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Trunk bike racks are quite cheap and easy to use, therefore an excellent solution for cyclists looking to transport their bikes. However, they can sometimes lead to car damage if not installed correctly: from scratches to dents.
Throughout the years, I have used various bike racks on my vehicle and my friend’s cars, and I have never damaged a car. As long as you are careful and you know a few little tricks, you will never scratch your car.
Let me share with you some tips to prevent damaging your car. In this article, I will delve into the potential risks for your car when carrying bikes with a trunk bike rack, and make sure that when you are finished reading it never happens to you again! So buckle up and let’s dive into the world of trunk bike racks and car protection!
Will a trunk bike rack scratch your car?
A trunk bike rack can potentially scratch your car if it isn’t properly installed or if the bikes are not securely fastened. Scratches will appear due to the rack rubbing or the bikes swaying against the vehicle. Additionally, overloading the rack can cause dents or warping to the car’s body.
Scratches generally occur because the bike or the rack is in contact with the car, with enough freedom to slightly rub with the vibrations of the road. Not much movement is needed to make a small scratch on the paint of a vehicle, especially if you have a piece of metal in contact with it. And guess what, the structural contact points of a trunk rack with the car are made of metal. As for the bike, be careful about the pedals and the wheels which are common culprits for making damage on your car.
Can a bike rack dent or wrap the body of the car?
A trunk bike rack can cause dents to your car’s body if you exceed the maximum load capacity of the rack. Loading order also matters, especially if you are near the weight limit of the rack. If you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and correctly position the bike, you won’t dent your car.
Note that overloading the rack can also lead to warping the car’s body.
Key points to remember to prevent denting your car:
- Trunk bike racks have a maximum weight capacity and it is essential to follow it.
So if you wish to carry e-bikes this point is crucial to avoid damage.
/!\ Some bike racks also have a weight limit per bike in addition to the total weight limit.
- The heaviest bike should always be installed first on the rack, closer to the car’s body.
- Trunk bike racks are designed for specific vehicle geometry. Make sure it is compatible with your car before installing it. For more info, check out the article below:
How to protect your car from scratches and dents
Now that we looked at the potential risks, let’s explore some detailed tips on how to protect your car while using a trunk bike rack:
- Use padding
Ensure that the points of contact between the rack and your car are cushioned with foam or rubber padding to minimize the risk of scratching the paint. You can even use a soft cloth or towel in a pinch, but make sure it’s secure and won’t slip during transportation.
Trunk bike racks generally come with rubber paddings to fit inside the piece of metal that gets in contact with the car, as you can see in the example below.
- Secure the bikes properly
Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for securing your bicycles to the rack. And make sure the bikes won’t sway and hit your car. Here are some guidelines:
- Load the bikes while making sure the pedals don’t come in contact with the car’s body
- Secure the bikes into the frame holders
- Use the provided strap or rope to securely fasten all bikes together and to the rack
- Use velcro straps to block the wheels (not sure how to do it, just check out this article I wrote on the topic)
Protecting your car is the objective but if you do not secure the bikes properly, they might also damage each other by rubber against each other. You can use foam or fabric barriers between them if needed.
- Load within weight limits
Always adhere to the weight capacity stated by the rack’s manufacturer. Overloading can lead to dents or other damage to your car’s body. As a general rule, heavier bikes should be placed closer to the car, while lighter bikes should be positioned further away.
Several bike racks have two weight limits: 1 for each bike and 1 overall maximum load capacity. So you can find a bike rack that allows 35lb per bike and 70lb total but you cannot put a 45lb bike on one side and a 25lb bike on the other side.
- Clean before installation
Make sure the area where the rack will be mounted is clean and free of dirt or debris, as these can become trapped between the rack and your car, causing scratches. A quick wipe-down with a microfiber cloth should do the trick.
- Test the setup
Before hitting the road, give the rack and bikes a gentle shake to ensure everything is secure and stable. It should not be loose or way too tight. The first case will make scratches while the second case can make dents into the car’s body. If you notice any issues, make adjustments as needed.
- Inspect regularly
If you use the rack frequently, you should check periodically the condition of the rack, especially the paddings to ensure they provide adequate protection to the car. Look for signs of wear and tear and replace any damaged parts as needed.
Once you know how to properly use your bike rack, it will become obvious if it is mounted correctly or not. Do not hesitate to practice when you first use the rack. It is always when in a hurry that you will end up scratching your vehicle. If you’re unsure, consult a professional or ask a knowledgeable friend for help.
- Remove the bikes before opening the trunk
Some trunk bike racks may allow you to open the trunk when installed. However, opening the trunk with bikes on it may overload the structure and cause damage. I highly advise removing the bikes before opening the trunk.
Some bike racks are also not really meant to be left installed before opening the trunk, even without bikes installed. So make sure to read the user manual to see if there isn’t a mention of this.
- Remove the rack when not in use
This one is probably pretty obvious to most people but removing the bike rack to store it will reduce wear and aging of the padding and the actual rack itself. This will prevent any long-term damage and reduce the risk of scratches or dents due to exposure to the elements or accidental bumps.
Does insurance cover scratches on a car?
In most cases, car insurance policies will only cover scratches or dents if they are the result of an accident, vandalism, or other covered events. Damage caused by improper installation or use of a trunk bike rack is usually not covered. However, insurance policies can vary, so it’s essential to review your specific policy or contact your insurance provider to clarify what is and isn’t covered.