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June 2, 2017

More About Doors

I'm still on my doorless journey, but this time looking at my other Jeep, the 2009 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (it's the silver four door next to my black two door in the photo above). I have to admit I’ve never had the doors off this one either, despite buying it new in December ’08. My long-suffering wife drives this one fairly often, and she’s not a fan of open vehicles. She gets really irritated when I just take off the roof panels, so I usually don’t bother. This Jeep is buttoned up most of the time as a result. But it also has a challenge.
The rear doors have always seemed to bind up periodically, becoming very difficult to open and shut. I can solve the problem by working the hinges loose with a little oil and some vigorous swinging back and forth. Doing so eventually loosens up the door to the point where it can be swung shut. But during this process, I noticed that black plastic began to "weep" through the hinge joints. On closer examination, I figured there was a black plastic sleeve inside the hinge serving as a bushing of sorts for the hinge pins. So I looked up an exploded diagram online, and sure enough:

Note illustration part numbers 6, 12 and 18. They are, respectively, the Hinge, Pin, Door Hinge; Nut, Door Hinge; and Bushing, Hinge. The nice thing is, each part has an individual part number -- which means all three parts can be ordered separately. (I researched just this point with my older 2000 TJ and discovered that the hinges are sold only as a fully-assembled unit. Only on the aftermarket can you buy the hinge pins separately.) Of course since they’re OEM parts it’s about $28 for a set - $56 for a door (plus tax and shipping).

So far, however, my “oil and swing” method has been working fine, so I’ll likely just keep it up until I hear the grinding of metal on metal. In case you're curious, here's the complete list of parts shown in the exploded diagram. (I presume the prices are dealer list.)

While looking into hinges I thought I’d check the 2009 Jeep owner’s manual about the doorless issue noted in my earlier post, “Going Doorless in PA.” This time the result was quite different. While my ’00 TJ owner's manual is totally silent on the removal of doors as a feature, the ’09 JK is not. Take a look.

There you have it: everything you need to know about removing a Jeep JK’s doors (all four of them), printed right in the owner’s manual for all to see. Now I can (in my non-legal opinion) credibly claim that my ’09 Jeep “… has been manufactured … to the extent that there is no roof…,” as stated in the PA vehicle code (quoted in full in my earlier blog). And furthermore, the owner’s manual is evidence that the vehicle was designed to be operated without doors. Otherwise, why advise the owner on the proper removal procedure?

All that being said – and while I think I now have a credible claim to legally driving doorless – that doesn’t mean the guy with a badge and ticket book is going to listen to my carefully crafted argument while I'm pulled over at the side of the road.

I'm still not sure what I’m going to do. Nor am I sure that I understand the attraction of driving around without doors. Maybe just because (at least in theory) I can. But running doorless is becoming a powerful attraction for me.

One last thing (and maybe I'll have worked this whole doorless thing out of my system): I am reminded that my first ever Jeep was a '95 Wrangler with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder and a 5 speed transmission, much like the one in the picture below. (I have surprisingly few photos of my old Jeep. I'm not sure why.) I had chosen that engine/transmission combination in the hope (futile, as it turned out) of having a Jeep that would be at least moderately fuel efficient. When I bought my second Jeep -- which featured a 4.0 liter six cylinder engine and a three-speed automatic transmission I discovered the mpg penalty of having a much bigger, more torquey engine was a measly one mpg.

Bottom line: don't buy a 4 cylinder Jeep. You won't save any appreciable gas money, and you'll find yourself rowing that stick shift like an oar when driving up hills.

Anyway, my recollection is that my old '95 Jeep, which I bought used in '97, came with the door hinge pins already uncapped. This meant that removing the doors was as simple as opening one of them and lifting it off the hinges. As a result, I actually did drive around without them (I lived in Connecticut at the time).

4 cylinder or no - I still regret selling that Jeep. Remember this adage? The two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell it. Well, Jeeps aren't boats. Not only are they vastly more cool, they're amazingly fun to buy and even more fun to own and drive. But selling them should never happen. Never, ever.... (YMMV)

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