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Should hitch mounted bike racks move or sway when traveling?

My current one (1.25", two bike trays with arms clamping on the tire) will sway and move when traveling with bikes on it.

During the weekend, I had a discussion about racks where the other person stated his didn't sway during traveling.

Update

I had a closer look at my setup last night. The swaying comes from the hinge between the rack and the receiver tube. There is a bit of play there enabling the rack to move and sway.

The rack has a feature of being able to angle it away from the car in order to get access to the hatch, or to store it closer to the tail gate when not in use.

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    I had a buddy who got a half-arsed hitch just for the bike carrier. It swayed and bounced to beat the band. I've got a class-3 hitch and my carrier is rock solid. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 30 '18 at 18:25
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    In addition to the hitch, some racks are build lightweight and have a bit of flex in them, others are build strong enough to hold a tank and do not flex. A bit of sway type movement is not a concern, jerky banging and crashing movement is a big problem. Bike weight also affects thing - carbon roads bikes will move a lot less then heavy Downhill MTB's. – mattnz Jul 30 '18 at 20:35
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    I have a Thule 4 bike hitch mount, it sways like the Dickens and I've never given it a second thought. to be clear, it's not the mount/ hitch that's got play, rather it's the entire rest of the apparatus, I assume it's just natural flex under the load. – David Zemens Jul 31 '18 at 12:38
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Manufacturers recommend a strap to stabilize a (class 1) hitch-mounted bike rack so it doesn't bounce or sway. For example see Stabilizing Strap for Hitch-Mounted Accessories, and especially the review video lower on the page.

(This is not a product recommendation, just the first thing that popped up in a search.)

  • Thanks. I'll investigate. However, I wonder how such strap should be attached to a platform bike rack (with arms cranking over tires) as opposed to a "T" style rack where the bikes hang from it. – TekiusFanatikus Jul 31 '18 at 17:56
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It's all going to depend on how much pay there is in your hitch mount. Some racks may have a slightly smaller tubing that fits in the hitch, some hitches may have slightly bigger internal dimensions.

Sway (and bouncing up and down) is is probably OK as long as it is not extreme, but definitely undesirable.

You can probably prevent swaying by constructing some kind of shim to pack the hitch mount. Try wrapping some duct tape around the rack hitch tube.

  • Some setups employ some sort of threaded bolt to tighten the connection between carrier and hitch receiver. I've seen several different schemes. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 30 '18 at 21:48
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    In load situations, shims should be steel or aluminium. Duct tape is a bit soft, and also gets sticky in heat and could make hitch removal hard. – Criggie Jul 30 '18 at 22:27
  • @Criggie could adding shims widen the receiver tube in the long run? – TekiusFanatikus Jul 31 '18 at 17:52
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    @TekiusFanatikus Unlikely - if it does then the receiver tube would be too weak to function in its designed purpose. – Criggie Aug 1 '18 at 8:51
  • Search for hitch anit-rattle kit and you'll see a few products like this: amazon.com/Curt-Manufacturing-CURT-22321-Anti-Rattle/dp/… . My rack came with something similar, but with a lock instead of a pin, and it is very solid. – Gary Bak Aug 7 '18 at 11:43

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