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Do Bike Racks Need Lights? (All You Need to Know!)

Bike racks make traveling with your bikes very easy, especially if you have multiple bikes. You can opt for a hitch rack, rear-mounted, or roof-mounted rack depending on your need.

Rear-mounted bike racks are a favorite among the cycling community because of their affordability and easy installation. This article will further elaborate on this topic, so keep reading to find out!

Do bike racks need lights?

Not all bike racks require lights. But rear-mounted racks require additional installation of lights as a safety measure. This is because; as it is mounted at the back of the car and the bikes eventually hang on the rack they can cover the headlight and license plate of the car.

Do you need a light board for a bike rack?

Although rear-mounted racks are the most commonly used due to being more efficient for carrying bikes, they require a light board for proper visibility, road safety, and regulations.

Since hitch rack and trunk racks are both rear-mounted, they may cover your taillights and/or license plates. This may cause your lights to be less visible and can be dangerous for you and the vehicle behind you.

This is why it is recommended that if any carrier covers your vehicle’s lights and/or license plate, you should attach additional lights or get a light board for your carrier.

It is also required by some states to have your license plate a certain height above the ground and be visible.

Since the rear-mounted racks may cover or block your license plate, you can take out your license plate and reattach it onto the light board for better visibility.

How to add brake lights to the bike rack?

Most companies nowadays provide light bars along with racks which are very easy to install since there are instructions on provided as well.

However, if your rack does not come with a light bar, you do not need to worry. You can buy any light bar or LED light kits of your choice and easily install them yourself by following the steps below:

Tool Preparation:

The tools you use are very important, you will need specific types of bolts and wretches which are compatible with your rack’s sockets, and a measuring tape to make sure everything is aligned.


If you are using a LED light kit, you will use a type of adhesive to stick them to your rack. You can use good quality Velcro to easily attach the lights in place.


You will also need compatible adapters for your wiring cables.


You need to keep your rack set in an upwards position like you would have it with you having your cycles on them.

This allows you to see the position where the lights will be installed in, and you can adjust it accordingly if necessary.

Installing Light Bars:

If you are planning on installing light bars, there should be some sockets along the horizontal upper rail of your rack.

You just need to position the light bar along with these sockets and bolt them in place using your wrench.

Installing LED Lights:

If you are using LED lights, you first need to clean the area where you want them to be placed.

Measure out the area where you want to attach them and cut the velcro according to the LED lights’ size. Then, attach one side of the Velcro to your rack and the other to the LED light.


Both kits come with pre-packaged cable sets. You need to connect the wires that are connected to the lights to your vehicle using these connection cables and adapter.

The lights wires need to be connected to your backlight wires so that they can illuminate.

Mounted cable ties:

The wires can be held into place using mounted cable ties around the cables and wires along with the racks.

Do bike racks need number plates? 

If your rack does not cover or block your rear license plate, then it is not required to get a number plate. Roof-mounted bike racks do not require number plates since they are attached to the roof and do not block your number plates.

However, if your rack covers the license plates, then it is best to relocate your number plate on your rack. This is required if you have a rear-mounted bike rack such as a rack that is attached to your trunk or hitch/tow rack.

For these types of racks, you can attach a bracket on them and relocate your number placed on it so that it is visible.

What do I do if my bike rack covers my license plate? 

Many rear-mounted racks come equipped with a bracket for license plate relocation. So, if your carrier has one you can easily relocate the license plate and attach it to your rack.

You should remember that your license plate must be visible; hence you should attach it in a way that it is visible clearly.

In some states, it is a requirement that the license plate must remain 12inches off the ground; you should look into your local road safety & regulations just in case.

Can I make my own number plate for the bike rack?

No, you cannot make your own number plate as this will not show up on speed-checking cameras. Using a makeshift number plate may also be considered illegal.

What you can do is, re-attach your number plate to your rack at an appropriate height and area so that it is visible.

If you follow the steps mentioned above on how to attach your number plate, you should be good to go! Remember to go through the requirements of your state on number plate placement just to be sure.

Do you need a wiring harness for a bike rack?

If you have a rear-mounted trunk or hitched rack, then you will need a wiring harness to set up a light or light-board.

The purpose of the wiring harness is to transmit electrical power from a source to the receiver. It integrates into the pre-existing wiring of your vehicle which allows the electrical system to connect to the lighting of your choice.

Some light bars or LED lights come with a set of connector cables. Unless it is stated or they are not provided, you can opt for a wiring harness.

Do bike racks need a hitch ball?

Hitch balls are essentially a removable connector between your trailer and your vehicle. This allows you to smoothly drive around corners or over bumps with your trailer attached.

A ball hitch is not a requirement for bike racks. Unless you already have a hitch receiver attached for trailers, it is not required.

They are only necessary if you want to attach your hitch receiver to both a bike rack and a trailer.

What size hitch do I need for the bike rack?

The hitch size you should get depends on two things: the size of your rack and the type of your hitch receiver.

There are different types of hitch receivers which depend on the type of vehicle you will attach it to.

Class I or II is for SUVs or smaller cars, these hitch receivers have an opening which is typically 1×1-1/4″.

You should check your rack to see which size hitch it is compatible with; most racks fit either the 2” or 1-1/4” hitch receivers.

The most common hitch for SUVs and small cars are the lightweight class I hitches.

Do bike racks need a tow bar?

Tow bars are not required for roof-mounted bike racks. In contrast, rear-mounted bike racks require either a tow bar or hitch. Depending on the type of rack and its brand you should be good to go without a tow bar!

If you are looking for rear-mounted racks, many brands sell rear-mount bike racks that are detachable and do not require any tow bars.

However, racks which use tow bars are very stable, sturdy and these racks can carry up to 2 cycles. Tow bars are essential for carrying heavier loads, if you need a high caliber rack then you can go for racks that require tow bars.

Nowadays it is very easy to bring your cycles to your riding location using bike racks. Bike racks have made the lives of cycling enthusiasts a lot easier.

There are many different types and styles of racks to suit everyone. You can bring your bikes along on a trip or just take your bikes on a trip to your desired riding path!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can You Open The Trunk with The Bike Rack?

Can You Put Electric, Carbon, or Other Bikes On a Bike Rack?

Do You Leave Your Bike Rack On Your Car?

Does a Bike Rack Damage Or Scratch Your Car?

How Fast Can You Drive with a Bike Rack?