Review: Tilt-A-Rack trailer hitch carrier

Discussion in 'Camping Toys' started by Wolfeboats, Aug 22, 2019.

  1. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    I needed a way to transport my Vespa GTS300 but live in a condo and have no place to store a regular small trailer. Did lots of Internet research and found inexpensive (<$200) steel or aluminum ladder frame racks with a separate ramp or more substantial solid C channel racks for 2x-3x more. The solid channel steel racks weigh around 100# and looked very heavy and awkward to attach, detach and schlep around in my garage.

    All the racks, including the one reviewed here, are made for motorcycles. Scooters with their small wheels and modest ground clearance can have a problem getting over the intersection point between a horizontal rack and angled down to the ground ramp.

    I found this tilting one https://www.discountramps.com/tilting_motorcycle_rack/p/ACR-MOTORCYCLE-CARRIER/


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    which solved the rack to ramp hump problem and being aluminum was a bit lighter at 70#. 600# load capacity was plenty for my 360# scooter. Price was not too bad at $430 with tax and freight. Arrived via FedEx ground in 3 days to Nashville.

    It was packaged well for such a heavy item. Nothing was damaged and nothing was missing. Instructions were OK. I'd think most people who would buy something like this could put it together without instructions.

    Some of the sharp edges were deburred but there were still lots of other edges that benefited from a little filling.

    All in all I'd give it 4/5 stars. Good price, heavy gage aluminum, mostly 3/16 wall thickness, decent welding and a stout steel 2" square tube that goes into the vehicle receiver. The only real complaint was that the aluminum channel was so smooth the scooter would spin the rear wheel trying to power it up the ramp. Pretty exciting as the ASR engaged. The first attempt to load the scooter was aborted. This was easy to remedy for $20 worth of stair tread anti slip tape from Home Depot as detailed below.

    I had determined where the center of gravity of the Vespa was and by moving the front wheel stop all the way forward the CG was right over the hitch. You want this so 1) upward force from hitting a bump does not cause a rocking motion and 2) so the scooter and ramp tilt back to horizontal without slamming down or needing to be forced down. This especially important if you want to load and unload without a helper.

    Second try at loading with my wife helping was OK. With the scooter strapped down tight, front suspension fully compressed, it seemed reasonably stable in all directions except front to back, as if the car braked or accelerated. This force is transferred from the bike to the spreader where the handle bar straps attach which twists the aluminum channel. The twisting is transferred through the center hinge into the square steel bar. Point being, no matter how tight the straps are the right handle bar end is heading for the tail gate glass if you brake hard.

    I was concerned about excessive fore -aft movement, overhung load on the rear axle of my car (2018 Volvo XC90, 500# max tongue load) and traction on the ramp. Also, the wheel chock at the front could not be adjusted forward far enough to snuggle up to the 12" wheel.

    Ramp traction was easiest to fix. Stuck thIs down https://www.homedepot.com/p/3M-4-in-x-15-ft-Safety-Walk-Step-and-Ladder-Tread-Tape-7636NA/100211722

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    Totally fixed the slipping problem.

    Next overhung load:. The placard on the door jamb gives the max rear axle load. A little googling turned up the vehicle weight and front/rear % split. Measuring the distance from the rear axle to the center of the rack let me calculate the Vespa and rack effect on the rear axle. With the stock rack I was 95# under the max. With the scooter on the rack I could see that it could be moved 10" forward and still have enough clearance from the tail gate. I cut 10" off the square tube and drilled a new 1/2" hole for the hitch pin. Moving everything forward removed 45# from the rear axle and gives a little more clearance around the back of the vehicle too.

    Then wheel chock position: the kit has a V shaped aluminum strap to stop the front wheel and a a chock that acts like a detent to keep the bike from rolling backwards. Stock, the bike would roll back 3"-4" which meant the rack would want to tilt back.

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    I had to add a 1/4 x 1-1/2 x 8 piece of aluminum bar stock on each side to make a place to anchor the pivot bolt for the chock. The nut to the right in the picture is in the existing hole, the one with the arrow is the new one. For the chock to pivot this bolt must be loose so I tapped a thread for the 3/8-16 bolt in the Al bar then used a jam nut to keep it in place. The chock itself needed to be trimmed to clear the mounting bolts for the forward stop. The chock function works well. The bike rolls over a bump to get all the way forward then will stay there. It takes a good yank to pull it out of the chock when unloading.

    Last and most challenging was fore and aft stability. I made three changes. The front stock spreader bar is 26" long. I replaced it with a 36" long piece. This gives a more favorable angle for the tie down straps.

    I also added a 36" rear spreader bar and incorporated a rear wheel chock to prevent rolling backwards.

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    Both spreader tubes transfer the fore and aft motion to a twisting action on the rack which is not super rigid. The third fix was to extend the 2" square steel tube backwards to provide a tie down point not attached to the aluminum channel rack. The 2" tube has a 1-1/2" square hole. Welding in a piece of 1-1/2 square steel tube would have been best but I don't have a welder so I used a piece of straight grained ash wood I had in my scrap bin. I tested it by standing on the end and bouncing the car up and down and it seemed strong enough.

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    This allows a third pair of tie down straps, one on the new extension 19" from the scooter centerline, it's mate on the hitch receiver 12" from CL.

    In my case the scooter pretty much blocked the cars tail lights so I added a set from Lowes. It's important the wires are not attached to the steel square tube.

    Also, the anti rattle pin the that came with the kit restrains side to side motion but not up and down so I added this little Gizmo from Amazon.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0001CMUV4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


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    In my research I read a few comments along the lines of "my bike fell off while I was driving down the road". I imagine the poor souls had the tie downs with "S" hooks that detached when they hit a bump and the hook fell off when the strap went momentarily slack. I got two pairs of these which have carbineers instead of S hooks.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JRG2F1A/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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    Annnd... here's Johnny:

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    Actually I've got a few more details to share but I've hit the ten picture limit so the rest are below on post #3. Thanks for reading this far.
    #1
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  2. Boricua

    Boricua Long timer

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    Any hitch mount rack will do. I move a Kymco people 50 around all the time in the back of my 07 Grand Cherokee. The receiver is pretty high off the ground. I bought an inexpensive steel hitch carrier rated at 500lbs. The ramp that came with the carrier was pretty short therefore I got a longer aluminum single runner folding ramp. One recommended to load bikes on a pickup truck. That was good enough. No issues with anything getting in contact with the rear door glass.

    With a little practice I can load, secure, and unload alone.

    The whole setup was under $150.
    #2
    td63 likes this.
  3. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    Tilt-A-Ramp review and modifications continued


    Kind of a messy picture preparing to load up.

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    A detail of how the straps attach to the scooter. Note there is a black cord pulling the right and left straps together so they can't work themselves off the ends of the handle bars.

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    Here's why it's easy to load without help - a slice off a pool noodle. It lets you lean the bike against the tail gate glass so it sits on the carrier without any tie downs. You motor the bike up (need to coordinate throttle and rear brake to do this smoothly) and just lean it against the window once the front wheel chock engages and the rack comes down to horizontal. You now have both hands free to attach the left front strap and snug it up a bit to slightly counteract the right lean so you can get the foam piece off and attach the right front tie down. You're home free with the two straps on.

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    A real plus for my aching back is the fact that the rack comes on and off in two pieces. I'm surprised the Tilt-A-Rack website does not even mention this. The hitch part weighs 33# and the rack 36#. The hinge pin that joins them sides out easily after removing a spring clip.

    This is why the wiring for the lights should not be attached to the steel tube.

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    #3
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  4. Boricua

    Boricua Long timer

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    That setup looks really complicated for what it does. The steel carrier I have is a ladder type. I removed two of the bolts to allow the tires to fall in through the carrier. That keeps things in place. No chock or block needed. I also tie up the break levers with velcro straps to lock in the wheels while in transit. Keep the scooter from rolling. I secure the straps over the mirrors in the handlebars. Keep them from sliding out. I use regular ratchet straps. I make a loop by passing the strap through the eye of the hook. I tie up the hook to the carrier with the strap slack to ensure ot will not get lose. I've driven hundreds of miles at highway speeds. The thing does not move. I joke with my son that he have the fasttest 50cc in Boulder.
    #4
  5. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    Thanks for posting your setup
    On the scooter setup, it looks like you could cross the front and middle hold-downs straps thru the step-thru: (outer strap to inner handle bar, inner strap to outer handlebar).
    This will greatly increase the strap angle and decrease the movement during tow vehicle braking/accelerating.
    Almost looks like the straps on the rear/scooter rack could be crisscrossed too, without touching anything.
    I have narrowed chock flippers to just over tire width to hold the bike upright when loading, before attaching any straps.
    Blocks of wood for the scooter would be my choice because you could remove them for the motorcycle:
    Tightened.JPG

    And a fork brace works great if you don't already have one:
    https://www.cyclegear.com/accessories/trackside-fork-brace
    :beer
    #5
  6. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    No fork brace for a Vespa but I'll experiment with the crisscross straps next time I load it. You are right, the angles would be much more favorable.
    #6
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  7. Dirtdeville

    Dirtdeville Been here awhile

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    Thank you for taking the time to post this. I have one of these types of carriers and I think most could use a little tweaking to make them better.I know by the marks on the rear window my XT225 has contacted it a few times and the last time I used it my bike actually fell flat.I was within a couple of hundred yards from my driveway and was able to drive very slowly home but I'm looking to do some improvements and this will certainly provide some ideas.
    #7
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  8. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    Fork brace mentioned for use with dirt bike in pic in post #1, not the scooter...
    :lol3
    #8
  9. Rogue_Ryder

    Rogue_Ryder

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    I've had a steel tilt a rack for years and it's the best hitch carrier I've used so far. I am totally buying that anti rattle thingy you posted! It'll perfect now.
    #9
  10. JerseyBiker

    JerseyBiker Living the life! Supporter

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    Great review! Lots of time and effort and it's greatly appreciated!
    Thanks @Wolfeboats !
    #10
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  11. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    You are welcome. I've gotten lots of great info here. Glad to be able to give back a little.
    #11
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  12. MartiniUp

    MartiniUp Long timer

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    Wow! I had a steel Tilt-A-Rack. Used across America lots with never a single issue with zero mods. It was heavy and awkward though. Wow!
    #12
  13. MrPulldown

    MrPulldown Long timer

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    Are you strapping down on the throttle grip tube? I'd find another spot.
    #13
  14. Pegasus prime

    Pegasus prime n00b

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    Thanks for this post, for the front fork did you buy or make that piece that goes around the tire on the inside?

    I have a Vespa GTS and a 84” inch tilt-a-rack 610ACR as well. I can load and strap it down by myself (quite a few learning curves to do do). The two biggest challenges is 1-I don’t have the settings all the way forward because of the v plate to fork spacing is too big (stealing your hack there) for the 12” tire and 2- the front fork and v plate are really big and don’t hold the scoot from tipping over until I can scrap down so was looking on modifying or replacing with some pieces from a condor chock.

    Attached Files:

    #14
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  15. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    I had to add two pieces of aluminum to be able to move the chock forward enough.
    #15
  16. Pegasus prime

    Pegasus prime n00b

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    Gotcha tracking that part, mean to say this piece in black (pic attached)

    Attached Files:

    #16
  17. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    That's the 3/4 plywood piece I added.
    #17
  18. Pegasus prime

    Pegasus prime n00b

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    Slowly been upgrading my tilt-a-Rack so big shoutout to wolfeboats on this post to inspire and get me started, (a) I added a 36” bar to the front with tie down bolts, (b) used a condor scooter chock in the middle, (c) added a 18” aluminum bar 1.4 square (had to machine down) to the middle with tie down bolts, (d) added a 36” bar to the rear (went all the way back)
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    #18
  19. Wolfeboats

    Wolfeboats Been here awhile

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    That looks great. Should work out well for you.
    #19
  20. eric1514

    eric1514 Mask-Free Zone

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    I have a heavy rack I use occasionally on an RV to hold a scooter.

    [​IMG]

    The problem I have is the scooter rocks fore and aft, that is, towards the motorhome and then away. Those long outriggers used for tie downs seem to exacerbate the problem giving the scooter a lot of leverage to pull forward and back but they need to be that long so that the straps clear the bodywork. Any ideas on what I might do to stop this swaying even if it involves some fabrication? It's really nerve racking to watch it in the rear view camera.
    #20
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