This is a problem. The top hinge completely broke off a couple weeks ago. But I had the other day off, it was sunny, and I was in a rare productive mood. So here is a quick write up of fixing an XJ door hinge.
XJs and MJs have inherently week hinge welds from the factory, especially when you have a two door as the doors are quite a bit heavier.
Someone had tried to fix it many years ago and only temporarily helped it. You can see the factory welds on the outside corners. Everything else was added .........poorly.
First step was to clean it up as replacement hinges are $170 a piece!. I used a portable bandsaw to take off the big chunks and a grinder to clean it up. I will admit the hinges themselves are very stout, they are just welded on poorly.
You have to remove the fender for this job which can also only be done if you remove the grill, light assembly, and fender liner.
This is the support bracket I installed. This isn’t necessary to fix the hinge but it is infinitely better. These are from Hooligan Offroad in Commerce City, CO. They are 3/16 thick and cost $40 a piece or $75 for a set. I only got one as the passenger door is rarely used. Shipping was slow but otherwise great service. There are a few similar items on the market but they are thinner and more expensive.
I reinstalled the hinge on the door and I put the piece up to mark out where it was going to be welded. You can see how much more surface area will be supporting the hinges.
Then I used a paint stripping wheel on my grinder to clean the surface and then sprayed it with a grease/ wax removing paint prep spray.
This is the welder I used, a second hand Harbor Freight unit that has been sitting around never used for years and years. I think I payed $60-70 dollars for it. It has a 120v plug, adjustable speed and a min/max voltage setting. It is not ideal. I ran some practice welds on that plate steel behind it and it worked great. I got my speed set right and was ready to go.
And this is what happened. These very sad welds were the result of a combination of things such as me not welding in the last decade, trying to weld plate steel to sheet steel, and the welder not having a more adjustable voltage. Even on the min setting it punched right through the sheet metal. So I had to tack weld over and over to get it built up. Also a shielding gas would have been nice to have. Oh and a properly feeding handle. I almost didn’t post this picture as I am a bit ashamed of it but I think its necessary to show this step.
The moment of truth came and I opened the door and it sagged down. I was about ready to freak out because that hinge is not coming off without significant effort. I had just forgotten to tighten the bolts connecting the hinge to the door when I reinstalled the hinge. I got that aligned and tightened and was good to go.
I got the fender reinstalled and found that the fender attachment brackets ran into the new plate so those had to be trimmed back. It would have been nice to have this mentioned in the instructions.
And Bam! Its reassembled and I only lost 1 screw. I have to go back and adjust the front fender as it is just barely rubbing on the door and I have to repair some speaker wires going to the door that I cut because I thought I had to remove the door before I read the instructions. You can remove the door to do this and probably get a better result but it will complicate your life terribly.
These are the instructions, I found the last one amusing but I did not oblige the second part. The first one most definitely.
I went in to this project pretty nervous as I’ve never done body work before and I hate the responsibility of aligning things. However I came out of it with a renewed confidence and interest. And I really want to get a nice welder because I forgot how much fun welding can be.
My roommate (the Jeeps owner) originally took it to a body shop and was quoted at $1000! and that is not including that bracket. The lady giving the quote actually recommended getting rid of the whole Jeep because of the rust. Silly Washingtonians don’t know what rust is. (I’m originally from the Midwest). Total cost was about $150 including the bracket, new welding gloves, paints, new grinding wheels, and other little items. If you have a well stocked garage you could do it for the cost of the bracket. If you had to go buy cheap tools to do it you could do it for maybe as low as $300. It pays to do things yourself. It took me about 7 1/2 hours to go to the store for supplies, drag my tools out of the basement, practice welding, and the actual project work. Someone more organized and well stocked could do it in maybe 4 hours. I’d give myself a C on this project.
I highly recommend this to any XJ/ MJ owners out there as a preventative measure. I know I will on my future Jeeps. This would have been much easier to do before the hinge fell off. Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something.
Please enjoy this raccoon that my neighbor noticed in the tree right above where I was working. Poor fella was just trying to get a nap. We named him Skittles.