When the GM engineers looked at spare tire locations for the 2-door Chevy Blazer, its short wheelbase made for a difficult design compromise. The underside of the vehicle has no room for a full-sized tire. So they offered two solutions:



Neither option is ideal. Cargo space gets eaten up with the inside mount, and the outside mount requires the spare tire carrier to be swung out whenever you want to open the tailgate. On stock ZR2 Blazers like mine, you can"t even open the rear glass without swing open the carrier, because the tire is in the way. Plus, it blocks the rear view. Another common issue with the outside spare is the carriers occasionally come unlatched, which usually results in the carrier swinging open all the way while you"re driving down the road.I addressed these issues with help from the ZR2USA website, first by lowering the spare tire mount and then by adding a secondary latch. The square metal plate in the photo below is the lowering kit. It"s just a metal plate mounted to the carrier, with studs positioned a couple inches lower. Washers are used to space the tire further back, which helps provide enough gap from the rear glass that it can be opened without having to swing out the carrier.

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Secondary LatchFrom left to right: 1) Carrier open; 2) Carrier closed; 3) Latch unhooked by squeezing the latch handle; 4) Carrier tries to open; secondary latch engages.

The main weakness of the outside-mounted spare tire is the weight of the wheel and tire on the carrier. If I had to guess, between the wheel, tire and carrier, there"s at least 100 pounds mounted to the rear quarter panel. When the carrier is swung all the way out, the hinge and brackets are supporting a pretty large load.A couple things can cause problems here. First, if the carrier breaks free from the latch while the vehicle is in motion, odds are it"s going to swing open rapidly, all the way to the stops. The force of this can actually dent the quarter panel. If you do a lot of off-roading, all the bounding and jostling may even cause the body panels to crack.

The pictures above are probably extreme examples of how the carrier brackets can damage the body. I"m not sure what conditions this Blazer was driven in, but I would guess there was some off-roading involved. There"s really no good way patch-fix this. Most carriers that end up this way probably aren"t carrying a spare tire anymore.On the left is a more common example of what happens when the carrier swings out all the way to the stops. We"ll see below why the body panels can dent so easily when this happens. There just isn"t much support behind those panels.I"ve seen plenty of Blazers without the tire on the carrier, probably because of some of these issues. When Blazer owners give up on the carrier, most spare tires end up taking up room in the cargo area. Others end up on the roof rack. Neither method is ideal, although that roof rack looks pretty cool.....

On my Blazer, the carrier started rattling and thumping pretty severely. Before I figured out what the noise was, I thought something might explode back in the rear passenger side quarter panel area. When the noise disappeared with the spare tire removed, I knew it must be the carrier mounting brackets. The mounting bolts were snug but not super tight, so I torqued them down a bit. That only made the problem worse.After a long period of Internet research, using forums like s10forum.com, zr2USA.com and blazerforum.com, I couldn"t find much help. Nobody had any photos of what the carrier mounting brackets connected to on the other side of the body panel. The best I could find was a diagram (click on diagram for larger view):

Some of my Internet research pointed to the hinge pins and bushings as potential noise makers, but my hinges had very little play. The inside brackets (#6 and #7 in the diagram) had to be the problem.When I took apart the inside body panels and exposed the inner part of the rear quarter panel, I saw only this:

The inside bracket was sandwiched between the inner and outer body walls. I could just barely make out the bolts poking through the rear-facing part of the bracket, but not good enough to tell anything about what was going on in there.

You can see that the bolt threads into what is basically a nut welded onto the inside bracket. The reason I chose to expose this particular bolt was because that nut thing was pushed in slightly. With the carrier removed and the M10x1.50 bolt threaded about a third of the way into the nut, the bolt would move just a little as I jerked on it. The other bolts did not give very much when threaded into the other 5 holes (the brackets appear to be tack welded to the outer body).When I exposed the bracket, the lower left corner had a small gap between the bracket and the outer body wall. Not much - probably about 1/16" of an inch. On a hunch, I shoved a nylon washer into the gap, put some electrical tape around the bracket to make sure the washer stayed put, and then gave it a test drive.

Outside bolt holes. The one of the right had been pushed in just a bit. This can be fairly common, especially when the carrier opens all the way to its stops. There"s a lot of weight pushing against the body and the brackets. For as much weight as there is on these brackets, I was surprised how not beefy this is.

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Like magic, the noise went away. Apparently the flexing of the body wall against the inner bracket was enough to cause some rattling and thumping. At some point I will spot weld the bracket for a more permanent solution.

To improve my view, I drilled a small hole to locate the upper bracket (#6) and then made it bigger with a 1.75" bi-metal hole saw. With a larger opening, I could see the front-most bolt sticking through the opening. It looked like this:

The secondary latch is visible on the left side of the latch plate. It"s an ingenious little device plumbed into the stock latch mechanism. If the stock latch somehow releases (or wasn"t closed properly), the secondary latch catches and prevents the carrier from swinging open.Unfortunately, neither of these products are available anymore, although the lowering kit would be pretty easy to make with plate steel, studs, a drill press and a welder.