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Atlas Rear Bumper/Tire Carrier - Worth Writing About

Packing Your Backup Plan On the Back of Your JK

Jerrod JonesPhotographer, Writer

Hold onto your seats…it’s another bumper install! All sarcasm aside, we know you’ve seen how a bumper bolts on and the various styles available these days, so unless we find something cool and/or unique, we try and not waste your time.

That being said, Smittybilt—the “we build everything” company—has popped out a pretty nice rear bumper and spare-tire carrier setup. One that isn’t so expensive that you would consider buying another Jeep instead of the bumper but that is nice-enough that you won’t be embarrassed to bolt it onto the back of a $50,000 JK Wrangler.

The new Atlas Rear Bumper with Tire Gate is made for JK Wranglers—two or four door—that need a bumper that does a much more than the one that came from the factory. Made from 3/16-inch cold-rolled steel, the Atlas bumper features a swing-out tire carrier (tire gate) that can securely hold a 40-inch tire and hides two jerry cans behind it. It comes with some jack mounts as well and has welded D-ring tabs, but it’s the style of the bumper that really caught our eyes.

There are tons of bumpers out there that offer more than enough rock and trail protection for any Jeep, and there are lots of bolt-on crap magnets out there that hold a hundred accessories that you “need” to venture onto any trail. However, to cleanly finish off the end of a Jeep with a sturdy, non-rattling, bumper that can carry a few essentials and add to the pleasing aesthetics of a Jeep Wrangler, that is something that still escapes many manufacturers out there.

The Atlas bumper package delivers a 3/16-inch steel bumper with a tire gate that holds two jerry cans, a spare tire, and has brackets to mount a trail jack.

We did our bumper install at South Bay Truck & 4x4 in Hawthorne, California. The team there had the original rear bumper and tow hitch off this ’13 Rubicon Wrangler in just a few minutes.

The bumper itself is one piece with the mounting brackets welded in, making for an easy install onto the frame rails. Nut plates are provided that slip inside the frame rails, giving an anchor plate for the 1/2-inch bolts to secure the bumper. Before we had the bumper bolts completely tight, we made sure the gaps were all the same between the body and the bumper on both sides.

Before we had the bumper bolts completely tight, we made sure the gaps were all the same between the body and the bumper on both sides.

The tire gate integrates into the contours of the bumper and uses a single main pin with a cam adjustment to pivot on. We greased the hole, the bushings, and the main pin before installing the pin.

We used a screwdriver and a crowbar (with rags covering the ends) as wedges to align the tire gate in the Atlas bumper so we could drop the main pin in.

A 3/8-inch ratchet end is used for the cam adjustment of the main pin. While it’s a low tolerance fitment of “just right,” it’s rather easy to figure out where to set it simply by closing and opening the tire gate latch a few times. When the cammed pin is in proper adjustment, the latch on the driver side should be firm but still open easily to swing out the tire gate.

With the tire gate on, South Bay Truck added the spare-tire bracket. The tire bracket is fully adjustable to fit an assortment of wheels with different backspacing and tires up to 40 inches in diameter. There are also holes to reinstall the stock third brake light on the tire gate, if you choose to extend the wiring harness yourself (no wiring kit is included).

While this spare tire bracket is fully adjustable, it doesn’t have quite enough adjustment to fit the stock JK wheel’s backspacing. That being said, almost all lifted Jeeps run a wheel with less backspacing to clear suspension components. You can, however, run stock wheels with lifted JKs by using wheel spacer, which is what this owner did. He used another spacer to fit the stock spare wheel onto the Atlas tire gate.

While we did have our tire gate’s main pin already aligned and tightened, we waited to put in the safety screw until the spare tire was installed and we were sure that the extra weight wasn’t going to require readjustment of the tire gate. Once we were satisfied, we installed the allen safety screw that keeps the cam adjustment from turning.

The Atlas bumper, when completed, holds the spare tire, two fuel cans, two D-rings, and a farmer’s jack (or trail jack) on the top tube of the tire gate. A tow hitch is incorporated into the bumper as well, and there are holes on both sides of the tire gate to add light tabs and back-up lights to.

Smittybilt includes a billet cam cap to give a nice cover to the main pin. The cap keeps out dust and grime and prohibits anything from accessing the main pin.

We have to hand it to Smittybilt: Incorporating enough room to hold two steel jerry cans (sold separately) while keeping the spare tire close and tight to the Wrangler’s tailgate is a great idea.

We have to hand it to Smittybilt. Incorporating enough room to hold two steel jerry cans (sold separately) while keeping the spare tire close and tight to the Wrangler’s tailgate is a great idea. Straps are included to hold down the spare fuel cans inside the tire gate of the Atlas bumper.

The Atlas bumper’s latch mechanism locks securely when closed and has kept the rattles to a minimum so far.

Honestly, this is one of our more favorite products to come out of the Smittybilt headquarters since Transamerica took it over. The Atlas JK Wrangler rear bumper installed easily, has a nice design to it, and stealthily carries spare fuel. The swing-out tire carrier has a nice, large pivot and an easy-to-use latch mechanism. But to build such a nice bumper and then cover it with that typical black-crinkle powdercoat?! It’s like ordering an $80 steak and then throwing A.1. Sauce on top of it.

Long-Term Use
It’s been about eight months since we originally installed this Atlas rear bumper onto the back of a Wrangler that gets used for daily driving and light-to-moderate wheeling. While we still don’t like the bumper’s finish, it hasn’t faded and still looks new. We thought that the tight tolerance latch would jam, but it hasn’t. We haven’t had to readjust the main pin, and we’ve heard no squeaks from the tire carrier setup. We did find that we had to retighten the fuel can straps a few times after bumping around, but that’s no big deal since we should probably be dumping our spare fuel into the Wrangler and refilling the cans occasionally so the fuel doesn’t go bad.