Get Started With Trunk & Hatchback Bike Racks

Trunk Bike Racks fit on the back of most vehicles including sedans, hatchbacks, convertibles, sports cars, suvs, and minivans. A lightweight and easy to take on and off Trunk Bike Carrier can make the process of hauling your bike easy. Most trunk-mounted bike rack systems are secured to your vehicle by a set of six adjustable nylon straps with hooks on their ends. The straps hook to the top of the trunk or hatch lid, under the trunk or hatch lid or under the bumper, and to the sides of the trunk or hatch lid.

Trunk & Hatchback Bike RackTrunk & Hatchback Bike Rack

1. Determine The Number Of Bikes You Want To Carry

Trunk or Hatchback mounted bike racks can withstand the weight of one to three bikes, and typically have soft padding on them to keep the paint job on your car and bike from being damaged.  All of the racks on our Trunk & Hatchback Bike Rack page indicate how many bikes they will hold in their title.

2. Determine Whether Or Not Your Car Will Accept A Trunk & Hatchback Bike Rack

  • Does your vehicle have a spoiler that will interfere with the installation of a trunk & hatchback bike rack?  Sometimes the rack feet won't fit around them. Other times they obstruct the mounting straps. 
    • On a car with a spoiler, select a rack that will fit over the spoiler. Look for one with a “V” or “arc” shape that allows you to adjust the carrier arms to fit over the spoiler.  If the spoiler is large you may need to consider an alternate bike rack, such as a hitch mounted or roof top rack.  Both the Yakima King Joe 2 and the Yakima King Joe 3 are good choices for cars with spoilers.
    • On a SUV or Minivan with a spoiler, the use of a strapped on rack will depend on how your spoiler is made.  In the picture below, the spoiler is attached only at the sides, which allows an opening for the top straps of the bike carrier.  If the spoiler does not have an opening, the straps will put downward pressure on the spoiler itself and may cause it to pull loose from the vehicle.  In this case, you may wish to consider an alternate bike rack such as a hitch mounted or roof top rack.

      MInivan with Spoiler

    • Some racks have adjustable angle arms to hold the bikes (check the product description). This feature allows the arms to be adjusted to the horizontal position even if the rack’s feet are located at odd angles to get around a spoiler.  Adjustable angle arms are also helpful if you plan to use the same Trunk & Hatchback rack on a wide variety of vehicles.
  • Will the trunk/hatch support the load?  Determine the weight of your bikes and the carrier and check your car’s manual or the dealership to make sure the weight is within capacity.
  • Is the hatch, where the mounting hooks install, framed in metal, rather than glass or plastic? Some bike rack manufacturers offer accessories that allow you to attach the rack to glass.  It is not recommended to attach the rack to plastic.
  • Will the weather stripping allow the mounting hooks to be inserted? Bike rack hooks are designed to securely attach the rack to the vehicle without causing damage to the weather stripping, but you may want to check ahead of time that there is ample clearance.
  • Will the rear panel, or bumper, where the bottom feet of the rack rest, support the load?  Large rear panels on vans, for example, are very thin and will dimple when too much weight is applied. It is best to have the rack rest on the bumper of these vehicles. Bumpers also must be checked for strength, however, as plastic framing is being used over steel framing on many vehicles. Determine the weight of your bicycles and the rack and check you car’s manual or the dealership to make sure the weight is within capacity. (If the bumper won't support the weight, the lower feet of a rack can often rest in the plate area.)

3. Prevent Your Bike From Swaying On The Bike Rack

If possible you want to eliminate any bike swinging which prevents bike-to-bike and bike-to-vehicle contact, keeping your car and bike safe from scratches and dents. There are three ways to attach your bike to the vehicle:

  • Vinyl Coated Support Arms - prevent the bikes from becoming scratched by the support arm itself.  They do not prevent the bikes from swaying,  making bike-to-bike or bike-to-vehicle contact possible.
  • Soft Rubber Cradles and/or Straps - provide a more secure attachment of the bikes to the rack and prevent them from becoming scratched.  They may not prevent the bikes from swaying, making bike-to-bike or bike-to-vehicle contact possible.
  • Anti-Sway Cradles prevent bike-to-bike or bike-to-vehicle contact.  Anti-sway cradles may be purchased as an accessory for compatible trunk & hatchback carriers without them.

Softride Anti Sway CradleThule No Sway Cage

4. Prevent The Theft Of Your Bike

It’s not something we want to think of, but sometimes our bikes and/or bike racks can get stolen.  There are two things to consider:

  • Securing your bike rack to the vehicle.  A Trunk Mount Security Strap is provided standard with some racks (please check the product description).  It is a steel-reinforced strap that runs around the bike rack frame and loops all the way inside the trunk or rear hatch.
  • Securing your bikes to the Trunk & Hatchback Bike Rack.  To do this you can use a cable to lock the bikes to each other and then to the rack.  The THULE Braided Steel Cable Lock  (shown above at right) is a good choice.

Yakima Trunk Mount Security StrapTHULE Braided Steel Cable Lock

5. Transporting Bikes With Non-Conventional Frames

Are you transporting ladies bikes, children’s bikes or a bike with a sloped tube top?  These frame shapes will not always easily fit on Trunk & Hatchback Bike Racks, which are designed to hang the bikes from their top tubes.  There are a variety of Tube Top Adapters in our accessories section that will solve this problem.  They attach to the bike stem and seat post providing a solid straight bar to hang your bike from.

Yakima TubeTop

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