Is It Normal for Bike Racks to Sway or Wobble? What You Need to Know

If you’re a bike enthusiast who loves to explore new trails or go on long rides, then you’re likely to have invested in a bike rack. 

However, if you’ve noticed that your bike rack sways while driving, you might wonder if this is normal. 

In this article, we’ll explore whether it’s normal for bike racks to sway and what you need to know about it.

Understanding Bike Racks and How They Work

Bike racks are one of the must-have bike accessories for bikers

The three main types of bike racks are hitch-mounted, trunk-mounted, and roof-mounted.

hitch mounted bike rack on a silver grey SUV

Hitch-mounted bike racks attach to the hitch on the back of your vehicle, and there are two types: hanging and platform. Hanging racks secure bikes from their frame and hold them firmly using velcro or rubber straps. Meanwhile, platform racks have a tray where the bike sits, and usually a hooked arm holds onto the frame or the front tire for added security. 

Trunk mounted bikes on a red car

Trunk-mounted bike racks attach to the trunk or rear hatch of your vehicle. They’re the most basic and inexpensive way to transport your bike. Trunk-mounted bike racks include 4-6 rubber-dipped metal hooks for holding the bike in place and rubber or foam pads for cushioning. 

Roof-mounted bike racks attach to the roof of your vehicle but can be more difficult to install aftermarket and require extra precautions when driving under low clearance areas. There are two types of roof-mounted racks: fork mount (with front tire removed) and upright (tire left on). 

A Seasucker bike rack with suction cups

Why Bike Racks Might Sway

There are several reasons why your bike rack might sway or wobble while driving. 

For example, some attachments can get loose when driving through excessively windy weather, causing your bike rack to sway. Driving through a storm with your bike rack might not be a great idea. 

Uneven roads and rough terrains are other factors to consider. No matter how secure your bikes are, driving on uneven terrains will sway your bike rack slightly. 

If the bikes are too heavy or the weight isn’t distributed, your bike rack can start swaying. This is especially common with hitch-mounted bike racks, where you start to feel like you’re pulling a trailer behind you that sways with every left and right turn. 

Effects of Swaying Bike Racks

A swaying bike rack can cause significant damage to both your bike and your vehicle. 

The swaying motion can cause the bikes to collide with each other, resulting in scratches or even bent frames. Even worse, you could be looking at a major traffic disaster if it causes the bikes to detach from the bike rack. 

In addition, the swaying motion can negatively impact your car’s suspension and lead to more wear on the tires. 

Is It Normal for Bike Racks to Sway?

It’s not normal for bike racks to sway excessively while driving. Ideally, you want them to be as stable and rigid as possible.  

However, some degree of sway can be expected depending on the type of bike rack you have and the weight of the bike. 

For example, roof-mounted racks are normally very stable because they’re attached directly to the rails of your car. Sure, you might feel some wind resistance as you’re driving, especially at greater speeds, but your roof rack shouldn’t sway that much. 

Trunk-mounted racks are supposed to fit snugly against the trunk of your car. There shouldn’t be much sway, nor should the bikes bounce against the trunk. If you feel any side-to-side movement or sway with trunk racks, you should immediately pull over and check it out. 

Hitch-mounted racks are the most likely to sway while driving since they’re installed behind the vehicle and extend outwards rather than snugly hugging the trunk. It’s okay if you feel it swaying a little as long as it’s not affecting your driving or does it feel unsecured. 

Lightweight bike racks

How to Minimize Bike Rack Sway While Driving 

While a little wobble can be expected while driving, you can do a few things to minimize it as much as possible. 

  • Ensure your bike rack is properly installed, and the bikes are fastened correctly.
  • Drive at a steady speed and avoid sharp or sudden turns or stops.
  • Use additional straps to secure the bikes, especially in windy weather.
  • Make sure you distribute the weight of the bikes evenly and that the size of the bike rack is appropriate for the weight and size of the bikes.
  • When driving with multiple bikes, you can use a bike lock or ratchet strap to secure them together.
  • You can get accessories like a hitch tightener, hitch pin, hitch clamp, and a bike rack support strap for hitch-mounted racks. All of these help better secure the bikes in place. 

Maintenance and Safety Tips for Bike Racks

Regular maintenance of your bike rack is vital. It can help minimize driving sway and keep you and your bikes safe. 

Here are some tips you can use for bike rack care:

  • When inspecting your bike rack, make sure all the parts are tightly fastened with no damaged or loose components. Otherwise, loose straps can damage bike rack just as much as they can scratch up your bike frame.
  • Bike racks can accumulate dirt, grime, and road junk which ultimately degrade the rack. So remember to regularly wash your bike rack with mild detergent and hot water, just as you would your bike, then a quick towel off. 
  • Remove the bike rack if you don’t use it for some time. There’s no point in keeping it on your vehicle if you don’t need it. Installing it needlessly leads to more wear and tear, more grime and dirt build-up, and a shorter lifespan for your bike rack. 
  • Store your bike rack in a dry place, away from sunlight and harsh weather conditions. 
  • Make sure to add a small amount of lubrication or oil to the moving parts of your bike rack monthly. Lubricants are usually found in most bike repair kits. It can help reduce some friction and lower the chances of rust or breakage. 
  • While driving, add some foam or protective material between the rack and the bike frame for extra protection. 


In conclusion, some bike rack wobble is normal, but excessive swaying can be dangerous for you and your bike. 

By understanding the causes of bike rack sway and following the tips in this article, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable biking experience on the road.