Your Tech Questions Answered
Is it legal to remove the doors on my ’92 Jeep XJ and drive it on the street in Pennsylvania? Most of the local police don’t have a problem with it, but one in particular said I needed to contact the state department of transportation for a yea or nay. After a year of trying, I keep getting the same response: “This has been turned over to our research department, who will contact you via phone in seven days.” Of course seven days comes and goes with no answer.
I see CJs, YJs, TJs, and JKs doorless in Pennsylvania every day during the summer. I even see Humvees running around doorless. So wouldn’t it be discrimination to say that I can’t remove the doors of my XJ? The officer said he thought it posed a safety issue but couldn’t explain why the other vehicles were “safer” than my XJ. He let me go with a warning and said to do my homework and let him know, which is why I want to do the right thing and find out if it is legal.
This is a great question. A woman recently asked me whether I put doors on my Jeep CJ-5 before driving it down the road. I said no, and she was horrified. So I asked around, and the consensus is no one knows. First and foremost, let’s examine this from the officer’s side. He doesn’t want to spend his day cleaning up idiots who fall out of their Jeep while going down the highway, and that is respectable enough. And he is most likely concerned with your safety more than giving you a ticket, so we are in no way harping on him for doing his job.
Where it gets funny is that the Pennsylvania vehicle code states the following on the state’s DMV website.
It is unlawful for any person to do any of the following:
Willfully or intentionally remove (other than for purposes of repair and replacement) or render inoperative, in whole or in part, any item of vehicle equipment which was required to be installed at the time of manufacture or thereafter upon any vehicle, by any law, rule, regulation or requirement of any officer or agency of the United States or of the Commonwealth, if it is intended that the vehicle be operated upon the highways of this Commonwealth unless the removal or alteration is specifically permitted by this title or by regulations promulgated by the department.
Are you just as confused as before? You should be.
Here is my advice. If you remove the doors, add a sideview mirror. Oftentimes this is the required device referred to in explanations like the above. If you get pulled over, explain that you added the mirror. If he wants a door, then ask if a strap or a tube door would be legal. If he says no, then ask for the specific law that requires doors. He’ll likely show you the above vehicle code. But here is where it get’s messy. You need him to show you where it says that a door is required at the time of manufacture, not that it is illegal to remove a part that is required. I believe there are laws that say vehicles need such items as sideview mirrors, taillights, seatbelts, and windshield wipers , but none that require vehicles to have doors. Otherwise, how could we have Jeep Wranglers and motorcycles?
The majority of people I have asked in the off-road industry believe it may be illegal to remove the doors from vehicles that are designed to have doors because the doors have the mirrors, but since open-top Jeeps are designed to have their doors removed, it is legal to do so. However, no one can show me a law that says such. Plus, this makes no sense because most open-top Jeeps are not crash-tested without doors. Current JK doors have the mirror attached. Nor are the current Wrangler doors any easier to remove than many other vehicles; you still need tools.
Closing argument: Wear your seatbelt, install a mirror, don’t drive like a jerk, and if you get pulled over don’t give the guy grief. He’s just trying to keep you from falling out on the street. Then give him a copy of this magazine, tell him you did your homework as assigned, and invite him to go four-wheeling. —Fred Williams
Level & Lower?
I am looking to level my ’08 Ford F-150, and I want to know if I have to regear the truck even though I am only looking to level it. Also, I want to put bigger tires on it, but I will only be using it as a daily driver and occasionally going to the beach.
A leveling kit will not require regearing your axles, but going to larger tires may. If you are only going up an inch or so from stock I would not worry about regearing your axles. Once you are 3 inches or more over stock you may find that the engine has a hard time propelling the vehicle with larger tires. The average F-150 leveling kit will clear 33-inch tires. If you go that big you may find the engine lagging a bit to get the tires moving off the line and the speedometer off a few mph, but even so I’d hold off changing gears unless you really notice a drop in power. A gear swap is much more in-depth a job than a leveling kit and costs a fair bit more. There are many programmers you can buy that will fix the speedometer for you.