How to Mount a Bike Roof Rack

Many vehicles come with factory-installed roof racks as part of a “sport package;” however, these racks are designed more for looks than functionality and are usually only capable of safely handling about 100 pounds. If you plan on hauling heavy or irregularly shaped items, you’ll probably need an “aftermarket” bike rack. They’re far more reliable when it comes to weight considerations. Plus, heavy-duty bicycle racks accommodate a wide range of gear, including kayaks, surfboards, snowboards, and camping equipment.

Depending on the manufacturer and model selected, installation for each kit will vary slightly. In general, however, installing your new bike carrier is a simple, 7-step process.

STEP 1: Wash the roof of your car. Installing a rack on a dirty roof will make it harder to clean in the future and may also prevent the attachment points of the rack from lying flush.

STEP 2: Standard bike roof racks consist of two crossbars and four “foot” mounts, which attach to the vehicle’s side-rails or gutters. Loosen the hand screw on the exterior of each foot mount just enough to spread them open.

STEP 3: Spread the foot mount openings wide enough to fit the crossbars and insert the crossbars between the four mounts. You should now have two crossbars with foot mounts loosely attached to either end.

STEP 4: Determine the correct width between mounts for your vehicle by measuring from the inside edge of the foot mounts. Once the crossbar distance between mounts is the proper length, tighten the adjustments into place.

STEP 5: Next, attach pads to mounts and caps to crossbars. Pads prevent the bike rack from scratching your roof, and caps seal the ends of the crossbars to prevent water from settling inside.

STEP 6: Open your car doors and center the bike racks on the roof, carefully positioning the front rack away from the top of the windshield by adhering to the manufacturer’s safety guidelines included with the product.

STEP 7: Lock the front foot mounts in place with the included metal clips that hook onto the underside rim of your car doors and tighten them in place, making sure to apply equal tension to all four. Your foot mounts and crossbars are now locked in place and ready to use!

One thing to be aware of: bike racks are easy to remove if left unlocked. So protect your gear from thieves by investing in a bicycle rack or truck bed bike rack that includes locks. If not included, they can be purchased separately.