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How To Remove A Bike Rack From A Car

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It’s often straightforward to mount a bike rack onto a car. But is the process of removing bike racks just as easy?

Are there any hazards to look out for when you remove bike rack from a car?

I’m going to look at different types of bike racks, like hitch racks, trunk racks, and roof racks, and show you how to safely handle them all. By the end, you’ll be fully prepared to tackle any bike rack removal task with confidence!

How Do You Remove a Bike Rack?

To remove a bike rack from a car, you’d normally just reverse the steps you took to mount it in the first place.

Naturally, the steps aren’t exactly the same for every product. You’ll usually unlock, unstrap, and perhaps unscrew components before lifting the rack from your vehicle.

I’ve mentioned the three most popular types of bike racks above (hitch, trunk, and roof). But these can also be subdivided into further categories.

For instance, a hitch mounted bike rack can be either a hanging-style or platform-style rack. Good trunk mount racks may sometimes fix to a spare tire.

Even a roof rack can vary a bit on a car. Most of them install onto crossbars, which you must already have on your car. But you can also have racks installed with suction cups that carry bicycles on the roof.

Below, we’ll show you the removal process for various types of bike racks. By the end of the article, you should find the removal of bike racks easy.

Hitch Mounted Racks

To remove a hitch-mounted bike rack from brands like Thule, Kuat, and others:

  1. Remove bicycles and accessories: Ensure the rack is free from bicycles, locks, and accessories.
  2. Unlock the rack: If your hitch rack has a lock, release it for a smooth removal.
  3. Loosen the hitch bolt: Find the hitch bolt or pin securing the rack to the hitch receiver. Use a wrench or Allen key to loosen and remove the bolt or release the locking mechanism.
  4. Remove the rack from the hitch: Gently lift the bike rack out of the hitch receiver once the bolt is loosened. Some models have a release handle or lever to disengage the rack from the hitch.
  5. Secure and store the rack: Store the hitch rack securely after removal.

Detaching hitch bike racks at the wrong angle may cause issues. For heavier hitch racks, an assistant can help bear the weight.

Hitch-type racks are generally removed the same way whether they have hanging-style or platform-style designs.

Platform vs Hanging-Style Racks

You’d use a platform hitch bike rack to carry e bikes, bicycles with an irregular frame, or a heavy bicycle. Hitch bike racks with platforms often secure each bike by its front wheel.

Regular bikes with a diamond frame (comprising two triangles) can be carried by their top tube on a hanging-type rack.

Bikes that don’t have horizontal top tubes may need a crossbar adapter before they can be loaded onto any hanging-style bike racks.

Video: Removing A Thule Helium Hitch Rack

Roof Mounted Racks

A roof rack retains vehicle access despite reducing the vehicle gas mileage. Removal steps for Yakima, Thule, Kuat racks and similar are approximately as follows:

  1. Park on a level space and prepare for removal: Remove bicycles, detach straps and accessories.
  2. Locate attachment points: Identify where the rack connects to the crossbars using clamps, brackets, or other mechanisms.
  3. Loosen attachment points: Use an Allen key or wrench to loosen or unscrew clamps or brackets securing the rack to the roof.
  4. Remove the rack: With attachment points loosened, carefully lift the rack off the roof. It’s recommended to have assistance for safe removal.
  5. Store or secure the rack: Properly store the removed roof rack in a safe place like a garage for damage prevention and future use.

Removal instructions vary by model. A step stall can aid safe rack removal from tall vehicles.

Video: Removing A Yakima Roof-Mounted Bike Rack

Suction Cup Mounted Racks

Suction-cup bike racks are also used on a car roof. These types of racks have been used to carry spare bikes in pro cycle races. To remove them, you’d follow the following approximate steps:

  1. Prepare for removal: Ensure that the bike or bikes have been removed from the rack and any straps or accessories are detached or stored away.
  2. Release suction cups: If your suction-cup roof bike rack has individual suction cups, locate the release tabs or levers on each suction cup. Push or pull these tabs to release the suction cups’ grip on your vehicle’s roof.
  3. Remove the rack: Once all the suction cups are released, carefully lift the bike rack off your vehicle’s roof.

Read more: How to put bikes onto a car roof rack

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

Trunk-mounted racks come in various forms, from the iconic Saris Bones rack with its arching legs to the great-value range from Allen Sports.

The general method for removing such racks is as follows:

  1. Prepare for removal: Prior to removing the trunk-mounted bike rack, ensure that all bicycles and any accessories or straps are detached and stored away.
  2. Release tension on straps: If your trunk rack uses straps to secure it to your vehicle, locate the tensioning mechanisms or buckles that hold the straps in place. Release the tension by either pressing a release button or pulling on the strap ends.
  3. Loosen or remove straps: Once the tension is released, loosen or completely remove the straps from their anchor points on the trunk or rear hatch. This may involve undoing buckles, hooks, or adjusting mechanisms.
  4. Lift the bike rack off: With the straps removed, carefully lift the bike rack off your vehicle’s trunk or rear hatch.
  5. Clean and store the rack: After removing the trunk-mounted bike rack, clean any dirt or debris off the rack using a gentle cleaning solution and a soft cloth. Ensure that the rack is completely dry before storing it in a safe place.

A downside of most trunk-mounted racks is that you can’t typically use your trunk while they’re installed. This is partly because they require the trunk to be closed so you can create tension in the straps, but you may also injure yourself on protruding parts.

A benefit of trunk-mounted racks is their relatively low cost.

Spare Tire Bike Racks

Spare tire bike racks normally fit over the trunk of a vehicle (e.g., SUV) and secure directly to spare wheels.

Ideally, such racks will also leave the backup camera that exists on some vehicles unimpeded when the bike rack is unloaded.

The instructions for removing a spare-tire rack look like this:

  1. Prepare for removal: Prior to removing the spare-tire bike rack, ensure that all bikes and any accessories or straps are detached and stored away.
  2. Locate the attachment points: Identify the points where the bike rack is attached to your spare tire. This may involve straps, brackets, or other fastening mechanisms.
  3. Loosen or release straps: If your rack uses straps to secure it to the tire, locate the buckles or tensioning mechanisms that hold the straps in place. Press the release buttons, pull on the strap ends, or use provided release mechanisms.
  4. Remove the rack: Once the straps are loosened or released, carefully lift the bike rack off the spare tire.
  5. Clean and store the rack: After removing the trunk-mounted bike rack, clean any dirt or debris off the rack using a gentle cleaning solution and a soft cloth.

Removing Bike Racks: FAQs

Should I Remove The Rack When Not Using It?

One of the deciding factors is likely to be how easy it is to steal the rack from the car.

Trunk-mounted racks are usually removed between biking trips.

Other types are often left in situ.

What Tools Do I Need To Remove A Bike Rack From My Car?

This varies. Some racks do not require tools at all, whereas others may need a few tools such as Allen keys, wrenches, screwdrivers, and sockets.

Are There Any Specific Instructions For Removing Different Types Of Bike Racks From Cars?

There are specific instructions, though typically you always remove things in roughly the same order: bike(s), locks, fasteners, straps, and the bike rack itself.

Can I Reuse My Bike Rack On A Different Car After Removing It?

That depends on the type and model of bike rack.

Trunk-mounted bike racks are prone to being incompatible with certain types and shapes of cars.

Hitch bike racks and roof racks both require hardware to be pre-installed before fitting (hitch receivers, roof rails, crossbars).

Is It Possible To Damage My Car Or Bike Rack While Removing It, If So, How Can I Prevent This?

If damage is going to occur, it’ll often be when you attach the rack or when you load or use it.

You can help prevent it by covering any metal attachment clips or choosing racks with large, rubberized contact points.

Time To “Rack Off” (Wrapping Up)

Removing a bike rack from a vehicle is simple enough provided you take your time and carefully reverse the installation steps.

Position yourself in a way that reduces the likelihood of your dropping bike rack parts on the car. Do not use excessive force to attach or remove components.

You can leave a bike rack on the car if it folds up to a compact size and is lockable. Or, remove it and use it time after time on your bicycle adventures!

We hope you enjoyed this article. Please feel free to leave a comment or share it as you wish.

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Mark Whitley
Mark Whitley
I’m Mark, a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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