How to Put a Bike Rack on a Car in Simple and Easy Steps?

Step-by-step guide to installing a bike rack on a car

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Putting or simply installing a mountain bike rack on a car does not require much hassle, but you’ll surely want to get yourself accustomed to the basic steps.

That said, we see three different types of racks on vehicles, i.e., trunk-mounted, roof-mounted, and hitch-mounted.

Let’s straight dig into it.

How to Install Mountain Bike Rack on a Car?

Installing a bike rack on a car has multiple benefits. You can carry your bike anywhere you want and cruise your way on different adventurous trails without any hassle.

While talking about the different bike rack types for cars, the trunk-mounted allows your MTB bike to get hooked with the car’s trunk. Similarly, a roof-mounted rack means the bike gets adjusted on the top of the car via crossbars.

Finally, a hitch bike rack allows your bicycle to get hooked to the hitch trailer of the vehicle.

Although the presence of the tools isn’t much necessary as far as the installation is concerned, you’d still need a wrench and screwdriver just in case you want to tighten the bolts, etc.

Anyways, let’s start with the first installation method followed by others:

Installing a Trunk-Mounted Rack on a Car

install a trunk-mounted bike rack

A trunk-mounted bike rack offers several benefits, including protecting the bike from scratches and other incidents. Similarly, if you want your car to pass through a branchy and bushy area with ease, you may want to opt for a trunk-mounted bike rack.

Many cyclists prefer this type to hold 1 to 2 mountain bikes without any hurdles easily.

However, the only drawback is that trunk-mounted racks could leave scratches on the trunk of your car. But that happens when you are not careful while installing such a rack.

Here is how you can get started with the installation:

Pick the Right Trunk Rack for Your Car

The very first step involves picking the right type of trunk-mounted bike rack.

If you reside in an area where there might be problems with the parking space, you can opt for compact trunk-mounted racks. 

They will not take more space but can adjust only 1 bike. Moreover, compact trunk racks are weaker compared to full-fledged models.

Related: Thule Vs Yakima Bike Racks For 2022

Using Manufacturer’s Websites Help

Well, finding a trunk rack that can fit your car perfectly is not a piece of cake. That’s because not every model will fit the trunk of your car.

The best option to utilize in this very step is to go to the manufacturer’s website and see whether a specific model can fit your vehicle or not.

Order and wait for it to arrive at your home if it does fit the car.

Read the Instruction Manual Carefully

As soon as the package arrives, unbox it and carefully take out all the rack parts. Keep them aside and read the instruction manual that comes with the package.

Do not worry about mounting the rack, as installing trunk bike racks is not a difficult job. After reading the instruction manual, you’ll know how this specific bike rack can fit the back of your car.

Wrap the Straps around the Trunk of Your Car

No matter what model you choose, many trunk-mounted racks come with straps that will wrap around your trunk to let the rack fit snuggly.

Open the trunk of your car, and start wrapping the straps around it according to the instruction manual. You may want to fold the lip over the edge in a way that the bike rack starts adjusting the trunk properly.

After that, slide the trunk rack to adjust it on the pads underneath it. This way, your car will remain safe from any damage.

Tighten the straps around the car’s trunk until the rack stops moving here and there and is properly fitted on the car.

Adjust the Bike on the Trunk-Mounted Rack

A trunk rack usually comes with two bars that make an angle of 15 to 45 degrees. To adjust a bike over there, lift it and adjust its top tube into the two bars.

Wrap the security straps around your bike and make sure that it gets adjusted so that you can drive securely to a place you want without any worries.

We’d recommend that you mount more than two mountain bikes on a trunk bike rack as it might be a bit problematic.

The more weight of the bike will eventually cause the rack to get damaged, and in doing so, it will also impact the trunk of your car.

All in all, check the rack and the bike one last time after finishing the whole task, and you’d be good to go anywhere you want.

Get an idea of how to install racks on cars with trunks in the video below.

Installing a Roof-Mounted Rack on a Car

Another idea of installing a bike rack on a car is to try a roof-mounted option.

However, it will work only if your car has got crossbars. The roof-mounted rack will get adjusted in between the crossbars of your car. You can hook your bike over there with the help of a small ladder, though.

Well, the installation is not much difficult. But a roof-mounted rack won’t be a viable option since your bike will always be exposed to excessive wind and debris.

Not only that, but the rack could even fly off if you fail to adjust it properly between the crossbars.

Roof-mounted bike racks are capable of storing only one bike. You can install multiple racks on the roof of your car if you want to travel with more than one bike.

Anyways, the whole working process goes as under:

roof mounted bike rack

Measure the Distance between Crossbars

First things first, you’d need to measure the distance between the crossbars of your car.

For that purpose, adjust a small ladder near your car and use a measuring tape to measure the crossbars in a crisscross manner.

It will help you determine the type of bike rack you’d want according to the size of the crossbars. Don’t forget to measure the crossbars from end to end to ensure finding you an improved rack model.

Check Manufacturer’s Website to Get the Right Fit

You’d see many roof-mounted bike racks labeled as fitting universally, but that might be just a marketing tactic.

To ensure that the rack will fit between the crossbars, hover on the manufacturer’s website and check the rack’s compatibility with your car.

If it’s compatible, get it and follow the next step:

Related: How Build A Bike Rack From Scatch

Read the Instructions Manual

After ordering the bike rack, please open it and read the instructions manual that comes with it carefully.

Although the majority of the roof-mounted racks will adjust the wheels of the bike through the clip, you’d still need to go through the instructions manual of that specific model.

It will help you get a better idea of how to mount a mountain bike on the roof of your car.

Hooking the Bike Rack on the Roof

The first thing you need to do is assemble the rack. Better assemble it on the ground to avoid any hassle. Use a small step ladder and position it so that you can easily access the roof and crossbars of your car.

Place the rack in a way that its front faces the windshield of your car. Line up the rack on the tracks of the crossbars in an unlocked position.

Start wrapping the front straps to the front crossbar and back straps to the back crossbar.

Tighten any other accessories or clamps of the rack, and you are good to go.

If you don’t know which side of the rack to place in front, go with the side that will clip the front wheel of your MTB bike.

In case the crossbars of your car come with rubber paddings, you will need to cut them down to adjust the roof-mounted rack over there.

There’s always a chance of damaging the vehicle’s roof, but you can install the bike rack over it without facing any hurdle if you follow the steps properly.

Adjusting the Mountain Bike on a Roof Rack

Open the front part of the roof rack by turning the frontmost bar away from it to make space for the bike’s wheel to fit inside it.

Similarly, take the help of a small stool and lift your bike. While lifting, makes sure that you adjust the front wheel into the front roof-rack clip.

Adjust the bike properly and lock the front of the roof rack using the same bar that you pulled earlier. Wrap around security straps to make sure that the bike does not move while it’s being adjusted on the roof of your car.

After tightening the screws and wrapping the security straps, check the roof rack again to see whether it’s properly adjusted between the crossbars or not.

You have now successfully installed a bike rack on the roof of your car and mounted your bike on it as well. Kudos to you!

But if you still have trouble, the video below should give you an idea of the installation.

Installing a Hitch-Mounted Rack

If your car has a hitch installed in it, you can utilize a hitch-mounted rack to adjust your mountain bikes there.

A hitch rack rests beneath the trunk and can easily accommodate 2 to 4 bikes, depending upon the type of model you choose.

Many SUVs and trucks these days feature a durable hitch, but some of the vehicles don’t have one included in them. Incompatibility is one of the drawbacks of hitch racks compared to trunk racks or roof racks, so make sure you check that first.

install a hitch-mounted bike rack

Find the Right Rack for Your Vehicle

Determine whether a hitch rack is compatible with your vehicle or not. You can do so by visiting the manufacturer’s website for that purpose.

It will help you with the installation process as you’d be able to put on a hitch bike rack with ease and convenience.

Read the Instructions Manual Carefully

Similarly, read the instructions manual carefully after ordering a hitch-mounted rack for your car. Such models do not require any major assembly, but going through the instructions manual once would be better in this case.

Screw the Rack on the Bottom of Your Vehicle

Unbox the rack and screw it to the back of your car by sliding a pole into the car’s hitch and screwing the bolts of it.

This step will require a socket wrench as you’ll need to tighten the bolts as much as possible so that the rack can easily bear the weight of the bikes.

Adjust Your Bike on the Rack

The last step involves adjusting the bike on the hitch rack. If you want to adjust it in a folding-down manner, unlock the rack mount and pull it below the trunk.

Pull out the rack’s arms, where you will adjust the grooves of your bike and tighten them accordingly. Use security straps to wrap the bike completely around the hitch rack, and you are good to go.

People Also Ask:

How do you put a bike on a rack?

Putting a bike on a rack depends upon what type of rack it is. If it’s a trunk rack, you’ll need to adjust the main tube of your bike in it. If it’s a roof rack, you’ll need to lock the bike’s front wheel. 

Similarly, if it’s a hitch rack, you’ll need to lock both wheels of the bike on its arms.

Do bike racks damage your car?

Bike racks, if adjusted properly, will not cause any damage. The most damage they can cause is to leave scratches on your car, but that will happen if you show carelessness in installing the rack.

Can you attach a bike rack to any car?

Not just any car! The best way to find out is to visit the rack’s manufacturer website and check whether a specific model is compatible with your car or not. If you have an SUV or a truck, you can easily install any bike rack on it you want.

Final Takeaways:

Installing a bike rack on a car allows you to carry your bicycle to different places where you can ride it and enjoy the experience accordingly.

You can install a rack on the trunk, on the roof, or with the hitch. However, the trunk-mounted rack is the safest option available out there to help you carry your bike anywhere you want.

Follow all the steps we mentioned above to install any bike rack on a car easily.

Good Luck!!

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Written By

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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