Rear Bike Racks and the Exhaust Issue

Many bike rack owners are concerned whether their bikes transported on hitch and trunk bike racks can be damaged by the exhaust system. The answer is definitive, they absolutely can be damaged. Moreover, it actually happens quite often, and I have talked to quite a few people whose bikes have suffered some damage.

There are two parts of your bike that can be destroyed:

  • The tire can explode under high-temperature exposure,
  • The carbon rim can easily get melted because of the same reason.

It is true though that more powerful cars pose higher risk levels. Moreover, it also matters how hard you put your foot on the gas pedal as the exhaust temperature will be significantly higher at high revs. However, even if you are driving a not too powerful car, you can not feel safe so you’d better read further. 

The only ones who can feel a bit more relaxed are diesel cars owners. The temperature of the diesel exhausts is significantly lower due to the nature of the diesel engine. I would put the wheel of my to close anyway.

How to prevent your bikes from being damaged

There are two things that you should keep a close eye on to make sure that your bikes stay safe on a rack:

  • The wheel of a bike has to be at least 18 inches away from the exhaust horizontally,
  • The wheel must not be directly in the path of the exhaust (at least 8 inches higher vertically).

Important! Both conditions must be met at the same time. Many people mistakenly think that placing the wheel far enough horizontally will be enough. This is not the case. You have to make sure that the wheel is not on the direct line of fire that the exhaust gives away.

Plan accordingly from the very beginning

This one may seem too obvious but it is often neglected anyway. Before buying a rear bike rack, do some research and find out how a particular rack will be positioned on your car. Make sure that it will be at least 18 inches away horizontally and 8 inches away vertically.

Buy a hitch extender or an elevated adapter

If you have already purchased a rear bike rack that does not satisfy both criteria (18 inches away horizontally and 8 inches away vertically), then buying a hitch extender or an elevated adapter might be a good option for you.

Hitch extender

Elevated Adapter

This will solve the problem in most cases since it will add so needed several inches. If I had the exhaust issue, I would definitely go and buy either of these since the next possible solutions will be rather exotic.

Shield the bike’s wheel with DIY plates

This can definitely help, no question about that. The only problem is that it will probably be challenging to attach a plate to your bike (or the bike rack) at a particular angle and keep it secure during a ride.

Consider buying a turn down exhaust tip to re-route the flow

Re-routing the exhaust flow definitely makes sense since the wheel of your bike won’t be exposed to high temperatures anymore.

However, you need to keep in mind that most exhaust tips are decorative so they might not get the job done. So to speak, you would have to buy the right one.


The bottom line is that you have to be careful since your bikes on rear racks can be damaged by the exhaust. Especially given that some bikes are really pricey.

Keep the wheel of your bike 18 inches away horizontally and 8 inches away vertically and you are going to be fine.