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When Should I Upgrade My Wrangler’s Tire Carrier?

The Wrangler’s spare tire is designed to be mounted on the outside of the rear tailgate. Both the tire carrier and tailgate hinges are very light/thin and not equipped for a heavy load. Here are some important points and solutions to keep in mind, if you plan on running a larger/heavier tire.

2011 Rubicon JK with a Teraflex Tire Carrier

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How Large of a Tire Can the Factory Tire Carrier Hold?

The factory tire carrier of a Jeep Wrangler is designed to carry a maximum weight of 50 lbs. under normal to light trail conditions. Exceeding that weight limit or taking the Jeep into harsher terrain could cause damage to the tire carrier or even the tailgate itself. In addition, the Jeep rear bumper has a cut out provision to accommodate the stock tire size. 

Upgrading the tire size will require a new tire carrier to accommodate both the heavier weight and raise it in order to clear the bumper tire cutout.

Common Flaws in Tire Carriers

The Wrangler’s tailgate is comprised of an outer and inner shell, spot welded on the inside. There are fifteen spot welds that run along the top and bottom, then five that run along the sides. When more weight is introduced to the tire carrier it pulls the carrier back, along with the outer shell. Eventually, the force will begin to pop the welds along the inner shell, separating both pieces and causing damage to the tailgate itself.

In addition to the pop welds, the tire carrier itself could suffer serious cracks along the mounting base, if enough weight/force is introduced.

Tire Upgrade Solutions

Similar to most aftermarket parts for the Jeep, there are a variety of Jeep tire carrier options available if you choose to run a larger/heavier tire. The first decision to make is whether you would like to retain the stock look, by running a larger tire on the tailgate itself, with heavy reinforcement, or run an aftermarket rear bumper with an integrated tire mount. Both solutions will solve the two major issues involving weight and clearance. 

Within the tailgate option, Teraflex offers the HD hinged carrier. This replaces the factory hinges and tire carrier itself with a heavy gauged robust hinge system. The system no longer relies on the tailgate for support and alleviates any stress on the spot welds. It also allows you to adjust the mounting height in order to take into account larger tires and is rated to carry up to a 37” tire. 

If you’re looking to upgrade your rear bumper and are looking for an even sturdier solution, than a steel bumper with an integrated tire carrier might be the best option. Bumpers like the Barricade Trail Force HD rear bumper come equipped with a tire tire carrier. This system floats independently from the tailgate, requiring you to first swing open the tire carrier, followed by the tailgate, in order to access the cargo area. This solution also introduces a great deal of weight to the rear of the Jeep, with the bumper often coming in around 100 lbs. and the carrier itself an additional 48 lbs. This combination can also accommodate up to a 37” tire.

Finally, whichever solution you choose, it’s important to note that a larger tire will probably obscure or eliminate the rear center brake light, which is a requirement in most states. Barricade offers an adjustable Bracket that elevates the brake light, allowing it to clear up to a 40” tire. 


Different Types of Tire Carriers

Increasing the size of your Jeep's tire is a great benefit for trail use and aesthetics, but introduces a significant problem when dealing with the spare tire. A larger tire will more often be much heavier than the stock spare tire. The Jeep’s stock tire carrier is made of a thin aluminum and designed to carry the weight of the factory tire. Mounting a larger and heavier tire will result in cracks in the tire carrier itself and also damage to the Jeep’s tailgate. Thankfully, there’s a larger variety of aftermarket tire carriers that help solve this problem.

If you plan on upgrading to a slightly larger tire, like a 33”, you can use steel reinforcement plates on the stock carrier. These plates distribute the load more evenly across the stock tire carrier mounting plates and can sustain the weight of a 33” tire.

For larger tires, a better option is complete replacement of the tire carrier itself, along with the factory tailgate hinges with a steel reinforced hinge and tire carrier. These tire carrier systems are often interconnected and offer a tremendous improvement over the factory components, while retaining the same look and function of the factory tailgate.

Another option for larger tires is a tire carrier that is integrated with an aftermarket bumper. These systems are substantially heavier and more expensive, requiring the purchase and replacement of the factory bumper. They can act independent from the tailgate, requiring you to first disengage and open the tire carrier before opening the tailgate itself, or they can be tied into the tailgate via linkage points. This option is probably the most robust, but is visually and mechanically more complex than the hinge system. The introduction of the linkage points could be cumbersome and noisy over time.

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