How to Install Bike Rack on Car – Install Hitch, Trunk & Roof Rack Easily

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If you just got a bike rack, one question that will be on your mind is how to install bike rack on car.

Every bike lover knows how important bike racks are. Bike racks are a great way to transport your bike when going on a trip.

So, if you are reading this article, you are in luck because this article will answer most of the questions you have about installing your bike rack on your car.

My aim is to help you get your bike rack up and ready to use in no time.

Follow me as I guide you through the pertinent issues as they relate to the topic.

But first, is this something you can do yourself? Let’s find out.

Can I Install A Bike Rack Myself?

How to Install Bike Rack on Car

In most cases, you should be able to install a bike rack on your car by yourself.

Some bike racks come with very straightforwardd instructions and videos that will help you get started.

But because there are many types of bike racks, some of them may be harder to install than others.

For some bike racks, you might not need any tools to install them.

If you require tools, then all you need is to get the right tools and get to work.

And if it’s something you would rather have a technician do for you, then that might be a good idea too.

However, the manufacturing world has come to realize that people prefer products they can fix or install by themselves without having to hire a technical hand.

It is because of this that the newer model of bike racks for cars are DIY (Do It Yourself).

So, yes, you should be able to install your bike rack yourself.

Even without having to look at your bike rack manual, the instructions in this article will guide you on how to install different types of bike racks such as hitch, trunk and roof bike racks on your car.

To make the installation easier and faster, there are some tools you may need.

Here they are.

Tools You Need To Install a Bike Rack

A wrench – this will help you tighten nuts and bolts if your bike rack has provision for such. It will also help in securing the position of your bike rack.

A measuring tape – this will be used to measure the length and width of your crossbars to determine the right bike rack to go for.

A marker – to point out where you need to make a cut.

Scissors – this will be used in cutting off excess rubber on your crossbars so as to give your bike rack enough space.

A ladder – for easy access to the top of your car.

Now that we have the tools listed out, let’s move on to how to install bike rack on your car.

I shall be detailing the installation guide for the three major types of bike racks; hitch, trunk and roof bike racks.

Choose the one that tackles your type of bike rack and follow the instructions listed here.

How To Install Hitch Bike Rack

A hitch bike rack is great if you have more than one bike and need a means of transporting them when on a trip.

Before installing your hitch rack, you need to first of all ensure that a hitch receiver is already installed on your car. Most cars come with already installed hitch receiver. But if yours doesn’t have it, you can purchase one for your car.

Here’s how to install a hitch bike rack on your car.

Step 1: Check the size of your hitch receiver to know the particular class it falls under. Hitch receivers are determined by class. You will find that Class 1 and 2 have 1.25” openings, while Class 3 and 4 have 2” openings. Class 5 is usually heavy-duty cars. However, you may have to get an additional adapter if your hitch receiver is bigger than your rack. Once you have determined what class your hitch receiver is, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Unpack your hitch rack pack and check that all the parts are included. You will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in this aspect. Once you’re done with the manual, it’s time to assemble the frame.

Step 3: Now pick up the rack and load it into the hitch receiver. Although most racks are medium weight and do not weigh more than 50 pounds, you can ask someone to help you lift it if yours is heavy.

Step 4: Check to ensure that the bolt lines are properly lined up from both the rack and the receiver. Then insert the hitch bolt (this should be included in your rack package). Using a wrench, tighten the bolt firmly. If your rack came with a “cotter pin,” you can then insert it on the bolts opposite end from the head.

Step 5: You’ve done the necessary steps. Next thing is to load your bike(s) onto the rack. Tighten the bike with telescoping bar clamps and straps over the wheels or frame. To ensure that everything is well installed and in place, pull firmly on the bike and rack to see if any of them moves. If everything is secured, then you are good to go.

How to Install Trunk Bike Rack

It’s important that you first of all check with the manufacturer’s website to know if their trunk rack will suit your car before making a purchase. There are different types of trunk bike racks made to fit different cars. Once you have confirmed that the trunk can fit the model of your car, you can then buy it. Here’s how to install a trunk bike rack on your car.

Step 1: Go through the instructions in the manual that came with your trunk bike rack. There might be different instructions for different cars. Pay attention to the one that pertains to the exact model of your car.

Step 2: Take the straps that came with your trunk bike rack and wrap it around the sides of your car’s trunk. If your rack comes with straps on the bottom, sides and top, then pay attention to the next step.

Step 3: Open the trunk of your car and hook each strap to the sides that corresponds to each one. Then fold over the lip at the edge of your trunk. Now position your rack by sliding it across the trunk until the pads resting on your car are at the center. You can then adjust the straps by adjusting the slide or pulling on the buckle. If your trunk bike rack is the type that clips all the way round, go ahead and lock it inside your trunk.

Step 4: It’s time to test if the trunk bike rack is well-fixed. The trunk bike rack normally comes with 2 bars that stick up from your car trunk at 15 to 45 degrees angle. Now, lift your bike and place the top tube of the bike over the 2 bars on the trunk rack. Before wrapping the security straps of the rack around your bike wheels, slide down your bike. Check that the trunk and the bike do not shift when you push it. You’re now ready to transport your bike on your trunk bike rack.

Please note that trunk bikes cannot take more than 3 bikes at a time. Mounting more than 3 can break the mount because of excess weight. It’s best and safer if you stick to mounting only 2 bikes. If you need to transport more than 2 bikes, you should opt for a hitch bike rack instead.

How to Install Roof Bike Rack

If you want a bike rack that doesn’t get in the way or take up trunk space, you should go for a roof bike rack. It might have some drawbacks like issues with low clearance, increased fuel consumption among others. However, it is a very convenient way to transport your bike.

You should check that all the components needed for the installation are in the rack kit. It’s most likely that your rack kit will come fully equipped with all the parts. But if there is anything missing, inquire from your seller or buy a replacement.

Here’s how to install a roof bike rack.

Step 1: Measure the distance between the crossbars on your car. This will reveal whether you have the right roof bike rack or not.

Step 2: Read the instruction manual to familiarize with the details. Now take out the skewer from the rack kit and insert it into the hole on the front of the skewer housing. Then screw the nut to secure the skewer. It’s important that you secure this very well because it is where you will attach your bike’s front wheel frame.

Step 3: It’s time to anchor the rack to the crossbars on your car. First position the rack onto the crossbars and then attach the snit-skid plates. The rack and the crossbars should be perpendicular to each other. Next, sit the front crossbar in between the rack’s 4 front mounting screws. Then sit the rear crossbar in between the 2 sliding screws at the back. Check that the screws are in correct position and then you install the knobs.

Step 4: Go in with a scissors if some of your crossbar’s rubber padding is not allowing the rack to fit in. When you cut it out, you can then slid it back in to make room for the bike rack.

Step 5: Here, you’ll mount and secure your bike to the rack. To do this, first remove the front tire of your bike and mount the fork to the skewer. Make sure that it is properly tightened with the lever closed. It should feel sturdy if done properly. Then position the rear wheel to the wheel holder. Keep sliding the holder until it is secured tightly. Go ahead and tighten the wheel holder knob as well. Next is to secure the rear wheel with the ratchet strap.

Step 6: Double check all the straps and knobs to confirm that everything is in order. Give the bike and roof bike rack a strong tug to see if it they are secured. If none of them moves, it means that you have successfully anchored your roof bike rack and your bike correctly.

Important/Pro Tips To Note

Before ever considering a particular bike rack, make sure your car is such that can accommodate your choice of rack. You can always find this information on the manufacturer’s website if their rack can fit the model of your car.

Each bike rack mentioned in article has its benefits and drawbacks. I shall be pointing out the things you should look out for.

These tips will help you decide on which type of rack is best for your car.

Hitch Bike Rack Installing

Before settling for a hitch bike rack, make sure that your car has a hitch receiver. Some car hitches may be too small for a hitch bike rack. You should also check your car’s towing capacity (this can be found in your car manual) to see if it can take on a hitch rack and bikes.

Hitch bike racks are best for hauling up to 5 bikes on a car. They are easy to install and mount your bike.

You should be mindful of the front tire’s cradle because it is usually bigger that the rear cradle. You must properly support the front cradle otherwise your bike’s front tire will keep swinging into your car as you drive, especially if you positioned the bike backwards. Also always lock bike on rack while travelling.

Trunk Bike Rack Installing

Trunk bike racks saves you some space on top of your car. They are great if you don’t want to risk damaging your bike and rack when going under low bridges and garages.

Apart from bikes, trunk racks can also be used to transport your sled or kayak if you want to bring it along on your trip.

However, trunk bike racks can obstruct your back view making you susceptible to bumping into objects. This won’t be an issue if your car has a camera that allows you see behind your car.

They are also limited to transporting two or three bikes at a time.

One major setback that trunk bike racks have is that they can leave your trunk with scratches and marks. This is because they rest heavily on the body of the car.

Roof Bike Racks Installing

Roof bike racks frees your car of space inside and outside. These types of racks work with crossbars’ tension to remain in place. Therefore, your car must have crossbars at the top before you can mount a roof bike rack.

You won’t have to worry about your rearview mirror being obstructed.

For the bad side, roof bike racks expose your bike to debris and wind. They increase gas mileage and might get damaged when you have a bike on them and go under low clearance spaces.

Also, with roof bike racks, you can’t mount more than one bike. If you have multiple bikes, you’ll have to install extra roof rack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all bike racks require a hitch?

No, all bike racks do not require a hitch. Hitch receiver is only needed if you want to mount a hitch bike rack. And this is specifically for cars that have provision for a hitch. Other types of bike racks have their own requirement but certainly not a hitch receiver.

Are bike racks safe?

Yes, if you secure bike rack properly, then they can be considered safe. This is why you must always carry out checks on bolts, nuts and knobs to ensure that nothing is coming loose. Additionally, it is important that the bike rack you choose is right for your car.

Can you open the trunk with bike rack?

If what you have on your car is a trunk mounted bike rack, you may not be able to access your car trunk at will. There is an exception though, and this is dependent on the position of your trunk bike rack. However, if you are using a roof or hitch bike rack, you can always access your car trunk easily.

Can I use a trunk mount bike rack on an SUV?

Yes, trunk mount racks can be used on SUVs. They have both a hitch and crossbars to accommodate most types of bike racks.

How much does it cost to install a bike rack?

You can spend as little as $25 to $1000 to install a bike rack. Strap-on trunk bike racks are the cheapest types of rack you can get. The amount you will spend installing a bike rack depends on the type of bike rack and its accessories.

Are car bike racks removable?

Yes, most car bike racks can be removed. You install them when you need them and uninstall when not needed. It is actually advisable not to leave your bike rack on your car always as it has some adverse effect on both the rack and your car.


Installing a bike rack on your car isn’t rocket science.

Hopefully, this article will help you install your bike rack with ease.

If you have any question, you can leave it in the comment section.

Jeff Phillips Racktutor
About the author

Jeff Phillips is the able founder of In his professional life, he has been offering Paintless Dent Repair and Hail Repair services in North Texas since 1990. He is the owner of DentMasters. He is still passionate about outdoor adventures with his family, bikes and cars. So he has first-hand experience on bike racks. He is regularly testing suitable racks for his upcoming trip. His aim is to create a user-friendly free website where bikers can easily read bike rack informations without any hassle.

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