Spare tire carrier -- accessory & aftermarket

Capt. Mike

Transferred & consolidated from archives. This post refers to the accessory for mounting spare tires to the front of Type II's.

Doug Terrell 9/2/99 (11:38 PM)

Hello friends,

Here's an obvious reminder, check the condition of the mounting bracket that holds the spare tire on the front. These things are only held on by 4 or 6 sheet metal screws fastened into the flimsy sheet metal. My spare flew off the other day while doing 60 down the interstate, thank God it didn't go through someones windshield or even hit a car for that matter. I never would have believed how fast a tire could roll by itself . . . I got it back though, its sitting in the back of my bus now. :eek:

Capt. Mike Soehnlein 9/4/99 (8:43 PM)

The original Westy spare tire front mounts were held on with metal rivets, not sheet metal screws.

Elsewhere on archives I've posted a better solution to the sheet metal screws or rivets. Basically, it was to use threaded inserts (most body shops have them, found in the better tool catalogs). They operate very similar to a pop-rivet in application, but leave a machine threaded insert in the sheet metal. You can then put the tire mount on with six machine screws or bolts, lock washers, the whole 9 yards. Best part is that you can then take the entire bracket off when not camping so you're not putting a $100+ tire out there in the weather around town. I used mine only on camping trips when I wanted the extra interior space. You fill the threaded holes with a screw & rubber washer when removed. I even had mine hidden under the original VW plastic logo.

For example, go to my pics link on the home page. Under Westy accessories, you'll find pics of my louvers for the left sliding window. It's held on by allen screws into threaded inserts. Also used on my awning mount on the right side (pic also there).

joel ( 9/5/99 (9:33 AM)

Capt. Mike: I'v got baby in one arm (she's at least feeding the bottle to herself) while typing this with free hand, so please excuse lack of capitilization, etc. I'm installing the spare tire mount and the kit provided only 4 threaded inserts (molly fasteners) w/ 4 small screws. i'm going to the store and try to find 2 more inserts and screws; the mount does have 6 mounting holes afterall. --(70 "beluga" westy)

Capt. Mike Soehnlein 9/13/99 (9:11 PM)

Molly screws are NOT threaded inserts and nowhere near as neat and secure. Go for the threaded inserts. I'd guess a body shop would put them in for you if you don't want to spring for a kit. You can even install them with a bolt & nut, though that's not the easiest way.

Doug 9/9/99 (8:31 PM)


Since I don't plan on removing my spare from the front, since I think it looks cool, I just welded that bad boy in place (the mount, not the wheel). At least it ain't taking field trips down the interstate anymore. Hee Hee.

Capt. Mike --

Most of the spare tire mount kits came with a vinyl/canvas cover for the tire. These would bleed through from contact with the rubber, especially the white ones. You could also get permanent stain on the paint where the tire touched the body.

To prevent paint damage, place a very soft terry cloth wherever the tire touches the body. I used a well-worn towel on my '79. To prevent bleed through of the cover, wrap the tire with aluminum foil. It prevents bleed marks on your cover. Stain was also more likely on tires heavily treated with the preservative. Wash your tire thoroughly before covering.

:rolleyes: I understand the desire to get the tire out of the car for camping, but question the wisdom of leaving it out there. We're talking a $100 tire sitting out in the weather & subject to theft. If you ever tap something, the nose will cave in before it even gets to the bumper. For everyday, move your tire back inside to its regular location. You can make a cute cover for the mount if you don't use a removeable mount. My '73, which did not have the removeable mount, got a nice oak plaque with the VW logo routed into it like you see on wooden name signs.
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Capt. Mike

The Vanagon uses an under-belly pan to carry its spare. OK, I admit it gets it out of the way, but . . .!

First, there are 2 tension bars to hold the tire in place. And there are TWO different sets depending on your tire size. One for the 185R14r and another for the 205/70R14r. There are NOT interchangeable. If you change tire size you'll have to order a set from your dealer. They are easy to change -- couple of pins & clips.

If you are going to the common 195/75R14C tires, you can use the 205/70R14r set of tensioners and sleeve them with some rubber fuel line at the contact points.

The carrier is held in with a 19mm headed bolt. It uses a large washer to accomodate the fairly large hole in the pan; don't substitute -- you could damage that little ear that is all that holds your tire up there.

The plastic 'granade ring' serves only to hold the pan up temporarily while you remove or install the retaining bolt. It is NOT strong enough to hold the tire, even as a safety latch should you lose the bolt. So make sure your bolt is in & secure.

I haven't found an easy or neat way to get the tire in & out, so I carry one of those disposable jump suits to put on should I ever have to change a tire on the road. You may rest assured it will be raining and the only pull-off within 10 miles is also the source of mud for the neighborhood health spa. A light tarp or several issues of USA Today help, too. [Always carry a 1 to 1½ foot square board to support the jack base -- same reason!]

Finally, the inside of the spare does make a good place to store seldom used emergency items like jumper cables or tow strap. I've even seen gas cans meant to fit inside the wheel, but that's not a recommendation. They are expensive and I've never seen them for fit or quality.
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Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

whisky_77 Member posted February 16, 2003 04:54 PM

Is there any negatives to adding an exterior spare tire mount? I am considering adding one. I can see the obvious benefits, I'm just wodering how much it'll raise the chances of bad dents in case of an accident or rust in the area.

brett.baer Junior Member posted February 16, 2003 10:35 PM

I'm gonna have to give you the OK

Assuming the spare is installed correctly, I cannot foresee any of the problems you mention. On the contrary, I think that in a small accident, a securely mounted spare tire would actually provide some degree of extra protection to the body of the vehicle. My first "car" was a '79 transporter, and when I was 16 as I was pulling out of a Wal-Mart parking lot I rear ended the car ahead of me. I was only in the 3-5 mph range, but the spare tire I had mounted of the front acted like a bumper and softened the blow for both vehicles; we all drove away smiling. As for rust, just don’t ding up your van and leave exposed, unprotected metal, and I think you’ll be fine. I don’t know what year your VW is, but I am planning to get my new Syncro a rear mounted swing away spare tire carrier from a guy named Gary Lee that makes custom Vanagon accessories. He does really great work and uses all stainless steel hardware, just to placate your rust anxiety a little more. His price is a little steep for the carrier, around $630, but his product is super high quality and if you have priced the OEM carries like this, his price is peanuts. The complete OEM setup, unless you can find a used one, which is highly unlikely, totals in excess of $3000, which is just ridiculous. Gary’s website address is Tell him that Brett Baer down in Austin, TX told you about him. If you have any earlier van—pre-Vanagon model—you would be looking for a front mounted carrier and I believe you could probably find one easily for minimal cost. I hope my comments can be of assistance to you during your decision making process and good luck.

Brett Baer
’87 GL Syncro Westy (Soon to be TDI)


New member
Fast Forward is now also carries rear tire carriers for Vanagons.

I haven't seen them so I can't provide any feed back. I have seen Gary Lee's work (see post above) and it is excellent.

Modertor Note: Above link is dead; please see comments on Fast Forward in the Parts forum.
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Capt. Mike

Anything that block air flow should be considered. However, the Westies have not had any significant overheating (due to air flow) problems in properly maintainted and operated vehicles, and they have an auxiliary fan, so any effect is probably minimal except extreme desert temps.


Mounting a spare on the front of a vanagon is, in my mind a bad idea. It could be argued that in the days of the splities and the bays, the tire served as a primitive "airbag". The problem is that a gentle tap could/would cave in the front sheet metal. The problem with the water cooled vanagon is that a gentle tap, now doesn't just stove in the sheet metal, but potentialy the radiator, a/c condensor, fans etc. While we could drive away in our old splitties with stove in front ends, it's hard to drive a vanagon with no coolant.

As stated above, fast forward makes a nice rear mount kit. Quite frankly, even with extensive gravel roading I have never needed two spares.


[7/19/06; Moderator note: In the worst of conditions such as extensive travel on the remote N. Canadian gravel roads, you can also carry a tube, giving you a 6th tire. If the tire is damaged such that it won't accept the new internally applied plugs (I'd never use an external plug.), you can still often salvage the tire with a tube. Most of the remote stations are very experienced at flats and repair. Using a tube in a tubeless tire causes no problems, though some tubeless rims may have rough spots in the center, so a rim liner might also be prudent. One can be made from an old tube.]


New member
I have a 1978 Westy that had a ratty old black spare tire cover on it. We decided to replace the cover with a new hand-painted one which my 16-year-old daughter designed and painted. Since we live on Vancouver Island, BC we went with a West Coast/Vancouver island theme. She did a beautiful job using Acrylic paints and a sealant to protect it from cracking/weathering. This is an experiment, because we haven't heard of anyone else doing it. We think it will hold up to the weather.

To see it, go here:

Dave Hampshire

New member
That is impressive! She's quite the artist, and the scenes would do justice on one of the walls in Coombs. (Vancouver Island home of some beautiful murals, for those reading this from afar)

Where did you get the tire cover?

79 Westy