by Matt Konkle
Your Jeep wasn’t meant to stay in the driveway. Or silently straddling the curb. Or even biding time in a lonely parking garage.
It was meant to explore, along with you at the wheel, while taking long drives on lazy, warm summer days or nights. Drives that perhaps lead to the beach or lake, a camping trip into the mountains—possibly even a weekend adventure on the trails.
And yet chances are you, and your Jeep, haven’t had much time to do any type of real driving over the past few months during a pandemic that has seen many of those destinations closed off.
Well, hopefully that is changing now for you. If so, then this is the perfect time to evaluate how prepared your Jeep is for the season, and to make sure it has all the summer essentials required to make those drives (and adventures) just a little more enjoyable.
You may think simply removing that bulky hardtop, or reclining back the soft top, is all you need to start your summer off right. Well, drive around long enough without a top at all under a blazing sun, and you’ll soon realize that something over your head is necessary.
That something is called a brief top.
Simple and quick to install, these summer top solutions sit right above your head while not obstructing side or rear views. This means it can also help reduce wind noise while still allowing an acceptable amount of airflow through the cabin.
Many of these brief tops attach with a channel to the windshield frame (similar to a full soft top) and then utilize hook and loop straps to wrap around multiple roll cage points. This keeps the top secure and helps eliminate any flapping. Additionally, depending on the brand, you can even choose the type of material as some match the factory fabric, while others offer vinyl or mesh.
There are also top coverage options that include just the driver and passenger, or longer versions that cover nearly the entire length of the vehicle—great for four-door owners who travel with extra passengers.
For those planning on keeping their standard soft or hardtop off all summer, these brief tops make up the first part of a system that also will enclose the cab with a second section called a cab curtain, as well as a third part that shuts off the cargo area titled a deck cover.
When those three pieces are installed, they give the vehicle an almost a truck-like appearance with an enclosed cab and flat bed. However, while this does close up the cabin, it is important to note that this is not a waterproof solution. So if you get caught out in a storm, don’t expect much protection.
The warm summer season sure does make top-down driving a exhilarating experience. Yet, you may be one who worries when it comes to rain in the forecast. Or how to keep stuff like dust, pollen or tree leaves out of your Jeep when the top is off. Well, you can always throw that soft top back on whenever you aren’t driving, but that may not be practical or even something you want to do each time. Plus, for hardtop owners, you obviously can’t take that thing with you.
So a better solution is to carry along a full Jeep cover.
These simple to use soft covers are weather-resistant and can be quickly thrown over the Jeep and then secured down with straps or a cable kit. That way the cover won’t blow away or somehow get loose and expose the cabin.
Then, when the storm clears or you are ready to get back into the vehicle and continue your trip, you can simply detach, shake off any water or debris, and get on your way. Best of all, these covers can be rolled up, placed inside a carry bag, and tossed into the back seat or cargo area for no hassle storage.
And, like we said, these covers are not just for surprise rainstorms. They do a great job when you are topless and parked for the night to protect against stuff like morning dew, dust, tree pollen, or even animals that find their way inside your cabin when the top is off.
So you are pulling off that soft top or hardtop, getting ready for a nice sunny weekend trip, when it crosses your mind that you are going to need somewhere to store your valuables when you are away from the vehicle.
After all, open cab space is amazing when driving, but not so much for safe storage. So where are you going to store those valuables that you just can’t take with you? You don’t just want to leave them stuffed under the seat and hope they are there when you get back, right?
A topless Jeep makes for a tempting target for would-be thieves. Especially for those who know a Jeep does not have many spots to store things inside the cab. Sure you may have a lockable plastic glove compartment, or center console, but the important word there is plastic. Not much in the way for a thief to quickly gain access and take your prized possessions.
So, to keep all that stuff safe, a popular summer essential is a high-quality lockable storage unit. We’re talking products like under seat metal locking units, replacement lockable center consoles, locking metal glove boxes, cargo security enclosures and even tailgate locking boxes. All heavily constructed units that will deter a potential thief from poking around too long.
Many of these applications can be installed without drilling and, once in place, cannot be opened without a key, while others (like center storage consoles) may require drilling for proper installation. Regardless, the heavy gauge steel in these storage solutions withstand abuse so you'll have peace of mind any time you are parked during your trip, and away from your topless Jeep.
No summer Jeep essentials guide can be complete without mentioning seat covers. After all, if you plan to keep the top off the vehicle most of the summer, then they are the perfect item to protect against all kinds of issues that can easily harm the seats.
For example, even though we wish it could be sunny and nice all summer long, it is bound to rain at some point. When it does, then your seats could be in danger of water damage if that top is off the vehicle. Additionally, sunlight itself can harm the seats over time and cause the material to fade or dry out.
So if you plan to take that Jeep top off, and leave it removed during all your summer adventures, then think about infusing your seats with some highly protective seat covers. Whether your choice is weather absorbing and comfortable neoprene, highly breathable polycotton, easy to clean ballistic nylon, vinyl or great looking and soft leatherette, these covers will allow your Jeep seats to last longer and give you a little more insulation for the ride. Not only that, but covers are also easy to remove and clean when needed. Perfect for your on-the-go summer Jeep lifestyle.
A final benefit to adding protective seat covers inside your Jeep's cab is the ability to customize their look to nearly any color you want. Most covers have numerous color schemes that can match things like accent bezels you have added to the dash area, or paint job you've done to the vehicle’s body tub. Or, perhaps, you are looking to match with the respective colors of your Jeep club. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of seat cover choices.
Like we said before, those long, warm summer days usually make for a great summer driving background. And, lets be honest, many summer daytime drives often carry on into the night. That’s why having quality headlights that provide excellent illumination is certainly important.
So if you are heading into the summer season with the factory halogen headlights still on the vehicle, it is definitely a great time to check out replacement LED headlights.
Not only do LED headlights have a better light output and less battery draw, but they also throw a more accurate beam which is closer to actual daylight, safer, and makes for less driver eye strain than current factory halogen headlights. Plus, LED headlights have an almost unlimited lifespan.
In a traditional halogen bulb, a thin filament of wire emits a bright light when a current is passed through it, which over time can degrade and eventually fail. An LED light makes use of a semiconductor – a material that releases photons of light when charge is applied. The main benefit of this is there is no filament to burn out, so they shouldn’t ever need to be replaced.
More affordable than ever, LED lighting has taken the mantle from halogen and really pushed the envelope as far as quality and functionality. And it is not just for headlights either. LED lighting can be found in taillights, fog lights and even in auxiliary lighting – meaning you have all kinds of options to better brighten your next summer driving experience.
When the weather turns warmer and tops start coming off for long summer trips, it only makes sense that a lot of people also look at their Jeep doors. After all, a Jeep is one of the few vehicles actually made to have the doors come off.
However, when they do, it can cause some discomfort for those who don’t really like all that open space on their side, even though they still want to enjoy a real Jeep ‘airy’ driving experience. Additionally, it could be against the law in your area not to have doors on the vehicle, so it is always a good idea to check your state regulations before taking those doors off.
A great solution, though, is one of summers hottest essentials—Jeep tubular doors. They are really the perfect alternative for anyone looking to pull off their doors, but needing something there.
Tubular doors provide just the right amount of air to material coverage, and most latch right on to existing door hardware. Some can even be outfitted with canvas bags to help with coverage and cargo storage.
Keep in mind, though, when you do remove the factory doors, you also lose the factory mirrors. Some tubular doors may come with their own mirrors, or accept the factory ones which makes things easy, but if not, it is a good idea to invest in either some relocation brackets or other type of workable mirrors.
The carpeting inside your Jeep, whether factory or aftermarket, is pretty durable and can handle a lot of traffic during summer—as well as whatever Mother Nature can throw at it when the Jeep top is off. They all can absorb water and dry out, and normally are mildew resistant. But just because your carpeting has those features doesn’t mean you should consistently see how well they work, or continually subject the carpet to all that foot traffic.
Like anything else, the more you expose that carpeting to the elements, the faster it shortens the product’s lifespan.
So to give your Jeep carpeting its best chance at long term survival—especially for all of you continually on the go during the summer—protective floor liners are an ideal solution.
Floor liners simply fit over the existing carpet in the driver and passenger foot area, and are also available for back passenger footwell coverage as well as cargo area protection. What that means is most exposed carpeting areas now will have a ‘shield’ designed to really keep just about anything off it; rain, mud, dirt, gum. Anything. Not to mention liners will also keep your feet from rubbing against the carpeting and prematurely wearing out the material.
Also, floor liners these days are not just some generic overlay that sits in place and covers the carpeting. Most liners are now custom designed to exactly fit your specific vehicle’s footwells, and are available in a multitude of materials like rubber, thermoplastic and high density tri-extruded—as well as carpeting—that all are able to trap and hold water or debris in place.
Plus, they are simple to remove and clean when needed, which makes things so much easier than continually removing drain plugs to get water out of the vehicle. Or breaking out that scrub brush to attack muddy carpet stains when you get home from your summer driving adventures.
When your summer months mean trips with friends and family, you quickly realize that a Jeep is not known for its abundance of space. Sure, the newer four-door versions offer a bit more room, but cargo storage is still always in short supply.
So one area that more and more people are discovering for a little extra room is the vehicle’s tailgate.
Tailgate products like organizers, covers and cargo shelves can be a great way to secure smaller cargo and create some much-needed room. They also can be a great place to store all your recovery gear or extra camping equipment during weekend adventures.
But storage isn’t the only thing a tailgate is useful for during the summer. Multi-purpose tailgate tables easily attach right to the tailgate and fold down, which makes them perfect as a food prep area when tailgating, stopping for lunch on the trail, or maybe even as a meal countertop when you want to take a break from driving. Just pull out a chair and sit down for a quick snack break. Then, when you are ready, just fold everything up and you are back on the road and headed for your summer driving destination.