Get Carried Away With ARB: TJ Rear Bumper & Tire Carrier
The term upgrade gets used plenty when it comes to building a Jeep Wrangler. This isn’t to say that the Wrangler is a bad starting base, but rather, when you push the Jeep’s components past its factory thresholds, the need to improve upon those stock parts becomes apparent. Our friend's 2003 Jeep Wrangler TJ is a great example of a build-in-progress. Equipped with 33x12.50R15 Nitto Trail Grapplers, the TJ works well exploring the Southeast trails it likes to frequent.
Given the Jeep is always driven, not towed, to its ‘wheeling destinations, a full-size spare tire is always carried along. Not willing to sacrifice what little cargo area the Jeep has, the meaty mud-terrain radial has been living on the stock tire carrier. This has led to a tremendous amount of clunking and tailgate fatigue often associated with oversized tires on the stock tire carrier. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of spare tire carriers and bumper options on the market from the ’97-’06 Wrangler.
Picking the right one for your TJ often comes down to necessity, style, and of course, budget. Our friend is a big fan of overland and outback styling, and has had great luck with the ARB product line. As such, he opted for ARB’s rear bumper and tire carrier system.
While our video showcases the at-home install, we’re breaking down some of the features on the bumper/carrier system that helps it standout from others in the pack.
The Australian-made rear bumper comes shipped with semi-gloss powdercoat to protect the steel finish. It’s designed as a one-piece bumper, and built with an integrated 2-inch receiver and D-ring recovery mounts. The two open windows located near the corners of the bumper are Hi-Lift Jack lift points, which allow you to safely jack the Jeep from the bumper.
While the bumper is entirely bolt-on, there is a fair amount of drilling to be done. In all, 12 bolts secure the bumper to the Jeep. This may add a little time to your install, but it makes for an incredibly sturdy bumper.
For those looking to upgrade a little at a time, you can actually run the bumper without the tire carrier option. Since we were moving forward with the carrier, we knocked out the pre-cut holes at the top of the bumper and attached the carrier post.
ARB designed its latest TJ bumper as a single-action carrier. This means you can use your stock TJ tailgate handle to open and close the carrier. For this setup to work, you’ll first attach the base plate to the tailgate of the Jeep using the existing holes and hardware.
Since the carrier and tailgate pivot at two different points, an adjustable turnbuckle is used to allow both to cycle at the same time. You’ll keep everything loose initially, as the final adjustment comes after the tire is installed.
Once you shut the carrier, it rests in a c-channel support. Adjusting the turnbuckle provides tension, which prevents the carrier from rattling or moving about.
The tire mount itself is adjustable to accommodate a range of wheel offsets and tires. After you test fit your tire and wheel combo, you will mark the top and drill out the last upper hole to secure the mount in place.
The 33x12.50R15 Nitto Trail Grappler and 15-inch Fuel Anza wheel combo is on the small end when you consider the carrier is designed to accept up to a 37-inch tall tire. Note: ARB did send provisions to accommodate the stock third brake light; our friend simply opted not to use it.
ARB’s single-action tire carrier is a seamless transition in that you don’t any additional latches or levers to deal with to open your tailgate. For this reason alone, it makes it an attractive option for many.
You may recognize this Jeep from our lift install a while back. We noticed a bit of clunking from the stock tire carrier then, and it only got worse. We found the ARB setup extremely solid. Even hitting some of the rougher dirt roads at speeds, there wasn’t any noticeable cluck or rattle. We’ll have more insight on this as the Jeep build progress, but for now, we say this is one upgrade that was well warranted.