Tongue Weight and Bike Racks- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Tongue Weight and Bike Racks

    My Forester has a tongue weight capacity of 200lbs. I have a 2" hitch on it, which I think has a tongue weight capacity of 300lbs or more.

    Let's say the Thule T2 and Add-On weigh about 100lbs. If I put four 35lb bikes on it, that's 240lbs total weight. Does that mean I've exceeded the tongue weight, since the entirety of the rack/bike weight is being held up by the hitch? If so, it seems crazy that this car wouldn't be able to carry 4 bikes. If not, how do I determine the tongue weight in this scenario?

    Also, I'm assuming that I'm supposed to use the tongue weight of the car (200lbs) not the hitch (300lbs) in this scenario, right?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by LowLow; 08-28-2011 at 08:57 PM.

  2. #2
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    Is the hitch stock on the car, or is it an add-on? If it's an add-on, go by the tongue weight limit of the unit itself. If it is stock on the car, go by the tongue weight limit noted in the owners manual. In each case, if the tongue weight limit was 200lbs, and say your bike and rack weigh 230, it's obviously over limit.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by iggibar View Post
    Is the hitch stock on the car, or is it an add-on? If it's an add-on, go by the tongue weight limit of the unit itself. If it is stock on the car, go by the tongue weight limit noted in the owners manual. In each case, if the tongue weight limit was 200lbs, and say your bike and rack weigh 230, it's obviously over limit.
    Thanks, it's an add-on. At what point does the car's capabilities factor into it, since the frame of the car can only handle so much tongue weight? You can't just put a class 3 hitch on a compact car and expect it to handle 500lbs of tongue weight, can you?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LowLow View Post
    Thanks, it's an add-on. At what point does the car's capabilities factor into it, since the frame of the car can only handle so much tongue weight? You can't just put a class 3 hitch on a compact car and expect it to handle 500lbs of tongue weight, can you?
    That's the thing I'm having a tough time wrapping my head around. Why put a 2" class III hitch if it can't meet the classes hitch tongue weight standard? Class III hitches are called class III because they can tow up to 5000lbs and have a tongue weight maximum of 500lbs(safe load). It might be possible that the hitch you have installed is going by the 2" size just for conveniences sake. That's why I asked if the hitch came standard stock(actually part of the car's frame), or as an aftermarket add-on(bolted to the frame).

    What model hitch do you have, if you don't mind me asking?

    And to answer your question about the car's frame, you factor that in after your hitch greatly exceeds any standard weight of what a hitch should tow, in case you need to pull/carry anything on that hitch of a massive weight.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by iggibar View Post
    That's the thing I'm having a tough time wrapping my head around. Why put a 2" class III hitch if it can't meet the classes hitch tongue weight standard? Class III hitches are called class III because they can tow up to 5000lbs and have a tongue weight maximum of 500lbs(safe load). It might be possible that the hitch you have installed is going by the 2" size just for conveniences sake. That's why I asked if the hitch came standard stock(actually part of the car's frame), or as an aftermarket add-on(bolted to the frame).

    What model hitch do you have, if you don't mind me asking?

    And to answer your question about the car's frame, you factor that in after your hitch greatly exceeds any standard weight of what a hitch should tow, in case you need to pull/carry anything on that hitch of a massive weight.
    It's an Eckhart hitch, which I think is a local company in LA. I talked to the guy at Eckhart and he said that I can definitely put more than 200lbs of tongue weight on it but the 2" hitch is more for convenience's sake. I don't know, this stuff is confusing.

  6. #6
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    I figured it was there for just convenience. Did you get the exact weight? Can you post a pic of it? I kind of want to see the hitch and rack...for fun.

  7. #7
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    Not sure what year your Forester is, but that's definitely a limitation of your hitch. Not sure how it mounts up to your car exactly, but etrailer lists a class 2 with a limit of 300 lb and a class 3 with a 400 lb tongue limit.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by iggibar View Post
    I figured it was there for just convenience. Did you get the exact weight? Can you post a pic of it? I kind of want to see the hitch and rack...for fun.
    Sure, I'll post a pick of the hitch and rack once I get the racks. I ordered the rack yesterday, so it should be here soon. The guy at Eckhart said that the hitch had 3,500lb towing capacity (Forester is 2,400lb) and 350lb tongue weight capacity. It looks like it's put on pretty well (welded, etc.), and these guys have a good reputation locally, so I'm thinking it shouldn't be an issue.

  9. #9
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    Shouldn't be an issue at all. As a *general* tongue weight rule, you generally want to carry about 10% of your car's towing maximum. Only a few duty vehicles are an exception to this rule.

  10. #10
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    It's probably a limitation on the car. At some point, with enough weight far enough aft, they get light in the front wheels and steerage becomes a problem. Too, while it can accommodate a 2" hitch, it's doubtful that it can pull the load that a 2" hitch is specified to pull.

    Like this:


    J.

  11. #11
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    I had a Forester with the oem 1.25" hitch receiver.

    I tried putting my Swagman XC-4 which has a 2" hitch (bought to be used on my Expedition) via the a 2" to 1.25" adapter and that's a no go.

    Don't get me wrong. Everything fits and all, but putting on 4 all mountain bikes with a 60 pound carrier and having the carrier extend out 12" (due to the length of the adapter) caused the rear suspension to dip too much.

    For kicks, I drove around a little bit (without bikes) and the rear suspension would bottom out, scraping the carrier on driveways, speed bumps, etc. Not good.

  12. #12
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    For short trips around town, I wouldnt worry about it unless you live in a crazy stop go in an instant kind of place. For a longer trip, not so much.

  13. #13
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    Lowlow,

    I'm not an expert but had the same questions you did when setting up my latest hitch rack. Here are some of the things I learned.

    1. The tongue weight is rated at the hitch where a ball would be located. The bike racks extend further away from the hitch increasing the leverage they place on the hitch. As a general rule you should go less than maximum tongue weight.

    2. Most car/minivan suspension is not equipped for the extra weight and bottoming becomes an issue. This happened to me a lot on my last van. To combat this I use air bags in the coils of the shocks that are adjustable via air pressure. This keeps the vehicle riding high on the suspension.

    3. Someone told me hitches are usually about 3 times as strong as they are rated for. THIS IS ONLY SOMETHING I HAVE BEEN TOLD AND CANNOT VERIFY IT"S TRUTH...but it was comforting to hear.

    4. When i have five or six bikes on mine (I have an NSR6 rack) i use a strap between the top of my hatch and the rack. This keeps it from bobbing and makes me feel better when driving. Seeing the rack bounce in the rearview makes me queasy.

    Ratings are a bit misleading as they are intended for a different purpose (towing). Sorry I can't offer a definitive answer, but I hope some of this helps.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by tk1971 View Post
    I had a Forester with the oem 1.25" hitch receiver.

    I tried putting my Swagman XC-4 which has a 2" hitch (bought to be used on my Expedition) via the a 2" to 1.25" adapter and that's a no go.

    Don't get me wrong. Everything fits and all, but putting on 4 all mountain bikes with a 60 pound carrier and having the carrier extend out 12" (due to the length of the adapter) caused the rear suspension to dip too much.

    For kicks, I drove around a little bit (without bikes) and the rear suspension would bottom out, scraping the carrier on driveways, speed bumps, etc. Not good.
    From what I've read, when you use the adapter, it reduces the tongue weight capacity by 50%. I had a T2 and add-on (2" hitch required) on my forester for a few rides and didn't notice anything while driving around with 3 bikes. I don't have much experience with it though so I can't say how it would've been long-term. The T2 and add-on are monsters...like 110lbs.

  15. #15
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    Another problem with factory hitches, is that the stated capacities are for the hitch receiver itself, not necessarily the towing capacity of the vehicle it is mounted on.

    This is another one of those common sense deals. When installing the hitch receiver to the vehicle, note how it is mounted and what it is mounted to. Is it mounted to a tow hook or just the sheet metal of your trunk wall, or the metal bumper under the bumper skin?

    My US spec Yaris has no factory hitch option and the manual specifically states not to tow with it, but Hidden Hitch, Curt, and Draw-Tite all make hitches for this car with a tongue weight rating of 200 pounds. During the install, I took note of how the hitch attached to the car, and have concluded that I need to take it easy on the hitch. It attaches to just sheet metal.

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