DIY Hardtop Hoist System -
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post #1 of 31 Old 12-19-2006, 08:59 AM Thread Starter
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2001 TJ Wrangler 
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DIY Hardtop Hoist System

I began this this past Sunday afternoon and finished the brunt of the work within two hours. As it sits right now, the hoist itself lifts and lowers the hardtop with incredible ease. However, some fine tuning will be done. Some things I'm looking to work on are: cleaning up the hole I cut in the ceiling sheetrock for the cable to drop through (plan to frame the square hole with some door trim), find and mark the exact spot I need to back up to, and add the eye bolts and straps to the ceiling joists for long term storage.

Supplies I used: (many substitutions can be made as you see fit)
*Chicago Electric 440lb electric hoist from Harbor Frieght - $74 (after tax and extended warranty)
*Long (don't recall length) Unistrut - $9.97
*4 x 1/4" x 1.25" lag bolts - $1.00
*4 x 1/4" washers - $.28
*2 x 48" long pieces of square tube - $20
*scrap flat sheet steel - Free at work
*6' pipe insulation - $1.75
*Eye bolt and nut - Free from garage
*Rafter hanger - $1.88
*Straps - Free from garage

The 'T'
Before the actual installation began, I gathered as many materials as I could that I knew I would need. I knew the basic design I wanted for the thing that would attach to the hardtop and then to the hoist. From this point on, I will refer to this as the 'T'. I gathered the two pieces of 16 guage 48" long square tubing and brought them to work with me one day. Since i cannot weld, I had one of the guys at work weld the two pieces into a 'T' shape. We used some flat sheet metal cut into squares and welded them in as gussets for added rigidity.

Just to clean it up a bit, when I got home with the 'T' I took to the grinder and cut off some of the excess gusset material and left a triangle shape instead of the sharp square. This is where I also took a some rattle can black spray paint and coated the 'T' to prevent rust. Once the paint dried, I slid on the pieced pipe insulation to protect the hardtop from being scratched more than necessary. The holes were also drilled for the straps used for the front section of the hardtop and the hole for the rafter hook used in the rear. Using one, longer strap in this fashion would make things a bit easier. If I had used a longer cross piece instead of the 48" piece I used, I would have been able to use hooks similar to the one I used for the rear part of the hardtop. However, because it is a little shorter, hooks won't reach, but the straps work perfectly.

Mounting of the Hoist
I began the by finding the location that I wanted the hardtop to be when it is suspended from the hoist. I decided on my location based on obstacles such as the garage door, the opener, and walls. I wanted the hard top to be as far to the opening of the garage as possible because I will be building a workbench to go at the head of the garage and will want space to move around without hitting my head on the hardtop. There will also be shelves on the adjacent wall.
Once the location was spotted, I drilled a hole to make it easier to see once i was in the attic. The next step was to crawl into the attic to find the actual location that I would be hanging the hoist. Due to the danger of a 280lb person walking around in an attic....not from actually falling, but from what his wife would do to him if he fell....I took it slow and did one thing at a time. I found the hole that I had drilled from inside the garage and proceeded to cut a reasonably sized square opening through the sheetrock. After this hole was made, I brought over the long piece of strut metal, or Unistrut as somepeople refer to it, and layed it across several ceiling joists. Before i brought the strut material up into the attic, I considered cutting it to a shorter length for easier maneuverability; however, I decided against this because I figured the extra length might help to disperse the weight from the hoist and hardtop across the house framing. Once that was in place, I was able to carry the hoist over to this section of the attic and then slid the strut through the mounting brackets on the hoist. I positioned the hoist so the cable would drop down through the hole in the ceiling (naturally). After I found the exact position I liked, I secured the strut material down at four spots with .25" x 1.25" lag bolts into the joists.

Balancing and Finishing Up
Job done in the attic, now it was time to go back in the garage and attach the 'T' to the hoist. Of course before you can just attach everything to the hardtop and lift away, you need to balance the contraption. The best way I could manage to balance the hartop (front to rear) for lifting was by attaching the 'T' to the hardtop in the optimal position. Then instead of attaching the hoist hook onto the 'T', I used a strap wrapped around the 'T' and then hooked on to the hoist hook. This way, when I slowly lifted the hartop, I could move the strap back and forth along the 'T' until the top was balanced. I could now mark this spot and drill and attach the eye bolt for permanent mounting.
There really is not much more to it than that. My system was realitively easy to put together and did not cost nearly as much as the Lange system. You could easily make material changes as you see fit to suit you and the supplies you have access to.

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post #2 of 31 Old 12-19-2006, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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post #3 of 31 Old 09-22-2008, 04:30 PM
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I was googling up jeep hoist and found this. What a great job you've done on this.

I'm making one for my TJ top. I have a question. What is the dimension to where the cable hooks on the 'T' shape hoist?

See the picture for what I'm trying to ask.

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post #4 of 31 Old 10-20-2008, 08:58 AM
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Nice work!

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post #5 of 31 Old 05-04-2009, 11:28 AM
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Hey everyone! I am new to the forum having just gotten my first Jeep...a black Unlimited, and I am IN LOVE with everything but the dang 5000 lb hardtop! :-) (Yes, I know it is only like 150 lbs or whatever, but when you're hangin on to it trying not to break the glass, it sure feels like a coupla tons!) ANYWAY, I am reading all the posts about DIY hoists and I am wondering if anyone has time to take a peek at a coupla links to see if I am on the right track? I can't add IMG links yet, so I apologize in advance for the necessity of going offsite to look at these.

What I am hoping to duplicate is the webbing harness system used here:

By using this electric winch mounted to my garage wall: ($60)

And a pair of these straps to run through the back window opening to the front edge of the top with the loops meeting in the balanced center on top: ($20)

Any thoughts on the feasibility of my idea? $80 for a power hoist sure beats $525 (ridiculous!)

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to any and all advice!

And by the way, yes, I WILL be waving at other Jeeps! That's one thing I always loved about VW owners...:-)
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post #6 of 31 Old 05-04-2009, 12:14 PM
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Hey everyone! I am new to the Forum having just acquired my first Jeep...a 2008 Unlimited, and for the record, I WAVE! :-)

Anyway, I am loving everything about the Unlimited BUT the hardtop when I need it OFF! It is a heavy, cumbersome 150lbs, even with a big, strong husband to help!!! I have been researching hoists, and thank goodness I found this forum and this thread before I spent upwards of $300 on a readymade setup! What I would like to ask is, if anyone has time, would you mind looking at the links below to see if I am on the right track for building a safe hoist that will also store the top indefinitely? My apologies for the links...can't post IMG attachments yet. :-)

I am trying to duplicate this webbing harness:

by using this electric winch that would be attached to my garage wall:

and two of these straps which would be run through the back window to the roof's front edge meeting on top at the balanced center:

All advice is happily accepted! :-)

Thanks so much!

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post #7 of 31 Old 08-10-2009, 02:00 PM
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I tried straps, was to hard to balance but then I have an Unlimited. The winch will work good tho

Wheels Up Wheelin'!
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post #8 of 31 Old 02-18-2010, 09:02 AM
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Your ceiling height is what ? about ten feet in there?

My garage is much lower... and I have a second story room built over the top of it. So the way you have your winch mounted won't work for me.

What I opted to do, was to lag-screw into a beam, and mount a pulley into the ceiling. I feed the cable through that and down to the "Tee-Bar"

Also, if the electric hoist/winch system is putting a dent in a tight budget, you'll find that a boat winch will do the trick... the style they use to drag a boat back up on the trailer... they only run about 20 bucks and will handle the weight of the hard top with ease. I lag-screw mounted the boat winch to the wall and added a second pulley above it near the ceiling. I replaced the wire cable with a strong nylon roap and feed the rope through the pulls and down to the Tee-Bar. It requires a little effort to crank it, but on the plus side, you're not likely to need this hoist more than a couple times a year, and it will cost you less.
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post #9 of 31 Old 10-05-2010, 05:23 AM
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DIY hardtop storage

Does anyone know if it would be OK to attach the hoist to a roof rack instead of a T frame? I'm considering installing a Yakima roof rack, and it seems it would be easy to attach the hoist to that rack. I know that the mounting system isn't designed for that, and I certainly don't want to damage the hardtop. I'm storing the hardtop of a 2010 Wrangler Unlimited. Thanks.
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post #10 of 31 Old 03-12-2011, 07:23 AM
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did the same thing with a yj top in my old garage-boat winch, nylon rope and pulleys. never had a problem, but was concerned with someone other than myself (wife, teens) using the hand crank - for safety. my new garage has 16' ceilings with no attic access. do you have pics?
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post #11 of 31 Old 03-29-2011, 11:41 AM
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So, I was thinking of making a DIY hoist. But I do not have a garage, would this work on say, a car port? You know, the flat top ones. Then move it to the ground to move to another place? I dont have issues moving it, just getting the damn thing off with only two people.
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post #12 of 31 Old 04-28-2011, 12:25 PM
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anyone have any good pics or designs for an outdoor lift? my garage is way too small and full to put a lift in there. was just thinking something like a couple of 4x4's with one across the top...mount a winch on the side with a pulley up top? any pics or suggestions?
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post #13 of 31 Old 04-29-2011, 04:09 PM
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i haven't seen any stand alone hoists. do you have a strong/tall tree nearby? If u have one that will support a grown man it should be strong enough to hang your top. then all you need is a hand winch and pulley
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post #14 of 31 Old 05-03-2011, 10:47 AM
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Just talking to a friend and he said something like a frame built out of 1x or 2x steel square tubing into a t shape. And the same pulley and hand winch set up. But you could back under it and make hooks that go under front ( on top of windshield) and the other two hook off of the t go under the top on the sides. That way it would be secure . I haven't started to fab something yet but, I need and DIY setup my top is on and off often.


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post #15 of 31 Old 09-18-2011, 01:37 PM
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Great idea, I'm going to try the boat winch.
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