DIY utility platform over spare tire
This is the 2013 Jeep and some upgrades are difficult to find. This model has been out of production for a few years already. When we were looking for a tailgate reinforcement kit, the hinges were readily available, but not the reinforcement to support a heavier load on the tailgate. John from Rock and Road did the impossible. He found the last one of its kind.
The first task was removing the spare tire assembly and hinges. A few pieces of wood wedged under the tailgate kept it in place. After removing the hinges, there was some rust. Nothing of concern, a coat of Tremclad covered it all up nicely. We had very good success with Tremclad in the past.
The Jeep was out of commission for two days. Tremclad takes a long time to dry completely.
Unpack the new hinges and reinforcement. We got the MORryde parts. The finish and quality of the product impressed us when we looked at the catalog. We were not wrong, the product is solid.
The installation process is simple; the new hardware is attached to the existing mounting holes. Adjusting the hinges so the door latch closes smoothly is more demanding.
All cables have to be relocated. Our Garmin rear view camera was in the spare tire. We didn't change the tire size and the break light fits perfectly under the new platform. We had to look for a new place for the CB antenna. That's when we noticed that the cable was actually cut around the door hinges. Hmm, that explains the bad reception.
The first drawing included the generator and air compressor. The portable toilet took the place of the air compressor. We thought that both the generator and toilet were better stored outside the Jeep or trailer.
We identified the following requirements:
Has to carry a generator (17 kg) and a toilet (5 kg).
Attach the CB antenna on the metal platform
Mount the rear view cam on the frame
Mount a working light on the frame
Carry firewood that we find along the way
Attachment for axe and saw
Carry muddy recovery gear after using, such as traction mats, shovel and tow straps
This is the final version and the first time we took the platform out for a spin.
We made changes from the original design. The only part that didn't change was the platform itself.
All metal parts are Hot Rolled Steel 1/8 inch. The frame is made from a 3/4 inch angle. The corners are bent with a blow torch after cutting out a wedge from the bottom part. Now is probably a good time to mention that we used a stick welder. The bottom of the platform inside the frame is from Aluminium Tread Plate. It is a bit pricey, we paid $65 for the plate. The Hot Rolled Steel pieces are not overly expensive. The cost was about $60.
We bought all the steel and aluminium from METAL Supermarkets in Oakville, Ontario. This is not the first time we have worked with them, and it is not the last. Their service is speedy and they are very helpful.
The aluminium platform fits inside the frame with the corners cut to allow water to drain. The bolts are Stainless Steel with Nylon Insert Lock Nuts. We bought them from BOLTS Plus in Oakville, Ontario. Their website is amazing, all the bolts and nuts listed by type, size and material. Most of them are available by piece, no need to buy 50 of them. Or worse, search through the drawers and shelves at the big box hardware store.
The platform frame has two 1 inch bars to attach hooks for straps and locks. The bars strengthen the structure and connect to the legs. We positioned the bars in the exact locations of the mounting straps the legs. The thought is to remove the platform from on the legs for easy storage.
The legs are from 3/4 inch angles and attached with 1/4 inch bolts to the tailgate hinges. The driver side leg is pointing outwards, since the frame does not extend to the full width of the tailgate. Getting this angle right took some tinkering, but it worked out eventually.
The idea is to have the platform as high as possible. The Honda generator has a height of 15 inches and dictates the maximum height of the platform. There is 4 inches between the tire and the platform to see out the rear view window. We didn't move the brake light, it still fits.
Critical design issues
The new hinges changed the way the tailgate swings open. It does not open as wide as before. The platform does obstruct the rear window. Our first design blocked the window from opening all the way, even with the tailgate fully sung open. We mounted the platform further back and the window opened. We have less than an inch between the glass and the metal frame. The next step will be to put a plastic strip on the frame to protect the glass.
The platform is 3 inches from the rear window. The windshield wiper still operates without problems, but any additional wiring may obstruct the wiper. We have cables for the camera, antenna and working lights. They have to be tucked away cleanly.
When we reinforced the legs with a 1 inch bar, we exceeded the space between the door and the mounted tire by maybe 1/4 inch. The spare tire will get a permanent dent, unless we add spacers to the tire mount. As an alternative, we may actually grind the bar down by a quarter of an inch. This is a problem on the driver's side where the leg mounts behind the spare tire.
The tailgate platform has applications beyond a coffe table.
We used steel angles for the legs. The different shapes of steel have different properties. This is not the best choice, they tend to twist under load. That was the reason we had to enforce them after test loading 15 kg. It is very likely that the leges will be rebuilt with a 3/4 inch rectangular tube.
We are using all 1/4-28 bolts. The connection between the legs and hinges will be upgraded to a 5/16 inch bolt. That is the place with the highest force. A 1/4 inch bolt can hold over 200 pounds, but some of the trails are really rough.
Thoughts after two seasons
UPDATE October 2022: Short answer, it performed flawless. We had the generator (17 kg) and the toilet (~5 kg) on the shelf for the trip out west in 2021 and the Labrador & Newfoundland trip in 2022. No issues with the 1/4" bolts or the construction. Unless we have additional requirements on the shelf like attaching the shovel and other lightweight tools, we will likely not make any changes.
|First published on March 11, 2021 |
Last revised on October 15, 2022
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