Can You Leave Bike Rack On A Car? [Reasons You Should Remove It]

Attaching a bike rack to your car isn’t always as easy as it seems. So it’s normal to want to leave it attached to the vehicle after using it. So can you leave your bike rack on your car? And is it okay to leave it on there indefinitely?

Can You Leave Bike Rack On A Car?

Yes, you can leave bike racks on your car even when you don’t have a bike attached to it. But many owners remove the racks because it can cause you to use more gas mileage, be harder to access the trunk, and will require more vehicle maintenance.

If you do want to leave it on, here are some tips and tricks to keep it in good working condition and some ideas as to why you could remove it if you wish. 

But first, let’s look at some reasons you may want to consider removing it.

Reasons To Remove Bike Racks

Bike racks can be bulky and decrease your gas mileage as the added weight causes the engine to work harder. It also increases the risk of dents, scratches, or other miscellaneous damage to your vehicle. In addition, some drivers find them difficult to park with or to maneuver about with them attached.

Car maintenance becomes a higher priority when you have bike racks attached as well. If the bike rack is dented or breaks, that can become a problem for your car. In addition, rust is always an issue to be avoided. If your bike rack is getting old or rusting, it may be time to remove it or replace it. 

If you don’t see yourself using a bike for a whole season, it may be better to just remove it for the moment. However, if you always bring your bike with you to the park or travel, it’s more likely that you will need your rack.

Keeping a bike rack on your vehicle constantly can also attract thieves. Bike racks are not often stolen, but there are stories of bike racks being stolen.

Leaving the Bike On The Rack

Most people, myself included, will leave the rack on their car because it’s just easier than constantly removing it. However, if you decide to do so, then ensure you abide by the tips below. 

Not only will they help you maintain your vehicle, but they will also help increase the longevity of the rack system. 

Use The Right Bike Rack

If you want to keep a bike rack on your car indefinitely, there are some things to keep in mind so you can ensure the life of your bike rack. 

Make sure you are using the proper bike rack. Not all bike racks fit all cars, and there isn’t a universal one. If you have a full-size car, minivan, or SUV, you’ll likely need to install a roof rack or a hitch unless you special order a bike rack.

Most small cars (smart cars) are too compact to use a roof rack. Hitch racks can work well for trucks, but not for smaller cars or hatchback vehicles. Hitch racks are also too heavy for smaller cars, typically. 

Make sure the bike rack is the right size for your vehicle and that it carries as many bikes as you need while fitting your car’s size. All bike racks fit differently on vehicles, so picking the right one is essential to keeping the rack and your car in good shape. 

Trunk racks are attached to your trunk, hang off its lip, and usually use straps to lock it into place. These are common for almost all types of cars, and many are made to be removable. 

Be sure you have a car that can support these, however. Roof racks need the railings on the top of the car to attach to, but some models come with attachments to work around that. 

Use The Rack Properly

Along with using the right bike rack, also use your rack properly. Proper use of your bike rack can prolong its life and reduce the damage done to your car

If you have a trunk rack, you may not be able to safely open your trunk. This is because most trunks are not built to have an added 50-80lbs attached to them (rack and bikes) as they open. The hinges will not be able to stand that kind of weight opening and closing, and you could seriously damage your trunk doing so. 

Some hitch racks have the option of tilt away from the vehicle trunk as you open it, however, it may be better to remove the rack in question anyway. 

If you can use a roof rack, make sure it is adequately secured to the rails on the top of your car as you use it, and make sure that when you open your trunk, the bikes do not get in the way of the opening. 

Always fit the correct number of bikes onto your bike rack. Do not overload your bike rack. When you buy your rack, there should be instructions for how many cycles it can hold safely. 

Not only can you lose bikes if you overload your rack, but the excessive weight can cause permanent damage to the rack and to your car. Typically, bike racks can fit two bikes or 4-5 for heavier models. 

Make sure you know what your bike rack can carry and follow that accordingly. 

Just because luggage can fit into a bike rack, doesn’t mean you should use it as a luggage carrier. Luggage is a different shape than a bike and may not adhere properly to a bike rack, and forcing it to do so could damage the rack. 

Maintain Your Bike Rack

Proper maintenance begins with proper washing. It is advised not to put your bike rack through an automatic car wash with your car, as accidents can happen, and the automatic systems could damage the rack. 

Besides handwashing your rack and car, a good alternative is the power washer at a self-wash car station. You could also use a garden hose with a dish detergent. 

Always be on the lookout for damage done to your rack or car. Damaged metal rusts easier, and rusted metal breaks and tears. Lubricate any moving parts like the locks and joints regularly with a universal lubricant, and make sure no parts are chipping. If you have straps or bungee cords, check them as well.  

If you do remove your rack, be sure to properly store it until you need it again. Then, keep it out of the rain and snow, and even if you keep it connected to your car, do this as well. 

If you have a garage or basement, these would be the best places to store it to keep it safe from the elements. 

Proper bike rack maintenance is as essential as car maintenance. So wash your car as well as your rack. And keep your car in a garage or under an awning if possible. Sunlight, snow, rain, these can all wear away at your car and your bike rack, so be aware of these things if you choose to keep your rack on all year round. 

Final Word

Yes, you can keep your bike rack on your car, even if you aren’t using it. However, there are some caveats to that, as you need to be sure that you are using the right bike rack, using it properly, and maintaining it through its use. 

With proper use and cleaning of your bike rack, you can keep it on your car indefinitely. That said, your vehicle will require more cleaning and maintenance if you do leave it on. 

Try to avoid automatic car washes, as they can lead to damage to your car and bike rack.  

You can keep your bike rack and car in good shape for years to come by proper care and cleaning.