Grand Cherokee Roof Rack Tire Carrier.
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Free up some interior room by making this simple tire carrier. Short Cuts
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By: Randy Halvorsen - 3/2000

ZJ Roof Rack Tire Carrier

After several months of using my ZJ for camping with my family, I knew that I was sorely lacking storage space inside the Grand Cherokee.  I looked at several commercially available tire carriers.  The common solution these vendors used was to mount the spare tire onto the rear of the vehicle.  I did not like this because in the course of my work, I need to access the rear hatch of the ZJ on a regular basis.  I did some research on the net and found some home-made roof-rack tire carriers which I believed would solve my dilemma.  

This tire carrier lets everyone know that this isn't a mall runner.

The design that I liked the best was made by Gary McDuffie.  He made an 'H' out of some steel and bolted it to his roof rack.  It was simple, and strong.  I have modified his design and dimensions a little, to suit my own purposes.

Making the carrier

I wanted to keep the spare tire as close to the roof as possible.  To do this, I moved the existing roof rack rails far enough apart so that the tire would just fall down between them.  I am running 30" tires, thus I moved my rails about 31" apart.   I measured the distance from the leading edge of the front rail to the trailing edge of the rear.  I used this measurement as the length for my two parallel rails, which would run front-to-back.  For these two rails I used 1" steel tubing.  

1" tubing and 2" channel iron before assembly.

For the cross piece, which separates the tubing, I used a piece of 2" channel iron cut to a length so that the tire sidewall would rest on the 1" tubing.  With these three pieces cut, I placed them on the floor to see how they would look with my tire on them.

Originally, I bolted the tubing to the channel iron, but the sidewall of the tire rested directly on the head of the bolt.  I thought that over time this might damage the sidewall of the tire, so I cut a little off of each end of the channel iron and used a friend's welder to fasten the 'H' together.  I faced the channel 'down', so that the flat backside would be against the tire and wheel.

To hold the tire to the frame, I used a 1/2" bolt that was long enough to go through the channel iron, up through the center of the spare wheel and then through the half-moon which is part of the original factory spare mount.  I then drilled a hole through the center of the channel iron, and welded the head of the bolt to the channel.  

Tire carrier installed

Next, I put the new carrier up on top of my Grand Cherokee and marked the holes for fastening it to the roof rack.  I drilled the holes through the 1" tubing and through the center of each roof rack rail.  Then, placing the carrier underneath the roof rack, I fastened the two together.

Then it was merely a matter of carefully hoisting the spare tire up onto the roof and lowering it down onto the carrier.  Using the half-moon from the original mount, I brought it all together with a 1/2" wing nut.


The roof rack tire carrier works very well. I have not had a flat tire since installing the carrier, but I have removed the spare once, and it was not a problem.  I merely stood on the back tire, and lifted the spare up over the vertical mounting bolt.  I then balanced the tire on the edge of the roof while I stepped down off the back tire.

The room that is now available inside the Jeep is most appreciated. I can now get two coolers, tents and sleeping bags in there without obstructing my rearward vision through the back window.  Another benefit of performing this modification to your ZJ, is that I get a lot more second-looks from other motorists as I drive around.  It definitely helps to set my Jeep apart from all the mall runners that are out there.


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  • If you have any questions or comments, there is a discussion area in our ZJ/WJ forum.

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