By: Scott Ammerman
When I bought my JKU Rubicon, one of the things I made sure to look for were any signs of abuse or heavy off road driving. It’s not as if I was looking for a pristine example - but some of the Jeeps I looked at in my search were VERY clean… almost too clean to have ever been used for what many people would consider their intended purpose. I certainly wasn’t willing to pay a premium price for a garage kept suburban mall crawler.
My Rubicon showed no signs of any type of off-pavement activity. It was equipped with a factory hard top, and while the freedom panels showed the usual “knock around” dings, the top itself hadn’t been removed in quite a while, if at all. All four door hinges were very tight, and the doors had to be slammed to fully close because of the added resistance. I assumed this was just normal bushing wear, but the first time I tried taking the doors off, I found them to be quite stuck. In fact, there was a better than average chance this was the first time anyone had ever tried to remove them.
No matter how much effort was applied to lift the doors off, they wouldn't move even a fraction of an inch. With two people lifting the passenger side front door, we actually lifted that side of the Jeep up about six inches.
In our part of the northeast, the roads are treated before winter storms with a brine solution which seems to get in every crack and crevice you can imagine and destroys untreated metal. Since the hinges are sealed at the bottom with a torx nut, this brine solution seeps in and never leaves. Even after being saturated in penetrating oil overnight, the hinges remained stuck. Now, you may think my situation is regionally unique, but the reaction that causes the corrosion actually started happening as soon as your Jeep was assembled at the factory and is called 'Bimetallic Corrosion'. This is the same thing that causes alloy wheels to stick to the metal hubs of some cars, even with all the lugs removed. So even if your Jeep is a few years old, you might be surprised what kind of effort it takes to remove the doors.
Here's how I finally got them off, rusty pins and all. If your doors are stuck, you should definitely upgrade the bushings with the Quadratec Delrin replacements for 4dr JK or 2dr JK. You should also consider them as a proactive replacement on newer Jeeps, as the factory bushings will be a lot easier to remove with less corrosion. Unless you’re really a fan of swinging a hammer around, and balancing heavy objects on a wobbly jack, it's just a good idea.
What you will need for the bushing installation:
- Quadratec Delrin Bushing Kit
- T-47 Torx socket and driver
- Rat tail file (or chain saw sharpener)
- White lithium grease
- A hammer for driving out the old bushings
- A scrap of cardboard
- Blue painter’s masking tape
Additional items for dealing with the stuck doors:
- Penetrating oil (PB B’laster, WD-40, Liquid Wrench or similar) with nozzle tube
- A clean rag for dealing with oil overspray
- Hydraulic floor jack
- 2x4 wood piece approx 24” long (longer might be required for lifted Jeeps or smaller jacks)
- Additional strips of medium grit emory cloth to remove rust
- A second person for the final removal step
The day before you start this procedure, remove the T-47 nuts from all the door hinges. Spray oil up inside each hinge from the bottom, and in the seam between the upper and lower halves. Work the doors back and forth several times and give them another quick spray. Leave the hinge nuts off, your doors aren’t going anywhere!
The next day, start by finding a hard and almost completely level surface to park. Since you will be removing your door check straps, a very slight uphill angle isn’t a terrible idea either to keep your doors from contacting the body. Open the door and position the jack underneath, with the wood block set between the door seal and the outer panel - this spot is strong enough to lift the door, but you don’t want to lift more than necessary to prevent sheet metal damage. IMPORTANT: Reinstall the top hinge torx nut a few turns by hand to keep the door from moving too much.
Lift the door with a few pumps from the jack, just enough for constant upward pressure. Give this step some time to work, the worst door on my Jeep took about thirty minutes to get any type of gap in the hinges. It will very likely take several steps to get the door pins fully out of the hinges, so be patient.
Once your hinges start to have a little bit of a gap, soak them in penetrating oil once again. This is the best opportunity you’ve had so far to get oil into the upper part of the bushings. After about 10 minutes, let the jack down and move the door back and forth. The gap will disappear as the door settles back down, but don’t worry. Lift the jack up once again, and give it some more time to work. After a few minutes, you should see the pins get a little higher up in the hinge.
Keep spraying the hinges with oil and repeat this procedure as needed. Some doors may take longer than others. When the pins lift up enough for the torx nut to limit upward travel, move on to the next door. Do the final removal step when you have someone available to help.
After all your hinges are loose, and you have an assistant, roll all the windows down. Remove the door check straps and wiring plug (the rear door plugs are accessed through the rectangular door on the B-pillar). Remove your torx nut from the upper hinge. Open the door 90 degrees to the body, and set your jack and wood block up just like in the previous steps. Brace the door by the inside handle and the upper part of the door frame, and have your assistant lift the jack slowly, one pump at a time. Keep in mind, the pins may release quickly with a pop, so be ready. If the hinge binds during this step and the jack is lifting up the body of your Jeep more than a few inches, let the jack down, re-oil and move the door back and forth. Once removed, set each door down somewhere you can work on it without it being scratched, interior panel down. Feel free to take a victory lap around the neighborhood before working on cleaning up those rusty door pins!
Each of my hinge pins looked about this bad. The Delrin bushing kit comes with enough emory cloth to install bushings on most doors… but if yours were stuck, additional emory cloth will be needed to remove all the rust pitting before installing the bushings.
Once the hinge pins are cleaned up enough to remove all the rust, test fit the bushings. It is essential that they fit on smoothly with only slight resistance.
Once the bushings slide on, move on to the body side hinges. Tape the scrap cardboard under the hinge you’re working on to keep your Jeep from being damaged by all the hammering you’re about to do. Insert the bushing removal punch in the bottom of the hinge, and tap upwards until the bushing pops free out of the top of the hinge.
Note: Sometimes the body side of the hinge can shift while hammering the old bushings out, especially if they are as stuck as my bushings were. If the pins don’t fit flush in the hinges once you’re done, you may need to check that adjustment.
Once all the bushings are out, clean up the inside of the body hinge with the round file. Again, we’re looking for a slip-in fit with little resistance. You may need to spend several minutes per hinge on this step, but don’t force a bushing in, or you could end up with stuck doors again. These bushings are made to very tight tolerances, so spending the time to clean everything up right will make it perfect once you’re ready to install the doors.
Once all the bushings are installed in the hinges, grease the door hinge pins with white lithium grease. This grease will not only make installation and removal easier, but will also prevent rust. Just spread a light coating on with your finger, but you may want to reapply every few times you remove your doors to keep everything working as it should.
With all the upgraded bushings installed, my door removal has gone from impossible to “buttery smooth”.
A quick look at the drivers side lower bushing… not hard to see why they were so stuck. Also, once the new bushings were installed, the driver’s door didn’t quite line up any more as the hinge tolerances were restored to normal. A quick adjustment was necessary with a T-45 torx bit, the latch was moved slightly upwards to keep the door from having to be slammed hard to fully close.
This might take a couple tries, but the time spent is well worth it. I noticed that the striker worked best when adjusted slightly lower than the direct center of the door latch - you can get a good look with a flashlight with the door almost completely closed.
Scott Ammerman is the owner of Mermaid BBQ Company, a Technology Consultant and a Staff Writer here at Quadratec. While fairly new to the Jeep world, he has a decade of experience in automotive service, and has written dozens of how-to articles on repair and upgrade procedures. He is also a Whitewater Guide on the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania, and is trained in Swiftwater Rescue and Wilderness First Aid. His main reason for getting into the Jeep brand was his passion for the outdoors, and an ongoing quest to get further off the beaten path. He currently owns a 2008 JK Unlimited Rubicon and a 2004 Audi Allroad for dirt roads and foul weather duty.