The saga of my Rampage soft top installation (questions)

moab

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Dec 15, 2018
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#1
Before you read this LONG thread. Let me share a few things to make it easier up front. The long and short of this story about putting a new soft top on your Jeep is this:

1) Always check to see what frame you have. ( https://www.etrailer.com/faq-jeep-soft-top-hardware.aspx Is a great resource. It has pics of all three major frames for our TJ's.) Prior to attempting a new soft top install. Make sure you have the right frame for your soft top. I had a Bestop Supertop frame. And needed an OEM factory style frame for the soft top I chose - a Rampage Replace a top. But didn't know it at the time. So a week of posting and answers back and forth ensued. Until we figured out my frame was wrong for my top.

Those are the two main types of frames - Bestop Supertop and the OEM factory style top. (I say "OEM" and "factory style" as you might find an actual OEM top or a Bestop made factory style aftermarket top. I believe Bestop made both.) Make sure your top was made for the one you've got. Mine wasn't. I needed the OEM frame. And was amazingly hooked up by mrblaine with a new oem frame. Prior to that I struggled big time for a week. Thinking it was the cold. When in reality I was trying to put a soft top on the wrong frame type.

Here's a helpful primer on frames:

A) This is the OEM factory style frame. See how much bigger the windshield header is? The part that goes on top of your windshield? It has quick clamps that are alot easier to put in place. And tops made for this style frame have alot more fabric up front where that attaches. This header will attach to your soft top with screws. But is alot easier to get your soft top off and on:

Jeep wrangler TJ soft top oem factory frame.jpg


B) This is the Bestop Supertop frame. It has a slimmer windshield header made of metal and plastic that bolts down to stay tight. Doesn't require as much fabric up front. But takes a wrench and some finagling to get it to mount right. Isn't as easy to take your soft top off and on:

tj-supertop-hardware.jpg


C) And yet a third one. The Sunrider frame. Which also requires a specific type of soft top:

tj-sunrider-hardware.jpg


2) Don't try to put your soft top on on a cold day. Wait for some sunshine. Or heat your garage up to 70-80f. Try not to use too much heat gun. If it doesn't go on it can actually shrink the fabric. It did this a tiny bit when I was trying to get my upper door skins on. And I could see it shrinking the rubber rain gasket around the outside. Be careful with heat guns. I've seen them used on YT. But those skins appeared to be going on during a warm day. And did not seem as tight as mine. Which leads me to this...

Secondly, soak your upper door skins (if you have them) in the hottest water you can find. And then try to put them on your metal window frames. It will save you alot of aggravation. And possibly tearing something.

*Start with the pointed corner first at the bottom front of the window, then the larger square corner at the bottom rear of the window, then the next sharpest corner towards the upper rear of the window, and lastly the longer rounded corner on the top front of the window.

On the last long rounded corner at the top front of the window - your going to need a blunt and smooth prying tool. I used the handle of a medium to large sized crescent wrench. It went on fairly smoothly. And that was after trying five or six times with other techniques. Use the hot water. And work quick before it cools off. Once it dries in place you'll have a perfect fit. These were made to go on tight so the wind won't make them flap. And buddy they are tight. Especially in the winter.

3) If you don't have the correct frame. Also make sure you have the correct frame bow brackets that mount to your Jeep for your frame to hold onto. They are very different. In fact both frames are very different. And the OEM frame appears to be alot easier to use (taking your top down and putting it back up) than the Bestop Supertop frame. Just my humble opinion. Others have chimed in with a similar opinion.

Soft top bow brackets look like this:

s-l1600.jpg


And are attached to the roll bar (on an oem factory style frame) just below the front seat belt mounts. (The Bestop Supertop frame connects to the top of the rear body panels. As seen in the pic above of the Bestop Supertop frame.) There are two small slits built into your roll bar covers at that point. Allowing the bow bracket to stick out of the padding once mounted to the frame. You have to remove the roll bar padding and I believe the seat belt attachment to mount the bow brackets on an oem frame. Then you cover the bracket with the roll bar padding and cover. And then reattach the seatbelt mounts:

soft-top-accessories.jpg


4) You'll also see door surrounds just to the front of that red circle above (And on the picture of the OEM factory style frame above). My frame (I assume it was a Bestop Supertop frame) did not come with window surrounds either. They make up the gap between the soft top and the upper doors. (On a Supertop there is no gap. The soft top extends below and behind the door uppers. Whether you have half doors or full.) So I had to track down a set of window surrounds as well. I paid $150 for a new set. That was the same price used at my local junkyard. Although surrounds often come with a full frame. But shop around. Used oem soft top frames can be found for a couple hundred used on CL or Offerup.

5) I've yet to disprove this soft top installation strategy. And most use this strategy for getting their tops on.

*Start with the header. Attach the front of your top to the header. (The oem goes on with screws. The Supertop simply goes into the header slot or wrapped around the header.) Then spread the soft top out along the top of your frame. Attach the two corners to the left and right of the rear window. Then put the rear windows in. Followed by the side windows. Or visa versa on the windows. Do what's easiest on your top. Then your half door uppers if you have them.

During my many attempts at trying to get this top on the wrong frame. (Or for any tight installation - correct or otherwise.) I found chapstick to be my friend. Apply it directly to the zippers - especially at the corners and tight places - it will provide enough lube to keep zipping all the way around the windows. And will not hurt or stain anything. I mean I used plain old almost white chapstick. I'm sure if you tried something with a dye in it it would stain possibly. I'm sure there is a zipper lube made specifically for this. But really anything that doesn't stain will work.

I hope this helps someone after me. I spent the better part of a week or more on this soft top installation. As you'll see in this long thread. But with the help of several members was able to figure what my problem was. A BIG thank you to everyone that contributed here. It's not done yet. But I'm pretty sure I have everything I need to install this on Saturday 011919. I'll update with more pics of the final install as it happens. Thanks for reading. And again, I hope this helps someone in the future. As I did not come across to many soft top installation guides that concerned themselves with all the hardware as well.

Lastly, I and others make some incorrect assumptions as this thread moves along. In the end it was the wrong frame. Cold certainly didn't help. But it really was about the frame and hardware. I also think there is a copyright issue at hand here too. I don't think Rampage is allowed to sell an OEM frame or header. As those were developed by Bestop originally for the Jeep. So that might be why Rampage told me to use their header first and then an "OEM" frame the second time I called. I'm pretty sure they can't say "use a Bestop frame". But they can say "use an OEM frame". Wish they would have told me about the oem frame the first time I called. But owe well.

Either way their tech support was lacking. And I would not rely to heavily on them. They admitted they aren't sure about the fit of these tops as "they are made by someone else for Rampage". Meaning China I assume. As most of these are all made in China to my knowledge. Maybe not Bestop. But I got my Rampage for $182 on sale. (And have seen pics on here of it fitting very nicely on a TJ with an oem frame.) As opposed to $800+ from Bestop. And alot more if I had bought a new frame along with the soft top.

Not saying Bestop is bad. I just didn't have the budget for one. They are by far the best soft top manufacturer there is. They made the original soft top for the Jeep. But they are an expensive investment. That would not have probably helped me in the first place. As I would have had to have purchased a Bestop Supertop to fit the frame I had. And the OEM style is easier to use anyway. So I'm quite happy with the soft top, frame and hardware that I've ended up having to use.

Wish I could say it was all part of a grand plan. But it wasn't. I lucked into the soft top I wanted (khaki diamond) with the easiest to use frame - the OEM factory style. Again, find either as an OEM take off from a Jeep - around $200. As a used aftermarket frame - around $200. Or purchased directly from Bestop for around $600.

*****************************************************************************************

The original post.

Is this stock or aftermarket? I'm about to remove my top and replace it with a Rampage. Just curious what those bolts might mean for putting another top on that's a different manufacturer? I assume it's just to hold the clamp tight. But I've never seen this on any of the tutorials or YT videos I've watched. (This is where my trouble began. I did not realize I had a Bestop Supertop frame. And that I needed an OEM factory style frame.)

20190111_113332 (1).jpg
 
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tworley

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#2
Stock. It came on early models. You're right, they are used to tighten the clamp to the windshield frame. If your rampage top comes with a new header bar and clamps, they will work too.
 
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moab

moab

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#3
Thank you so much. Is there any reason to believe a new Rampage soft top won't fit on a stock frame like this?
 

tworley

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#4
I am not to familiar with rampage tops. Are you using your existing hardwareuse? Does the Rampage top use a new windshield channel?
 
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moab

moab

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#5
I'm using the oem channel. And it's not fitting to the top. I'm going to call them and see if theres a new channel I need to buy. I'll post pics in a bit.
 
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moab

moab

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#6
I just called their sorry *sses. And I have to buy their channel. Wish they would put this in there ads for their replacement tops. Now to find out how much this is gonna cost me. And it's gonna rain tonight. So I have to somehow salvage my old top and put it back on. I think I have two more upper doors for it. Two of them I already cut the fabric off of. What a PITA.

EDIT - I later found this not to be true. I did not need the header Rampage sells. I needed the oem one that comes with an oem factory style frame.
 
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glwood

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Sep 16, 2016
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#7
Stock. It came on early models. You're right, they are used to tighten the clamp to the windshield frame. If your rampage top comes with a new header bar and clamps, they will work too.
My '97 never had those type of latches. They look very much like the type of clamps used on the bikini/safari top headers you always have to remove when you put your regular top back up.
 

glwood

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#8
I just called their sorry *sses. And I have to buy their channel. Wish they would put this in there ads for their replacement tops. Now to find out how much this is gonna cost me. And it's gonna rain tonight. So I have to somehow salvage my old top and put it back on. I think I have two more upper doors for it. Two of them I already cut the fabric off of. What a PITA.
I never was a fan of Rampage anything. Now you know why.
 

tworley

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#9
My '97 never had those type of latches. They look very much like the type of clamps used on the bikini/safari top headers you always have to remove when you put your regular top back up.
Same. I guess thats what I meant by stock, my safari top uses this type of header channel. My bestop softtop uses clamps
 
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moab

moab

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#10
What a cluster...whatever you call it. ;) I finally figured out the front windshield header. They made it not to fit in the stock channel in the windshield header. But it wraps around the entire header and then clamps down. Bypassing the actual stock channel in the header altogether. AND you have to fold the plastic tab over once, and roll that under the entire header, to make it fit right.

But now it's so cold (probably upper 50's low 60's. It says to install in 70F or better.) I have a 2-3 inch gap on one side at the base of the window. And the rear window won't zip in past one third of the way. Basically to the first corner. And the door uppers won't go on at all. I need another 2 inches to get those on. So I put the upper windows on the front seats, zipped everything up as much as possible. And turned the heat on high. HAve a timer set for 45 minutes. Maybe that will do the trick. But the back window is halfway open. F me. lol.

Lastly, they did not say you needed those wide black things that go around the back half of the front windows. I don't know what they are called. But now I have this gap between the soft top and the back of the front upper doors. Those are my old door uppers as I'm trying to keep the heat in while I try heating up the top from the inside so I can get it to go on all the way.

20190111_161141.jpg


What are these called? I need a pair. And what year range will fit my '99 TJ? And how much do they run used?

thingys - Copy.jpg


The directions from Rampage (Lund) suck. It shows you having to screw the soft top into the windshield header. Which don't exist on my older stock header. And then when I called and talked to their tech. She had no clue that you had to double over the plastic on the front of the soft top and wrap the top around the entire header instead of just putting it in the channel in the header like it does stock. It is a better fit IMHO. But it would be nice if anyone at Rampage knew this. She actually said "sometimes they fit but sometimes they don't. Because we have these made overseas.".

Further it doesn't say you need those things above. Again I use the term cluster...whatever you call it. ;) I found some local but have no idea how much they are worth or what years fit my '99.
 

tworley

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#11
What a cluster...whatever you call it. ;) I finally figured out the front windshield header. They made it not to fit in the stock channel in the windshield header. But it wraps around the entire header and then clamps down. Bypassing the actual stock channel in the header altogether. AND you have to fold the plastic tab over once, and roll that under the entire header, to make it fit right.

But now it's so cold (probably upper 50's low 60's. It says to install in 70F or better.) I have a 2-3 inch gap on one side at the base of the window. And the rear window won't zip in past one third of the way. Basically to the first corner. And the door uppers won't go on at all. I need another 2 inches to get those on. So I put the upper windows on the front seats, zipped everything up as much as possible. And turned the heat on high. HAve a timer set for 45 minutes. Maybe that will do the trick. But the back window is halfway open. F me. lol.

Lastly, they did not say you needed those wide black things that go around the back half of the front windows. I don't know what they are called. But now I have this gap between the soft top and the back of the front upper doors. Those are my old door uppers as I'm trying to keep the heat in while I try heating up the top from the inside so I can get it to go on all the way.

View attachment 71854

What are these called? I need a pair. And what year range will fit my '99 TJ? And how much do they run used?

View attachment 71853

The directions from Rampage (Lund) suck. It shows you having to screw the soft top into the windshield header. Which don't exist on my older stock header. And then when I called and talked to their tech. She had no clue that you had to double over the plastic on the front of the soft top and wrap the top around the entire header instead of just putting it in the channel in the header like it does stock. It is a better fit IMHO. But it would be nice if anyone at Rampage knew this. She actually said "sometimes they fit but sometimes they don't. Because we have these made overseas.".

Further it doesn't say you need those things above. Again I use the term cluster...whatever you call it. ;) I found some local but have no idea how much they are worth or what years fit my '99.

Door surrounds. 97-06 will fit!
 
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moab

moab

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#12
Why do some tops require surrounds and some don't? And why don't they specify? My top that I had (not sure but it looked original) had no surrounds a soft top with half doors.
 

rasband

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#13
The rampage top on my TJ (06 LJ) has that same windshield attachment.
Is this stock or aftermarket? I'm about to remove my top and replace it with a Rampage. Just curious what those bolts might mean for putting another top on that's a different manufacturer? I assume it's just top hold the clamp tight. But I've never seen this on any of the tutorials or YT videos I've watched.

View attachment 71795
I have a rampage on mine and it has the same bolt/channel, for what it’s worth. It was what was on there from the previous owner - and while it’s a bit loud I really like the style and function.
 
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moab

moab

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#14
I want to remind everyone that I got this top for $182 after a mark down and a $100 gift card rebate. Normally $350-$400. I'm still hoping that's not because they know these tops don't fit right. But in all honesty. I should not have tried this in the winter without a garage heated to at least 80f...

Well it's been raining all night. And is supposed to continue for the next week. Meanwhile my Jeep sits in the driveway with a 2 inch gap at the bottom of one window. And my old upper doors have a 1 inch gap all the way around. Because I don't have surrounds on my frame. I really wish they would mention this in the ads for these tops. Maybe mine not having them is an early year TJ issue. But the soft top that was on my Jeep. Pretty sure it was stock. Did not need them. As the upper doors spread past the soft top door area. The back window is on. But the bow is halfway collapsed to fit the cold - too tight - top on. I think I might have slightly bent the brackets on the back part of the bow. But appears to be an easy fix.

My advice? NEVER do this in the winter. Even here in sunny Southern California. Either that or this top fits terribly. The weather during the day was in the low 60's and sunny. But I now believe their note on the installation instructions "try to mount the top in 70F+ weather...". Ya. That's an understatement.

I'm going to try to get the upper doors on today by heating them up in the house with a space heater. And then I might try to heat the inside of the Jeep up again. Fix my bows. And try to make it fit. My hands are swollen and beat up from yesterday. As are my arms and shoulders. I want to say this top sucks. But I have to give it a fair shake in warmer weather.

I will say I was surprised by the utter lack of confidence displayed by Rampages tech support. Really nice people. But you could hear in their voice this wasn't the first fitment problem they had encountered. They were not confident "because these are made for us" with the fitment of these tops. And were completely unaware how the top attached to the header in front.

I asked for some place I could take it for advice or an installation service. As they are located about 20 miles from me in Corona CA. They never once offered that I bring it by. For them to look at. Instead they directed me to 4 Wheel Parts. Which I actually went to with both my soft tops piled in the back of my Jeep. And they were clueless as always. "Brandon" was a good dude though. And saw right thru the shitty fitment issues. And wasn't confident that if I exchanged it that I'd get any better fitment. It was while I was there that "I" figured out that the top had to be rolled over the ENTIRE header to work. And folded under itself at least one time. Maybe this is why the rest of the top is so tight? I don't know. It could be that the manufacturers in China did not compensate for this issue. Quality control between them and Lund (Lund owns Rampage. Who is normally a high end manufacturer of some pretty nice carpet sets and floor mats.) and their China factories must be non-existent.

MEantime I'm on the hunt for door surrounds. Found new ones for $58 plus shipping. And am negotiating over a used set. I guess those just come off when you take your top down? I'm really bummed I have to buy/use them. But I can't tell with any soft top - which ones you need them for and which ones you don't.

I want to say "if I had an extra $600 in my budget for a Bestop. I would buy one.". But I'm still committed to giving this top a fair shake in warmer weather or a warm garage. Because at this point that would be my biggest advice. HEat your garage to at least 80F. And only then try to put this top on. Or wait for the hottest day of summer.

I'll update as the rain subsides. Or if I get lucky with self made heat.
 
#16
All of these tops fit tight out of the box. They have to in order to minimize flapping and wrinkles. It takes a bit of patience and planning to install. This applies to all tops and even more so for frameless.

All TJs come with door surrounds from the factory. Some people remove them for the extra open air experience or cleaner look. I would say all tops expect to have surrounds in order to install as a result. It sounds like your PO removed them and never replaced them but I would not blame the top for that.

I think you just need a bit of patience when installing. Take a deep breath. Mastering the TJ top is part of what owning a “real” Jeep entails. You should be able to find them used as people have been switching to frameless tops which require different surrounds.
 
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moab

moab

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#17
All of these tops fit tight out of the box. They have to in order to minimize flapping and wrinkles. It takes a bit of patience and planning to install. This applies to all tops and even more so for frameless.

All TJs come with door surrounds from the factory. Some people remove them for the extra open air experience or cleaner look. I would say all tops expect to have surrounds in order to install as a result. It sounds like your PO removed them and never replaced them but I would not blame the top for that.

I think you just need a bit of patience when installing. Take a deep breath. Mastering the TJ top is part of what owning a “real” Jeep entails. You should be able to find them used as people have been switching to frameless tops which require different surrounds.
That's pretty much my attitude now. It wasn't warm enough and rained later in the day yesterday. So I just let it sit. I rushed because my wife wanted my son to drive it. And the old soft top you could barely see out of the windows. I should have just said no. And been more patient. But he's home from college for a short time. And blah blah blah. lol.

Here we are in the only week of full rain Socal will probably see in a year. lol. I just have to wait it out. Until we at least get another sunny day. Then I'll heat it from the inside with a space heater and see if I can take up that last half of window gap I have left. I can certainly do the door uppers in the house. But man even with a space heater on them for a half hour. I was reluctant to pry anymore on the corners. I want to use something dull to pry it with. But have been afraid of ripping it.

But your right. It's a learning process. And one I need to learn. If I'm going to operate the vehicle the way I want too. I've at least got the process down now of putting it on and taking it off. It's literally just the last half of the drivers side rear window on the bottom that can't reach the retaining slot with the bottom of the window. And the back bow needs to adjust to its full height and lock into place. I bent the locks just out of place by a quarter of an inch. I think I can bend them back by hand no problem. Basically the entire top is on. With the exception of the drivers side rear window.

That and I need to get the surrounds purchased and installed. But yes, wise words, primetime4.

Is a heat gun to much for a soft top? I thought about running that over the surface of the one offending window from a good distance. And heating it up that way. Again, just afraid of damaging it or melting it.
 
#18
I think you are officially a TJ owner with this attitude. Just be thankful Jeep did away with the snaps from the YJ generation.

Did you already latch your header down? If so, I would say unlock it so that the hooks are barely in the windshield. This is always suggestion when putting the top on. Latching should be the second to last step as it tightens everything down. Last step is ticking in the top into the channel. If not, do this and you can pull down on the rear bow a little if you need to in order to get the window clipped in. If you have the front started the rear should go in. You may have to loosen the Velcro between the top and the window as well.

Locking down the latches should be highly satisfying.
 

Red Dog

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#19
I would highly advise *not* using a heat gun! Hair dryer set to "high" at the most, but not a heat gun.

Have you purchased the door surrounds already? I'm at work for the next 9 1/2 hours but I *might* still have my original surrounds from when I switched over to a Trektop. If you're interested send me a PM.

First thing I learned after buying a used TJ, if something is supposed to be easy to do with it... it probably won't be.
 

RubiconMike

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#20
All TJs come with door surrounds from the factory. Some people remove them for the extra open air experience or cleaner look. I would say all tops expect to have surrounds in order to install as a result. It sounds like your PO removed them and never replaced them but I would not blame the top for that.
Small correction: All TJs with soft tops come with door surrounds from the factory. My LJ had full doors and a hard top, but no soft top. It did not come with door surrounds. I ended up buying a soft top package from a dealer that was getting rid of old inventory and it included the door surrounds. (Note: the door surrounds for an LJ are different than a standard TJ. The LJ has an extra spring-loaded clip at the top where the door surround curves. The soft top frame attaches to the spring-loaded clip. It looks like they added it so they could add the fold-over sunroof - it keeps the top attached when you release the front header to fold open the sunroof.)