the jeep, I unbolted the two front bolts, rotated the two rear hooks and then hit 'Retract' on the wireless remote. It then just lifted the carrier back up to the ceiling where it will reside when not in use. For the pic, I lowered the carrier back down after I pulled the Jeep out just to show you the carrier hanging. I'll be working on the foam to attach it better and maybe trim it out. I have way more than needed.

Note: In the below picture, to attach the 2x4's together, drill a counter sink hole with a 5/8" or larger drill bit in order to counter sink a 3" deck screw. This will attach the longer 2x4's that go from the front to the back to the cross 2x4's that go between them. Then use 2" max deck screws to attach the 3/4" plywood to the 2x4 carrier frame.
20200314_180042.jpg
20200314_175947.jpg
20200314_183625.jpg

Again, some of these ideas were taken from other videos and I give props to those who came up with those ideas. I added to their ideas and came up with this design. Total cost of the project was around $124.00.
Winch: $69.99 <20%>=$56 plus tax= $61.00 out the door.
Hardware: Hooks, bolts, eyebolt, washers and nuts: $20 max
Screws: You need 3" for the 2x4 frame and 2" for the plywood. Two boxes of deck screws: $20 but you won't use all.
Wood: (6) 2x4's: $23, Plywood I had on hand in the garage.
Wiring: Old extension cord and battery clips, both of which I had on hand in the garage.
Foam or carpet to cushion hard top against carrier: Had on hand in the garage.

This entire project cost less than any store bought manual hoist that uses straps and is not nearly as stable. If you have the space and the garage set up to allow for this I encourage anyone to do it. It does not take a lot of know how knowledge. In addition, mounting the winch is easy and is plenty secure for the weight we are lifting. Please, feel free to reach out with any questions or clarifications should you decide to tackle this project.

I lifted the top off last weekend and lowered it back onto the Jeep this weekend and I was amazed at how easy it was to lower down and guide down with one or two hands. It dropped right down into place. It took 5 minutes total (and that included taking pics along the way to document) to get the top back onto the Jeep!

This was a fun project to do that is already making our lives easier!
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NoahVD

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Looks great. Those winches sure are affordable and makes lowering it as easy as lifting it.
 

sstuner

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Very creative and cost effective. Thanks for sharing.
 

jtgowins

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Instead of using cables directly to the battery, can we use a plug to the 12v power supply?
 

TimmH

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I bought a cheap electric hoist off amazon that plugs directly into a 120v outlet for like $89, it works great.

I initially did something similar to your setup but did not like the unstableness of the top when raised. So I bought the Topsy hinge hooks, and built a 3 cable setup.

3 cables go to a setup of 3 pullies that direct them together, which is where the hoist hook grabs them. You can see the RED hoist in the background mounted on the wall.

 

hoag4147

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I bought a cheap electric hoist off amazon that plugs directly into a 120v outlet for like $89, it works great.

I initially did something similar to your setup but did not like the unstableness of the top when raised. So I bought the Topsy hinge hooks, and built a 3 cable setup.

3 cables go to a setup of 3 pullies that direct them together, which is where the hoist hook grabs them. You can see the RED hoist in the background mounted on the wall.

Image didn’t load?
 
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MileHigh

MileHigh

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I bought a cheap electric hoist off amazon that plugs directly into a 120v outlet for like $89, it works great.

I initially did something similar to your setup but did not like the unstableness of the top when raised. So I bought the Topsy hinge hooks, and built a 3 cable setup.

3 cables go to a setup of 3 pullies that direct them together, which is where the hoist hook grabs them. You can see the RED hoist in the background mounted on the wall.

After I built my set up I came across the Topsy attachment points for the back of the hardtop. I like them alot! And I may do a modification to the rear of my carrier to attach to the Topsy attachment points. My hooks work quite well so we'll see if I tackle it but, if I had known about them earlier I would have integrated them onto my design. They're not expensive.
 
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MileHigh

MileHigh

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Instead of using cables directly to the battery, can we use a plug to the 12v power supply?
Possibly! I actually had a cigarette lighter plug in the garage so I decided to try it. I had the alligator clips too which was my first plan. But, I tried the plug. It worked for a short time until the winch got some load from the top and it ended up blowing the fuse in the plug. I would say if you can find a more robust plug on Amazon with a larger fuse in it then yeah, I think it may work. Never hurts to try it. You could blow the fuse to the 12 volt outlet in the Jeep but that's minor. Purchase a plug and alligator clips on Amazon as a back up. Try the plug and then if it fails wire in the clips.

In addition, I suggest purchasing a few wiring kits on Amazon. A kit with the Solder and shrink wrap all integrated into one. You just use a heat gun to melt the solder and shrink wrap it all at once. In addition, purchase a black shrink wrap kit as well. Add the black shrink wrap over your soldered connections for more insulation and strength. You can also use a larger shrink tubing over all that to cover your positive and negative all together. Or just use electrical tape to cover both connections together. It looks good, is clean and makes the connection stronger.

Those kits are readily available and inexpensive on Amazon. Never huts to have those kits, it makes doing wiring or repairs super easy, clean and dependable.
 

TimmH

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After I built my set up I came across the Topsy attachment points for the back of the hardtop. I like them alot! And I may do a modification to the rear of my carrier to attach to the Topsy attachment points. My hooks work quite well so we'll see if I tackle it but, if I had known about them earlier I would have integrated them onto my design. They're not expensive.

The advantage to the Topsy hooks is the rear glass can be closed, which I much preferred over my first set of hooks that went between the open glass and the top to hook up.
 
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MileHigh

MileHigh

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The advantage to the Topsy hooks is the rear glass can be closed, which I much preferred over my first set of hooks that went between the open glass and the top to hook up.
Totally agree!
 

Mane

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Instead of using cables directly to the battery, can we use a plug to the 12v power supply?
Yep. I use this winch for a homemade lift that I designed, and I power it off of an ATV battery. I just keep the battery on a float charger. Works like a charm.
 

JohnT

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Let me start off by saying, I realize there are many different ideas, videos and posts about hoists for your hard top. I realize that there are store bought options as well as DIY versions. A store bought may be best for some, and a DIY one may be good for others. When I started this project I researched the options thoroughly and I feel this was the best set up for my ability, garage set up and what I wanted to achieve.

Note: The ideas and concepts in this hoist were not all my idea. I watched other videos and took ideas from them and added to it to give me the best design that I thought worked the best for me and was the easiest to use. In addition, this, I believe, is probably one of the most simple designs out there.

This is an electric hoist that utilizes a Harbor Freight 2500 lb ATV winch along with the Roller Fair lead. I wanted a hoist that would suck the hard top up to the rafters of my garage to get the top as high as possible. The rafters in my garage are relatively high and if yours are lower then you will definitely want to get it as high as possible. As you can see I also have an open attic with my rafters exposed. This allowed me to raise the Roller Fair lead higher and you'll see why in pics lower down. The winch runs off of 12 volts. I extended the leads on the winch with an old 14 gauge extension cord. I then added medium size alligator clips to attach the winch to the battery of the Jeep. The winch is controlled from a small wireless remote control. It's small enough that you can operate the winch with the remote in one hand while also using that hand and your other hand if needed to help guide the hard top up and down. It's quite slick to use actually.

In the pic below you can see the hard top sucked up against the ceiling rafters.
20200314_175635.jpg


The picture below shows the Carrier that attaches to the hard top. Between the carrier and the hard top is just an old egg crate foam topper for a double bed. It was in the garage and worked quite well for this application. I'll probably cut in down in the future and fit it a little nicer to the carrier. For now it's just sandwiched between the carrier and top.

Notice the 3/8"x6" long bolts that attach the front of the carrier to the front of the top. They slide into the slot that is utilized (I believe) by the Freedom Tops when they're on. They work well for bolting the top to the carrier. This is done after you rotate the hooks in the back. More on the hooks below.
20200314_180028.jpg


The pic below shows the Eye bolt attachment. The carrier is made up of 2x4's with a 3/4" piece of plywood attached to the frame. The eye bolt is attached to the 3/4" plywood. The eye bolt only goes below the plywood by the thickness of the nut. This keeps it from hitting the top since the plywood is 1.5" off the top, the thickness of the 2x4. I added an additional nut above the plywood to act as a jam nut. I don't want the eye bolt to be able to slide down through the plywood and hit the top of the hard top.
20200314_180042.jpg

The pictures below show the hooks used at the back to attach at the back of the hard top. In order for these to work they need to rotate. They just screw in like a lag bolt. In the first pic notice how it's rotated so that it can hoist the top. In the second pic it shows the hook rotated so that you can lift the carrier off the hard top. As you rotate it it moves the carrier to the rear. NOTE: You need to rotate these hooks into position to lift the hard top Before you attach your bolts on the front of the carrier and the hard top. So, keep in mind (if you were to do this build) that before you drill your holes on the carrier for the front bolts that you need to position these first. The bolts then keep the carrier from being able to slide back or forward.

In the third picture notice how the hook is positioned (in the position to raise the carrier and not the hard top) to clear the hinges on the back window. The hook can clear the hinges and allow the carrier to be lifted to the ceiling and out of the way.
20200314_175956.jpg
20200314_180527.jpg
20200314_180546.jpg


The below pics show the Winch and Roller fairlead mounting. In the first pic it shows the complete set up. Notice the winch is bolted to two 2x4's stretched across the top of two rafters. They are screwed to the rafters. On the right is the fairlead that directs the cable downward. In the second pic you can see the fairlead better. It is bolted to two 2x4's just like the winch but with a larger gap between the 2x4's to allow for the cable, hook and eyebolt. Notice the two 2x4's on top of the rafters to lift the fair lead higher. Why? I wanted to allow for the hook and eyebolt on the carrier to come up higher to allow for the carrier to suck tight up against the rafters. Now, I could have hung the winch higher and mounted it directly up above the lift point and not used the roller fair lead. However, I felt this was a better system for what I was trying to do and hey, the fair lead came with the winch, why not use it! If you have a closed in ceiling with drywall but still have access to your attic then this system would work great for you. All you would have to do is create a hole in the drywall to allow for the hook and eye bolt. The rest of the system could be hidden. (You would need to run power as well)

The third pic shows the winch mounting as well as the control box. Very simple set up!
20200314_183354.jpg
20200314_183438.jpg
20200314_183448.jpg

The pictures below are of more of the carrier. The last pic shows the carrier hanging without the hard top attached. When I lowered the hard top back onto the jeep, I unbolted the two front bolts, rotated the two rear hooks and then hit 'Retract' on the wireless remote. It then just lifted the carrier back up to the ceiling where it will reside when not in use. For the pic, I lowered the carrier back down after I pulled the Jeep out just to show you the carrier hanging. I'll be working on the foam to attach it better and maybe trim it out. I have way more than needed.

Note: In the below picture, to attach the 2x4's together, drill a counter sink hole with a 5/8" or larger drill bit in order to counter sink a 3" deck screw. This will attach the longer 2x4's that go from the front to the back to the cross 2x4's that go between them. Then use 2" max deck screws to attach the 3/4" plywood to the 2x4 carrier frame.
20200314_180042.jpg
20200314_175947.jpg
20200314_183625.jpg

Again, some of these ideas were taken from other videos and I give props to those who came up with those ideas. I added to their ideas and came up with this design. Total cost of the project was around $124.00.
Winch: $69.99 <20%>=$56 plus tax= $61.00 out the door.
Hardware: Hooks, bolts, eyebolt, washers and nuts: $20 max
Screws: You need 3" for the 2x4 frame and 2" for the plywood. Two boxes of deck screws: $20 but you won't use all.
Wood: (6) 2x4's: $23, Plywood I had on hand in the garage.
Wiring: Old extension cord and battery clips, both of which I had on hand in the garage.
Foam or carpet to cushion hard top against carrier: Had on hand in the garage.

This entire project cost less than any store bought manual hoist that uses straps and is not nearly as stable. If you have the space and the garage set up to allow for this I encourage anyone to do it. It does not take a lot of know how knowledge. In addition, mounting the winch is easy and is plenty secure for the weight we are lifting. Please, feel free to reach out with any questions or clarifications should you decide to tackle this project.

I lifted the top off last weekend and lowered it back onto the Jeep this weekend and I was amazed at how easy it was to lower down and guide down with one or two hands. It dropped right down into place. It took 5 minutes total (and that included taking pics along the way to document) to get the top back onto the Jeep!

This was a fun project to do that is already making our lives easier!
Nice setup. I too have an ATV winch (on a power supply to answer that question) but I could never get the attachment points figured out. Your rig is awesome.
 
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