DIY Power Soft Top

RussJeep1

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With no intentions to sell this and every intention to share this in the DIY section of the forum if it actually works....which without your help it may very well not, I am seeking to design a method of getting either JL soft top (premium or basic)--at least on the 4 door, although I imagine the ideas here could be transferred to the 2 door, to open and close, at least to Sunrider position, with the touch of a button.

I wasn't going to publish this until I got a working prototype but with the possible further delay of FCA's power top, plus the idea that your combined minds are much smarter than my one head, (plus it's raining out, so I can't work on it) I thought I'd share what I have so far.

Like any good DIY, the parts should be readily available and relatively easy to assemble with limited tools and funds. It starts with Harbor Freight's manual worm drive based winch:

https://www.harborfreight.com/2000-lb-capacity-geared-winch-5798.html

A worm drive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worm_drive was chosen because no positive pressure need be applied to the device to keep its rotational position static: only to move it.

I discarded the bar of the winch over which the cable lies in the picture, along with the cable and hook.

I then took the spool off the device and sliced it in half with a hack saw (half being equal parts left and right, NOT down its length)

I then reattached the spool, including the rod that goes inside it (don't cut the internal rod), but first, slipped one of these on the spool:

http://www.steel-tek.com/sites/551/uploaded/files/Single_Socket_Tee.pdf

A 1 1/4" single socket tee: which fits nicely over the spool. It's available at Lowes.

In the link it's the side marked as "B" that was slipped over the spool.

I clamped down the adjustment screw of the Tee connected to the winch spool with the extremely high torque of a regular wrench and Allen bit for it, also available at Harbor Freight, not a self contained Allen wrench, whose design and limited length normally limits user applied torque.

Here's a link to the rachet attachment for Hex bits, which you'll need to tighten the Steel Tek Tee:

https://www.harborfreight.com/9-pc-38-in-12-in-drive-sae-hex-socket-set-67884.html

At the other opening of the single socket tee I put in Steel Tek's 1 1/4" pipe, about 26" worth and clamped it down (also available at Lowes).

(See where I'm going so far?)

I bought a steel plate that I will try to put on the top of the speaker bar. It will be held down by the 2 - 4 holes in the front of the speaker bar that normally accommodate the Freedom panel clamp downs (for either Freedom panel's) most exterior and median to the rig.

These clamp downs have 2 holes in them each. I'll put nuts and bolts through them to hold down the steel plate on top of the speaker bar, having drilled holes into the steel plate of the right size and placement compared to those in the aforementioned Freedom panel clamp dows.

I'll then weld or polymer bond the winch, with the spool to the rear and on top of the metal plate so it fits under one of the (at least Premium) soft top's cross bars to this plate.

(The spool, oriented 180 degrees closer to the front of the rig didn't fit with the top down. One of the soft top's cross members got in the way.)

Ideally, this pipe sits at its other end under the lip in the front middle of the soft top. I may reduce the pipe diameter size along its length so it leaves a smaller indentation in the soft top when the top is closed. It's not obtrusive though IMHO. The winch is not perfectly centered on the speaker bar (the best attachment point), with respect to the soft top's first pivot point, so the pipe may be closer or further to the end of the soft top when closed or in the Sunrider position. I've yet to work out the details.

The place where the winch's user crank resides pops up a little to much for me when the soft to is closed. It's nothing that taking off about 1/2" of its top length won't address. It has the space to do so.

Now the fun begins. Pick your electric tool of choice. For me, right now, that's these:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B071HXVVYF/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.harborfreight.com/48-volt-14-in-cordless-screwdriver-kit-61826.html

and a socket to match the nut on the winch, which I'll "Locktite" on.

The lever that comes with the winch is bypassed.

The 40:1 ratio of the winch makes the power this linked screw driver supplies, which is limited, over the 26" of distance of the pipe which raises and lowers the soft top to Sunrider position and back (plus the soft top's weight) *seem* to be adequate on testing. The tradeoff of ease of cranking to number of turns suggest this be done with a power tool for speed sake (over a ratchet, but YMMV), hence, a "power" soft top.

I initially thought of doing this with a high torque low spin DC motor, and an Arduino to control the motor's movement within the about 180 degree range, and then said, "why am I killing myself?"

The first drop of rain will short out the Arduino, and it's more trouble that its worth, especially having to familiarize myself with its Java code specific instructions .

It took 22 rotations of the winches screw to go 180 degrees. That's not bad at all when applied to a power tool. This represents the entire open to close span of the Sunrider configuration.

No way is this setup appropriate for the normal speeds of, say, a right angle drill. It's just too fast.

Let me hear your ideas/thoughts on this!

Thanks.





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RussJeep1

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With better weather today than yesterday I took some pictures. If a picture is worth 1000 words, it's worth 10,000 on a DIY writeup, or 100,000 of mine.;)

Below, on a sawhorse, I have the winch, minus its crank and the steel bar over which the steel rope normally sits (see the picture link in the prior post), and for that matter minus that steel rope and its end hook.

If you look down the hole made by the Steel Tek 1 1/4" fitting described prior, you can see that the outer part of the spool's been cut in half, not the steel bolt that allows it to rotate around its base. I removed that first before effecting the cut with two adjustable wrenches.

The tee fitting has two hex nuts for tightening itself onto the cylinders that go into/through it. You can see the hex nut further in is clamped down hard. Doing so makes sure that when the spool turns, the tee turns--plus it helps keep things from moving that shouldn't in the whole assembly. I may polymer glue the spool back together with the tee on it.

Notice the two gears on the winch form a classic worm drive: which is the go to gearing system when you want to make sure "that the input (where the nut is) is never turned by the output (a pipe I'm about to stick into the remaining open end of the tee.)" A worm drive stays in place, whatever position that may be, short of the introduction of torque on the worm portion of the gearing. This is important in insuring the soft top stays in the desired position: open to Sunrider or closed.

IMG_2495.JPG


Between the sawhorse and winch lies a metal plate about 1/8" thick. I started to drill holes in it where it will attach, via nuts bolts, to the hardware designed for the (hard top) Freedom Panel clamps to latch on to, most medial to and furthest back from the front of the rig. These "clamp downs" in the rig each have 2 predrilled holes in them. I've only tapped one of the holes in each so far.

I seek to weld or polymer glue the winch to the metal plate where it lies in this picture. I may have oriented the winch though 180 degrees in the wrong direction the picture. Either this or its 180 orientation gets in the way of the soft top closing as a cross member of soft top (at least the premium one I have) hits the big wheel on the edge of the winch's spool.

Notice the cutout in the steel in the corner furthest from view above That's to accommodate a factory indentation in the top of the rig's speaker bar.


IMG_2496.JPG


Here's another phototaken further back and with more perspective.


In this picture I've stuck about 26" worth of Steel Tek's 1 1/4" pipe into, and am securing to the tee by tightening the second adjustment screw on the tee with a wrench that has a wrench square socket to hex bit adapter on it. The links to that hardware are in the prior post. I desire torque strength greater than this size Allen wrench can give me.

IMG_2497.JPG



The last picture steps away enough to see the device in its entirety. The Harbor Freight screw driver shown here has more than enough torque strength (and slow enough speed) to turn the right angle converter from Amazon, connect to an hex to ratchet socket adapter (links above) connected to a socket that fits the winch's bolt. (link above). The 40:1 ratio of the winch allows for great leverage that even the screw driver can handle, but around 22 rotations....seconds for the screwdriver shown, and for which a standard drill turns far too fast.

IMG_2498.JPG


As mentioned I will probably nip off some extra height off where the winch bolt sits to not be seen through a closed hardtop.

And I will probably reduce the pipe diameter mid length so the end shown as free in this picture tucks under the forward lip of the (premium) soft top) without much appearance through the top of the soft top when it is closed. I will probably also cap it with a rubber of plastic tip.

I'll also Loctite the bolt on the top of the worm drive so it does not come off in its need for bidirectional turning to raise or lower the soft top.

If this works, I'll post the particulars of all the hardware used and steps taken in the DIY section.

Thoughts, criticisms, better/cheaper ways to build this mousetrap?: I'm all ears.
 
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Dubeau9005

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Way out of my league for creativity but best of luck on this. Can’t wait to see completed product if you finish it.
 
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RussJeep1

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Way out of my league for creativity but best of luck on this. Can’t wait to see completed product if you finish it.
Thanks Keith...and don't sell yourself short. If all goes well you won't have to "create," just "replicate."

"A DIY that can't be reproduced by regulars is an inventor fishing for complements."

I don't need complements. So far I used a drill, a hack saw, an Allen Wrench on a rachet, an angle grinder (a hack saw would have worked) and a cork gun to distribute FlexSeal caulk tube based glue. If I'm successful, links to these tools, not expensive at Harbor Freight, along with instructions will be provided.

For you, our friend up North, think Princess Auto or House of Tools. I don't think Harbor Freight's made its way to Ottawa yet (correct me if I am wrong.)

I take a lot from this forum: I should give back.

I had good parents as role models.
 

Wanderingwheelz

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I genuinely don’t mean to offend, nor do I want to overstate the obvious, but this post begs the question, why? The soft top is extremely well designed, and ridiculously easy to operate manually.
 
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RussJeep1

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I genuinely don’t mean to offend, nor do I want to overstate the obvious, but this post begs the question, why? The soft top is extremely well designed, and ridiculously easy to operate manually.

Fair question Daniel. Not offended.

It's multifactorial:

The ability to close the top given impending whether without having to leave the rig.

The marriage to and birth with of two petite females, who unlike you and I, don't find taking the soft top up and down--much though they want to--trivial from a muscular standpoint.

The ability for mobility limited people to have this functionality, and my personal favorite:

To never let FCA get too cocky with their virtual monopoly, and realize if they drag their ass with the power top and or its (drip) quality, the aftermarket's going to deliver DC electric motor based, Arduino controlled modules to do this, perhaps using my public domain ideas as a starting point (maybe not), so as to keep them never forgetting it's their customers that drive their business.

Many people, particularly the Bestop Sunrider crowd, who can take their tops that replace the Hard Top's Freedom Panels up and down without leaving the rig (the top reason I got once when asking Floridian Sunrider owners, given their exposure to rapidly approaching summer thunderstorms) I hoped would appreciate this, at least until Bestop (no offense to them intended) can focus energy on this product for the JL. Bestop though is up to their ears producing product for the new rigs right now and can't afford to give the Sunrider much attention, and their fans (me included) appreciate that.

Really: fair question. Thanks for it. Best wishes.
 

Dubeau9005

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Thanks Keith...and don't sell yourself short. If all goes well you won't have to "create," just "replicate."

"A DIY that can't be reproduced by regulars is an inventor fishing for complements."

I don't need complements. So far I used a drill, a hack saw, an Allen Wrench on a rachet, an angle grinder (a hack saw would have worked) and a cork gun to distribute FlexSeal caulk tube based glue. If I'm successful, links to these tools, not expensive at Harbor Freight, along with instructions will be provided.

For you, our friend up North, think Princess Auto or House of Tools. I don't think Harbor Freight's made its way to Ottawa yet (correct me if I am wrong.)

I take a lot from this forum: I should give back.

I had good parents as role models.
You bring up a very good point. While I am mechanically inclined and could definitely replicate this with the proper instructions (have grown up around tools, cars and a dad that had me in the garage with him for as long as I can remember) it is the creativity I lack to actually come up with the ideas to do something like this. I meant it more as it was out of my league to help you with your idea. While I do somewhat agree with the above post as to why you would want to do it, I think the best question to ask yourself would be “why not?” If you have the equipment, the capability and the desire to do it, then might as well give it a shot. And as the the why, I know that my wife would sure love being able to simply hit a button to open the top. She sometimes finds the top a bit difficult to operate while trying to hold herself up on the step bar to open and close the top (she is vertically challenged). Lol. Best of luck and curious to see how this turns out.

Edit: you replied as I was typing my post. Turns out one of your reasons behind it is the same reason I think it is a great idea.
 
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RussJeep1

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Since posting this I've had to switch to a smaller winch and pipe, but all's not lost. The glue dries from attempt #2 started again today.

For me, all builds are discover builds. You fail a little you succeed a little. You grow, you share, you don't give up easily.

When I have something tangible to offer I'll be back to share.:)
 

tesla

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Personally, I have zero interest in doing this, but I am impressed with your inventiveness ( and the thoroughness of your write up so far) and I will follow this thread to see how it turns out. good luck!
 
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RussJeep1

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OK.

So two failed hand crank winches behind me, with the 3rd a charm (an electric) the basic OEM Soft Top JLU Sunrider position only automatic opener and closer, Version 1, is complete:


I hope to put out DIY instructions shortly. By no means is it an impossible project. It requires basic tools, an angle grinder, an inexpensive electric winch, some plumbing hardware, and some other inexpensive big box store items.

It does take advantage of the space on the Sports bar that people like me lacking the 8.4" screen LTE antenna have--but I imagine people who have this feature could still get this mod to work.

This is just version 1. Lot's I would add time permitting.
 

RavenJeep

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OK.

So two failed hand crank winches behind me, with the 3rd a charm (an electric) the basic OEM Soft Top JLU Sunrider position only automatic opener and closer, Version 1, is complete:


I hope to put out DIY instructions shortly. By no means is it an impossible project. It requires basic tools, an angle grinder, an inexpensive electric winch, some plumbing hardware, and some other inexpensive big box store items.

It does take advantage of the space on the Sports bar that people like me lacking the 8.4" screen LTE antenna have--but I imagine people who have this feature could still get this mod to work.

This is just version 1. Lot's I would add time permitting.
Well I have to say that's pretty slick.
 

JJexp

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That’s very cool, nice work!
 

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