Vanagon – stock tire carrier replacement idea

I should have spent the time finishing the rear bumper build but over the last two days I grabbed a couple of hours alone in the shop and tried out an idea.
When I do get the rear tire carrier built, and I am almost there, I will be moving the spare from the front to the back. I guess I didn’t need to tell you that. The free space up front, what to use it for? Well I have that big assed AGM battery that I’m struggling to find a spot for. Why not put it up front? There are arguments pro and con for this idea, but I decided to have a go, at least a start.

There were three kinds of stock spare tire carriers. The tray type, in two sizes, and a cage type that you don’t see that often here in North America. Here’s a pic.


I like that carrier and i like Tigerbus’s take on it.

I can’t make anything as nice as that, but here goes with my attempt.

I’m using aluminum scraps again. Schedule 40 1 1/4″ 6061 pipe (OD about 1.66″, wall thickness 0.140″), some Shmoo shaped 1/2″ 6061 plate that were left overs from a water jet cut, a bit of 3/8″ plate that was cut out of a boat hull, and some 1″ x 2″ box section 6061.

The Shmoos were welded onto the ends of the pipe, attachment points to match up with the hinges on the van spore tire tray.


And at the other end the pipes notched and welded to the box section at a bit of an angle so it fits up against the back of the bumper where the stock tire tray bolts up.


Trial fitting.


More or less fits.


The rather skanky bit of hull.


Yeah, the other side is painted. That made welding a bit of a chore.


Tacked in place.


I did a full weld-out on the unpainted side. I welded it hard and fast so that the paint didn’t fume too much. I should have used the wire feed welder instead of TIG.



Now at the front, I will be adding more stuff there, coming up in front of the bumper similar to the Tigerbus version. Im also going to add some side pieces that will angle up to meet the frame rails on the van. These bits will add side protection and will be additional points of attachment to the van. I do worry about the thing falling off with that big battery.



  1. #1 by edbee on May 10, 2014 - 9:59 am

    Hi Alistair,
    Nice work as usual. It definitely looks skookum but one thing I would wonder about for anything replacing a spare tire under there is its ability to absorb an impact in the event of a serious front end collision. I recall reading that the spare tire itself in the stock position is part of the engineering to protect the front driver/passenger area. (and seeing a YouTube video showing that)

    One of my friends some years ago (before I read about spare tire’s use mentioned above) converted his syncro westy to diesel running on waste veg oil and he installed the WVO tank in the front spare position (kept the stock tank for regular diesel for starting and stopping the engine). In retrospect, that seems like maybe not the best place to put a fuel tank, especially one made out of the bottom of a 45 gallon drum as he used.

    Looking forward to seeing the rear bumper project completed (and maybe seeing it in person one day 🙂 )

    Best wishes!

    • #2 by albell on May 10, 2014 - 10:48 am


      yeah the role the spare plays in collisions is a good debating point. It must have some role but then one wonders how much? I don’t recall any warnings in owner’s manual saying spare tire must be in place and inflated. And another thing, VW did make a rear tire carrier for the van, so was that for an extra spare or to move the existing spare back?

      I’m going to say that my skid plate and battery combo will make a fair substitute.

      Im looking forward to having my bumpier finished too! I did weld up the trailer hitch portion – the steel substructure to the aluminum bumper. I have longer inserts in the frame rail for the 3 bolt attachment and I have been making up in quantity what my stick welding lacks in quality.



  2. #3 by genevasaintamour on May 10, 2014 - 4:56 pm

    Would you make one of those as a custom order? Or sell us your prototype with flaws and then make another that you keep?

    Sent from my electronic leash!
    Geneva Saint-Amour


    • #4 by albell on May 10, 2014 - 6:00 pm

      if it all works out and you like what you see I will send you plans. I don’t know about building one for sale, but hey, maybe.

      I have some interesting thoughts about the front of the skid plate, stay tuned, I think you will like it.



  3. #5 by famillysyncro on May 11, 2014 - 7:44 am

    Looks nice Alistair, good job.
    I might steal your idea for it as I still need to make one (need to be strong as I don’t have a spare…) but it might take some time…..


    • #6 by albell on May 12, 2014 - 6:55 am


      Steal away! I a going to have the skid plate extend forward and bend up infront of the bumper. I might even have a waterjet cut logo up front.



  4. #7 by Jarrett Kupcinski on May 13, 2014 - 1:08 pm

    Great idea, I love the use of the space. One word of caution, regarding heat: because of the coolant lines, the area around the spare tire can become quite warm. I once exploded an aerosol can of tire goo I had stored in the wheel well on a hot day of uphill driving. If keeping the battery cool is paramount, you might need a heat shield for the coolant lines. Looks nice so far, though.

    • #8 by albell on May 13, 2014 - 7:14 pm

      Hi Jarrett,

      Man, if it isn’t one thing it’s another. I forgot about heat. Yeah I think it would be smart to put in some sort of shield or insulation.

      Sometimes it seems I can’t do anything without it turning into an ordeal 🙂




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