Jeep Tops and Security: Hardtop or Soft Top?

When it comes to buying any vehicle, you are going to be presented with a lot of design choices, including safety features and luxury options. Despite the five-to-six hours of your life you’ll spend waiting around in the dealership to negotiate and close the deal, choosing between the features you want and what is being presented to you is going to be one of the toughest decisions you’ll make during the entire process of purchasing the vehicle.

This is no different with Jeeps.

Except you’ll also need to choose between what type of top to purchase: hard or soft. Both the Jeep’s hard and soft top options come with pros and cons, and in order to make an informed decision knowing the safety aspects of both is a must. In this post, we are going to take a look at the pros and cons of both hard and soft tops for Jeep Wranglers.

Advantages of the Soft Top: Allows You to Get Back to Nature and Save Money

  • If versatility is what you are looking for in your Jeep Wrangler, then the soft top is what you will want. These are easily removable due to their lightweight design, are foldable, so they can be stored right in your Jeep Wrangler.  Also, if you get hit with a sudden storm while out on the trails, just roll the soft top up and quickly enjoy the protection it provides. 
  • Beyond this, there are a ton of soft top styles to choose from including full tops, half tops, and flip top. Plus, you can combine these with mesh, twill, or black shades and remove the side and back windows. The combinations and customization options are nearly endless, which allow you to make your Jeep fit your life.
  • Soft tops come with a huge cost savings. You can buy several different styles for the price of a single hardtop, which means you can throw the extra money into new tires, new safety features, or new off-road mods.
  • If enjoying the great outdoors means not being confined in a box, then the soft top is perfect for getting in touch with nature. Just throw back the soft top and enjoy the smell of the woods, the crisp air of the mountains, or the ocean’s breeze.
  • Extra advantage: soft tops are iconic and make for the best Jeep Hair, Don’t Care selfies. You know it’s true!

The Negatives to the Soft-Top: Makes for a Loud Jeep and Less Protection

  • Soft tops do not come with the durability of hardtops and so will wear out more often and thus will need to be replaced more often.
  • Although soft tops are more flexible, they have less insulation as a result. This means that road noise is significantly louder.
  • They do not offer as much protection from the elements or thieves. There are several aftermarket products that can help you to address the lack of security. These include, but are not limited to:

**Some favorite soft tops are the Mopar Sunrider Design and the aftermarket Bestop Trektop NX Soft Top with Tinted Side and Rear Windows. The ‘Twill’ fabric is better quality and more durable than the ‘Black Diamond,’ and might be worth the extra dollars.

Advantages of Hardtops: You Are Protected, Secure, and Have a Quiet Space

  • You are going to get better protection, hands-down. Although the Freedom Panels are notorious for their mystery leaks, this means you’ll have better protection from the elements including wind, rain, and snow. It also means you’ll also have better protection from thieves as the hardtop better seals your Jeep than a soft top ever could.
  • A hardtop has an insane amount of durability compared to the soft top. If you treat it right, it can last the entire lifecycle of the vehicle.
  • You can increase how much storage space you have in and on your Jeep by anchoring half racks or full racks to the hard top. This will allow you to carry more of what’s important to you including bikes, kayaks, canoes, and even tents!
  • If you are traveling long distances, the hard top is going to offer you a much quieter ride even with those big knobby lugs on your tires.

The Negatives to Hard Tops: Expensive to Replace and Difficult to Remove

  • In the event that you have to replace your hard top, it will be expensive.
  • To remove the hard top, you will need at least two people (unless you have a ceiling mounted hoist system) and putting it back on is always more difficult than taking it off. This might deter you from taking it off on those sunny days.
  • If you do take the hard top off, you need a big enough storage space for it. These things are quite large and they don’t fold down.

**Some featured hard tops are the Smittybilt Hardtop Black Textured and the DV8 Off-Road Hard Top One Piece.

If you are truly having a hard time deciding on which type of top to go with, getting a soft top for the warmer seasonal months and a hard top for the cold, winter months, often works best (if your piggy bank allows). Jeep does provide the option to get the dual top, which includes both the hard and soft top. Just remember, you’ll need to have a good storage space for your hard top during the warmer months.

A/T, M/T, R/T…….OH MY!!!! How’s a “HerJeeper” to Decide Which Tires Are Best for Her Jeep?

Photo Credit: toyotires.com

In the off-roading world, one of the most important decisions you will ever make regarding your Jeep is which tires to go with. This is such a pivotal decision because your entire rig literally rides on it. Being that your tires are the only part of your Jeep that is actually designed to come into contact with the ground, it’s essential that you set yourself up for success for the type of terrain you plan to do most of your driving on. Tire type can have major impacts on your fuel economy (Ha! I said fuel economy in reference to Jeeps) and your Jeep’s ability to perform the way you want it to.

JK Willys stock tire: 32″ BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A.

First things first. Let’s get some tire abbreviations and definitions out of the way so you can follow along more easily if you’re not familiar with these terms.

A/T = All Terrain – This type of tire is designed specifically to handle both on- and off-road driving. With a brawnier tread design as compared to the H/T, the A/T tire is favored by those seeking a more rugged visual aesthetic while cruising around town.

M/T = Mud Terrain – The mud terrain tire is purposefully designed with off-road capability as its primary purpose, while keeping in mind the secondary purpose of highway driving (you’ve got to get to your off-road driving destination after all). If you are a fan of Toyo Tires, you’ll know that they consider M/T to also mean “Maximum Traction.”

R/T = Rugged Terrain – A relatively recent addition to the tire market (introduced by Toyo in 2014), R/T tires are designed as a cross between the aggressive look and grit of an off-road M/T tire and the smooth, quiet ride quality of an A/T tire.

  • Per Toyo, “Off-road performance meets on-road comfort with the all-new Open Country R/T. Built rugged for any terrain, this powerful 4×4 tire offers excellent off-road traction, durable construction, and aggressive styling. Its ability to tackle mud, dirt, sand, and rocks is inspired by the legendary Open Country M/T, while its quieter ride is a nod to our best-selling Open Country A/T II.”

H/T = Highway Terrain (yeah, we use the term “terrain” lightly with this one) – This tire is specifically for paved roads. Most stock sedans and minivans come equipped with H/T tires – but you’re not driving a sedan or minivan, are you? Even if you are the proudest Pavement Princess around, you wouldn’t be caught dead with a set of H/Ts on your Jeep. And if you are, yes, we’re judging you.

There, now we can move on and dig into the nitty-gritty of what all that means for you and your tire-based decision.

I’ll use my own Jeep, Miss-Chief, as an example to illustrate my point. Because Miss-Chief is a Willys Wheeler edition, she came from the dealership brandishing M/Ts. I decided to upgrade my tires from 32’s to 35’s and in doing so, elected to keep the M/Ts on her because I like the aggressive look of them and I had plans to do some serious off-roading and muddin’. Purchasing tires; however, shouldn’t be based on appearance and price point alone.

Miss-Chief’s Toyo M/T tire. Cat not included.

An M/T tire typically features large tread blocks with spacious channels between them. While the channels are wider to allow for faster mud and water displacement (aka mudslingers), the tread blocks are composed of a beefy texture to ensure maximum traction in dirt and mud. Further, this type of tire often features an “over the shoulder” lug that extends from the tread area down onto the sidewalls which allows for even more grip as needed on trails with deep mud, snow, gravel, and rock. When aired down, the protruding lugs become an impressive part of the traction equation. Despite the popular misconception that M/Ts are horrible for the sand at the beach and snow in the mountains, an aggressive lug tire can do well in the sand, even without airing down, and a well-siped tire does well in the rain and snow. The Toyo Open Country M/Ts have an aggressive lug and are well-siped.

Miss-Chief in the sand at the beach.

I learned through my tire-based research that some of the downsides to the M/Ts are, however, that they don’t last as many miles as A/Ts (e.g., Nitto Trail Grappler M/T Light’s approximately 45k miles versus the Yokohama GEOLANDAR A/T G015’s 60k miles), and because of the added grip their tread blocks provide, some can be overbearingly loud on the roads – especially if you’re rocking a soft top. Another downside to the M/Ts is that additional energy is required to move that bulky tread, so a drop in fuel economy is almost inevitable.

In contrast, the A/Ts pros counter the cons of the M/T. Meaning, you’ll get more mileage for your dollar (in tire and fuel) and a considerably quieter ride on pavement. These factors make A/Ts ideal on your daily driver and are perfect for commuters and traveling longer distances but they’ll still allow you to hit some lighter trails. While A/Ts perform decently on many trails, they will never perform as well as M/Ts which are designed specifically to take you where you want to go off-road.

Miss-Chief after off-roading. Close-up of M/T tire tread.

And this brings me to the R/Ts.

R/Ts are the Goldilocks of tires. Not too aggressive, not too passive. They’re just right because they are a perfect blend of the best-combined traits of the A/T and M/T. It’s a tire that is tailored towards the daily driver and weekend warrior (weekdays for work, weekends for trails).

Toyo put a lot of thought into crafting a tire that would provide drivers with the best of both worlds. With a 3-ply polyester casing to resist punctures and improve overall tire durability when under heavy loads or being operated in an “aired down” state off-road, Toyo backs their R/Ts with a generous 45,000-mile treadwear warranty.

The R/T is like hitting the Vegas jackpot of a tire shelf life. Even better, Toyo offers a no regret trial period of either 500 miles or 45 days. In their words, “Buy ’em, try ’em, love ’em. If you are not completely satisfied after 500-miles or 45-days, we’ll take them back.” Think about how many other tire manufacturers you have ever heard say something like that?

At this point, and especially if you haven’t clicked on any of the outbound informational links sprinkled throughout this post, you’re probably wondering how much a set of these tires is going to cost you. I’ll tell you up front that you may want to consider selling a kidney because quality off-road tires don’t come cheap. And if you do choose to opt for a lower priced tire, you’ll likely sacrifice in quality and performance. That said, you can expect to pay anywhere around $250 for A/T; $300 for M/T; and $315 for R/T, per tire. For this comparison, I chose the popular tire size, 35/12.5R17, and the Toyo brand on Amazon.com. Smaller tire sizes, like 33”, typically cost less. We’re not even going to discuss H/Ts because they don’t deserve it.

Miss-Chief tackling the rocky terrain with Toyo Open Country M/T.

So, while this might seem like a pretty pro-Toyo post, in all honesty, Toyo is the most popular manufacturer of R/T tires for off-roading. And, as a testament to their quality and reputation in the off-road community, I have Toyo’s on Miss-Chief with plans to eventually upgrade to the R/Ts once my current set reaches the end of its tread life.

Miss-Chief’s personal review: These are great tires (M/T) and I highly recommend them. I’ve had them on for about fifteen months now and they’ve done me right. I’ve gone off-roading with them many times and they have gotten me through the most challenging trails. I’ve gone through sand, rain, mud, rocks, and pavement and these tires have taken everything I threw at them. And they’re actually not as loud on the pavement as other aggressive tires. I barely hear them when the window is lowered and the radio is off.

Toyo has been around since 1938. It is not your more affordable tire but what you’re getting is a damn good tire! And it is a brand you can trust!

Tidbit knowledge: Nitto makes a great tire too! That’s because they are owned by Toyo. (insert winky face here)

Herjeeplife is NOT an affiliate of Toyo Tires. Herjeeplife has NOT been paid to write this post.

 

 

 

WHAT IS A JEEP WAY OF LIFE?

Owning a Jeep is a deeply personal experience, uniquely special for each person who relishes their position as a Jeep owner. Because, generally speaking, no other vehicle (except perhaps, motorcycles) has such a dedicated and committed tribe as the Jeep brand.

When you drive by another Jeep, whether on the hardball or off the beaten path (aka off-road), the driver of that Jeep is a comrade who is also filled with a distinctive admiration of not only the other drivers of Jeeps, but for the Jeeps themselves.  So, what exactly is the Jeep Life, and why is a life built around it considered an actual lifestyle rather than a Jeep being just another vehicle on the road?

The answer to these questions is really quite simple. The Jeep life embodies a philosophy which empowers individuals to take hold of their insatiable desire and enthusiasm for adventure and live a life that is not filled with constraints or limitations.

Every single time you climb up into your Jeep, it could be the beginning of your next adventure. You can drive anywhere, go anywhere, or camp anywhere, without the worry of poor weather conditions or difficult terrain.

The Jeep brand is an unstoppable force that enables you to express your individuality, while still being welcomed into a globally respected community.

What Are the Highlights of the Jeep Life?

I would argue that the highlights of the Jeep Life are limitless. However, one of the major benefits of owning a Jeep is that you never have to worry about the branding or the company ownership. A Jeep is a Jeep through and through, as the model, restoration, or mods and upgrades done to a Jeep don’t change what a Jeep is at its core. Like putting lipstick on a pig, it’ll still always be a pig, an XJ, CJ, TJ, YJ, JK, JL – a Jeep will always be a Jeep no matter what makeup you slap on it.

This means that anyone can enjoy the vehicle and appreciate it because it can be a fun, sport-enabled, lifestyle-fuelling, perfect addition to an active family.  The Jeep lifestyle rewards you for getting out there and discovering new and previously unreachable places.

Finally, there are several benefits to owning a Jeep beyond what it stands for, beyond its off-roading capability, and beyond the community you join that make the Jeep Lifestyle a favorite amongst adventurers. Not only do Jeeps hold their value extremely well, repairs are typically simple and are relatively inexpensive (except those upgrades often necessary to allow a Jeep to perform at its peak capability off-road), most stock Jeeps come with four-wheel drive, and they can get “decent” fuel mileage of anywhere between 16-21 miles per gallon (obviously I use the term “decent” loosely).

So, as you already know about Jeeps, if you are looking for a fun-to-drive vehicle that empowers you to get out and start discovering new places you never dreamed of going before, say those pesky mountain ranges off in the distance that keep calling to you via daydreams, then the Jeep is an excellent choice.

Every drive you take is a potential adventure, filled with unique challenges, passionate experiences, and a story to tell.