About 2 months ago I installed a used factory spare tire swing out carrier on my XJ and I thought it about time I write up how I made it fit on a 97+ model. Now it didnít occur to me to take pictures through out the install, so I hope the pictures Iíve taken now will still help in describing what I did.
NOTE:New resting position of rear wiper.
First off was to clean and dismantle the old spare carrier. Of course in true Jeep fashion a Torx end socket will be needed for this part. The carrier I picked up off ebay had been sitting for quote some time and had a good bit of build up dirt and some rust on it. For a few weeks prior to beginning on the dismantling of the carrier I sprayed all the bolts and nuts with PB Blaster to help loosen everything up. I first removed the large hinge shoulder bolts using the Torx end socket and a nice long breaker bar to help coax those old rusty bolts to come undone. Once those were out I had to tackle the rest of the old hardware. This carrier had been taken off the previous Jeep by cutting all the bolts. So I had to cut slots for a screwdriver to fit into and begin turning the old bolts out of the holes, long and tedious, but far from difficult.
Once the carrier was disassembled itís time to prep the mount plate for installation. Not knowing where on the bumper the carrier was supposed to be mounted I had to do some measurements of the carrier itself to determine where on the rear on the hatch the tire would sit. It ended up that the best place to mount it, and get the tire as close to center as possible, was with the right side of the mounting plate lined up with the right edge of the rear bumper. Holes were marked center punched and drilled to accommodate 3/6-16 hex bolts to hold the mounting plate in place. There is one threaded metric nut welded into the inside right rear of the mounting plate, I was unable to locate any metric sized bolts that fit the original nut, so this nut had to be drilled and tapped to also fit a 3/8-16 bolt. I used all the holes in the mounting plate save one on the lower portion of the plate. It is too close to the bumper mount to drill a new hole in the bumper and too far away from the factory bumper bolt to be used to hold the carrier mounting plate. Once all the holes were drilled the mounting plate was attached to the factory bumper. The shape of a 97+ XJ bumper is slightly different than that of the 84-96 but not so much so that it would keep this from bolting on directly without modification.
NOTE: unused hole on left.
Next step was to install the swing arm on the mounting plate itself. This particular type of swing out carrier has brass bushings in the swing arm. One of these was missing on the used carrier I purchased so I made a new one on my lathe. Once this was done I just bolted the arm into the plate and there it was. Now itís in place to align the latch mechanism.
The latch plate is where all the real custom work on this took place. The original plate that was used to latch the carrier to the rear hatch was completely incompatible with the new style hatch. The shapes are completely different. The best way I found to solve this was to cut the catch off the original plate and just make a new one to mount it to. I used a low speed band saw to cut the catch from the plate. I then attached it to the latch on the arm and pushed it against the rear of the Jeep. This showed where it needed to be mounted and what needed to be done to make it all fit. First thing I saw that was in the way was the rear wiper. I took the wiper off so I could get it out of the way the started grinding away material until the catch fit around the wiper blade post. Once I got that to fit I had to see if I could move the blade itself out of the way. I only had to reposition the arm up just a little so the wiper would not hit the new catch assembly when it comes to itís resting place. A plate was then made to go behind the catch and span all the way over to where the rubber bumper hits the rear hatch. I then made two internal plates that would serve as support plates to tie into the frame of the hatch. This is where I really wish I had thought to take pictures along the way. When you take the rear hatch lining out you will see that there is very little room to work in this area. The plates I made to go inside where about 4Ē wide and 6Ē long. About 1.5Ē from the top they were both angled so that they line up with the internal frame of the hatch. All the holes in the hatch were then marked and drilled with a sheet metal drill, then the plates and internal plates were drilled and everything was bolted up for test fitting. It worked perfect on the first try. I only had to adjust the rubber bumpers to get the tension of the door right to that it wouldnít rattle around any and that was almost it.
New latch plate bolted in place.
This left only the tire. My spare carrier had already been modified so it would take a 31Ē tire using longer studs. I discovered after riding around with it for a few weeks that it bounced way too much. I thought this would only lead to weakening of the extended bolts and maybe even break part of the frame itself. I considered many different ways to hold tire firmly in place but ended up using the same method that Jeep has been using on the Wrangler for years. , rubber bumpers. I couldnít believe how much the dealership wanted for each of those things. 15 bucks each! So that led me to Home Depot to buy 2 cheap rubber mallets for 5 dollars each cut them in half drill holes make spacer tubes then put them on with a few more bolts and washers. Then bolt the tire back on and see if they work. You can see in the pictures that the bumpers really compress the tire a lot but thatís what it takes to hold this big 31Ē MTR and 16Ē wheel in place. It rides perfect now though. No more bouncing around and no rattles anywhere.
Three rubber bumpers provide more than enough stability for the tire.
Last but not least I relocated the license plate to the left lower corner of the hatch, added a light above it, then notched out the right rear bumper cap to fit around the carrier plate. Thatís it.
I hope this write up is helpful to those who have been wondering if you could put a factory spare carrier on a 97 and up XJ. Itís not a difficult job, just time consuming. Iíd say I spent at least 10 hours on it total.