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September 8, 2016

The Prodigal TJ, Part 6

With the top removed and tucked away in the garage, the next step was to take off the doors. Despite owning this vehicle for 16.5 years, they’ve never before been taken off. Years earlier I ran my old YJ with the hinge bolts off all the time, so removing and replacing doors just took a minute in those days. It was certainly time to take the plunge with the Prodigal TJ before the weather turns too cold.

All did not go as planned. I needed a 13mm wrench to remove the bolts. Checked the toolbox. I had a 12mm and 14mm but the only 13mm I could find was a ratchet, and there was no way the ratchet head would fit in the space provided between the bolt and the side of the Jeep even with the door opened.

I hopped in the Jeep and drove over to Lowe’s where I picked up a Taiwan-made 13mm combination wrench and, for good measure, a ratcheted 13mm. I also picked up a cheap pair of needle-nose pliers to use in pulling the fuse. I knew I had a pair somewhere in the house, but I hadn't been able to find them and didn't want to tear the place apart looking for them.

While I was still in the parking lot, I fitted them both. The ratcheted wrench wouldn’t fit into the narrow space between hinge and door, but the boxed end of the combination wrench fit just fine. I took them both home. You never know when you’ll need a ratcheted 13mm box wrench.

Again, all did not go as planned. I began with the passenger door. The first bolt began to loosen, but then it just turned and turned and turned. Obviously, it had broken inside the hinge.

But the second bolt on the passenger side door came right off just the way it was supposed to.

I was 1 for 2. Sigh. I moved around to the driver's side door and tried again. Both bolts on the driver’s side door snapped completely off almost as soon as pressure was applied.

Now I had one successfully unbolted hings and three that had become roadblocks. Not good.

For unskilled folks like me, these innocent looking bolts can be a real showstopper. The driver’s side door wouldn’t budge off the hinges, even though both bolt heads had snapped off. I rummaged in the tool box and came out with a nail punch and hammer. I figured the nail punch would be too soft, and it certainly was. Just a few strikes against one of the pins and the tip began to deform. And the pin didn’t budge.

With three hinge pins stuck, I figured the solution was to either tap them out with the correct tools, drill them out – or maybe even try welding a nut to them. I also figured it was time for professional help.

I stopped by my mechanic who directed me to a trusted local body shop. The fellow there pointed out that, according to a first look at a parts catalog, the pins weren’t available separately from Mopar. I may have to buy an entire hinge. Bummer. He offered to check further though, so I left my number and asked him to call.

Fortunately, a quick search produces an aftermarket source for pins only, with or without bushings if needed. (One source is here. There are others as well.) Here's a picture from a supplier's website.

My plan for now: see what the body shop offers. But worst case, just ask him to take the blasted pins out. I can buy a replacement myself if need be. But that gets me back on the road – without doors, which is the whole idea.

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