RakAttach Fail: An unfortunate long term review

TL:DR – The RakAttach is a great accessory for your receiver hitch and 5 years ago it was a one-of-a-kind product. At achieving its core function, to swing out and provide access to the back of our van, while being robust enough to hold 5 bikes – I give it a 10 out of 10. For longevity and quality of construction, I give it a 5 out of 10, due to coating issues.

I’ve written extensively about our awesome bike rack setup; how we use it, how we converted it to hold skis; and even made videos about it. And given how big of a fan I must sound like, I now feel obligated to provide this long-term review of the RakAttach, a core component of our setup. And ultimately, show how it failed.

In the beginning (the good)

RakAttach was first released in 2015. At the time, it was very unique, with no equal (that I know of) on the market. I don’t think I realized this at the time, but we must have snatched one up pretty early on in production – because we got ours early in 2016 and their website indicates they only started making them in the Spring of 2015.

The RakAttach revolutionized our way of carrying bikes (and skis) while still maintaining access to the back of our sprinter van DAPHNE. I remember immediately being impressed with how robust the thing was – I mean seriously, it weighed a ton and felt very very sturdy when first installed. Others mentioned a lot of wobble when used in conjunction with a big bike rack – we never had any of that (oooh, guess we know why now!). The RakAttach worked great. Easy to lock into place and simple to unlock and swing out, even when fully loaded with bikes. At achieving its core function, I give it a 10 out of 10.

In the end (the bad)

I have no complaints about the function of the RakAttach swingarm itself. It has worked great for the last 5 years. But this piece of kit wasn’t meant to be a permanent fixture on our van – and that’s where things went bad. Sure, we noticed that it was rusting a little bit, but that wasn’t really cause for great alarm – but boy did we underestimate the extent. After 5 years of highly functional use, our RakAttach had to be destroyed.

In preparation for a van road trip down to Moab, Utah where we hauled our dual sport motorcycles for a week of awesome moto riding and camping, we needed to remove our excellent bike and ski rack setup. It had been off the van a few times before so we figured this would be no big deal – we were wrong. The video below provides a summary of the epic journey which was removing the RakAttach from our van’s receiver hitch, but in summary:

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  • The coating on the RakAttach failed, causing it to swell and cold weld itself to the inside of our hitch receiver on the van.
  • All manner of tricks to delicately remove the RakAttach from the receiver failed, ultimately requiring us to cut the RakAttach into tiny pieces. Yes, we tried chemical lubricants, rust eaters, heat, a large hammer, pulling on it with a tractor, a chisel and in multiple sequential rounds.
  • What ultimately worked was cutting the RakAttach off at the connection point to the receiver, then cutting a section of the RakAttach inside the receiver out, and finally using an air chisel to collapse the remaining piece inward on itself and knock it out with a hammer.
  • How do I know it is the RakAttach and not the receiver that failed us? I don’t. I am not a forensic metallurgist, but see the video below. The coating on the RakAttach was in terrible condition. The receiver – not so much. The RakAttach was flaking off large chunks of coating and metal. The receiver? once the RakAttach was removed looked just fine. And its not like we live in a salty place – Oregon doesn’t salt the roads in the winter!
  • So the moral of the story is – our RakAttach is no more and we will not be replacing it inkind. Instead, we are looking at options from Thule and Yakima. I am leaning towards the Thule, as it has the highest load rating.

I asked RakAttach if I just got a bad one, or if early versions had coating issues that were later fixed (thinking, if it was a known issue that was fixed, perhaps its worth looking at getting another RakAttach) – here is my e-mail and the response that I got back from RakAttach customer service:

Hi – We were a fairly early adopter of the RakAttach (circa mid-2016) and LOVED IT. But recently, when we went to remove it, found that the coating had failed (I mean, I knew it was rusting – but I didn’t realize that the 2″ hitch had rusted, swollen, and seized in the receiver). In order to remove it, we ended up having to destroy the RakAttach. In consideration of buying a new product, I am curious if the coating and/or corrosion (perhaps dissimilar metals in the construction?) are a known issue in the early models that has now been fixed?

Hi [Austin] We powder coat all the tubes.
The rust is an issue for all brands of steel swing arm I have seen.
I would suggest a layer of grease if you decide to get a new RakAttach or any other version.
Thanks!
Walter

e-mail correspondence 6/5/2021

5 thoughts on “RakAttach Fail: An unfortunate long term review

  • December 5, 2021 at 5:51 pm
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    I’d second that Walter from RakAttach is correct. The issue isn’t galvanic corrosion caused by dissimilar metals, the steel of the receiver and the steel of the RakAttach will have very similar galvanic potentials. The issue is that the small gap between the receiver and the RakAttach retains water and potentially salt water if your roads are salted in winter. This area will rust much faster than the rest of the underside of the vehicle because of the trapped water and potentially salts. All coatings will eventually fail even if there is minimal movement. Grease works well because it fills any cracks as they open up, if the steel is never exposed to the air/water then it won’t rust.

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    • December 5, 2021 at 7:07 pm
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      Totally agree, but I will note that we live in Oregon – no salt on the roads here.

      Reply
  • December 3, 2021 at 8:59 am
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    Appreciate your review. My initial reaction was that Walter from RakAttach is correct; there is no coating that will stay on and stop the rust. However, that was when I thought the rust occurred on the portion of the product that inserts into the 2 inch receiver; the constant metal to metal rubbing will eventually destroy all coatings. Looking at your pictures, it looks like the peeling and rust occurred on the portions of the RakAttach where there is no rubbing occurring. Is this correct? For these areas, I would ask all manufacturers why is the frame of my 2003 truck with 216,000 miles rust free? It seems there has to be some materials science lessons RakAttach manufacturing could learn. All auto manufacturers learned how to rust proof decades ago.

    The RakAttach is still my number one choice so far though. I like that it is made in America and see too many negative reviews of the plastic components of the Thule, so the Yakima is my second choice. One thing that leads me to believe a RakAttach will last me longer than yours is that I never leave any attachment on that is not in use. I always take them off because they are too easy to steal and there are many reports of this happening. I use a locking pin, but having my catalytic converter cut off of my truck made me realize that locks are not a guarantee. Also, in a rear end collision, attached components increase the damage to both cars.

    Reply
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