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How to Restore and Protect a Jeep Hard Top or Trim

For those cold summer months, having a pristine hard top on your Jeep is ideal, but pristine is sometimes hard to achieve with tops and trim. Extreme weather can quickly fade these surfaces, but luckily there are a few things you can do to get it ready for action.

In this blog, I’ll break down a few techniques you can use to restore your hardtop and trim to a more vibrant, rich color. To help protect against fading, I’ll also break down a few options for protecting everything from the sun and elements.

Keep in mind that in order to truly ‘restore’ a faded hard top permanently you will need to apply a paint or permanent coating, but there are products you can use to restore its appearance and protect it from fading.

Restoring the Appearance of Your Jeep’s Hardtop

There are a few different things you can do to restore your Jeep hard top to a like-new appearance if you are doing everything yourself. If you have a newer Wrangler, you may haven’t yet thought about protecting your top right away, but it’s always nice to know what your options are as it begins to fade over time.

Technically you can apply some of these dedicated ‘trim protectants’ to a hard top and achieve decent results, but since it’s something you will probably want to do periodically (and tops are pretty big), it’s best to purchase something that is cost effective.

Penetrol

Penetrol restore jeep hard top

Across the board, this is a fan favorite in the Jeep community. Penetrol is technically a paint conditioner but works wonders on hardtops. While not a permanent fix, it lasts longer (some say up to 6 months) than many of the other options. You can also achieve decent results on fender flares as well.

Most hardware stores carry Penetrol for around ten to twenty dollars a quart, and it’s also here on Amazon for around the same price. Before applying it, be sure to tape everything off using painter’s tape in case things get messy. A foam brush or roller is a good applicator to help control how much Penetrol you are applying.

Many people fill up a spray bottle with Penetrol, and work with a foam brush in hand. After applying, just wipe down the area with a clean microfiber towel to remove any excess.

Meguiar’s All Season Dressing

meguiars all season dressing wrangler

This product produces a rich, deep, and long lasting shine for your hardtop and is a good multi-purpose product if you want to apply it to trim as well. This stuff is sold by the gallon, and nice to have with you during summer months when you begin to notice fading and want to apply it more frequently.

303 Automotive Trim Restorer & Protectant

303 trim restore for jeep

This product by 303 is great if you are looking for a more natural color on your fender flares or trim pieces. 303 is known for making an outstanding aerospace protectant (more on that in a bit), but this is a good trim restorer when applied properly.

It does require a bit more elbow grease to apply evenly than compared to other products.

If All Else Fails: Repainting Your Hardtop or Trim

Repainting your hardtop may be the best option depending on the condition of your top, but it’t not for everybody.

For newer Jeeps, I wouldn’t attempt re-painting unless you have experience painting vehicles including prepping and painting plastics or fiberglass specifically. However, if you are simply looking to improve the overall appearance of an old fixer-upper you do have some DIY options.

DIY Tips for Repainting an Old Jeep’s Top or Trim

Before you get started, be sure to clean your hardtop very well, making sure you remove any wax, dirt, grease, silicone, Armor-All or whatever else you might have used on it. A good car wash soap or degreaser (like Purple Power) is good for removing grease or other stuck-on substances. Applying an Isopropyl Alcohol Solution as a last step will remove any contaminants left.

  1. Using a Scotchbrite pad, rough up the entire surface of your top or trim. An 800-2500 grit sandpaper is a good choice as well to ensure the paint sticks.
  2. Take your time with the prep work and masking to avoid overspray
  3. Select the right paint. Krylon Fusion or SEM Trim are probably the two most popular DIY spray paint options for dark-colored tops and made for plastic.
  4. Once you’ve scuffed up the hardtop, wipe it down again with an IPA solution before applying paint
  5. Work in light coats
  6. You also may want to apply a UV top coat to help prevent fading like Restorex.

Spray-on Bedliners

For darker colored hard tops, a spray-on bedliner is a popular option you can either apply yourself or have a professional apply. I tend to like this textured look, but it depends on your preferences. You can pick up anything from a fine to heavy textured spray-on.

What’s the Best Product to Protect your Hard Top and Trim?

Waxing hardtops is a pretty common topic across the Jeep forums, and to be honest some form of wax is really your best bet for protection. Wax is simply a protectant first and foremost, made to keep rain, snow, pollen, and other debris of painted surfaces – including your Jeep’s hard top (which is obviously painted). Spray waxes are usually okay for protecting trim as well, since they tend to apply evenly.

I’d stay away from applying carnauba pastes to trim or your top. Due to the porous composition of plastics, this powdery yellow colored wax can get trapped, making everything look faded and pretty difficult to remove.

Protectants and Spray Waxes for the Win!

spray on wax and protectants for jeep tops

Probably the best product I’ve come across is 303 Aerospace Protectant. This is hands down the most popular due to it’s versatility as a protectant and is safe for vinyls, plastics, leathers, and a bunch of other surfaces. This water-based protectant also has a UV blocking formula which makes it ideal for Jeeps in the summer.

This is a different product than the 303 Spray Wax, but can be used together (especially on paint). The protectant is also great for protecting fender flares if you want to treat them with a trim restorer instead of a wax. Most dedicated ‘trim’ restorers don’t offer much protection, so using a dedicated protectant is a good idea.

While there are tons of spray waxes on the market,  Turtle Wax ICE Seal n Shine or 303 Spray Wax are two of the most popular for plastics, since they are pretty easy to apply to this surface. It’s really personal preference, personally I like the Meguiar’s Ultimate Wax.

What Causes Hard Tops to Fade?

Jeep hardtops are built to withstand all kinds of driving conditions and weather, but things will begin to fade over time. UV rays basically break down the chemical bonds in plastics through a process called photodegradation the more plastics are exposed to the sun. With age and weather, it’s just something that will happen.

UV exposure is the most common culprit, but changes in weather can also cause colors to fade. The best thing is to keep it in a garage if possible during the day.

When You Can’t Restore It – Where to Buy

aftermarket Jeep top

Unfortunately, if your hardtop is beyond repair, you may be better off trying to find a new (or gently used top). There are several online vendors you can choose from and compare styles and prices that deal specifically in Jeep tops as well as some pretty awesome aftermarket flares and trim pieces.

Here are a few Jeep-specific retailers to take a look at if you are considering a replacement:

Extreme Terrain has one pieces, two pieces, tops with sun roofs, textured hardtops and Targa Tops. They even carry options for storing your hardtop when not in use and hoisting them for easier removal and installation.

4 Wheel Parts also has a pretty large choose from. Some of them included tinted windows for a more comfortable ride. They also carry a majority of window, door and roof systems in a variety of colors to match your ride. If you only need replacement parts, this is also the place to come.

Quadratec has hardtop options for you as well, plus storage for your Freedom panels, hardtop insulation and hoists for handling your hardtop easier. They also feature Sunrider options and hardtop hardware kits for a quick and easy release to make installation and removal even easier when you want to change your top out with a soft top.

Conclusion

Overall, there simply isn’t much you can do to prevent fading from happening, but hopefully these tips will give you some direction on how to restore the appearance of your Jeep’s top or trim, and protect it.

See anything I missed? Leave a comment if you have a preferred method for keeping your Jeep’s hard top in tip-top shape!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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