SPARE WHEEL LOCATION
The location of spare wheels carried by 4WD vehicles varies and each position has its advantages and disadvantages.
Inside the vehicle
A spare wheel carried inside the vehicle means that you may have to unpack your luggage to get to it. It takes up valuable load space that could be used for more delicate articles. Because it is heavy, it is important that it is well secured.
Under the rear overhang
A spare wheel hanging behind the rear wheels in many cases reduces ground clearance, sometimes seriously (e.g. Toyota Land Cruiser SW). In this position, it is vulnerable to damage, sticks can puncture it, and should the vehicle bog down, the spare wheel can make things worse. A spare wheel makes an excellent base for a jack and even a good anchor if it is buried, but can become inaccessible when mounted here. In addition, if it is stolen or falls off, it is unlikely that anyone will notice until it’s too late.
On a roof-rack
While only light bulky objects should be carried on the roof, a spare wheel carried here is ideal because it is easily accessible, can be secured well forward to aid weight distribution, and the bowl of the wheel rim can be used for sitting in when game viewing and is the ideal location to carry a three-legged pot. Keep in mind the average steel rim and tire will weigh in excess of 35 kgs, so it may take two people to lift it on and off the roof-rack.
On the rear door and purpose-built spare wheel carriers
A spare wheel carried on the rear door is without doubt convenient but negatively affects weight distribution and on some vehicles not originally designed to have it there, has odd effects on handling. Some door mountings are not strong enough to take the constant vibrations in rough country and eventually break. The Land Rover Defender’s rear door is notorious for cracking and so a purpose-built spare wheel carrier must be fitted. If the wheel is attached directly to the door, the hinges and clamps should be periodically tightened and the door jam set so that there is no free play.
Purpose-built wheel carriers are available for a range of vehicles. Being separate from the rear door they can also be a useful place to carry other equipment such as a spade, jack and even a cooking grid.
On the bonnet
Looks really cool on a Defender, but putting a spare on the bonnet isn’t very practical and is only really possible with the Defender. Problems can arise when the bonnet release knob is pulled from inside the vehicle as the bonnet often does not release due to the added weight. It can therefore be difficult for a single person to open the bonnet. Forward vision is also restricted and safety in a head-on collision is seriously compromised. Removing the wheel and replacing it requires some physical strength and will scratch the bonnet’s paintwork. The only advantage of this position I can think of is that it offers excellent weight distribution.