Bike Rack Maintenance: The Ultimate Guide

If you're anything like us, your bikes and car bike rack live in your garage much more during the winter than in other months. Instead of leaving VelociRAX hitch racks on our cars full time, we have relocated bikes and bike racks to the garage except for winter fat tire bike rides here and there. Before storing them away for long periods, we like to give them extra love so they will be ready to go for the next ride. A little upkeep goes a long way.  

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, bike racks get dirty. Loading muddy tires onto a bike rack for the first time is how you properly break it in and is it even biking if there isn’t any dirt? Bike racks layer on dirt and sand that will be washed away by rain over and over. Luckily your bikes and bike rack are designed for this, but keeping gear in top-notch condition will add years to its life. 

Just like your bike needs a tune-up once or twice a year, your rack deserves attention to keep running smoothly. Bikes require mechanical attention to catch minor issues before they turn into anything serious; this is the same for bike racks. Long-term damage can easily be avoided by quick and frequent check-ups. Preventative measures will keep your bikes and bike racks in stellar condition long-term. 

Bike Rack Care

VelociRAX vertical bike racks are designed to carry a full load of bikes on rough and unexpected terrain. Like any other item, our vertical hitch racks work at peak ability when built to spec and used within parameters. When your vertical rack is assembled correctly, the anti-rattle system tightened, and bikes strapped in, you will only need to worry about your car while driving off-road. We provide specific instructions to use the rack to the peak of its ability. 

All VelociRAX hitch racks can support up to 230 lbs of total bike weight and 55 lbs per tire basket. Exceeding this weight can damage your bike rack and bike, so we suggest not testing the limits. The anti-rattle system is essential in keeping the rack steady, which keeps bike movement to a minimum while in transit. Follow the torque specs in the instructions, especially for tire baskets, to avoid warping any parts. 

Luckily, our hitch bike racks have a powder-coated finish, which works hard to resist corrosion. It is durable and ready for harsh weather conditions. Powder coating works as rust-resistant by creating “a barrier to protect against many different types of corrosion, including rust. Many natural metals like steel rust over time with exposure to moisture and oxygen. Powder-coating creates a protective barrier so the metal remains rust-free.” (Fishing Systems). We give you a good starting point, so keep your hitch rack looking beautiful with little effort.

Bike Rack Cleaning

The center pin locks the center post and hitch assembly upright and initiates a smooth lower once the release lever is pulled. Like any metal part, wear and tear may occur but spraying a glass coating on the source will keep it looking and feeling good. Our favorite product to use is Maxima High Glass Coating. It is easy to spray and has done a great deal of bike and bike rack maintenance jobs for us over the years. 

Moving parts of VelociRAX hitch racks: center hitch pin, integrated locking system parts, dampers, and locking hitch pin. If you own an Integrated locking system, spray sliding end caps to continue smoothly opening and closing. It is also a good practice to use coating spray on the retractable cable in case rust is present.

To keep the dampers in tip-top shape, lower the rack to the load position and clean off any residue they may collect with a paper towel. 

Coating the center pin area with graphite will keep your VelociRAX hitch rack smooth and consistent when lowering. Lower the VelociRAX hitch rack into camp mode to examine the center pin and pin opening. We use AGS Graphite Lubricant to smooth the pin area. Once you have coated it and let it dry, push it up and listen for the pin holes latch-- there should be a loud "click" when the center pin is in the pinhole correctly. If you do not feel confident, repeat this process until it is smooth.  

If your VelociRAX hitch rack stays on your car the majority of the time, your locking hitch pin is also vulnerable to the elements and will experience rust. To clean, remove it from the hitch, thoroughly wipe it down, then spray the keyhole and pin with a coating spray. Let it dry for a few seconds, then insert the key and rotate it a few times. Keep the keyhole covered with the dust cover whenever the key is not inserted to minimize dust build-up.

These suggestions are not necessary to preserve the integrity of the rack but are helpful to maintain smooth and long-lasting usage; keeping this clean will prevent unpredicted hiccups. This will keep your locking hitch pin and the self-lowering mechanism will work in peak condition.  

How do I Keep My Hitch Receiver From Rusting? 

What is rust? 

Oxidation, better known as rust is a chemical reaction between iron, oxygen, and water, so whether you drive your car into the ocean or leave it in the garage, some degree of rust will occur (Schuette Metals). Rust thrives in humid conditions because moisture-saturated air reacts with oxygen on the metals of a hitch receiver. Corrosion can also increase with temperature changes, salt, humidity, rain, and wind (NHC).

If you live in a state like Florida, you may need to do hitch maintenance more than someone that lives away from the coast of California since there is little rainfall and lower humidity. Since you can’t completely stop rust, the best practice will be to decrease the process.

Treating Hitch Receiver Rust

Rust is inevitable but a coat of grease will do the trick. A blog by Schuette Metals says: 

Rust is a natural process that occurs with or without our help. However, the only remaining option is finding smart ways to work around it. So if you have an old derelict piece of machinery that succumbed to corrosion, pick it up, scrape off the rust, identify the right preventive measure suitable for you, and get to work.

First, scrub the hitch receiver's interior and exterior with a wire brush. Extensively scrub flaking points, especially inside the receiver with a hand wire bush, like in this video, or a circular wire wheel drill accessory, like in this video

After the rust has been brushed off and removed, wash it with soap and water. Don’t skip this step– the metal must be clean before moving on. Next, use an anti-rust spray such as Rust Reformer or WD-40 to spray a light coat to help contain the rust. You can also apply an anti-seize lubricant like Permatex and lubricate inside and around any other rusted areas to resist moisture. These will make your reiver look brand new by restoring it to its original color and adding coat metal parts to protect against rust. 

For more information, watch this video by This Better Home and this video by How To Video Channel. 

How to Clean Your Vertical Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack

VelociRAX hitch racks are constructed with high-strength steel; fortunately, steel is easy to clean. Stay away from harsh cleaning chemicals. Instead, wash with dish soap or other mild detergents. Wash off the rack with the chosen cleaner, rag, and warm water, then give it a clean rinse. With a clean towel, gently dry. 

Never take any bike rack through an automatic car wash. The best way to clean your car rack is from home so you can control which materials are contacting your gear and the force it undertakes. Taking your hitch bike rack through a car wash is a disaster waiting to happen. You might be able to make it through the first phase, but any more and you will probably have a dysfunctional bike rack and owe the car wash facility some money for damaged equipment. 

Keep Your Car Bike Rack Looking Fresh 

Save yourself a headache and replacement costs by washing your bike rack at home; trust us, it’s worth it. Not only will cleaning at least once a year achieves optimal appearance, but it will also help your rack from degrading. Cleaning and maintaining your hitch and car bike rack will make a substantial difference in extending the life of your rack.  If you wash your car at home, you can spend an extra few minutes focusing on all the nooks and crannies. Keep your VelociRAX looking fresh for many seasons to come!