How to install a bike rack to your vehicle

When installing a bike rack, it’s important to get it right, having a bike rack not installed properly can cause damage to your bike and car. Depending on the mounting method will depend on how the rack is installed. 

Here I talk you through the different installation methods so you understand which one you are doing and can make sure it’s done right. There are 6 main ways to stall a bike rack they are

Hitch mounted bike rack

This is the most common type of bike rack and hence why I’ll explain the installation process first. Hitch mounted bike racks require a tow hitch to mount to the vehicle. The racks are the strongest type of bike rack on the market as the bike rack connects directly to the chassis of the vehicle, reducing any wobbling of the rack and bikes. 

To install a hitch-mounted bike rack, first ensure your hitch receiver is compatible with the hitch, if not there are adaptors available. The hitch of the bike rack connects to the hitch receiver as pictured below. Then simply line up the bolt so that it can slide the whole way through, locking the bike rack in place. 

This should be a snug fit and the amount of play left in the rack should be minimal. If the rack has a lot of movement, the hitch has a nut that can be tightened to reduce the level of free play, securing the bike rack firmly. The two images below depict this well.

Roof mounted bike racks

Roof-mounted bike racks are another rack that the installation process is important. These racks are not all generic like the hitch-mounted rack, so the installation process can vary a bit from rack to rack. The most common design is the rack bolts directly onto the vehicle’s crossbars and is for most of the time permanently installed on the vehicle. Other variations mainly come from the method that the rack is connected to the crossbars, this can also be done with U bolts. Roof-mounted bike racks are a more permanent addition to your vehicle. Generally, the low-profile design makes them unnoticeable and a clean addition.

Trunk mounted bike racks

These bike racks I still find fascinating today. Trunk mounted bike racks are for vehicles without tow hitch capabilities. The rack mounts directly on the trunk of the vehicle, using a variety of tension straps to hold the rack firmly to the trunk of the car. The installation process for this can be a little confusing when installing one for the first time. 

As these racks and how they are installed vary depending on where the manufacturer puts the tension straps and lateral stability I’ll give a broad overall of how these racks are generally installed. These racks depending on the design will have somewhere between 3-6 straps that hold the rack firmly on the back of the car. 

The straps have little hooks that hold onto the car between the boot and the side panels. This small craves is enough room to get a firm grip on the car and when tightened offers plenty of stability. These racks however do have weight restrictions.

Tailgate mounted bike racks

Tray-mounted bike racks are only for pickup trucks, The “rack” which is more of a blanket does over the tailgate and the bikes secure to that. These types of bike racks are simple to install. 

It simply requires tying the bike mat down to the bed of the tailgate. Below are a few images of what these types of racks are and where the tie-down ropes are secured to.

Ball mounted bike rack

Ball mounted bike racks are similar to hitch mounted racks however you leave the tow ball connected and mount the bike rack over the tow ball. When I was younger our family used to own a Thule ball mounted rack that would lock over the top of the tow ball. 

The locking mechanism also was what secured it firmly to the ball, clamping around it ensuring that the rack is on tight. The photos below depict this clearly.

Suction cups

These bike racks are quite new and not something I have ever seen used in person. I have seen them on TV in sporting events. This design uses two suction cups on the back of the vehicle, on the back window and the boot of the car. 

These industrial designed suction cups hold the bike rack by its frame. I have attached some images below to explain what I’m talking about as the concept is so new I don’t have all the details about how durable they are and at what speeds and weight they are limited to. 

I added this to the list as it’s a new and upcoming concept and something that might end up being mainstream


There you have the top ways to install bike racks onto your car for each of the different methods. If you find any other new ways that evolve, feel free to let me know. Also, if you have any questions regarding instillation of a rack you have recently purchased let me know and I can provide some assistance.

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