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RANT: catastrophic Thule rack fail

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RANT: catastrophic Thule rack fail

Old 12-06-23, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Barry2
Consumers who experience a vehicle issue that could be a safety defect are encouraged to file a complaint with NHTSA.

Document everything, receipts, photos, communications.

if NHTSA gets enough complaints, Subaru may have to make good.

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That's not how it works.
Subaru (or any manufacturer, for that matter) has no obligation to design or redesign a part on their vehicle to accommodate an aftermarket accessory. NHTSA complaints are about safety concerns of OEM parts or systems on vehicles as designed by the manufacturer or OEM supplier. If someone sells you an aftermarket part or accessory that is not compatible with a particular model, that's on the aftermarket part supplier.
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Old 12-06-23, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by 13ollocks
So, did the pin come out or did the hitch or receiver fail? The pin is not structural - it's there to properly locate the hitch in the receiver and to ensure that the hitch doesn't subsequently slip out. It's the extent of hitch insertion into the receiver that governs tongue weight. You're going on about how little the hitch inserted into the receiver, but it sounds like the pin came out, so the failure wasn't a result of the extent of hitch insertion, but the pin coming out. Is that right?
FTR I've had an OEM receiver on my Outback for ~20 years - mainly for pulling trailers. It's a perfectly good receiver - the key is that (i) the hitch inserts almost a foot into the receiver, and (ii) the pin goes right through the receiver and locks on the other side. And there are safety chains in the (very unlikely) event that either the hitch or pin fails. It's our responsibility to ensure that things don't detach from our cars. I'm sure other road users are glad that you've learned a lesson (although you've managed to make everyone but you responsible) - RTFM and maybe go the extra to ensure security - a proper locking pin etc
I disagree that I "managed to make everyone but you responsible." Read my last sentence of the OP. Where I concluded, "RTFM."
Also, the receiver is obviously not the problem (although Thule would prefer it was a deeper hitch pin hole for their short auto hitch pin device). The Forester will tow our small trailer without issue because as you describe, the hitch inserts deeply into the receiver and there is a through and through hitch pin and safety chains with the trailer. The Thule Apex 4 rack does not allow safety chains, and it blocks a through and through hitch pin.
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Old 12-06-23, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Buzzkill53120
None of the Thule racks have a through bolt to lock the rack in place. Thule uses an expansion bolt to secure the rack into the receiver. The “finger” that goes into the receiver hole is an additional locking/safety feature.
I bought an Epos rack, which has a similar a mechanism, works very well and makes rack install and removal fast and easy. I’m dubious of OP’s claim that this information was buried in the manual. Even if this was true, not RTFM is foolhardy.
Of course I no longer have said manual in question. However, Thule agreed that the minimal receiver hitch pin hole depth should have been on the "Quick Install" page but was not. The updated manual is now the opposite (see above images). There is no longer a "Quick Install" page. Also, the safety concerns are now clear and early.
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Old 12-06-23, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
If the on-line manual is the one relevant to your product, there really isn't any "fine print." Installation is covered in detail on page 3. I don't really see a "quick Installation" guide. Maybe that's a separate page?

Maybe this is the manual?

https://www.manuals.ca/thule/apex-xt/manual?p=19
My older manual had a Quick Install page.
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Old 12-06-23, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Buzzkill53120
None of the Thule racks have a through bolt to lock the rack in place. Thule uses an expansion bolt to secure the rack into the receiver. The “finger” that goes into the receiver hole is an additional locking/safety feature.
I bought an Epos rack, which has a similar a mechanism, works very well and makes rack install and removal fast and easy. I’m dubious of OP’s claim that this information was buried in the manual. Even if this was true, not RTFM is foolhardy.
Good to know - I know what to avoid when it’s time to change my old bike rack, which was rated for 2 bikes at 50lb.
I have 2 racks, one that has been definitely discontinued is the one I like better (Softride Versa). Buld of it is made from anodized Al and it allows tilting the rack to ground so bike does not need to be lifted while a person may have to fumble around placing wheels properly. Once the bike is secured, the entire platform is lifted with a handle and it locks in the correct position. This mechanism or the full pin in the hitch with a lock of its own (to prevent someone from liberating the bike rack) is well built (in the US by the local folks - not by illegal aliens). It came with a life-time warranty and although, it is discontinued, the factory supplied needed plastic bits when they started looking a little worse for the wear… sun, UV etc.
The second rack is made by Saris (again in the US)… this too uses a through bolt.
Next year when we buy an e-bike for my wife, we may have to get a different rack to accommodate bigger tires and greater weight… and I’m thinking about another US made product from a company called 1up.

For those of you who may not have been using hitch racks for long, it is a good idea to take them out from the hitch receivers, clean them and apply a liberal layer of an anti-seizing product at least once a year. This minimal effort gives you a chance to look any impending failure point that may be developing (tiny cracks, rust damage) and prevent the rack from getting stuck inside the receiver because of rust that may have accumulated over a long period of time (this happened to someone at wok - didn’t do a thing for 5 years and rack and the hitch became one!).
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Old 12-06-23, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Thigh Master
I disagree that I "managed to make everyone but you responsible." Read my last sentence of the OP. Where I concluded, "RTFM."
Also, the receiver is obviously not the problem (although Thule would prefer it was a deeper hitch pin hole for their short auto hitch pin device). The Forester will tow our small trailer without issue because as you describe, the hitch inserts deeply into the receiver and there is a through and through hitch pin and safety chains with the trailer. The Thule Apex 4 rack does not allow safety chains, and it blocks a through and through hitch pin.
You managed to get Thule to pay you $5k for your bikes and REI to refund the cost of the original rack and discount a new one. Well done, I guess. You could make a case that the REI sales person who "gave her blessing" had no business doing so if she wasn't up to speed with the incompatibility issue, but Thule did nothing wrong. As evidence of taking responsibility, I'm not sure if "I'll RTFM next time" really compares.
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Old 12-06-23, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO
If there were a requirement to read the entire manual before, or during, the use of a product we would never have a traffic jam anywhere in the world.
Traffic jams are caused by people not reading operator manuals? That's an interesting theory.
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Old 12-06-23, 07:18 PM
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Poor design on Thule's part.

A couple years ago I took a hard look at hitch mounted Thule, Yakima, & Kuat..for the money($700-$1000), For that kind of money, they seemed flimsy.

I then looked at a 1UP and bought one. Not only was it the lowest price(a nice surprise, but not critical in my purchase), but the design & build was much better..for me at least. All machined aluminum and simple to operate.

Two years later and too many laden trips to remember, some across country, the rack still looks and works like new. Two friends have a 1UP carrier with similar experiences. I use a locking through receiver hitch pin in addition to the wedge-ball mechanism. No issues.
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Old 12-06-23, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe
Traffic jams are caused by people not reading operator manuals? That's an interesting theory.
I don’t think you read my post which started “if there were a requirement”.

In a nutshell few people, maybe virtually no one, actually reads the entire owner’s manual for their car. So “if” there were a requirement no one would be able to drive. No cars equals no traffic jams.

The read the manual stuff works so well on the internet, but I’m betting the majority of people look over the quick start for most things (printers, coffee makers, etc) in their house.

As for the Thule rack. Not a chance I would ever use one without a through hitch pin… with or without a manual.

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Old 12-06-23, 08:18 PM
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The fact that Thule forked out $5K for damaged caused on a 5 year old rack, and REI $400 because everyone, except their salesperson, knows the rack won’t work on a Subaru, says a lot.

If it was done without any threatening letters from an attorney it seems almost too much to believe. I don’t know the warranty period, but it is hard to imagine it was still under warranty.

John
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Old 12-06-23, 09:21 PM
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There are still some good US companies that make a good products, take pride in quality of their work and back it up by a life-time guarantee. You may have to look a little harder, pay more upfront but never having to not worry in your life-time is a good thing.

Softride Versa served me well for about 15 years. It was mounted on an Accura until the car was donated to someone who needed it.

Last edited by Alan K; 01-22-24 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 12-06-23, 11:02 PM
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I've only used Kuat tray mounts with a thread in hitch pin. No issues whatsoever.
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Old 12-06-23, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by fishboat
Two years later and too many laden trips to remember, some across country, the rack still looks and works like new. Two friends have a 1UP carrier with similar experiences. I use a locking through receiver hitch pin in addition to the wedge-ball mechanism. No issues.
FYI, 1up welds are hot garbage, and their racks pretty routinely fail. Everyone I know with a 1up rack has wound up with bikes scattered on the highway behind them.

https://www.******.com/r/MTB/comment..._rack_cracked/
https://cyclingfly.com/1up-usa-bike-rack-problems/

Caveat very much emptor, with regard to 1up. Having inspected a few friends' failed 1up racks, I won't even drive behind one.

Last edited by TC1; 12-06-23 at 11:16 PM.
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Old 12-06-23, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO
If it was done without any threatening letters from an attorney it seems almost too much to believe. I don’t know the warranty period, but it is hard to imagine it was still under warranty.
I agree, and am also astounded that Thule covered the bikes' value -- but Thule racks carry lifetime warranties. I don't know if that was the case in 2018, but seemingly so.
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Old 12-07-23, 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by soyabean
Agreed.

Just because the OP has been using it since "2018", doesn't means it was safe nor ever safe. Just because my house never burned down, doesn't mean I don't need fire insurance.

To the rest that are looking for a bike carrier:

-2" hitch on vehicle.
-carrier must mount DEEP into the hitch with a THRU bolt.

The problem with 1-1/4" carriers is that they still sway and bounce a whole lot more than the 2" ones. Any movement during transport is applied towards wear and fatigue.

I'm flabbergasted that the store even decided to pay attention to a 5 year old purchase. The vendor wasn't even the installer, and potential lawsuits are always directed to manufacturers. The store franchise is big enough to have a legal department to deal with these things. Maybe it was their commercial insurance policy that dealt with this.
I agree with everything you've written.

FWIW, My Subaru has a 1-1/4 inch receiver which I fitted with a 2" adapter because my bike carrier is 2"... because it use to be used with a Suburban and still is used with my pickup/camper. I use a "anti rattle" thingamabob at the junction with the adapter which really solids things up - no more sway than when I use the carrier in a regular 2" receiver. Here's one example of many. They even make versions that can be clamped down without tools, which I have used when I add a ball hitch to the 2"extension (easy on and off). The adapter adds about 8" or so, and although I know it increases the torque and effective tongue weight of the carrier, it's not an issue because I don't carry ebikes, just 15-30 pounders.

Please note that I'm well aware of the tow rating, what tongue weight and GVWR, GCWR, etc. are, and stick within safe limits.

Last edited by Camilo; 12-07-23 at 01:32 AM.
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Old 12-07-23, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by TC1
FYI, 1up welds are hot garbage, and their racks pretty routinely fail. Everyone I know with a 1up rack has wound up with bikes scattered on the highway behind them.
https://cyclingfly.com/1up-usa-bike-rack-problems/
That article totally reads like an AI generated, insert any brand name here, generic catch all. It really doesn't address any specific issues with the rack.
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Old 12-07-23, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by dedhed
That article totally reads like an AI generated, insert any brand name here, generic catch all. It really doesn't address any specific issues with the rack.
You can google up lots of reports of their welds failing, which is the specific issue that I mentioned. If I have personally inspected a half-dozen failed 1up racks, there have to be plenty out there. These are not my pictures, but this is the issue that I have repeatedly seen. They have specific issues with their weld penetration and heat treatment, and they have for had these issues for years.

I get it, they are US-made, and people want to love them. I'd love to be able to tell you they are great -- but they are not, and they routinely fail, and this isn't really news.
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Old 12-07-23, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by TC1
You can google up lots of reports of their welds failing, which is the specific issue that I mentioned. If I have personally inspected a half-dozen failed 1up racks, there have to be plenty out there. These are not my pictures, but this is the issue that I have repeatedly seen. They have specific issues with their weld penetration and heat treatment, and they have for had these issues for years.

I get it, they are US-made, and people want to love them. I'd love to be able to tell you they are great -- but they are not, and they routinely fail, and this isn't really news.
Was that 3 trays on a 1.25” rack? Not sure that is a supported config. What was on the rack? E-Bikes?

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Old 12-07-23, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by TC1
FYI, 1up welds are hot garbage, and their racks pretty routinely fail. Everyone I know with a 1up rack has wound up with bikes scattered on the highway behind them.

https://www.******.com/r/MTB/comment..._rack_cracked/
https://cyclingfly.com/1up-usa-bike-rack-problems/

Caveat very much emptor, with regard to 1up. Having inspected a few friends' failed 1up racks, I won't even drive behind one.
There is a rule somewhere, probably, that states that no weld will ever be good enough on the internet.
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Old 12-07-23, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Shadco
Was that 3 trays on a 1.25” rack? Not sure that is a supported config. What was on the rack? E-Bikes?
I don't know that specific story -- there's a thread on some other forum discussing it, but it doesn't appear that such links are allowed. Several of the ones that I have seen fail carried just 2 trays, with standard 27-ish pound mountain, or even lighter gravel, bikes on them.

Originally Posted by rosefarts
There is a rule somewhere, probably, that states that no weld will ever be good enough on the internet.


I'm sure there isn't, but even if there was, it gets widely ignored. Head over to weldingweb.com or any one of dozens of other welding forums, and you will see both astonishing work that is just art, and also less cosmetically-pleasing welds that are perfectly suitable for the task.
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Old 12-07-23, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by soyabean
Most, if not all car manufacturers, will make factory hitches for TOW weight only and not TONGUE weight.

These are two very different things.

TOW gross trailer weights are supposed to be evenly distributed so that a trailer is balanced as best as possible on it's wheels. That's why a human can indeed still move around a big albeit balanced trailer, but grabbing onto its arm to align onto a ball.

TONGUE weight is the force stepping downward onto the hitch. Cheater bars and breaker bars work because they are long and you are applying weight that is transformed into hundreds of ft-lbs at the pivot, in this case at the hitch.

I remember one time I didn't see a speed bump and just going thru it at safe speed limits sent my platform rack and it's 4 bikes jumping up in my rear view like it was a shuttle launch. I stopped suddenly to inspect and all was good.

Aftermarket hitches typically have a tongue weight of about 350 lbs for Class2, and I don't care if you are moving as little as one road bike, 2" hitch always. More metal wins. I can make my own call to know if a hitch is a go or no go, not some sales rep (I definitely never take advice from these) or manual.

Sucks to be the OP but all this is a simple case of negligence.
Wish I could but I don't own a single car that can take a 2" hitch or has one made for it. Been running 1 1/4" for 8 years on one of the cars with no trouble. Though I've never trusted it to hold its claimed 4 bikes, it routinely has 3 bikes on it and does just fine. The only one that really moves is the one on my miata but that has two connection points which adds extra play but also can only handle 2 bikes.

Originally Posted by Buzzkill53120
None of the Thule racks have a through bolt to lock the rack in place. Thule uses an expansion bolt to secure the rack into the receiver. The “finger” that goes into the receiver hole is an additional locking/safety feature.
I bought an Epos rack, which has a similar a mechanism, works very well and makes rack install and removal fast and easy. I’m dubious of OP’s claim that this information was buried in the manual. Even if this was true, not RTFM is foolhardy.
Both my thule racks, one bought last year, have a bolt holding them in place. Its not even a threaded pin, but an actual bolt with an aluminum threaded block inside the rack it bolts straight into. I'm very familiar with this since the NYPD likes to ticket for obstructing plates so I've had to unbolt them a half dozen times this year for my trips into the city. I have a pin for the ball but I like the extra snugness of the bolt, it doesn't let the rack sway side to side, just up and down over bumps.
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Old 12-07-23, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by TC1
You can google up lots of reports of their welds failing, which is the specific issue that I mentioned. .
The weld didn't fail the drilled out square stock failed . I get it they have issues. Dont own one, never likely will. Ran many miles on the old Graber (Saris) T-rax, now with an empty nest I don't have any issues with the Yakima that fits both my 1.25 and 2 hitches. ,

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Old 12-08-23, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed
The weld didn't fail the drilled out square stock failed .
The location of that failure is called the "Heat-affected zone". The HAZ is weakened by process of welding nearby, and if post-weld heat treatment is not done correctly, this is precisely the expected result.
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Old 12-08-23, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed
That article totally reads like an AI generated, insert any brand name here, generic catch all. It really doesn't address any specific issues with the rack.
LOL My thoughts exactly. Not a single concern in that article is specific to 1up racks. Oh, we're supposed to mount our bikes securely, load them evenly and always lift with our legs and not with our backs? Who knew?
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Old 12-08-23, 02:07 PM
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A well made product is designed to withstand significantly higher force than minimally required (stated limit), that’s just part of good manufacturing practice… or used to be. I had hoped that US made would continue the old standards.

The problem with welds should be non-existent, period.
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