2017 Wrangler 4 Door Mobile, Single Person, Non-Ceiling Lift System

Mobile Overhead Lift Single Person

Why Build versus Buy:

I have been all over the forums. I scoured Pinterest. I watched endless videos on YouTube. And for the life of me, I could not find a design to get my Hardtop off of my 2017 Wrangler unless… I had lots of ceiling space in my garage (I don’t) or I wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on a pre-fab’d solution (and I was not about to do that) or I could muscle the Hardtop onto a cart (I can, but I have kids… the crazy, buzzing about, landed me in the ER twice kind of BOYS).

I’m an engineer by education and profession. Solving problems is my job. So this is no different! Here is what my goals were for this build…

  • The lift system MUST BE PORTABLE. Meaning, it needs to move around as my garage is small, my driveway is even smaller, and I have kids that are constantly filling my garage with toys (junk).
  • The lift system MUST BE OPERABLE BY ONE PERSON. My wife loves me and my Jeep, but she isn’t strong enough to lift 100 LBS over her head. I could certainly muscle the hardtop over my head myself, but I don’t want to take the chance of being rushed or jarred when my kid was to bump me while I’m holding 200lbs over my head (game over!!!).
  • The lift system CANNOT CONNECT TO MY CEILING. Ceiling systems, which are awesome, wasn’t an option for me. I just don’t have the Square Footage to make that work, unfortunately.
  • The lift system CANNOT BREAK THE BANK. I was not about to spend a grand on a way to take my hardtop off my Jeep. The thought of that just makes me sick! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not cheap, I am frugal.

The Design:

So, time to get to design. First, I needed the dimensions of the Jeep. I knew that I was planning on a lift system, not a muscle and slide system. That means an overhead “crane” like operation. That means that I needed to know what my frame would look like (height, width, and depth). I knew that it had to support at least 200 lbs (besides its own weight). It needed to be tough enough to deal with my children that would likely use it as a jungle gym when I wasn’t looking, and I didn’t want my $1500 Hardtop falling on the floor.

I wanted to make it from wood… cause wood is cheap and strong and most homes are made of the stuff. Some would say “use metal tubing or pipes”, and I thought…. uh… no. Too involved, too much weight, too complicated, I don’t have good metal working tools, and just nope.

Next, I wanted to be able to use ratchet straps OR a hand crank pulley. I’m going to start with ratchet straps so that I can feel this out, but I know that I want to upgrade to a pulley system once I’m comfortable with the lift.

So – unlike some of my friends that won’t share… here is the basic arch diagram (Figure 1). I stuck to this almost to a T, except for the height of the Mid-Rail. That is there for stability, and really… the height doesn’t matter. I originally thought I may lay 2×4’s across it and lower the top down onto it like a shelf, so I did the height based off of ground to hardtop lip on my Jeep… so I recommend that for height. But to date, the ratchet straps have been more than stable. You can download the plan here.

Figure 1: Basic Physical Design

The Build:

The build was simple and basic. 2×4’s, 2.5” wood screws (number 10), 2.5” casters (2 locking with brakes), and a set of ratchet straps (for this build – I’ll do a future blog on the pulley system).

  1. Buy the parts (see the purchase list). Decide for yourself if you want the casters or not. I prefer physical screws over lags or anchors or joist connections… but heck, its all good… its 2×4’s… it can handle this simple weight.
  2. Rip cut the (15x) 2×4’s down to the dimensions listed in the cut sheet. The cut sheet is very accurate.
  3. Once ripped, now comes the fun… building it. I got a buddy to help only because its a Jeep, and Beer must be involved. 🙂 (See pics)
    1. Start off by building one side at a time. Getting the full side put together will make things way easier. Pay particular attention to the corner beams, as that is what helps with the side to side torque. Do not add the casters yet.
    2. Once you have the two sides built, the next step is to add the cross members for the back. Put both sides on their front face, with back facing up. Add the top and bottom rails, along with the corner beams, to build a full 3/4 rectangle. This will give the structure enough support to hold its own weight. While it is in this position, add the back 2 casters (I recommend the locks be here since this is the back side facing the back of the Jeep).
    3. Now, you should probably have a buddy for this, flip the whole structure over. This will help you add the supporting top rail (no bottom!!!) so that you complete the basic framing for the support of the weight. While in this position, add the last two caster (non locking).
    4. Stand it up, and add the eye lags to the top rails for the connections to pulleys or ratchet straps and your Jeep. I placed the whole rig around my Jeep rear, and eye-balled the correct drill points. Honestly, you can’t mess this up as we are not doing physical connections, and are using ropes / tie downs/ ratchet straps / etc.
    5. Have a beer. You are done.

Here are some pics of the progress as we build it.

Figure 2: Basic Frame fully assembled.
Figure 3: Close-up of the Corner Connections in the Back Left Corner
Figure 4: Master Carpenter completing his first project with Daddy!
Figure 5: Kids doing acrobats with the lift

Truth Time – Lift the Hardtop:

So the time of truth. I used ratchet straps as they were a known quantity for me. I know their breaking weight as I have broken them. I know what I can pull from my Jeep with these (I have pulled F150 out of ditches with these straps – swear – granted I 10x’d them over to handle the weight).

But more importantly, I wanted to see how I could navigate my garage with this frame on wheels. Well, it was AWESOME!!

Figure 6: She is a wheeler!
Figure 7: Solid, Stable, Non-Moving, and Super Easy to Move!
Figure 8: We worked, we lifted, we rode, and now… we eat! Acme Pizza
Figure 9: Final Storage

Ok – So I haven’t even posted this Blog yet, and I have already been asked for more detailed plans and a video for how did I lift and lower. I will post these in the next 2 or so weeks.

Jeep Wrangler Handle Bar Grips

For my next minor modification, it was time to give the Wrangler some additional things to hold on to – handle bar grips. While my normal driving style doesn’t need this, when I do any off-road wheeling, my kids and passengers have said that they needed some handle bar grips to hold on to.

Enter the Wild Boar Grips from Opar.  There are many different brands and companies out there that are making these style of grips, but honestly I just liked the Opar versions the best. They come in pairs, for both the front and the back separately or together as a package. Almost all of the brands out there are similar, so really it comes down to color and choice. They all pretty much install the same way, and really only vary in color and material of constructions.

The Rear Handle Bar Grips Install

Opar Wild Boar Back Left Grip
Opar Wild Boar Back Left Grip

First, I installed the rear handle bar grips. These installed the easiest Along the top rail along the rear door, you will find two screws that hold the plastic covering over the bar. This plastic will not easily fall off when you take these two screws off, so do not panic. Simply remove the screws, and replace with the screws (and spacers) included with the kit. Note: the handle bars are slightly bent – inward. So if you try to mount them, make sure that you have them facing inward towards the center of the cabin and not externally towards the windows.

Opar Wild Boar Back Left Grip Outside
Opar Wild Boar Back Left Grip Outside

As you can see from the outside (its a sun glared picture – sorry), its a clean installation. Notice that the spacers go “up into” the mount holes, to give it a nice flush mount. Make sure you tighten all the way so that these are solid.

The Front Handle Bar Grips Install

Opar WilOpar Wild Boar Front Right Gripd Boar Front Right Grip
Opar Wild Boar Front Right Grip

Next, I moved up to the front handle bar grips. These were a bit more challenging to install. These also require two screw mounting places, but these screws are the larger “frame” bolts in the front bars of the Jeep. Removing these takes a deep socket and some muscle to break them free – watch the glass! Also, when you use the deep socket to get these out, watch that you don’t loose the bolt into the frame! So when the get loose, be careful!

Opar Wild Boar Front Left Grip
Opar Wild Boar Front Left Grip

Once you get them out, mounting these is also challenging. The reason is, that the screw holes are not perfectly aligned to the spacers of the handles, and are off-centered (not 90 degrees). So, I recommend starting with the “top” spacer first, and get it screwed in near the top but visibly loose. Then, use that to help guide the side wall screw in. Take your time and feel it out till you feel it grip – don’t force it! Once you have it caught, get it near tight. Alternate back and forth till you have it firmly tight on both. These are frame bolts, so it is going to be very tight and hard – enjoy the workout!

Opar Wild Boar Front Right Grip Outside
Opar Wild Boar Front Right Grip Outside

These too have a slight bend to them, where it is intended that they are angled inward toward the center of the cabin. Make sure that you have them angled correctly, and not facing outward, or you could damage your window on your door!.

These handle bar grips will look awesome when you are finished, and actually feel very strong and comfortable for when you have an “oh sh!t” moment.

Wrap up

So, for ~$60 USD, you can have a set of front and back handle bar grips that look good, are very sturdy, and will accent your Jeep Wrangler quite well. It is still bolt on modifications, albeit a bit more challenging, but a great set of Handle Bar Grips!

You can find them on Amazon, search for Opar Front & Rear Grabars Grab Handle Kit for 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.


Move Those Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Seats Back!

Jeep Unlimited Rear Seats Unmodified
Jeep Unlimited Rear Seats Unmodified

For my first (true) modification to my new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, I decided it was time to move those seats in the back further back! You see, in the stock Unlimited, the rear bench seats are awesome and comfortable. The rear seats are a bit close to the back of the front seats. Now, if you add kids car seats, that puts the faces right up onto the front seats. It also has them sitting straight up into the air! My kids couldn’t even nap without kinking their necks, or banging their heads into our head rests. So – its time to modify!

Luckily a friend told me about a very simple modification. The folks over at Ohio Diesel Parts have a great Jeep Wrangler Rear Seat Recline Kit to solve the problem. The kit will drop the back of the seat 2.5 inches back, and raise the tilt of the lower seat by 1 inch or so. The cost is reasonable, $52 originally, but $26 on sale at the time of this post. That will basically allow the kids to sleep a bit more comfortably, and not have their heads next to my head rest (where they can talk or scream me deaf!).

Basically, it is a bolt on modification. First, you remove the factory 4 floor bolts  with an 18mm socket on the front of the rear seats. Next, you raise the seats up vertically, and remove the back 3 floor bolts holding the remainder of the floor mounts in place. Then, you add in spacers to the back 3 floor bolts and re-attach the factory bolts (Ohio Diesel sends you longer ones if you need). Lower the seats back into place, on top of the 4 extra tall spacers, and re-attach with the provided extra long bolts (these are 17mm socket bolts).

Note: these bolts are tight, so use an impact wrench or a breaker bar to get them out. Also, there is one bolt on the back three, on the driver side, that is damn near impossible to get off without an extra long 18mm socket. So good luck! I will admit, they were in there good and tough!

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rear Seats Modified
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rear Seats Modified

Once you are done, the seats look like they are back to stock, but with a much nicer recline on the top seat. And now there is a better pitch on the bottom seat. As you can see from the pic, the effect is subtle, but it is noticeable. My youngest road in this today, and told me “daddy, this is much more comfortable.” Don’t know if he was just making me happy, but he seemed to like it! For such a reasonably priced modification, it is a great bang for the buck!