Home » Watch How Difficult It Is To Rip A Car Door Off Its Hinges Like In The Movies

Watch How Difficult It Is To Rip A Car Door Off Its Hinges Like In The Movies

Rip Car Door Off Topshot

It’s practically a Hollywood trope that an action movie hero or villain can turn any car into a Jeep instantly. Yes, I’m talking about ripping car doors off like bandages, whether with a harpoon, with mechanical tentacles, or with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sheer might alone. Ripping car doors off makes for a pretty cool visual sequence, but Hollywood is also the land of prop glass and chroma key. What I’m saying is that ripping a car door off sounds really difficult in real life, and YouTuber Tyler Bell decided to find out exactly how difficult it is. Hint: It’s not easy.

So how does one build harpoons for car doors? You certainly won’t find off-the-shelf harpoons for this application from Tractor Supply or the tenth-tallest pyramid in the world that’s currently a Bass Pro Shops. In this case, Bell got some parts laser-cut out of quarter-inch steel, then welded the parts together, and also made one harpoon with titanium arms for good measure. Perfect for shooting out of a can cannon. Unfortunately, the can cannon simply doesn’t have enough sauce to prevent the harpoon from tumbling and hitting the door sideways. What gives more sauce? How about an air cannon with a two-inch valve.

Harpoon Car Door 1

Although the air cannon has no trouble firing a bare harpoon straight through a door, an issue arises when rope is attached to the harpoon. Bell found that the whole arrangement went sideways, failing to penetrate the door and instead just tangling on itself. Still, the show must go on and the rope is whatever, so it’s time to sacrifice a junker in the name of science.

Harpoon Car Door 2

While the early Mazda CX-7 used for the experiment does look fairly nice, it’s still an early Mazda CX-7, a horrifically unreliable heap that was towed into the shot. Blowing holes in those doors isn’t a huge loss by any means. Oh, and when I say blowing holes through the doors, they’re absolutely massive and don’t seem to slow the speed of the harpoons like the earlier small-scale test door. Considering the test door was from an older vehicle, I’d wager that thinner sheetmetal and voids in modern door structures played a role here.

Harpoon Car Door 3

Alright, Bell has blasted some holes, it’s time for part two of the blockbuster stunt. Jam a harpoon in a hole, put it on a cable, run the cable through a snatch block, hitch the other end of the cable to a car, and then let it rip. This might not come as a huge shock to anyone who’s watched footage of side-impact crash tests, but modern door latches and hinges are really strong. It seems a lot more likely to just rip the door skin off than to snap hinges, and that’s pretty much what Bell experienced. However, Hollywood is a land of smoke and mirrors, so Bell did some cutting and grinding, used a flat steel plate to brace the inside of the door, and let it rip. The end result was nearly flawless – a car door ripped right off of its hinges, albeit without the use of a harpoon. Hey, that’s Hollywood.

Harpoon Car Door 4

So what have we learned here, other than that this video is pretty awesome and that practical effects often require strategic fakery? It turns out that despite being held on with what might look like fairly light hardware, modern car doors are very securely-affixed. Even when subject to a solid tug from a midsize SUV, everything held tight. Modern vehicle construction, isn’t it a wonderful thing?

(Photo credits: Tyler Bell)


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31 Responses

  1. Modern cars are made to prevent other modern cars from entering the cabin. This is done with strong hinges and door bars. The rest of the door is waterproof tissue paper.

    1. The hinges on my ’97 Cavalier were getting suspect at 10 years old (as you’d expect when they were easily the most substantial thing on the car).

      I’m guessing this trope is along the same lines as panic stops causing cars to go wildly sideways like a Motorweek brake test from 1983.

  2. Mom is not gonna be happy when she sees her CX7.

    But in all seriousness, that Mazda looked like it was in great condition.
    Couldn’t they find a junkyard car and sell that (clearly running and driving)
    CX7 to someone in need or donate it? It really bothers me to see a perfectly good vehicle ruined for fun.
    Also, did they bother to drain the fluids before they started shooting harpoons through it?

  3. To quote Jack Nicholson as the best Joker “Where does he get those marvelous toys?”

    But yeah great stuff need a cameraman to see it close up. Dude has some awesome design and build skills. But towed or not that car looks better than any homes in the trailer park.

  4. I’m guessing the doors on that ’37 Chevy he showed at the beginning would come off a bit easier, but I don’t particularly want to see anyone try it.

  5. I seem to remember Charlie Sheen kicking a door off of a car from the inside in “Above the Law”. Granted, one would need a Charlie Sheen level of drugs in their system to do that, so maybe not as far-fetched as I first thought?

  6. Do you old-timers recall when the Chrysler K-car doors were held in with a cotter pin. No rolled steel pin, just an off-the-shelf cotter pin for a hinge. I’d like to see how they would hold up to this torture.

  7. If you really want to see how strong car doors are, reach out your local fire department. See if they’ll let you watch a vehicle extrication training. It’s enlightening.

  8. My dad had an ’85 Cherokee (XJ with the 2.5l) that had pretty much rusted itself to death in most people’s eyes by the mid-90s (not his). He decided he better finally replace when he arrived to a client meeting, opened the rear door, and it came off, hinges and all. He had to play it down, put the door in the back seat, and continue with the meeting. A few months later, NYE 1999 he brought home a new 2000 Grand Cherokee (WJ). The XJ had 255,000 miles when he blew the engine (stopped doing oil changes at 200k). He just replaced the Grand about 16 months ago with a new Gladiator Mojave. The Grand now has just under 500,000 miles and gets shuffled around every few months. Last time I drove it in 2020 it spooked the hell out of me with how sloppy the steering and ride had become. A few months later he drove it from MN to UT to visit me again. Don’t know how he kept it on the road the whole way here and back.

    1. Yeah, my parents’ ’94 XJ had a door fall off too. According to the forums we’re definitely not the only ones that have experienced this either. I suspect if the YouTuber had chosen an old XJ for this video it would have been pretty anticlimactic – one firm tug in the wrong direction and the door’s on the ground ????.

  9. I once owned an AMC built ’86 Jeep Cherokee. With that vehicle I was more concerned about keeping the driver’s door on. Liquid weld around the hinges and bungy cords to support the weight were the solution. If I had wanted the door off, I could have ripped it off like a sheet of Bounty.

  10. “horrifically unreliable heap”? I thought these things were generally reliable other than the turbo on the higher end engine. My daughter has a 2011 CX-7 with the turbo-less L series engine that I thought was considered a good (if underpowered) engine. No problems yet (knock on wood) other than the headlights having to be restored.

  11. SAAB used to design their doors so you could pull the car sideways out of a snow drift just by towing it by the door handles.

    I miss SAAB. Crazy bastards.

    1. Me too. It really hurts to see fewer Saabs on the road each year. Even here in New England, traditionally one of the Saabiest regions of the U.S., they’re noticeably less common now than a decade ago.

      I wonder if they all just got increasingly expensive in general to maintain, which was already the main reason I sold my 9000 seven-odd years ago, and parts haven’t been getting any younger since then.

      1. I know that my experience isn’t universal, but I totally don’t miss SAABs, because in my experience, they were driven by the least attentive drivers on the road. Stereotypically, BMW drivers don’t use turn signals, and SAAB drivers don’t acknowledge the existence of other vehicles.

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