Your lovely bike rack is an excellent gear for hauling your bikes to the great outdoors but there is no doubt it will get dirty and regularly exposed to pollutants, especially if you have it attached to your vehicle all the time.
While there are people who would just drive to an automatic car wash to get it washed (not a good idea, here’s why), there are also those who would just spray it down with a hose.
So what is the proper way to wash and maintain your car bike rack? I decided to do some research to find out.
How to properly wash and maintain your car bike rack? The best way to clean your bike rack is to use a soft nylon brush to remove accumulated dirt and road particles, wash with mild dish soap or carwash detergent with warm water (do not use abrasives), then rinse with clean water and wipe down with a dry cloth. Deep cleaning and routine inspection for corrosion, missing or loose parts every 6 months or less is also highly recommended.
We as outdoor fanatics pay good money for a bike rack system, and we expect them to last many years, if not a lifetime.
Although many bike rack manufacturers offer lifetime warranty on their systems, we would still want to keep it clean in appearance and optimal in performance. There are many important factors to keeping your bike rack in great shape for many years to come.
How to Properly Clean Your Bike Rack
Bike racks are combined with other metals, like copper or magnesium, to create an alloy that stands up to regular wear and tear.
But as with many other forms of metal products, bike racks can have an unattractive dull appearance over time resulting from the metal’s natural reaction to oxygen and exposure to road pollutants.
Removing this blemish requires careful handling and cleaning – follow the outlined steps below for how to clean bike racks properly.
Light Cleaning for Regular Maintenance
- Use mild dish soap or car wash detergents and warm water, then rinse with clean water
- Wipe down with a dry cloth
Deep Cleaning For Removing Dull Appearance (Recommended every 6 months)
- Soak your bike rack with water from a hose to remove any loose deposits, remove dirt, salt, and other deposits using soapy water and a rag. Rinse well to remove all residues.
- (Optional) Use a citric acid cleaner, (our favorite is the CitriSurf 77 Plus with Scotch-Brite Pad (3M #8447)) for stubborn surface discoloration followed by a clean rinse (make sure you rinse well as the citric acid can cause discoloration).
- Wipe down with a dry microfiber cloth
- To restore luster and oxidation, use a non-abrasive acrylic protectant such as Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze (a heavy-duty, non-abrasive, one-step cleaner/protector) with a rag then use another rag to buff the area. This acrylic formula will protect the surface from saltwater, acid rain, pollutants and other types of weather damage and gives you a deep acrylic shine. In fact, you can use this formula on your car.
To keep your bike rack in great shape for many years to come, a routine inspection every 6 months or less is highly recommended, especially in high saline environments or high traffic areas with lots of pollutants.
In every inspection, you should look for rust and other forms of damages and tighten and/or replace loose or missing parts immediately.
Replace Loose or Missing Parts
Many bike rack manufacturers offer replacement parts, so make sure you check and replace the part before heading out to your next adventure.
Below are a few bike rack manufacturers’ URLs to purchase spare parts:
Allen Sports: https://allen.bike/collections/parts
Hollywood Racks: https://hollywoodracks.com/collections/spare-parts
Lubricate the Moving Parts
To ensure your bike rack is at its optimal performance every time you use it, you should make sure it is well lubricated, especially the hinges, locks and the arm mechanisms.
Our favorite is the T9 Bioshield, an all-in-one waterproof lubricant and rust protector, which we also use on our bikes. It flushes the dirty and old lubricant, displaces moisture, and penetrates the moving parts. It dries well and creates a thin, waxy layer that clings to the metal for months.
Storing Your Bike Rack When Not In Use
Although there is no harm in keeping the bike rack attached to your car year-round, there are moments when we need to take it off and store it.
So what is the best way to store a bike rack?
The best way to store a bike rack when not in use is to store it indoors in a dry area with good ventilation. Make sure you put all the parts together, like putting the hitch bolt back on the rack, setting the bike beam with the rack, attach any extra straps, and place the keys to the locks.
This way you will be able to reattach it to your vehicle without the hassle and the frustration of looking for the parts or running to the store when you can spend the time doing your favorite outdoor activity – like cycling.
If you have a hitch bike rack, come check out my other article on How To Store Your Hitch Bike Rack.