Michael SimariCar and Driver
Ford recently invited us to tear apart a new two-door 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands. We don’t decline those kinds of offers, so we showed up and got to work unbolting the doors and roof. The 2021 Ford Bronco’s biggest competition is obviously the Jeep Wrangler. As rivalries go, this one’s going to be Superman versus Lex Luthor, Pepsi versus Coca-Cola, or Michigan versus Ohio State. Except maybe more competitive than that last one.
Ford wants to put up points on the Jeep, which is why Bronco engineers used every trick in the book to resolve even the most minor complaint from its rival’s own fan club. One could argue the circular headlight housings, upright windshield, and Dana-supplied front and rear solid axles make the Bronco closer to a Jeep and further from anything else Ford sells. Like they say, keep your enemies closer.
Our job is tell you which one is better, right? Well, not yet. The Bronco is still a season away, with deliveries expected to begin this summer. While we wait, here’s a comparison of how the removable roof and doors work on both the new Bronco and the latest Wrangler.
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To remove the doors or the roof in both the Bronco and the Wrangler, you’ll need a specific set of tools. Both models come with a tool kit as standard equipment. The Wrangler gets an early leg up as it includes a labeled hardware holder under the rear cargo area for loose fittings and bolts. This is also true for Jeep’s Gladiator models (though its hardware holder is under the rear-passenger seat). Both models include a 1/4-inch drive ratchet, as well as drill bits. Extra hardware and pieces can be stored in the small zip-up compartment inside the Bronco’s bag. The Bronco’s tool kit is stowed in the glovebox.
There are some obvious design differences in the doors. The Bronco’s frameless windows help make the door lighter than the Wrangler’s—although some Jeepers appreciate the framed design, as it makes hanging them in the garage super easy. The Bronco’s mirrors are attached to the body instead of the doors, so even without the doors, the Bronco is still road legal in most states, and safer to operate. The Wrangler loses its factory mirrors with the doors removed, but that might be a good thing if you’re between two trees on tighter ORV trails.
The Bronco’s hinges are hidden inside the door, and overall there’s less work necessary to remove them compared to the Wrangler. Each door has one upper and lower bolt holding it to the the Bronco chassis. Instead of a Torx bit, these are removed with a 10-mm socket. The upper hinge spins on top of a small captured fitting, so re-hanging the door is a little easier than lining up the holes on the Wrangler. The only thing left to do after that is to unplug the Bronco’s door’s wiring harness, which is just a quick and easy snap, and a small plastic door seals the harness left inside the chassis. The Wrangler’s design is also straightforward, but it requires you to loosen two outer Torx bolts, a door strap, and an inner bolt that attaches the door swing guide. There are also interior plastic pieces that need to be wrestled with to access front and rear harnesses. The Bronco uses a steel stopper for the door hinges on the body, instead of a door strap. If you’re taking everything off, we’d suggest removing the doors first as it gives you more room to access the roof later. It’s best to install and remove doors for both vehicles with the windows rolled down.
Grab Life by the Doors
Once everything’s unplugged and unbolted, the safest way to remove the door is to hold on tight. The Bronco has a small “Lift” label etched into the bottom of the door panel. You can grab that with one hand, placing the other on the outer edge of the door. Give it a slight lift and the door pops right off. The Wrangler actually uses its armrest as a handle, which can be grabbed from the outside with one hand, with the other hand at the bottom of the door. Lift, and it’s off. Ford claims the two-door Bronco’s doors weigh under 60 pounds, and they’re around 40 pounds on the four-door models. This would be a roughly 10-pound improvement over two-door Jeeps, and a five-pound improvement over the Wrangler Unlimited.
Both Bronco and Wrangler use similar rotating latches that fix the roof to the body. Both systems are easy and neither has an obvious advantage over the other. Ford did tell us that the driver’s-side roof panel must be removed first, which is pretty negligible, as both panels eventually need to be removed anyway. There are three rotating latches on each Bronco panel, with a larger latch on the front outer edges. For two-door models, there are three roof pieces total; there are five on the larger four-door. Ford says you can drive the two-door model with the front roof panels off and the rear top still attached, but you can’t drive it pickup truck style with the front panels on and the rear roof off. The Wrangler requires removal of the entire rear shell, as the roof covering second-row passengers isn’t individual panels, unlike the Bronco.
Removing the rear shell of the Bronco is mostly the same as the Wrangler. The two-door Bronco’s shell has four Torx bolts that attach it to the upper part of the quarter-panel, where the Wrangler has three at the base, and one at the top of the roof. We should point out that when using the ratchet on the Bronco, it’s possible to swing the tool into the glass. On the Wrangler the height of that area is protected by a fiberglass frame, so it’s a little safer. We assume most Bronco and Jeep folks will opt for a battery-powered drill to save time, so this won’t be much of a problem when you bust out the Makita.
The roof is almost ready for removal from both vehicles, but there’s one more step. The wiring harness for the rear wiper motor needs to be unplugged and stowed. Same for the washer fluid hose. On the Bronco, the harness and hose plug into the interior panel behind the rear seats. On the Wrangler, they clip into a bracket located closer to the tailgate. We think either design is fine but would like to see the hoses and harness on the Bronco a bit farther from the edge of the truck, where arms, cargo, and branches could make contact with them.
Now that the roof and doors are off, it’s time to get serious. Maybe you’re looking to install an aftermarket look, or you want to enable full mud mode on the trail. The plastic fender flares on every Bronco are easy to remove. Simply spin these little plastic butterflies to unlock the fittings from the fender or quarter-panel, and pull. The flares pop right off, and the fittings stay captured inside, so there’s no loose hardware to keep track of. Check out our how-to video on Bronco door and roof removal, as well as how easy it is to take the Bronco’s metal fenders and quarter-panels off.
If the process of removing and installing the doors and roof from the Bronco or Wrangler tip the scale for which one you’re going to buy, well, we respect that attention to detail. We recommend checking out our Bronco and Wrangler spec comparison to make an even more informed choice, but expect a real-life comparison test closer to when the Bronco becomes available this summer.
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