Does A Bike Rack Damage Your Car?

It’s normal to worry about your car when carrying a bike on a rack. That’s mainly because car body repairs are costly. But does a bike rack damage your car?

A bike rack will scratch a car’s body if there’s considerable friction or rubbing between it and the vehicle. Note, however, that the source of rubbing could be as simple as sand or a case of an unsecured rack.

In the latter case, it’s mainly due to improper rack installation, and in the former case, it’s related to poor maintenance of the rack.

can a bike rack damage your car

I’ll also look at other possible scenarios which could potentially cause the bike rack to damage your car.

Does A Bike Rack Damage Your Car?

Like I mentioned earlier, a bike rack will likely damage your car if it significantly rubs against it. That mainly happens when you don’t securely mount the bike rack on the vehicle.

But still, if you fail to mount the bike correctly on the rack, the cycle could also rub against the car’s body.

The other source of friction is dirt, mainly sand. If sand gets trapped in the contact point, it’ll rub against the car’s body, damaging the paint. That often happens when you don’t clean the rack frequently.

But still, several other instances can lead to the bike rack damaging your car, and they include:

  • Overloading the rack (a bike that’s too heavy for the bike rack)
  • Straps failure – If the straps snap out, break or become loose, the bike rack will likely move and rub against the car.
  • Absence of padding or a protective layer at the rack’s contact points

Bike Racks That Can Damage (or Scratch) Your Car

Some bike racks are likelier to damage your bike rack more than others. They include:

1. Rooftop Bike Racks

With a rooftop bike rack, you don’t worry about the bike rack or the bike hitting the car’s sides as everything is on the roof.

However, the grandest concern is that your car is taller than usual, limiting you when going under a low bridge or a low ceiling garage or basement.

If you aren’t careful, you could knock off the rack or the bike from the car’s roof. And once that happens, the cycle or rack could land on the vehicle causing something more severe than a paint scratch.

For example, it could smash the windshield and hurt you. So, you’ll deal with car damage and a personal injury.

Rooftop Bike Racks

2. Trunk Bike Racks – Do Trunk Bike Racks Scratch The Car?

Trunk bike racks may be among the most affordable bike racks, but they are often unsafe.

Note that even though these bike racks employ foam pads at the contact points, the pads wear over time. And when they do, the bike rack is likely to rub against the car’s body and scratch its paint.

Also, these racks depend on straps for secure attachment to the car’s trunk. While the straps are ordinarily strong, they loosen and weaken over time, compromising the rack’s firmness.

The other issue is that the bike wheel could also move about if not secure and scratch the car’s painting.

Trunk Bike Racks

3. Hitch Bike Racks

Compared to trunk racks, hitch racks are much safer. That, however, doesn’t mean that they cannot scratch your car.

Even though these bike racks are not in direct contact with the car’s body, the bicycle can sway and rub against the vehicle if it’s improperly secured on the bike rack.

Mostly, it’s the wheels that are likely to cause the most damage when they move about. So, you should watch out when driving not to knock something on the road.

Hitch Bike Racks

How To Keep Bike Rack From Scratching Car

Here are some ideas to protect your car from bike rack damage.

a) Install the Bike Rack Accordingly

Most bike racks damage cars because of poor installation. No matter how strong the bike rack is, it could fail you if it’s not securely fitted on the vehicle.

So, follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to ensure you fit it the right way. And if you find it challenging, talk to a bike expert.

b) Protect the Bike Rack’s Contact Points

You can prevent rubbing at the rack’s contact points using a paint protection film like the VViVid 3M Paint Protection Vinyl Film (View on Amazon).

vivid protection film

The film cushions your car’s body against the rubbing effect of the rack.

This trick suits trunk bike racks more as they are the most likely to suffer friction at the contact points.

In the absence of paint protection film, consider using a thick painter’s tape.

c) Clean the Bike Rack Often

It’s best to get rid of sand, dust, and all forms of dirt from the contact points. If you don’t, the residues will cause friction between the rack and the car’s body.

So, frequently check the foam pads at the rack’s contact points to ensure they are always clean.

d) Use Car Scratch Protector (for Bike Racks)

A car scratch protector serves the same purpose as a paint protection film or painter’s tape. The difference is that a car scratch protector is more reliable as it’s specifically meant for the job.

A car scratch protector like this one by Outdoorsy Supplies (View on Amazon) features a set of 6 high-quality pads to cushion your car from the aggressive rack.

car scratch protector

e) Always Double Check Everything

Ensure you double-check the bike rack and the bike to confirm they are secure before driving away. You should also check everything a few times in the course of your road trip, more so if it’s long-distance.

f) Buy the Right Bike Rack

Remember, you can do all the above and fail to protect your car from damage if you use the wrong bike rack.

Here are essential considerations in that aspect:

  • Avoid trunk bike racks if you frequently take your bike on road trips. That’s because its foam pads are likely to wear much faster, exposing the car to the aggressive rack.
  • Don’t go for hinge racks if you frequently park in a high-traffic area like the city. The bike rack stretches the size of your bike and hampers your judgment when reversing. As a result, you could hit someone or something.
  • Don’t use a rooftop bike rack if you usually park your car in the basement or garage. That’s because you’ll have a hard time removing the bike from the rack each time you want to get the car into the indoor space.


1. Do Bike Racks Scratch Your Car?

Bike racks, especially trunk racks, can scratch your car if they come into direct contact with the car’s body and rub against it.

It mostly happens when the bike rack is improperly installed, when the straps are faulty, and when there’s too much dirt at the rack’s contact points.

2. Is It Illegal To Drive With A Bike Rack?

It’s generally okay to carry a bike rack on the car in most places. It, however, becomes illegal if the bike rack is obstructing the license plate.

So, avoid blocking the license plate completely when carrying your bike on the rack.

3. Do Rear Bike Racks Damage Your Car?

Rear bike racks can damage your car if they are loose and rubbing against the car’s body. The other issue is if the bike sways and hits the car’s body. So, ensure the rack is firmly mounted.

4. How Do You Protect A Bike Rack On A Car?

You can protect a bike rack on a car by first securing it firmly. It’s also vital that you protect the bike and the rack from severe weather, and you can use a bike cover.

bike car rack cover

When picking the bike cover, ensure it is weatherproof and expansive to offer full coverage.

5. Do Trunk Bike Racks Damage Your Car?

If the straps holding the trunk are loose or faulty, the rack will start swaying when driving and rub against the car. Also, if the foam pads are worn out, the bike rack will collide against the car and scratch it.

And if the trunk rack is not well fitted, it’ll also rub against the vehicle.

6. Should I Get A Bike Rack For My Car?

Essentially, the work of a bike rack is to safely and conveniently carry your bike on the rack. Bike racks usually are sturdy enough to hold colossal bike weights, and that’s not the only thing they can do.

Others offer you extra storage space to load your gears too.

7. How Fast Can You Drive With A Bike Rack?

The rack should be firm to hold the bike securely. If that’s the case, you can easily hit 70-80mph when driving with a bike rack.

But consider pulling over after a few miles to check the condition of the bike rack and the bicycle.

In summary, does a bike rack damage your car?

Generally, if the rack is loose, poorly maintained, or improperly installed, it could damage your car. Don’t forget to check for worn-out parts, too, as they could compromise the rack’s safety and reliability.

Above all, invest in a quality rack to save yourself from all the safety concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the drawbacks of using bike racks?

While bike racks offer a simple and convenient solution for transporting your bikes, they do come with their own set of disadvantages. One of the significant drawbacks is that **they can obstruct your vision while driving**, particularly when looking through your rear-view mirror, which can potentially pose a risk to your safety. Moreover, if you are planning to carry multiple bikes or significant amounts of gear, it can be a challenge to fit everything securely onto the rack. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the additional weight of the bikes and gear can impact the overall performance of your bicycle during your ride, as it may affect the bike’s handling and maneuverability.

Is it safe to mount bike racks on cars?

When correctly installed, **bike racks are indeed safe to use on cars**. However, it is paramount to remember the additional length or width the rack adds to your vehicle while driving, especially when navigating tight spaces, reversing, or parking. Although bikes are secure on bike racks if properly strapped and locked, it is still vital that the driver operates the vehicle with increased caution. It’s similar to when I once had a family road trip where we hauled four bikes on a rack; the driving had to be much more careful and calculated, particularly on rough terrains.

What is the most secure method to transport a bicycle on a car?

For those who frequently travel with multiple bicycles, the **Towbar-mounted rack is the optimal choice**, granted this comes at a higher cost since a towbar is a prerequisite. I speak from personal experience holding numerous biking expeditions with friends, where we managed to safely drive cross-country with our bikes hitched behind without facing any issues. This option is the safest, most efficient, and provides a practical solution to carry multiple bikes securely.

Can trunk bike racks be deemed safe?

Yes, trunk-mounted bike racks can be safe, provided that they are correctly installed and secured. I was initially hesitant to use trunk racks due to fear of vehicle damages. However, after ensuring I had a secure setup, I’ve traveled thousands of miles without issue. Do keep in mind that any incorrect installation can lead to the rack potentially falling off or causing scratches and dents on your car’s surface. Therefore, ensure a** correct setup before hitting the road** to maintain both your bikes and vehicle’s safety.