Wrangler Wear: Rugged Ridge XHD Soft Top Review
It’s a wear item. That’s a phrase not many like to hear. Most commonly, it coincides with your vehicle’s brakes, tires or wiper blades. For Jeep Wrangler owners with a soft top, it unfortunately includes the fabric covering their heads. Be it mud, trees, the weather, or constant pounding from the sun, your Wrangler's soft top will eventually need to be replaced.
While the soft top frame is usually reusable (assuming you haven’t played too rough off-road), you can get away with simply replacing the fabric itself. Compared to the poor souls who fork over crazy money to have their cars convertible top redone, replacing your Jeep’s soft top is an inexpensive and easy affair. Our friend’s 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon was in desperate need of a new soft top after nearly 10 years of use had taken its toll. With the Jeep’s soft top frame in fine shape, he opted to order a XHD Black Diamond replacement top from Rugged Ridge.
Mud-stained, torn and ready for the garbage – the stock soft top from this 2007 JK was in rough shape. Be sure to inspect your door surrounds for damage when removing your top as well. The plastic units are very susceptible to damage off-road.
To remove the old fabric from the JK’s soft top frame, you’ll simple unscrew the top using a Philips head screwdriver. Once you reach the header panel, you’ll flip over the fabric to access the screws that attach the header.
To make the install go more easily, be sure to let the top sit in the sun for at least an hour. If the weather is on the cooler side, the material may fight you a little. Temperatures above 70-degrees are ideal.
The hardest part of the install isn’t that difficult so long as you use a little tape. To make sure the header sits in the front channel evenly, you’ll need to tape the fabric approximately every six inches to the inside of the header panel. Once the top is even and aligned properly, you can start to reassemble the header panel. Another set of hands will help as well.
Once you have the main panel screws in place, be sure to check that the stitching below remains even across the entire panel. It’s critical that the front of the top rests in the channel evenly and isn’t bunched in one spot.
Just as it was from the factory, your soft top will get hook-and-loop-wrapped to the first crossbar. The next bar will be secured using the stock hardware.
The same will go for the final rear brace as well. We opted to screw the fabric to the frame once we had it back on the Jeep to make sure everything was properly aligned.
There’s no relearning with the Rugged Ridge XHD soft top as it clips to the door surrounds, the same as stock. The material will be a little tight the first time you secure it to the surrounds, but it will get easier to install and remove as time passes.
Heavy duty zippers as well as hook-and-loop strips ensure that the windows fit snugly in place. Sewn-in plastic inserts will hook the channels on the Wrangler's tub.
Included with the top were 30-mil tinted windows, which match the stock privacy glass nicely. If you do happen to damage one on the trail, you can purchase a replacement separately. The rear window reuses the stock window bar, which allows you to keep window tension and prevents elements from seeping in.
Overall, we were impressed with the fit and finish of the Black Diamond series top material. In comparison to the stock JK top, we would say the initial quality is definitely on par. Obviously, this 40-inch Nitto Trail Grappler-equipped 1-ton Wrangler is far from stock, so time will tell how the top holds up to the elements and the trail.