• JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

Jeep Wrangler Tire Carrier Shootout

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on August 8, 2007 Comment (0)
Share this
Jeep Wrangler Tire Carrier Shootout
154 0708 01 z+2001 tj+rear view

For better than a year now, we've been testing rear bumper/tire carriers from 13 manufacturers. We used different Jeeps to see how they bolt up and to maximize the amount of use (abuse) each tire carrier saw before getting taken out of the rotation.

What you might not know is from '87-'06, the bolt holes in the rear crossmember of the Wrangler basically stayed the same. And for at least '91-'06, the tapped and threaded holes in the bottom of the frame stayed in the same location. What that means is, often, a unit made for a YJ will fit a TJ and vice versa. Our test Jeeps were a '92 YJ, a '94 YJ, a '97 TJ and an '01 TJ.

For the test, each bumper was bolted onto the first Jeep exactly as the instructions said, with close attention being paid to their accuracy. A rating of 1 would be a set of instructions that had nothing to do with how the bumper was actually put on, and a rating of 5 would be given to the instructions that explain each step exactly. After the bumper was on, we looked for a few things:

154 0708 02 z+1992 yj 1997 tj+rear view

* Ease of use: Did it require one hand to open and close the carrier (that would be a rating of 5), or did it require two hands, a foot, a spotter, and a degree in nuclear physics (a rating of 1).

* Rattle and vibration: You might think the two things would go hand in hand, but that's not necessarily the case. The vibration rating looks at how much the carrier with the tire attached moved back and forth as it was being driven. A vibration rating of 1 would mean it vibrated enough that the carrier actually hit the Jeep going down the road, while a rating of 5 meant very little vibration at all. The rattle rating looks at how loud the carrier itself is. A loose latch, poor attachment to the Jeep, or bolts working themselves loose can all contribute to a 1 rating. A tight latch and hinge, good frame tie-ins, a well-thought-out tire mount, and low noise level would result in a rating of 5.

* Durability rating (aka, the test of time): We put about 5,000 miles on each bumper, both on- and off-road, and took notes as we went along. At the end, we compared notes about how things did or didn't come loose, and we looked at the overall design of the unit to come up with the rating. Frame tie-ins are a big part of this. If you just bolt the bumper to your thin rear crossmember without tying it into the Jeep's frame, the first decent pull on it will destroy your crossmember. Also, if the hinge is in a single-shear configuration (only the bottom of the hinge at the swing arm is attached to the bumper), then there will be flex at the point that the hinge goes through the bumper. If the pivot is welded at that point, it will put a lot of stress on the metal, which can result in either the hinge pin or the surrounding metal of the bumper breaking.

The following are the bumpers we've tested in alphabetical order. We've included our favorite and least favorite part of each, as well as a brief overview of the bumper. Check out the chart for all the nitty-gritty details.

Tire Carrier Shootout
Company Name Model # Price as Tested Recovery Points Receiver Hitch Hi-Lift Mount Max Tire Size Frame Tie-In Instruction Rating Ease of Use Rating
Rattle Rating
Vibration Rating
Perceived Durability Rating
4WD hardware
360698
$549.99
No
Yes
No
35-inch
Yes
4
5
4.5
3
3
A to Z Fabrication
{{{200}}}-RBTC
$794.{{{90}}}
Yes
Yes
No
37-inch
No
4
4
5
3
4
ARB
TJ-Bumper
$1,296.99
Yes
Yes,to wrated
Yes
35-inch
Yes
4.5
4
5
4.5
5
Big Daddy
Off-Road
RB-304-TCC, RB-311-TCJM
$629
Yes
Yes
Optional
Unspecified
Yes
4
3
5
4.5
4.5
Body Armor
YJ-2991
$998.95
Yes
Yes
Yes
35-inch
Yes
3 3 5 4 5
CurrieEnterprises
CE-9173W
$679.95
No
Yes
No
40-inch
Yes 3 3 4 4 4
{{{Durango}}} 4x4
DGO3001T,DGO4006
$795
Yes
Yes
Optional
No size limit
Yes 4 5 3 3 3
Fab fours
Y1050
$1,155
Yes
Yes
Yes
40-inch
Yes 4 4.5 5 4 4.5
{{{M}}}.O.R.E JRB900 $995 Yes Yes, load rated Yes 37-inch Yes 5 5 5 3 3
Olympic 4x4 Products
553-11X, 700,707
$549.75
No
Yes
No
36-inch
Yes 3 3 2 3 2
Rock Hard 4x4
RH2001-C
$729.95
Yes
Yes,
Class 2
Yes
38-inch
Optional 2 5 4.5 4.5 5
Tomken
TMC-0104-TC,TMR-7198-B
$488.34
Yes, posts
Yes
Optional
35-inch
Yes 2 3 5 3 3
Warn
PN 65509, PN 64337
$649.49
No
Yes
No
37-inch
Yes 4.5 3 4 5 4

Check Out The Web
As you might imagine, more than a year of testing with more than 50 bumper install/uninstalls and more than 50,000 cumulative miles of testing leads to a lot more information than we'd really be able to fit in these four pages. So we went ahead and dumped our notes on www.jpmagazine.com. You'll be able to see the tools we used to actually get the bumpers on the Jeep, many more pictures of each bumper, and our rating notes-such as installation, rattle and vibration, and usage tidbits. We've also got optional items for the bumpers listed, the materials they were made out of, the latch type, hinge type, and all other kinds of info. If you're in the market for a bumper/tire carrier, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

The JP Magazine bumper
Along the way, there were things that really stood out as exceptional and things we wished would just go away. We'd love to see a bumper built from those exceptional things.

Our ultimate bumper would have the ARB frame tie-ins, but it would bolt in through sleeved holes in the bumper like the 4WD Hardware unit and install as easily as the Fab Fours bumper. It would also have the Rock Hard 4x4 latch design and tailgate support-bar system, A to Z Fabrication's heavy-duty mounting plate and beefy shackle mounts, a double-shear taper roller bearing hinge, or at least a hinge and stop like the one on the Body Armor unit (a version that retains the hinge pin better, that is). We'd also like to see it with a high-lift mount like the Mountain Off Road Unit, some kind of rock light or backup light mounts, and a hold-open design like the Big Daddy Off-Road bumper (bulletproof). It would hold the tire close to the Jeep-low enough that you can still see out the back window, but high enough to not hang it up on everything.

154 0708 03 z+1994 yj+4wd hardware

4WD Hardware
Priced at the lower end of bumpers we tested, you get a lot for your dollar with this one-tapered bearing hinge, automatic hold open, easy-to-use latch, universal bolt-pattern mount, powdercoat finish, and a solid bolt-through mounting design.

Like: It was easy to use every day. With this bumper on, it was only another couple seconds if we needed to get into the back of the Jeep-not the minute or more that some bumpers took.

Dislike: Vibramatic, meaning the instructions don't mention moving the rubber bumpers on the stock tailgate to provide support, but this bumper really needs them. Without spacing out those rubber snubbers, this was one of the worst vibrating bumpers around.

154 0708 05 z+2001 tj+arb

ARB
At the top end of the price scale comes the ARB bumper. We won't lie to you, we really don't like the way it looks. It reminds us of bumpers we've seen fire departments put on the front of otherwise civilian trucks-it's huge! That said, it's also solid. The ARB is rated for towing, and it also performed at (or near) the top of the units we tested. It's the definition of function over form.

Like: The frame tie-in on this bumper is second to none.

Dislike: A gazillion pieces and parts to put together almost make this bumper a multi-day install. Start early if you want to get it done in one day.

154 0708 04 z+1994 yj+a to z fabrication

A To Z Fabrication
Right around the middle of the pack in cost and final ratings, this bumper comes from a small company, but packs some big parts. From the bracing on the tire mount to the larger-diameter hinge, De-Sta-Co latch, and beefy steel construction, this is a decent all-around bumper.

Like: We like the swing arm and actual tire mount. We also like the way the company provided support and the sheer thickness of the plate that the tire mounts to. (We did crack a couple lesser mounting plates.)

Dislike: There are some unfinished aspects of the assembly, such as the plastic stops, which lead to vibration.

154 0708 07 z+1994 yj+body armor

Body Armor
True to its name, the Body Armor bumper could be used on an up-armored military vehicle; it's heavy, and it might be heavier than the ARB unit. That said, the Body Armor bumper is also solid, and except for a minor problem with the hinge, it's a very stout tire carrier/bumper combo. This one got the most off-road abuse of any of the bumpers, with multiple hits on rocks, other Jeeps, and even packed dirt.

Like: The double-shear hinge design and De-Sta-Co latch combine for sheer strength in tire control.

Dislike: Difficult to install, thanks to the threaded plates that need to line up exactly with the crossmember holes.

154 0708 08 z+1994 yj+currie enterprises

Currie Enterprises
Simple is as simple does. There are no bells and whistles on the Currie bumper-just the way the company wants it. It has a large-diameter, solid steel hinge that's capable of holding the weight of a Jeep (empiricalevidence). While it isn't the easiest bumperto use, its simplicity of design makes for something that will last and last.

Like: It doesn't try to please everyone all the time. The Currie bumper is a tire carrier first and foremost.

Dislike: With no shackle mounts and a receiver in the middle of the bumper (a foot away from the nearest bolt), we wouldn't take this out in the mud. It survives snatches off rocks, but buried in the mud, we'd want a more substantial recovery point.

154 0708 06 z+2001 tj+big daddy off road

Big Daddy Off-Road
Big Daddy is one of two bumpers that showed up without any damage-most of them arrived sticking halfway out of the shipping box. While we thought it was going to be one of the heavier units tested, it ended up on par with the others. We also like the protection it provides to the rear quarter panels.

Like: It lacked any discernable rattle, and it had very minimal vibration, making for a verynice ride.

Dislike: The screw-style latch is a pain to operate, and we lost paint from the Jeep and powdercoating from the bumper thanks to its knurled surfaces.

154 0708 09 z+1997 tj+durango 4x4

Durango 4x4
This is a bumper that could've done much better. If you follow the instructions to the letter, you will get the results we saw. But by adding a rubber snubber properly spaced off the tailgate and some red-tint Loctite on the latch bolts, it probably would've done much better with rattling and vibrating.

Like: The latch is super easy to use, the hold-open works as expected, and the hinge-while not roller-bearing packed-is still smooth and easy to operate.

Dislike: We constantly monkeyed with the latch and tried getting it adjusted so it would stop rattling, but never quite succeeded.

154 0708 10 z+2001 tj+fab fours

Fab Fours
Somewhere in our testing after one of many swaps from Jeep to Jeep, this bumper got the nickname Spaceship. With its "progressive" design, the Fab Four's bumper certainly earned the name. We liked using it day to day, but the hold-open bent in no time flat. We're told that all-new bumpers ship with new hold-open mechanisms, and we retrofitted ours. But it was right at the end of the test, so while it did work and is much stronger, we have no idea how it would work in the long run.

Like: That same spaceship-like design from above worked really well in the installation phase. This bumper was, by far, the easiest to assemble and install. This is the way a bolt-on bumper should work. Beam me up!

Dislike: For an otherwise very solid unit, we saw more vibration than we thought there should be for something in this price range. There needs to be some bushing between the swing arm and body to cut it down.

154 0708 12 z+1994 yj+olympic 4x4 products

Olympic 4x4 Products
Tire carriers, by and large, are really starting to get up there in price, so a modular unit is a nice idea. Buy a part at a time, or because the price is so reasonable comparatively, grab the whole thing and go. For some reason, while there were a few textured, powdercoated units, this one seemed to absorb mud and just not come clean. With a better hinge and latch, this bumper could be a contender.

Like: It had a low rear-tire mounting location, and we had no problems seeing out the back window.

Dislike: The unit seems to rely on the powdercoat to stay tight. Once the coating wears off, it starts to rattle.

154 0708 13 z+1994 yj+rock hard 4x4

Rock Hard 4x4
This is a well-thought-out unit. From the dual-action safety latch to the pressed-before-welded hinge design to the solid tube steel construction, this is a decent bumper. There's also a ton of bolt-on accessories available for it.

Like: We like the safety-latch mechanism and tailgate stiffener/rubber snubber setup.

Dislike: The tire is spaced out too far to clear the Hi-Lift jack, and we kept tagging the tire upon departure from obstacles. That can't be good for the unit's longevity.

154 0708 11 z+1994 yj+more

M.O.R.E.
We like Mountain Off-Road Enterprise's stuff, by and large. On this one, though, there were a few things missing: it's a $1,000 bumper with no finish, and there's a really neat laser-cut emblem that can't be seen once a tire is on it. For a carrier in this price range, vibration shouldn't be a concern, but there was enough vibration for us to be concerned about its longevity. In 5,000 miles, it never had a problem. In fact, it's currently on Hazel's Steal-J with over 15,000 additional miles on it and still hasn't broken off, but the steel where the hinge mounts still flexes.

Like: This is a great bumper day to day. Operation of the swing arm is easy, the hold-open stays open the way it should, and it doesn't make any noise.

Dislike: The lack of an available finish.

154 0708 14 z+1994 yj+tomken machine

Tomken Machine
This is another modular approach to the bumper design. We like the post idea for rescue operations and the modular design, however, we had a passel of problems getting this bumper assembled and then onto the test Jeeps.

Like: The modular design, greasable hinge, and unique recovery points were great.

Dislike: It had a lack of lateral support for the upright on the tire carrier.

154 0708 15 z+1994 yj+warn

Warn
The warn unit has been around for a long time, largely unchanged, because it's simple and it works. The hinge has a dual-shear setup, which helps in the strength department, and while we messed around with the latch, we were never able to get it to where we thought it should be.

Like: Simple design.

Dislike: The latch is too simple.

Sources

Currie Enterprises
Corona, CA 92880
714-528-6957
http://www.currieenterprises.com
Fab Fours
Pineville, NC 28134
866-385-1905
www.fabfours.com
4WD Hardware
N/A, AK
800-555-3353
www.4wd.com
Olympic 4x4 Products
City of Commerce, CA 90040
323-726-6988
http://www.olympic4x4products.com
ARB
866-293-9078
www.arbusa.com
A to Z Fabrication
atzfabrication.com
Big Daddy Off-Road
www.bigdaddyoffroad.com

Related Articles

Comments

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Sponsored Content