Can A Bike Rack Block the License Plate

Can A Bike Rack Block the License Plate – Let’s Find Out!

One of the biggest worries of cyclists these days is the bike rack blocking the license plate. Given that some states in the USA put penalties for it, it’s a problem. So, can a bike rack block the license plate?

Yes, depending on the rack’s design and placement, it CAN BLOCK THE LICENCE PLATE. Does it mean I’m asking you to leave your favorite bike rack and carry the bikes inside your car? No, I’m not asking you to do that.

The answer to the question is more complex. The answer to the question has too many layers to cover. As we progress more into the article, we’ll slowly unveil each one by one. And at the end of it, you’ll understand the whole picture.

As I said before, the design and placement of bike racks are vital factors in this case. Hence, we need to understand which types most likely fall into the safe zone and which don’t. For that reason, let’s begin with the different types of bike racks first.

The Bike Rack Types

Bike Racks can be divided into several categories. But for our purpose, I divided it into two types. Since design matters in blocking the license plate, we’ll only talk about the one that blocks it and doesn’t.

Racks That Potentially Blocks The License Plate

The first rack variant that comes into my mind when it’s related to blocking the license plate would be the Hitch-Mounted ones.

This category of bike rack is attached to a trailer hitch at the back side of the vehicle. It gives your ride better protection from potential scratches and dents but blocks the view of the plate. Let me tell you about it more briefly.

See, hitch-mounted holders have two styles. One uses trays or cradles to carry bikes, and the other uses a vertical bar to hold the bike upright. For this reason, the wheel holders or trays block the sight in the first case, and the bikes do it in the second.

However, don’t cancel out hitch racks right away. You can SOLVE it with some measures ( I have a dedicated section below). For now, let’s focus on other types.

Okay, the second type that can block the license plate is the Trunk-Mounted Racks. These holders are mostly made to avoid view blockage. But some can obstruct the view if it’s not positioned well.

Apart from the two, all bike racks can block the view if it’s ill-positioned, even the Roof-Mounted types. It won’t directly block the sight (of course), but it can obstruct the rearview mirror making it difficult for the driver to see the plate.

Racks That Don’t Block The License Plate

The option to go for, if you don’t want to block the plate, would be to buy a Roof-Mounted rack. I’ve mentioned the name above as “Unsafe”, but trust me, it’s the safest. See, this style is attached to the roof of the vehicle.

Hence, there’s no direct obstruction. If you managed to put the bikes at a certain height, you wouldn’t find an indirect obstruction either.

Spare-Tire Mounted Racks are reliable options if you don’t want to face penalties. The bike tray is attached to the spare tire using clams or straps of this type.

For this reason, the plate remains safe from all kinds of blockage. If you have an SUV or a truck and don’t want any trouble, you should consider these bike racks as your first choice.

These two are the best styles that don’t block the license plate. However, you can work out with the “Faulty” models. There’re some hitch-mounted bike racks with a tilt option. With this feature, you can swag away the whole product, so it doesn’t disrupt the view.

Also, if you position the bikes in trunk-mounted ones, you won’t have any issues. Hence, as it stands, there are hacks or solutions, no matter which kinds you have. 

Can A Bike Rack Block the License Plate

Solutions to Avoid Ticketing

Colorado Revised Statute 42-3-202 clearly states, “A person shall not operate a motor vehicle with an affixed device or a substance that causes all or a portion of a license plate to be unreadable by a system used to automatically identify a motor vehicle.”

Like Colorado, many states – from the east coast to the west coast – imply license plate laws. So, to avoid a fine, you must take some measures before and after you take your bike with you.

Buy The Right Racks

Yes, the first and easiest solution would be buying the right rack for the job. If your product is designed not to block sight in the first place, you won’t face any problems. A lot of companies these days make racks to comply with local laws. You just have to research a bit deeper to find the right one.

For instance, find the one with a tilt or foldability option if you’re looking for a hitch-mounted type. There’re some specially designed vehicle-specific products also.

These are made so that the license plate will always be visible. You might have to spend some extra bucks here, but it’s worth the money.

Adjust The Rack or Relocate The License Plate

Suppose, like most people, you’ve bought a bike rack that will potentially block the plate. What now? Should you buy another one? No, you should not. All you have to do is to adjust a bit here and there.

To do that, try to place the rack as high as possible. Find out if the cradles or platform are adjustable or not. If they’re, tune in, so they’re out of the way. Lastly, don’t forget to use the tilt feature (if it has) to your advantage. This is one way to keep your newly bought bike rack.

Or… you can relocate the license plate from the back to one of the three sides.

There are too many license-plate-relocation kits available on the market. You can buy one to relocate it to the front or another. However, it might sound like the best option, but you’ve to be careful of the law. A lot of states disallow it. So, you must check the rules before applying.

Lighting Might Work

Yes, I’m talking about giving a light job to your license plate. You must attach a few LEDs to the plate’s frame and connect it using the vehicle’s electrical system. It’ll make it more visible even if bikes are blocking the sight.

Most hitch-mounted bike racks support a wiring power system. So, to implement this, you have to buy a wiring cable. If your rack doesn’t have the feature, you can buy an external battery-powered system to power the whole thing. This way, nobody will have problems seeing the license plate in all conditions.

Practice Good Driving Habits

In most cases, people get ticketed because they were rashly driving in the first place. So, to be clear from any charges, you must practice good driving habits. This means no overspending, signal-breaking, staying on the lane, etc.

Also, try not to ride when the rack’s empty to avoid unnecessary attention. This will have two effects. First, there will be so much jerking, and it will annoy the hell out of you. Second, traffic officers could’ve been more tolerant if the bikes were one. Since there are no bikes, you won’t have anything to defend.

These are the best solutions that you can do to avoid getting a fine. However, you must check the rules in the area before applying any of these.

Probable Penalties for Blocking the License Plate

As I said earlier, rules vary from state to state and country to country. So, there’s no direct answer to the question about the penalty amount. For example, if caught blocking the license plate in NYC, you can be fined up to 300 USD.

On the other hand, states like Delaware, Alabama, Arkansan, Arizona, etc., fines around 100$ for obstructing the license plate. There’re also some states in the USA where the amount will be decreased to 25 to 50 USD. The good news is that you don’t have to go to jail for this reason.

Unless you want holes in your pocket, try to ensure the license plate is open to the naked eye.

The Final Words

There’s a saying, THERE’S NO ROSE WITHOUT A THORN. No matter how great a product is, it has some disadvantages. This also goes in terms of bike racks. It’s a handy product to take your bikes in the wild, but it may also get you a ticket from a traffic officer. So, can a bike rack block the license plate? Yes, if you have a hitch-mounted bike rack, it will likely block the view. You can eliminate the problem by illuminating the license plate frame or relocating it to the other side. No matter what you do, try to keep it as close as the state’s law.

Eddie Burton - Senior Author
Senior Author: Eddie Burton

Eddie Burton is a passionate car enthusiast and a seasoned mechanic with over 15 years of experience in the automotive industry. He has worked with a variety of vehicles, from classic muscle cars to modern luxury cars, and has extensive knowledge of all types of auto parts and accessories.

Eddie’s love for cars began at a young age when he would spend hours tinkering with his first car, a 1967 Mustang. Since then, he has pursued his passion for cars by working in various garages and workshops, honing his skills and expertise in everything related to automobiles.

As a contributor to our website, Eddie shares his in-depth knowledge and experience with our readers, providing valuable tips and advice on auto parts, repairs, and maintenance. He’s committed to helping car owners get the most out of their vehicles by providing honest and practical reviews of auto parts, accessories, and tools.

With Eddie’s vast experience and expertise, you can trust his recommendations and insights on everything related to cars. Whether you’re a seasoned car owner or a newbie in the world of automobiles, Eddie’s articles and reviews will help you make informed decisions and keep your vehicle running smoothly for years to come.

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