Should I get a new soft top?

1997, Bestop Supertop.

My best noise condition is when the windows are closed and the heater vents are on. The top blows up like a balloon and is very manageable.

If my door windows are open, but my soft top is installed with all 3 rear windows, the flapping is terrible.

If I remove the back (rear) window, the flapping is drastically reduced again and not bad.

I like having an old top. Because I don't care if it gets damaged, and I don't really worry about scratching the windows when I store them. (I am careful, but not afraid to roll them up in a felt lined bag for easy transport)
The Bestop that was supposedly new when I bought my TJ two years ago was probably over 5 yrs old then. I do think the whole Jeep spent most of it's life in a garage before I got it but it has been outside for the last 26 months.

However old the top really is, it still looks like the same top as it wore when driven out of the factory. The top itself does puff up above my head from time to time. I never thought about the HVAC causing that but it very well could be. If I remember the next time it's closed up, I'll have to do some checking.

Sometimes I have just the side windows out, sometimes just the rear window, usually all three. I don't recall ever having a large amount of flapping nor the wife mentioning that. Some flapping does happen with those windows still installed but the door windows wide open or the doors off. The amount of that flapping seems to depend on how much air is let in, how fast the Jeep and/or wind is travelling and what direction.

I also know that the windows aren't what's keeping my Bestop tight, they are just snug enough to almost look like flat glass. OK, that might be an exaggeration but they aren't wavy and aren't pulling the top tighter when installed.
I’m currently on my third soft top on my 97. The factory top lasted about 15 years, although the last 3 I couldn’t put the top down because I knew it would rip the next time I tried (it did). Money was right so I bought a smittybilt for around $250. Lasted 5 years before I had enough with the rear window zipper (stitching gave out on the side). Sold the half door windows that I never used for $75 and the rest of the top and windows for $60.
Bought a Rough Country top on special from amazon for $175. It’s currently 3 years old and holding up really well.
The fit was slightly tight on both tops. The side windows on the rough country are a pain in the ass to get in, but fits well once I finally get them zipped.
Bottom line: I’m sure the bestop’s are really good. However, if you don’t have the extra funds when you need a new top, not all the aftermarket ones are complete junk. Just have the right expectation when you go in. You will probably get around 5 years from a cheap top. But at 1/4 the price of the Bestop, you can get 20 years from the cheap ones for the price of one bestop...will you get 20 years from the bestop?
Thanks for the info Vidar! Weighing my options for now, I think I will go with the rough country top because of the price point and the fact that it wasn't made in China as far as I can tell. I very well may go with a bestop in the future, I've got all kinds of stuff I wanna do to the Jeep a year or two from now and after hearing mostly great reviews from bestop owners, I'll probably get one at that point. But for now, rough country it is!
What's you guy's take on the pavement ends tops? It looks like the company is owned by bestop and they're like a third of the price. They seem to have good reviews on Amazon just at a first glance.

I have one, and I am really happy with it. I couldn't justify spending $500 - $1,000 on a top, but I'm also pretty particular, so I looked for a cheaper-but-well-reviewed top and landed on the Pavement Ends top. It's actually got "Pavement Ends by BesTop" on the tag, though they don't have Pavement Ends products directly on the BesTop site that I could find.

Check out my cover photo on my profile — that's the top in June 2020. It's been on since August 2016. It was outside every day until November 2016 and has been in the garage since then. It looks just like the day I got it, but like I mentioned, it's mostly been in the garage. I have hard slider uppers that go on my half doors, so I got it with no doors included. The exact top I have is listed in my mods on my profile, and the last time I looked it was about $260 without the upper door skins.

It replaced the OEM top that made it 15/16 years. The OEM top's fabric had degraded/faded and after a light bit of hail I noticed a few holes on the top that forced me to order a new one. I can't tell much difference between the OEM top and the Pavement Ends top. If it's thinner, I certainly can't tell it by road noise or behavior. It does all the same things at the same speeds that the OEM top did and the road noise is the same. The old top would puff up when I drove over about 35 mph with the hard slider uppers on, and the PE top does the same.

I'm not sure how you're riding, but the force of the air when you have the back three windows in and no upper doors on at about 40MPH and up will make the OEM or an aftermarket OEM-style top flap and puff up like crazy. At about 50 MPH when I have my hard slider upper doors one, they start to gap at the side due to the force of the air and make a flopping or whistle noise on occasion. Nothing will be perfect in a shoe box on wheels with vinyl and plastic flaps for a top. lol

Sounds like your top isn't connected well at the 2 bow (the one in the middle top, behind the front seats), you mentioned the velcro is shot. I would get some black gaffer's tape (it's kind of like really strong fabric-like duct tape that doesn't leave any residue when removed, even when it gets hot) and tape along the entire velcro seam to keep it closed tight around the frame. If you are going to replace the top anyway, it can't hurt to try, and the black tape won't stand out. BTW, I used gaffer's tape to cover the holes on the roof of the OEM top for two months before the new top came in, and it worked great.

I think you would likely be happy with a PE top if you are seeking an OEM-style replacement on a budget that's better than your current top. That being said, get it on amazon prime, take note of how it's packaged, and if it's not an improvement over your current top, box it up and send it back.
Thanks for the info Vidar! Weighing my options for now, I think I will go with the rough country top because of the price point and the fact that it wasn't made in China as far as I can tell. I very well may go with a bestop in the future, I've got all kinds of stuff I wanna do to the Jeep a year or two from now and after hearing mostly great reviews from bestop owners, I'll probably get one at that point. But for now, rough country it is!
I’m sorry, my memory was incorrect. It was a rugged ridge top, not a rough country. And it was only $140! (Marked down from like $600 or something crazy, the box was filthy like it had been sitting for months.)
X2 on the sailcloth, Previous owner put a new sailcloth bestop in the beginning of January 2019, I purchased it in august 2019, I still have it now and it is unbelievable how nice it is
I have the suckiest of suck soft tops. Rampage. Looks great on a nice day, but when it rains it leaks. Got it new last year. Missing parts, leaking main seam, and now a broken buckle. Top was on for like three months last year, then cleaned and stored rolled up in a clean cotton hospital blanket, and put on a dedicated shelf. Unrolled it last weekend, after removing the hard top, only to find an aluminum buckle had disintegrated all by itself. Used a small carabiner to make it work and put it on. Today the neighbor kid got out of control with a water hose and sprinkler, and somehow managed to to water the Jeep on my driveway. Came out to water in the seats and in the floor. Of course the kid is no longer outside, but it didn’t take much to figure what happened. So again, I’ve got to take it off, seam seal it after trying to get last years seam seal off, and try it again.


I ended up ordering the rough country one yesterday. I know it's not gonna be the best thing since sliced bread but it's gotta be better than what I've got on it now with that velcro rattling above my head and back windows flapping all over 24/7. I'm hoping to do an engine/trans swap and a lift in the next year or two so the bestop will probably come at that point. Thanks to everyone for the advice and I'll update this once the top comes in and I've got it on.
Agree with the Bestop recommendations, with Sailcloth fabric which is what new TJs came with.

Just one thing to be aware of is the TJ came with a particularly easy to use soft top support system, but some aftermarket soft tops use a difficult Rube Goldberg support system that can be frustrating.

Before ordering a replacement top you need to determine if your TJ has the original OEM support frame or it's an incompatible support system.

IIf you can post a few photos of the rear part of the top support system we can tell you what you have. Especially from where it attaches to the rear of the center rollbar.
What year did they change the material on the TJ? I have an 01 TJ, and I'm due for a new top. I'm wondering is the Bestop sail cloth is the same as what I have now, or is it's better, quieter, etc? Is it the same material Bestop uses for the Supertop NX.
Oh man that sounds like a good time! So don't go with the rampage top?
I would say what the others already have, and go with Bestop. Even their cheapest top has to be better than this thing. And don’t get me started on their customer service. I don’t have the original receipt so they won’t even talk to me, about any of it. Had to buy their header separately from somewhere else to even try it. Didn’t even bother to give me prices for the missing parts, much less advice on the seam. I was given the Rampage top, so I’m going to wrestle with it for a little while before shredding it and sending it back to Rampage. I’m only slightly bitter at this point.
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It's kind of annoying when someone says they have $250 to spend on a soft top. And the majority response he gets is "buy a $1000 top or nothing else".

Obviously the dude can't afford a Bestop. He has $250. Stop recommending a Bestop. Not everyone needs a $1000 soft top. Your Jeep may be your weekend toy. Or you simply may not be able to afford to drop a grand on a top. So let's open ourselves up to giving a bit more helpful advice. Instead of making the dude feel even worse because he doesn't have a grand to throw into a problem on his Jeep.

Would I like a Bestop? Sure. Maybe a good alternative might be a better condition used OEM top (Bestop)? I've got a $182 Rampage that I'm perfectly happy with. Is it as nice looking as a Bestop? No. Is it as quiet as a Bestop? No. Does it keep the elements out? Yes. That's good enough for some. And maybe "has" to be good enough for others.

But more importantly I'd find out why your current top is so ill fitting first. You may have a frame, fitment or padding issue that isn't going to be solved by a new top. I would love to see a pic of the support bar above the front seats. If you don't have padding around it. It could cause alot of annoying flapping. And can be fixed with about $3 worth of padding from Home Depot.

But the rear flapping has me concerned that your frame is not fully extended. Or something else is off with it. At least ascertain that your current problem is indeed your soft top. And not a frame issue. As a new top isn't going to solve it.

Most importantly watch as many youtube videos, read as many tutorials and read as much as you can on this forum about soft top fitment. It's not as simple as it might seem to some. First of all it's a good time of year to swap it out. Make sure it's hot outside. Or you'll kill yourself trying to get it to fit. Most importantly make sure you know how to put one on first. It can be a struggle if you don't know what your doing.

I found with my cheap top that fitment meant everything. The right number of rolls on the screw down header. The right order of things. Which part to put on first. Which order. Etc. etc. The only issues I had with my top were operator error. Thankfully. Those can be overcome.

I'm perfectly happy for now with my cheap ass top. But only until I got it properly fitted to my Jeep. Someday I will be able to afford a Bestop. But actually I'll probably wait for a used or NOS OEM top. As the color I want (khaki) is not available in a Bestop. Not to mention there are many other things I would spend a grand on upgrading my Jeep - that aren't soft tops.
Thanks Moab for the backup! It's good to hear someone's had good luck with a more affordable top. I've gone over the soft top frame and there's no bends in it or anything but there's also no foam on any of the bars. There's padding on the roll cage but that's about it. Should there be foam on the soft top frame? I do have the new top on the way. Haven't gotten an eta cuz of all this COVID crap but hopefully it'll be here in the next week. I do appreciate all you guys though recommending the bestops. There's a handfull of things I need to do to the jeep too and there's a weird rattle that I've been chasing so I just cant' dump that kind of money into a top when I don't know what else is going on. A bestop will probably happen when I ditch the old 4 cylinder and hopefully go to a 5.2 or 5.9 magnum and a lift. That'll be at least a year down the road though. Anyways I'll keep posted on how the new top works out.
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It's kind of annoying when someone says they have $250 to spend on a soft top. And the majority response he gets is "buy a $1000 top or nothing else".

Right? I followed the directions and basically wrote a dissertation on a $260 top that I love that the OP specifically asked about, as well as suggestions on temp fixes for the flapping, but no one gave me a gold star. 😭