After introducing their JK rear bumper and tire carrier, the engineers at Metalcloak turned their attention to the TJ Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited (LJ in popular vernacular). They wanted a clean bumper and tire carrier that could carry the spare low if wanted for low center of gravity (LCG) Jeeps and carry extra gas, a Power Tank, Hi-Lift jack, etc., rattle-free. The result is their TJ/LJ Rear Bumper and Tire Carrier.
The TJ’s gas tank is in back, in harm’s way, and is protected by a wimpy stamped skid from the factory that easily caves in when the Jeep drops down on rocks when four-wheeling. Aftermarket skids work well protecting the tank but are heavy. Metalcloak came up with a simple and strong solution to this issue – a gas tank skid that incorporates lightweight aluminum and the strength of steel where it’s needed.
We admire the out of the box innovative thinking that Metalcloak is famous for, so when building Sahara, our 1999 Jeep TJ Wrangler Sahara project, we chose their TJ/LJ Rear Bumper/Tire Carrier and Gas Tank Skid.
To see how easy (or hard) it would be to install these parts, I tackled this installation myself in the garage. The gas tank should be first, but if you look closely at the photos you’ll see I installed the bumper first, then dropped it to install the gas tank skid as the skid arrived after the bumper did.
After running the gas out of the TJ and fooling with the gas lines and electrical disconnection (why does every Jeep electrical plug have a different locking mechanism?), the tank with its OEM skid was lowered out of the Jeep. As the plastic tank was almost empty, it was light and transferred easily to the Metalcloak aluminum and steel gas tank skid that was assembled in about five minutes. With the help of my cheap Harbor Freight lift table, I was able to jockey the tank back into place and install it using the OEM hardware and mounting points. The gas lines and electrical were reconnected, a little gas was put in the tank, and the TJ started right up.
With the tank in place, the rear bumper and tire carrier can be installed. The 62” bumper itself is a one piece design and is easy to install, especially as holes lined up well and Metalcloak’s hardware is top quality as are their detailed instructions. Once again, the Harbor Freight lift table was a great help when performing this work alone. Having a friend give you a hand would work just as well. The tire carrier plate is adjustable for height and depth to address tire height/size and wheel backspacing. The whole bumper and tire carrier installation took about 45 minutes to complete. When first tested, the carrier rattled, even with a wimpy 33” tire on the carrier. This is supposed to carry up to a 40” tire and it’s rattling with a 33? It turned out the latch hadn’t engaged completely. A shot of Super Lube dry lubricant on the latching mechanism allowed the latch to close completely and easily. Once latched, no more rattle. We suggest lubricating the latch mechanism after installing the carrier. Next, we installed the Metalcloak Third Brake Light kit and Universal Accessory Mount so we could mount our Daystar CamCan.
The MetalCloak Ditomic (aluminum and steel) Gas Tank Skid Plate weighs only 48 pounds, making it the perfect combination of ultimate strength and weight savings. By using steel where it is needed and putting aircraft grade aluminum where it can save the most weight, MetalCloak created a unique gas tank skid plate that provides critical strength and ultimate weight savings. The gas tank skid kit includes a steel skid plate with OEM-style fuel pump assembly relief, aluminum shielding, and all hardware to install.
MetalCloak’s bumper alone looks great on the TJ and tucks up nicely while still protecting the vulnerable lower rear quarter panels. The bumper’s swing away carrier fits up to a 40″ tire (but is recommended for up to 37″) and has a built-in deflection plate that also acts as the lower support for the tire, preventing the back and forth bend that puts extra stress on the carrier.
The swing away carrier is mounted to the bumper via dual steel plates and a high carbon steel shaft that works with two tapered needle roller bearings for smooth and shake-free operation. The locking mechanism is secure and noiseless and the carrier includes a pin on the passenger side that locks it open and keeps it from flopping further open or shut when on a sidehill, etc. The wheel mount bracket is fully adjustable for height and backspacing.
Whether installing on MetalCloak’s tire carrier or (almost) anyone else’s carrier, the MetalCloak Billet Aluminum 3rd Brake Light Pod is a simple, effective solution to replace the factory third brake light when adding a larger spare tire. The kit comes with everything needed for a quick and easy installation. The LED assembly mounts into the existing hole found on all MetalCloak tire carriers (and can be drilled into any others). The waterproof LED light is seen through the center cap location of the wheel. The light is bright and looks clean, too.
MetalCloak’s Universal Accessory Mount bolts to the tire carrier and is designed to mount Can-Cams, Roto-Pax cans, jerry cans, or Powertanks. Seen here is Daystar’s Cam Can Complete Kit that includes a two-gallon Cam Can (I chose tan) and includes the Jeep Spare Tire Mount. As the spare mount would cover the third brake light, I used the mounting plate on the Universal Accessory Mount that’s pre-drilled for the Cam Can plate (it’s also drilled for the Roto-Pax mount, Power Tank bracket, etc). The rack and Cam Can look clean and are rattle-free. I have another two-gallon Cam Can that locks onto the first for four gallons of capacity when needed.
Phil Howell Contributing Editor
As past Editor-n-Chief of 4Wheel Drive & Sport Utility and Off-Road Magazines, and co-host of the Outdoor Channel's Four Wheeler TV, Phil's been participating and bringing four-wheeling action to the world for over half a century.