by Scott Ammerman
Quadratec Channel Correspondent
This article details the differences between the Jeep JK Wrangler Freedom Tops throughout the 11-year run of the model, and also everything you need to know about adding a hardtop to your JK or JKU Wrangler.
With the Jeep JK models, there are several remarkable differences between the factory hard tops available throughout the line. All factory hard tops have removable “Freedom Panels” above the front seats for quick open-air driving enjoyment. These are easily removable without tools, and can be stored safely inside the Jeep if you have a storage bag. Without a storage bag, fitting them in the Jeep without them banging against each other or other parts of the Jeep, can be very difficult. Padded storage bags are very inexpensive compared to replacing even one of the Freedom panels from scratches or other damage.
Quadratec Academy has a great video for removing the Freedom Panels:
Since JKs were available in both two and four door, the first major difference between the rear sections is the length. These rear sections NOT interchangeable between types. The front Freedom Panels (and accessories that replace them) are the same basic dimensions, but also have a few differences between the early and late models, which I will mention later in this article.
The Quadratec Academy video for removing a JK top tells you everything you need to know in around five minutes:
The main hardtop section is attached to the body with six T-40 Torx head screws easily accessible from the rear of the vehicle in the case of the two-door models, while an additional two screws are located at the rear of the front doors up high in the case of the Unlimited. The six screws in the cargo area are each threaded into a hardtop nut with clip located in the edge of the body tub. If you are adding a hardtop to your Jeep for the first time, make sure these are in place before going to pick it up, or you will not be able to safely attach it. To remove these clips from another Jeep, simply grab the edge of them closest to the outside of the body and rotate them down to release. They are designed to move slightly fore to aft to self center the top during installation. Installation in another Jeep is simple, as they simply pop in place and grab on to the edge of the body rail.
In 2007 and 2008 models, the footman loop in the center of the windshield frame is in a different location than later models. The Freedom panels for these early models lacked an additional locking lever added in 2009 to prevent wind noise and water leaks in the leading edge.
Mopar has created an available retrofit kit to relocate this footman loop to the right, making it compatible with the later style Freedom Panels. This consists of a plastic trim panel with an opening in the correct location, and two rivnuts to reinstall the original footman loop in the new location. Installation of this kit is moderately simple, requiring the installer to remove the plastic panel above the sun visors, drill out the original rivets, and drill new holes for the included rivnuts. Instructions are included in the kit. This kit would only be required to install the later tops on the earlier Jeeps, so the 2007-2008 Freedom tops missing the front center lever can actually be installed on the later Wranglers with no additional modification required.
In 2011, the rear window was also changed to increase visibility. This new, wider window is extends beyond the edge of the tailgate.
Note: It is also worth mentioning that the later model tops have an additional metal locating pin in the rear section of both sides, that slides into a body hole on the later model Jeeps. This pin may need to be removed if your Wrangler does not have a corresponding body hole.
If you have arrived at this article, you may be adding a hardtop to your originally soft top equipped Jeep, so it is worth mentioning that the rear wiper, washer nozzle and defroster will not work if the provisions for a hard top have not been installed. Luckily, Quadratec and Mopar have your back with reasonably priced retrofit kits for that as well.
They all involve replacement of the wiper stalk (the rear wiper switch is on it) behind your steering wheel, installation of a new secondary washer pump, and wiring and washer hose back to the right rear of the Jeep. Unless you have a later model JK with heated mirrors, the climate controls will also be replaced (included in the kit!) to add the button for the rear defroster.
for 07-10 model JKs with A/C: Mopar hardtop adapter kit
For 11-18 model JKs with factory heated mirrors: Mopar hardtop wiring kit
For 11-16 model JKs without factory heated mirrors: Mopar hardtop wiring kit.
Keep in mind, though, if you already have the switch on the wiper stalk for a rear wiper, you don’t need these kits.
Other hard top specific parts to replace lost factory hardware:
Torx head screws for hardtop mounting—six for two doors, eight for four doors: