Attaching a bike rack to your car is not that difficult, but it’s not a two-minute job. So, the thought of having to attach and reattach whenever you get your car washed seems like a hassle to me.
Going through an automatic carwash with a bike rack can save me time since I can wash both simultaneously – yes, I am lazy. So, I decided to reach out to several bike rack manufacturers and carwash companies and ask them the question.
Can you go through an automatic carwash with a bike rack? Most, if not all, bike rack manufacturers recommend removing it before going through an automatic carwash. Automatic carwash companies usually have signs displayed stating that you “enter at your own risk,” and vehicles with unique features/modifications (e.g., roof racks) are not suitable for the wash.
Below is the summary of the responses I received from the bike rack manufacturers and carwash companies.
What could go wrong if you go through an automatic carwash with a bike rack attached?
All car washes, especially those with spinning brush systems, have the chance of snagging and tangling onto your bike rack and cause severe damage to the bike rack, your car, and even the carwash system.
Here are some things we heard that could happen and the risks of doing so:
- Parts of the carwash system can snag and tangle in the racks and even pull the rack off your car
- Rusting and damage to fittings
- Pulled off the roof by the carwash
- Falling off and damaging your vehicle, the vehicle behind you, and the carwash system
- Voiding the manufacturer’s warranty
If you need to use an automatic carwash without removing your bike rack, our advice is to use a touchless carwash.
The robust systems used by these touchless carwash uses water pressure and chemicals instead of the spinning brushes. With less physical contact with your bike rack, the risks of damaging are “lower.”
Things to Consider Before You Go Through an Automatic Carwash
Before going through an automatic carwash, you should consult your bike rack owner’s manual to see if they recommend removing the accessory before entering an automatic car wash.
Here is what is showing on the manual for my Yakima Literider:
Here is what is showing on the manual for my Kuat NV 2.0:
It would be best to look for signs and disclaimers that will protect the carwash company against any legal claims for damages that might occur while using their carwash system.
Here is what we saw at our local automatic carwash:
Vehicles that cannot go through the automatic carwash:
- Vehicle height must be greater than 83 inches – roof rack owners, please pay attention
- Vehicles with bike racks or rear-mounted rack
If your vehicle has any of the following, the carwash company will not be responsible for damage that might occur during the wash process:
- Watersport / Winter sport racks
- Spare tire bike racks
- Cargo racks
If you don’t see any signs or warnings posted, you should speak with the attendant and ask if it is safe to use the carwash for vehicles with a car rack/carrier attached.
If they say yes, then ask if the carwash system is insured against damages caused by car racks and will they be responsible for damages to your car rack.
If they say yes to both and you come out with damages, then make sure you collect photo evidence at the scene to make a claim.
Just a friendly warning, usually signs or disclaimers, states that you assume the risk when you enter – so make sure you read the signs.
Suppose you need to use an automatic carwash system (of any type) and don’t want to risk it. In that case, I will remove the bike rack before going through any automatic carwash recommended by car rack manufacturers to avoid voiding your warranty.
If you don’t want to detach your bike rack, you should either use a handwash service or handwash it yourself. If you handwash it yourself, you can also clean your bike rack at the same time. Check out our article on how to properly clean and maintain your bike rack.
Although bike racks are designed to handle the road elements and pollutants, they are not designed to go through the automatic carwash, especially those with a brush system.
We suggest taking a few minutes to remove your bike rack before entering an automatic carwash or handwash the car yourself. By doing so, you will decrease the risk of liability to the carwash company, and damages to your vehicle and your lovely bike rack.