The Spare Tire Location Controversy
We all know a spare tire is an essential item to have on your rig especially when off-roading where a tow truck is simply not an option. I have experimented over the last few years with the best possible placement of my spare tire and wanted to share some things I've learned along the way. There are 4 basic groups out there that promote their way of thinking on spare tire locations and use.
1. Spare tire in the conventional location on your tail gate tire carrier - numerous styles of carriers are on the market all marketing their benefits.
2. Spare tire inside the cab - numerous mounting systems exist.
3. Spare tire on the roof - commonly seen on Cherokee's or over landing rigs. Various roof racks styles are on the market that allow for mounting.
4. No spare tire at all - Use a buddies spare, get a lift back to camp or field repair your flat on the trail - requires proper education on tire patching and equipment to do so. Advanced users.
There is no "one size fits all" answer to the spare tire location question as everything depends on how you use your rig. This post is to share some pros and cons I have realized regarding spare tire locations in case you are wondering if relocating is right for you. These are my opinions and ultimately what you do is up to you based on what you think is best for YOU. Each will have to decide for themselves.
The largest thing to consider is how you wheel & the size of your tire.
If you use your rig as a daily driver, light to medium wheeling or enjoy over landing adventures keeping your spare tire in the conventional location is probably something you want to consider. 90% of all Jeeps can't be wrong?! Maybe or maybe not. The more you get into wheel'n higher level trails / advanced off-roading and increasing the degree of difficulty on obstacles; the more you may want to consider relocating that spare tire of a brick hanging on your rear end especially if you are running larger tire sizes. I say this as the location can start to negatively affect risk to your vehicle / safety. Some may disagree with me and that is ok as again there are pros and cons to everything. Below you will see a photo of my rig up at Tigerton last summer when I had my 37" spare tire in the conventional location. It dug into the ground when I was climbing the obstacle risking damage. The greater the vertical obstacle the greater the risk that counterweight will act as an anchor impeding your climb. More challenging however is descending rock steps or logs. Your spare tire could catch on an obstacles as you drop off ledges causing significant vehicle damage. In visiting Windrock last summer and Southern Missouri Off Road Ranch I relocated my spare to inside the cab - wow what a difference it made. I immediately noticed an improvement in my center of gravity and stability. When I moved the 130 lb tire behind the drivers seat my rear end lifted close to 1" as the weight shifted. I however completely lost all inside storage outside of a toolbox and basic recovery gear. That is ok for me as I trailer my rig so storage is not a great concern. If I were into overlanding I would NOT have relocated as the cab storage is simply not something I would sacrifice. End of the day, if you wheel vertical obstacles it is all about ground clearance and rig center of gravity (the lower the better). It is all about physics. The more aggressive you get in wheel'n vertical surfaces the more you want to relocate and or get rid of that spare. Ever see a rock bouncer with a spare hanging on its back end - nope.
It is my opinion I would never mount a spare tire to my roof. It increases your vehicles center of gravity significantly which increases the risk of rollovers whether you are driving down the road or off-road. If you still do so make sure to cover it (reflective material best) as the sun will bake it reducing is longevity.
In conclusion: Everyone must evaluate how you use your rig. There is no best way to do things. EVERYTHING totally depends on how you use your rig. For me - relocating was a great move.
Spare Tire Conventional
Pros: Maximize storage - Every inch inside the vehicle is precious. Is easiest access for getting to it & has that classic look. Jeep usage: over-landing, daily driver and basic trail riding / Jeep'n.
Cons: Vertical clearance can be problematic when climbing / descending vertical obstacles either damaging the tire / tailgate or prohibiting your forward progress. Adds tail weight, adds rear end sag and acts like anchor weight increasing risk of going "end over end" on extreme vertical climbs.
Spare Tire Inside Cab
Pros: Improves center of gravity, reduces risk of vehicle damage when climbing, improves departure angle, maximizes rear lift.
Cons: Takes up cab storage space, more work to access if needed.
Now in the case of having a Jeep like my YJ-5 there arent many options. Either leave it off or locate it on the rear. No room inside to fit a 37" tire, no way to mount it on the roof of a soft top vehicle and even if there were I would not want to raise the center of gravity or deal with low clearance obstacle issues. What I have done is build a stout tire carrier that raised the tire well above my bumper level. I can back into trees etc because it isnt going to move and will stop the Jeep before I damage anything. Down side to this is there is now a 37" tire blocking my rear vision, fortunately I either have spotters or it doesnt matter if I hit anything.
Spare tires I would like to note ARE required at some events or parks. So in my opinion going without is just not an option. Nor is it a very good option to rely on others for an important item such as a spare tire, How would you feel if you had a friends spare on your vehicle and they popped a tire and now needed one? Your friend was prepared and now might be stranded because you were not. I like to try to never have to rely on others for tools or parts. these should be essential items in your rig. Yes there will e times something get lost or borrowed but pre-trip planning should always include checking your tools and recovery gear too.