Jeep wranglers are made to be good off-road vehicles, but they do not lack their flaws which is the case in many cars and, in this case, the hardtop. Leakages on the hardtop of your wrangler can be caused by a couple of reasons, either owner-caused reasons or naturally-caused reasons.
The wrangler hardtop comprises sheet molding compound (SMC), compressed fiberglass, which is not bad compared to plastic. Still, it is also susceptible to damage as all other wrangler parts. In this article, we’re going to see how to fix jeep wrangler hard top leaking.
What causes damage to the hardtop?
There are many factors, which may cause damage to hardtop as it is situated on the top of the vehicle. But, there are also some major issues, which vehicle owners tend to ignore but that may lead to the damage of hardtop. Below are some factors which may be the core reason for damage to hardtop.
Excessive weight on the hardtop
Some wrangler owners carry stuff without using a roof rack. This is not wrong if the weight of whatever you are carrying on the rooftop is not above 150 pounds (70 KG). SMC is used where a lightweight and strong product is required, but this strength can reduce thickness. Which is the case with the wrangler hardtop.
By carrying excess weights on your wrangler’s hardtop, it weakens with time, thus cracking, eventually leading to leakage. Environmental factors such as scorching sun and cold weather cause the hardtop to weaken.
Therefore, the cracks will expand rapidly. You are advised not to carry anything on the hardtop in the owner’s manual as it was not designed to take anything on it.
It was intended only to shield the wrangler’s interior components and its occupants from environmental factors. If you are carrying anything on top of your wrangler, a roof rack is highly recommended.
The wrangler hardtop is made of solid materials, but there are weather conditions that can damage it. When it rains, ice stones tend to come with heavy rain. The hardtop can hold off such situations, but not for long. The damage caused might be minimal cracks, but these cracks will most likely expand with time, thus causing leakages.
This is when you get involved in an accident, and your wrangler hard top gets damaged. You may opt to get a new one, which is recommended, but reinstall the old one. Before you do this, check the hardtop for any cracks and also its structural integrity.
Your wrangler hardtop may crack due to old age and being constantly exposed to excessive hot and cold temperatures. This makes the hardtop brittle and is most likely to crack upon impact with something hard.
The hardtop itself might not be the source of leakage. Other factors cause leakages in your wrangler, and you might mistake them for the hardtop leaking.
- The mounting screws that mount the hardtop on the wrangler might be loosely tightened or missing. This will lead to leakage on the screw’s location. When this happens, water drips in slowly, slides on the underneath part on the rooftop then drips on some part.
- Damaged or peeled off door seal. The rubber door seal is designed to keep water off the interior of your wrangler if it leaks into the door. If it is damaged, water will leak into your wrangler
- Windshield weather stripping. This is the rubber trim on the windscreen. If it is wrongly installed, water will leak into your wrangler. This mostly happens after a windshield replacement.
How to fix a leaking hardtop on jeep wrangler?
If the hardtop is cracked, you have to remove it from your wrangler. There are three hardtop panels on your wrangler. On the front, there are two, one on the driver’s side and one on the passenger’s side. The third panel is one larger piece for the other part of your wrangler.
- There are six L-shaped locks and two levers that need to be unlocked to remove the hardtop. Fold the sun visors down and check for latches. If there are there, remove them, then open the L-shaped locks.
- The two front panels can be removed, starting with the driver’s side, then the passenger’s side.
- Removing the rear part. Unbolt the two bolts on each corner ad the other three on each hardtop side under the window.
- Remove the electrical harnesses by pushing on and pulling off the joint harness.
- You’ll need a hoist or someone else to help remove the rear panel. Not that it is heavy, it is too wide to be handled by one person. Once you get the required assistance, take the roof panel and place it on a scratch-proof surface with the panels you removed earlier.
Fixing cracks and dents on the hardtop panels on jeep
Some wrangler owners apply fiberglass glue and assume the issue is solved, but this is not the case. The best way to repair a crack or a dent is to use a fiberglass filler. This ensures the damage does not spread. This is a long-lasting solution as compared to using fiberglass glue.
To do this, you will need a fiberglass repair kit.
How to use the fiberglass repair kit?
- Use a exacto knief to carve around the damaged area. If the damage is spread over a large area use a grider and disk to carve around that area.
- Sanding. Wipe clean the carved-out area with medium-grit sandpaper to remove any paint, and smoothen out the area. This will help the fiberglass paste bond with the material effectively.
- Brush off the area with a soft brush, then use an acetate-based cleaner such as nail polish remover to remove any contaminants. Ensure you have a mask when using the acetate-based cleaner.
- Put on protective gloves and measure the fiberglass resin in ounce as 1 ounce requires 10 drops of hardener. So be carefulful while measuring the resin. Once the mixture is ready measure the needed amount of fiberglass and soak it into the mixture and make sure it is fully covered with the mixture. The mixture takes 8-10 minutes to harden so you have to be very quick on this process.
- Paste the fiberglasss on the damaged area and add some more coating of the mixture and let it dry for 24 hours.
- After the paste has completely dried, sand the area using high grit sandpaper, moving all the way to low grit sandpaper. This will smoothen the paste leveling it out with the panel.
- Once the sanding is done repaint the damaged suface with platic restorer paint it well so it matched the the color of your hardtop.
- After painting, reinstall the hardtop, starting with the rear panel then the front panels. For the front panels, reinstall the passenger’s side first, then the driver’s side.
- Ensure the panels fit correctly on the seal and that there is no debris on the seal. Debris on the seal causes an air gap which lets in water. Also, ensure that you tighten the bolts and the hardtop locks.
- Drive to a drive-in car wash and check for any leakages on the hardtop.
How to prevent the hardtop from damage and leaking?
- Use a roof rack if you ever need to carry anything on top of your wrangler or set up a camping tent on top of your wrangler.
- The wrangler’s hardtop is weather-resistant, but everything has a breaking pony. Always park your wrangler in the shade or an enclosed parking area whenever possible.
- Whenever you remove the hardtop, always clean the rubber seal before reinstalling. Tighten the bolt until they are firm or tightened according to the torque requirement in the owner’s manual.
The wrangler hardtop is made only to protect the interior and the occupants in the wrangler. Carrying anything on the top without a roof rack will definitely cause damage to the hardtop. Water leaking into your wrangler sometimes does not come from the rooftop.
Check the door seals and the windshield seals and ensure they are correctly installed, especially after a replacement or a door reinstalment after you had removed the doors on your wrangler.