We remember riding in our first doorless Jeep. It was a red 1982 CJ-7 that was loud, tall, and obnoxiously dressed in chrome. We loved it. There was something about that open-air cabin that got us hooked on Jeeps. While we will be the first to admit that we like how much better the modern Jeep Wrangler JK rides and drives over the CJ, it definitely takes a bit more work to create that same open-air atmosphere. This is largely due to the full-doors.
Don’t get us wrong. We are actually big fans of the JK doors. They offer great visibility, security, and keep the cabin nice and comfy on the daily commute. However, damaging a full door on the trail is not a cheap mistake. And with tougher trails becoming the norm for our modified JK, we have eagerly sought a good door alternative that would allow us to leave our heavy and expensive full doors at home.
This is ultimately how we landed on a Bestop’s Element doors for our JK. For us, the biggest draw to Element doors was that they could be outfitted in a way that would make them more versatile than a basic tubular door.
With an available enclose kit and upper door panels, we found we could build an Element door set for the fraction of what an OE half-door kit would cost for our Wrangler Unlimited. This would mean we could drive to the trail with the basic comforts we have become accustom to and easily strip down the doors when we got to the trail head.
After a few months of wheeling and living with the Element door set, we were finally able to offer a proper review.
Removing your stock JK doors only takes a few minutes. After you unbolt the two Torx-head bolts on each door, you will unplug each door from the Jeep’s wiring harness. The plugs are located under the dash for the front doors and behind the B-pillar covers for the rear. We recommend rolling down your windows prior to pulling them off for ease of transport.
If you are looking to simply run the tubular Element lowers, you won’t have much work ahead of you. After dropping into the JK’s stock door post, you will install the handle and slide on the door strap. There is even a bracket that allows you to reuse your stock mirror (Bestop replacement mirrors shown).
Versatility and price made us gravitate towards the Elements doors. While we enjoy running only the tubular lowers for cruising the beach and around town, we opted to get the Element door enclosures for longer trips and trail outings. Since steel enclosures are designed specifically for the tubular Element lowers, they bolt on without issue.
To latch the doors, Bestop provides a keyed handle set that simply bolts to the doors. We found that the inner door handle takes a little getting used to, but works fine. We are typically running without the uppers on, so we often just used the outside handle to open the door.
Bestop uses seals that adhere to the Elements enclosures. We found these work OK at keeping debris out, but don’t expect them to seal like a factory door.
If you don’t want to hassle with transferring your mirrors or want to keep your expensive stock set out of harm’s way, Bestop offers a mirror set that bolts directly to the Element doors. These late-model-style mirrors actually work quite well and don’t rattle about like some aftermarket mirrors we have used in the past.
The fact that you can add-on upper windows to the Element doors was a huge draw for us. The black fabric uppers use a clear vinyl window, which can be easily unzipped.
The uppers slide directly into the lowers and can be adjusted by two small set-screw collars mounted on the window frame. We found that these took a bit of fine tuning to get them just right. Living in the Southeast, we have plenty of surprise rain showers, so these have been a nice addition for longer trips.
We have become pretty speedy at transitioning from an open-air to an enclosed cab in a hurry. It is worth mentioning that Bestop includes a Velcro strips that attach at the top portion of the Element doors enclosures. This is for the uppers to stick to. We frankly didn’t like the way it looked and opted not to use it. This means our uppers probably don’t seal as well as they could, but it’s not something we are overly concerned with.
Less Is More (Fun)
The visibly gained with a half-door set on the trail is tremendous. It’s also really nice not to worry about damaging our OE doors anymore. We still enjoy breaking the Element doors down to a basic tubular setup, but we generally keep the enclosures on when we hit the highway for long jaunts. While these might not be as good at sealing the cabin as an OE set of half-doors, they are a fraction of the cost and work fine for our needs. So if you are looking for a half-door solution for your JK, we say the Bestop Element doors are absolutely worth checking out.