Hitch Tighteners – Anti-Rattle Hitch Clamps Stop the Creaks & Wiggles!

We carry our bicycles on the back of our 36′ fifth wheel trailer with a Kuat NV bike rack inserted into the trailer’s hitch receiver (we reviewed the Kuat bike rack here). We installed this bike rack in 2012 and it has been great for the past five years of our full-time RV travels.

Kuat NV Bike Rack on back of fifth wheel trailer RV

We carry our mountain bikes on the back of our 5th wheel with a Kuat NV Bike Rack

To keep the bike rack from dragging on the ground in crazy places like steep gas station ramps or deep gulleys on small roads, we had a “Z” shaped “hi-low” hitch riser made. This raises the rack up quite high, so now the first thing to hit the ground is the hitch receiver itself rather than the bike rack.

Hitch extension with Kuat NV bike rack

A “Z” shaped “hi-low” hitch riser raised the bike rack so it can’t drag on the ground in a gully or dip.

As is often the case with hitch receivers, the bike rack isn’t a perfectly tight fit in the hitch receiver riser, and the bottom of the riser isn’t a perfect fit in the trailer’s hitch receiver either. So, the whole bike rack tends to wiggle.

We’ve used various shims to make it all tight, but too often they would wiggle loose over time, and eventually the bikes would be jiggling all over the place on the rack again.

Using a shim in a bumper hitch

We wedged shims in to tighten things up, but it wasn’t an ideal solution

Last fall we stopped in at JM Custom Welding in Blanding, Utah, to talk with Jack, the man who had made our “Z” hitch riser (more info about it here). We wondered if he had any tricks up his sleeve for making our bike rack arrangement less wobbly.

JM Custom Welding Blanding Utah

Mark and Jack of JM Custom Welding in Blanding, Utah

It turns out that he had solved this very problem for other customers by making a hitch tightener. This is essentially a hitch clamp that fits over the end of the hitch receiver and snugs up whatever is inserted into the receiver with some lock washers and nuts.

Bumper hitch tightener for car or RV hitch

Jack put this nifty hitch tightener on our hitch receiver.

Bumper hitch tightener for bike rack

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So, we got two of them, one for the top and one for the bottom of our “Z” shaped hi-low hitch riser extension.

Hitch tightener on RV for bike rack

He put a second hitch tightener on the trailer’s receiver as well.

The difference in the amount of movement of the bikes was absolutely astonishing. They were rock solid now!

Hitch tightener for bike rack mounted in bumper hitch

Looking down at both hitch tighteners on our hitch extension.

After installing the hitch tighteners, which was just a matter of tightening the nuts, Mark drove the rig around the JM Custom Welding dirt lot while I walked behind and watched the bikes, and they were steady as could be.

Hitch tighteners on bumper hitch mounted bike rack

Hitch tighteners at the top and bottom of the hi-low hitch riser extension.

Hitch tightener for bike rack mounted in bumper hitch

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But unlike the shim solution we’d used before, these hitch tighteners have stayed tight without needing any adjusting or fuss for several months and several thousand miles of driving on all kinds of roads.

Kuat NV BIke rack and bike rack extension and hitch tightener

The whole system is completely rigid now and has not needed any adjustments in six months of use.

The hitch tighteners do make for some extra steps if we want to move the bike rack from the hitch receiver on the trailer to the hitch receiver on our truck. However, we’ve started hauling our bikes in our truck in a different way using a furniture blanket, so there’s no need to take the bike rack off the trailer any more.

Mountain bikes on truck rather than a bike rack

An easy way to get the bikes from the trailer to the trail head!

Jack makes these hitch tighteners in batches, so if you are passing through Blanding, Utah, perhaps on your way to or from the beautiful Natural Bridges National Monument, just a mile or so south of Blanding you can stop by JM Custom Welding and pick one up! In 2016 the were $38 apiece.

We discovered later that hitch tighteners of various kinds are also commercially available. So, if Blanding, Utah, isn’t in your sights, you can choose from many different kinds of hitch clamps online.

However, a visit to Jack’s welding shop is very worthwhile, especially if you need any kind of custom metal fabrication done on your RV. He is very creative and does excellent work.

While we were in Jack’s office, we noticed a display of his for a folding storage solution for the beds of pickup trucks he’s created that fits right behind the truck cab. He calls it the “Jack Pack” and it is essentially a framed canvas storage bag the width of the truck bed that is easily opened to throw your bags of groceries into and then easily folded away when you need to haul lumber or fill the truck bed with something else.

If we didn’t have that part of our truck filled up with extra water jugs, we would have snagged one of those from him at the same time!

We’ve got a few more links below.

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Info on hitch tighteners and hitch clamps:

There are many brands of hitch tighteners on the market. These are a few:

There’s also a “Z” shaped hi-low hitch riser available:

If you need custom metal fabrication work done:

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15 thoughts on “Hitch Tighteners – Anti-Rattle Hitch Clamps Stop the Creaks & Wiggles!

  1. Do you have a cover that you throw over the bikes to keep them out of the weather? We have two bikes, hitch-mounted (though on the cross-bar, so differently) and we’re looking for suggestions on a decent single cover that will cover both bikes to both “hide” them some and to keep them out of the weather for the days they sit there on the rack.

    • We don’t have a super solution, but it works well enough. We use a big tarp and we tied pieces of thin line in the four corners. We throw the tarp over the bikes with the grommets at either end (front and back of the bikes) and then we thread the line through the grommets to cinch it tight at each end. We also use bungee balls through the grommets and loop them over whatever we can under the bikes to hold it down. This has worked in high winds and keeps the weather off the bikes, but we don’t travel with them like this because of the potential for chafe.

  2. As always, great information from two of the most respected people in the RV community! Thanks for this simple but very critical piece of experiential education. One more great tip that will save us money and frustration.

  3. As always great information. Thank you so much for sharing; I am Grateful. I have used ratcheting straps to solve the same problem but that hack is so much cleaner. Going to have to get one because Tilly is going to have a hitch for hauling the bikes too. And nice bike that Giant Trance. Looks just like mine. Very good choice. Slim

  4. Very curious as to how the Kuat rack has held up, structurally since you purchased it. It looks like you got this in 2012?? We just purchased a Class C, with a 2″ hitch and want to put a real bike rack on it. The new Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is first on the list, followed by Thule and Yakima, but I have not really found anyone making a statement, other than you, that it works well. Have you experienced any weld breakages or fram damages due to the extended length of the RV vs a car/truck and vibration? I really appreciate your taking the time to write the article. Thank you,

    • We installed the bike rack in early 2012, and our initial review of it is at this link. The welds have held but we’ve had to replace some bolts that sheared off. We opted to drill out the holes and get thicker bolts while we were at it (hardened steel, of course) which I plan to write about some day. It’s a great bike rack and has been towed tens of thousands of miles. I don’t know anything about the newer versions of the Kuat racks, but I think Kuat is a good company.

  5. I have hitch rattle and a clunking noise, I am planning to buy following product, I guess it is the same product you showed? If not can you give a recommendation because I have to fix this problem a.s.a.p. I will be leaving in a week for 4 weeks road trip. http://amzn.to/2uk5v4f

    • That looks to be a similar product. You might also want to check out the list of similar products I have in the references section just above these comments and below the red “Subscribe” button.

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