If you are looking at buying a soft-top Jeep Wrangler, you are probably wanting to know if it will still be comfortable to drive in the winter. After all, a soft-top won’t be as much insulation as a hardtop, and it will also be more susceptible to tears and leaks, allowing cold air to pour into the vehicle.
Can You Drive A Soft Top Jeep In The Winter?
So, can you drive a soft-top Jeep in the winter? Yes, you can still drive a Jeep soft-top in the winter despite some perceived difficulties. Jeep Wranglers have amazing heating systems. The most important thing to remember is that preparation is key.
Owners of soft-top Jeep Wranglers must check their heaters and soft tops for damage before winter arrives.
Jeep Wranglers Have Great Heating Systems
A Jeep Wrangler not only heats up very well through its HVAC system, but it also heats up very quickly. Since 1997 when the first Jeep Wrangler with an HVAC system was introduced, all Jeep Wrangler trims have come with a heater that is notorious for working quickly and efficiently.
With a Jeep Wrangler, you won’t have to worry that your vehicle isn’t going to warm up until your almost to your destination like we have to with so many other vehicles. Additionally, newer years and upgraded trim packages have even more heating elements such as seat warmers and heated steering wheels.
The heater core in a Jeep Wrangler uses liquid collected from the cooling system to heat up and then run through the heater core, which then produces hot air around the core. A blower motor pushes air through the system, including through the vents into the cabin of your vehicle.
Which Jeep Wranglers Have HVAC?
While we mentioned that all Jeep Wranglers since 1997 have HVAC systems that will keep you warm in the winter, it does mean that there are models out on the streets today that do not have the appropriate system for staying nice and toasty in the chilly winter months.
When Jeep introduced HVAC into their Wrangler in 1997, they introduced it for all trim levels and continued to include it throughout the Jeep Wrangler line until this day. It was thought that to be able to get through some of the most challenging offroad environments in the world, that heating and AC was necessary in order to not only make the ride more comfortable but also to potentially save lives.
This is why you will find that the heater in a Jeep Wrangler works so quickly, it is literally designed to. Why lack of use in the summer can cause liquids to pull and potentially create a leak, heaters are usually pretty easy to fix and can be done so at home if it isn’t a more complicated mechanical problem.
Why It’s Important To Tune-Up Your Soft Top Before Winter
It is very important to tune up your vehicle before the winter, particularly if you have a soft top. You need to check not only the soft top itself, but also the HVAC system of your Jeep Wrangler.
If you do not have an appropriately maintained soft top, there are a few things that can happen. For instance, the weight of overnight snow could potentially rip the soft top and pour snow into your car. Or, the weight of the snow could bend the metal frame supporting your soft top. Either way, this is not going to be a good day for you or your vehicle.
If your soft top has leaks or tears in it that have not been dealt with by the time winter arrives, you can be dealing with a freezing vehicle with iced-over parts and windows that are difficult to take care of on the daily.
If your HVAC system is down on top of all of this, you could suffer from frostbite in a worst-case scenario as you will have no way to heat yourself up or stay warm.
As you can see, it is very important to address any issues with your soft top or HVAV system before winter even begins.
How To Prepare Your Soft Top For Winter
Before winter even arrives, it is very important that you prepare your soft top for a heavy winter season. Make sure that the fabric is not overly stretching in any area. Be sure to identify and mend any rips and tears. And, be sure to check the seal around the vehicle.
Unfortunately, a soft top is never going to perfectly seal, but they’re still are many ways to fix a soft top so that its winter-ready, including taking it to a car detail or creating a DIY option for patching it yourself.
If your soft top has had a great deal of damage done to it after a successful summer season offroading, it may be best to just replace the whole top.
How to Care For Your Soft Top During The Winter
While you may think that getting your soft top ready for winter during the fall is all you have to do and you’ll be good to go, you are wrong. Unfortunately, there are tons of common mistakes soft top owners make during the winter season itself that cause extensive and expensive damage to soft-top Jeep Wranglers.
It is very important not to operate your Soft Top during the winter. In temperatures under 41 degrees Fahrenheit, the fabric of a soft-top becomes much less flexible. Even if you do get the top down in one piece in these kinds of weather conditions, it is unlikely you will be able to get it to go back up in one piece.
As you can see, it is very important to not try to stretch an already stiff fabric in the winter as to not get it to tear. However, putting the top up and down isn’t the only way that you can damage the fabric the comprises your soft top. If you try to hit the snow off the windows and the roof by “punching” from the inside, this will cause a lot of irreversible damage.
Additionally, it is important not to scrape the windows of the soft top as that will cause damage as well. Thankfully, there are ways to get the snow off of a soft top
How to Get Snow Off Your Soft Top
The first thing to be aware of is that, similarly to the fabric of your soft top, the vinyl that comprises the windows will become almost brittle to the touch when in freezing conditions. It is very important for this reason never to roll up or unzip your vinyl windows when you are in heavy winter weather.
Now, if you have snow and ice built up on these vinyl windows, you may want to grab an ice scraper and get the job done quickly, but that is literally the worst thing you could do for your vinyl windows. You will cause scrapes at best and potentially crack the vinyl at worst. It is worth noting that cold cracks are not covered under a Jeep Wrangler’s warranty.
Another thing you don’t want to do to solve this problem: pouring hot or boiling water all over it. This drastic temperature change will also likely, you guessed it, crack the windows.
So, what is a soft-top owner to do?
To bring this conversation full-circle rather elegantly, the amazingly fast Heater Core in your Jeep Wrangler is your best friend in this scenario.
While some people report success using a hairdryer, the easiest and quickest option for getting snow and ice off your soft top safely and easily is to crank the heater up and chill for a few minutes. This should melt everything off with no issues.
Just one more reason you should check your HVAC system before winter begins, huh?
How To Diagnose HVAC Problems With Your Jeep Wrangler
If you turn your heating system on and you either don’t feel anything or it doesn’t get hot, there are a few things that could be wrong. Here’s a brief description of each, so you have a better idea of what the damage is before you call your local car mechanic for a quote.
If there is a leak, you should be able to tell by turning the heater on and inspecting for any visual damage.
If you turn your heater on and there is no air being pushed out at all, this is likely an issue with either the blower motor or the resistor.
If you feel some air but it isn’t coming out of all your vents equally, you most likely have an issue with the dampers.
You can totally drive a soft-top Jeep Wrangler in the winter safely, and perhaps even more importantly, warmly. All you need to do is be prepared for the winter weather ahead of time, and know-how to take care of your soft top properly when the elements do take a turn for the worst.