Just about the only real downside of putting bigger tires on your Jeep is that you also need a matching spare tire, but that big hunk of rubber and metal may not be good for your Jeep’s factory tailgate mounted swing-out tire carrier. The added weight can put too much stress on the factory tire carrier brackets causing bending, sagging, and even failure. A much beefier aftermarket tire carrier that’s mounted on the rear bumper is a much better solution.
American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) makes a heavy-duty swing-out tire carrier that does just that. It not only takes the weight off the tailgate but is offered with some great options that really come in handy such as a 10-gallon spare fuel tank, a Hi-Lift jack mount, replacement third rear brake light, and a place for a high-power backup light.
The back of our stock 2013 Jeep JK Unlimited Moab Edition Wrangler looked, well, stock. As with all factory Jeeps the spare hangs on the rear tailgate. This isn’t a problem with stock rubber, but as you go bigger you also go heavier and that can place too much stress on the tailgate hinges. We decided to take advantage of the fact that our Moab came, from the factory, with AEV steel bumpers.
While the AEV swing-out tire carrier kit can be easily mounted on of any factory JK rear bumper, it will also fit perfectly onto the AEV/MOPAR rear bumpers that come on many of the special edition JK Wranglers such as the Moab, Call of Duty, Rubicon X, and 10th Anniversary. If your rig already has the AEV rear bumper or you order one with your tire carrier kit, you can also take advantage of the two-part 5-gallon water tank that fits in the AEV rear bumper. Check out the major steps below to see how easily we planted an AEV swing-out tire carrier and these accessories on our ’13 Moab Edition Jeep JK Wrangler.
Here are the main bits of the AEV tire carrier kit. Keep in mind that even though this is made to work with the AEV rear bumper, the kit can also be installed on a stock Jeep bumper without a lot of effort. The most important aspect of this rear bumper kit is that it’s more than just a tire carrier—it also carries extra water and fuel.
With the factory third brake light wire unplugged (the small vent on the inside of the tailgate was removed to access the wiring harness) we removed the factory tire carrier and brake light assembly. The large rubber bumpers will also be removed and replaced with plugs supplied in the AEV kit.
With the tire carrier removed we were able to also remove the plastic tailgate vent behind the stock tire carrier. To clear the new AEV tire carrier tailgate bracket we had to trim a bit off of the gate vent.
We installed the AEV carrier bracket along with the modified vent. A small Delrin stop was bolted to the bracket. This part adjusts up and down so it can be placed in just the right spot to rest against the tire carrier. One of the best aspects of the AEV carrier is that it opens and closes with the tail gate.
To get this installation done we had to loosen the factory installed AEV bumper from the vehicle first. Fortunately, the rear bumper is attached to the frame with several easy to reach bolts. The factory installed AEV bumper came from MOPAR with hollow plastic blocks in the corner of the bumper ends. With the bumper loosened up we were able to wiggle them out.
Instead of putting the nearly useless blocks back in the bumper, we decided to install AEV’s bumper water tank system. The two end tanks, when hooked together, can hold a total of 5 gallons of water. The passenger-side tank came with a passage through it to accommodate the tire carrier mount spindle, and the AEV water tank kit includes a hand pump that threads right into the driver-side tank.
The AEV tire carrier mount takes the load off the tailgate and places it on the Jeep’s frame. After removing the rear bumper, we pulled the passenger-side bumper-mount bracket from the frame since it’s replaced by the new AEV kit-supplied spindle housing.
To ensure a good fit, we used some sandpaper to remove the coating off the area of the AEV tire carrier where it rides in the bushing. Then after installing the Zerk fitting (facing it downward) in the AEV spindle-housing bracket we temporarily installed the mount using two 1/2-inch bolts and the other hardware provided. We just hand tightened everything so it was snug but still loose enough that we could adjust the spindle housing. With that done, we installed the spiral-cut bronze bushings into the housing. They have a slight interference fit, so we gently tapped them in place with a dead blow hammer and a block of wood.
After installing the bronze washer we set the tire carrier in place and secured it with a 1/2x1-inch bolt along with a steel retention disc and another bronze washer. We held off greasing it for now since this first assembly was just a test fit. Going by the instructions, we set up the positioning of the AEV tire carrier. The goal is to line it up properly with the tailgate housing and have it level and true to the Jeep but angled in a bit toward the Jeep if possible. Once in place, we snugged up the bolts.
We then installed and adjusted the turnbuckle linkage system per the AEV instructions.
With everything together we swung the tire carrier open and shut a few times, with a spare tire installed, to make sure it worked smoothly. We were also able to adjust the Delrin saddle block to the carrier tube. To adjust for some droop we used these clever shims supplied in the AEV kit between the frame and the spindle-housing bracket.
Once the tire carrier was properly adjusted and operating perfectly, we disconnected the turnbuckle linkage we had installed, swung the carrier full open, and drilled two 3/8-inch holes for the bolts that will hold the main tire carrier brace to the Jeep’s frame.
The bumper and tanks can’t go on with the carrier in place so we removed it until the other two were assembled and installed.
With the tire carrier removed (we had installed it first to be sure it all fit right), we could install these handle-nuts included in the AEV kit will let us install the upper and lower bolts for the main tire carrier brace even when the bumper blocks access to the inside of the frame. The AEV bumper has notches already in place to accommodate the new fasteners. That’s what we call forward thinking.
With the new water tanks now sitting inside the bumper ends we were able to lift the assembled bumper/tank combo back onto the frame of the Jeep.
It was a bit of a dance to get the bumper on and the tank over the spindle housing, but the fact that the tanks could be moved about during the bumper reinstallation helped.
Installation of the driver side of the bumper/tank combo was completely drama free. With the bumper sitting in place, we could start bolting it back to the frame of the Jeep. The two tanks bolted to the bumper on the inboard side via three Allen head bolts.
The water tanks, just like the blanks they replaced, were further secured using the existing brackets under the Jeep. We could then plumb the two tanks together and vent the passenger side tank per the AEV instructions.
With the bumper fully installed, we could reinstall the AEV tire carrier, bolt it into place, and hit the spindle’s Zerk fitting with grease.
AEV provides several bolts of various lengths for the tire mount. Which one to use depends on the wheel’s offset. In addition to the bolt that holds the tire mount in place there’s also an anti-vibration screw to keep things from moving when putting the wheel/tire in place.
Jp tip: Instead of using a bolt and locknut to secure the turnbuckle linkage to the tailgate, we suggest a push-lock pin. This will make it easy to move the tire carrier away from the tail gate when cleaning the Jeep. The safety wire will make sure we don’t leave it out in the wilderness somewhere.
Another option we loved was the AEV 10.2-gallon fuel caddy. Made from ultra-tough cross-link polyethylene (just like what used in many factory fuel tanks), it’s a great way to carry extra fuel without the bulk of external jerry cans. The fuel caddy has several attachment points to the tire carrier. The system is also designed to accommodate wiring for all the various accessories. It’s also fully vented and uses an OE-style cap. The fuel tank’s high-mount position means it’s easy to gravity feed fuel into the main fuel tank with the included shaker siphon, and the fuel tank allows the carrier to accommodate a 40-inch.
The top of the AEV carrier has a flat plate that’s perfect for mounting one of AEV’s steel-bodied 55-watt rear backup lights. The kit comes with the wiring to tap into your existing backup lights and even a switch so you can turn it on as a work light.
Because of the 2 1/2-inch suspension lift system installed on the Jeep, the factory jack is even more useless. Fortunately, AEV makes a Hi-Lift jack mount for its tire carrier that mounts to the carrier with two U-bolts. With this system, the weight is on the chassis (not the bumper) where it belongs and the jack mount will also accommodate a Pull-Pal (so long as your spare tire is 37-inches or smaller).
Remember when we ditched our third brake light? Well, AEV has a simple replacement solution with its Center High-Mount Stop Light (CHMSL). It works with all AEV wheels and most other five-spoke wheels. The LEDs are super bright and are aimed in three different directions so that other drivers are sure to see you stopping. The wiring loom plugged right into the factory plug in the tail gate.
The AEV tire carrier, even with the fuel caddy, is designed to carry a fullsize shovel. We did have to cut about 10-inches off the shovel’s handle, but this sure beats trying to dig out with a small folding shovel.
Lastly, the AEV bumper easily accommodates a set of AEV mud flaps. The guy behind you will thank you, and mud flaps are mandated in certain states such as Utah. So now the Jeep has 10 gallons of extra fuel, 5 gallons of water, a Hi-Lift jack, high-power backup light, fullsize shovel, and of course a fullsize matching spare tire. With this system our JK is ready to go out and get dirty. The hardest choice is where to go first.