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Rugged Ridge Jeep Wrangler JK Half-door Review

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on October 15, 2015
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When it comes to aftermarket doors for the Wrangler JK platform, the options are seemingly endless. Tube doors, soft doors, plastic, steel, aluminum—you name it, it’s available. Since the Wrangler is one of the only vehicles engineered to have easily removable doors, it stands to reason that there would be lots of aftermarket door options. While we love the freedom and visibility gains of simply going doorless, we often miss the comfort and security of the doors on longer adventures.

On a recent off-road trip, we managed to leave a rather large imprint along our passenger-side rear door. In hindsight, we should have just pulled the door off on the trail, as we probably could have avoided some of the damage all together. While we understand that body damage is sometimes part of the game, if we can avoid it, we will. After our adventure, we started looking at suitable trail door options that would allow us to keep the creature comforts that the ’07 Wrangler Unlimited affords but allow us to leave our expensive (and heavy) full doors at home.

Our solution came from the Jeep aftermarket pros at Rugged Ridge via the company’s half-doors. From outside looking in, these doors appear similar to the factory-offered JK half-doors, and that immediately grabbed our attention. Made of a lightweight and impact-resistant thermoplastic ABS material, the lower portion of the door can be easily painted to match the color of the Jeep. While there are plenty of half-door options in the aftermarket, the optional Rugged Ridge soft uppers that mate to its hard lowers offered the complete package we were looking for.

Going from full doors to the Rugged Ridge half-doors is a dramatic change. The visibility of our surroundings gained when off-road by using the lower half of the door is incredible. Unlike a tube door, you also have a bit of element protection, which we definitely appreciate on the muddy trails we often traverse. The plastic shell isn’t something that we want grinding on a tree, but it can handle your typical trail pinstriping just fine.

On-road, the half-doors help keep the heat in the Jeep on those cooler outings. If you’ve never driven with half-doors, or doors with soft uppers, it takes a bit of getting used to. We expected the increased wind noise and occasional leak, so those were not things that came as huge surprise. Having spent time with both the factory half-doors and now our new set from Rugged Ridge, we can definitely say the factory half-doors feel sturdier and work a little better at sealing out the elements, but they are also significantly more expensive.

At the end of the day, the Rugged Ridge half-doors do exactly what we needed them to. We get the comfort and convenience on-road and the increased visibility and weight savings we need on the trail. In the event we do find a door-eating obstacle, these are also much easier to remove and set aside.

There’s very little prep work involved for installing the doors. Once you remove the stock hinge nuts, the harness connector for each door can be unplugged. We found it helpful to roll down the windows on our full doors prior to removal, as it makes carrying the portly units much easier.
The kit-provided steel hinges should be bolted on loosely at first, so you can easily adjust the door when putting it on the Jeep. The Rugged Ridge half-door is made mainly of an impact-resistant thermoplastic ABS material, making it incredibly light.
The interior panels of the doors are nicely laid out. The easy-to-clean molded plastic comes with bolt-on interior pull handles and a small compartment, and is fit with a thick seal to help keep the elements out. Our only complaint is the position of the door release. With it being tucked so far back and only able to be pulled by a finger, some of our passengers found it difficult to use.
Rugged Ridge uses a black diamond soft top material on its upper doors that’s similar to the fabric used on the company’s soft tops. To attach to the lowers, steel posts are slid into the pre-set slots. Once you have the uppers adjusted correctly, you simply synch the setscrews to the posts.
Speaking of adjustment, the uppers will take some time to get just right. The lowers were a breeze, but the uppers took some extra effort to line up and seal to a point that we were happy with. Once you get it right, the doors open and shut easily.
Rugged Ridge builds its doors to accept your factory mirrors. If your Jeep mirrors are damaged or the stock door is equipped with a heated option, we suggest you do as we did and look into Rugged Ridge’s OE-style replacement mirrors.
With the exception of long road trips, this is how we run the half-doors on our JK. We are still toying with the idea of painting them to match, but we’re digging the black and silver look for now. The increased visibility of the Rugged Ridge half-doors compared to the factory doors is like night and day.
One thing we did not do according to the Rugged Ridge instructions was to attach the Velcro strip to the outside of the door. This would have helped the door seal a little better. Given we are still on the fence about painting the doors, we opted to leave it off for now. The doors also look cleaner without it.

Door Directives
After having the doors on our JK for some time, we can say a few things good and bad about this setup. First of all, these are not your steel hard doors. In fact, they weigh a fraction of what those bad boys do, which is weight savings we are happy to have. The down side is that these doors are about 85 percent effective at keeping the elements out. If it rained hard, ours leaked. If we were going 70 mph, we got wind noise and a little deflection from the uppers. Most of our gripes are with the uppers. The lowers are absolutely awesome. If we had a garage big enough to keep our Jeep inside, we’d likely just keep the lowers on for the warmer time of the year. In case you are wondering, yes, the doors are lockable, but it’s still a soft upper, so why bother? Your best theft protection would be to bolt these in place! Overall, we like them, and if you’re looking for the same balance of open-air fun when you want it and a (mostly) sealed enclosure when you don’t, we think they are worth checking out.

Sources

Rugged Ridge
www.ruggedridge.com

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