When I bought a Prius in 2010, the shape of the rear hatch required me to get a new bicycle rack. After some research, I bought a Thule Gateway carrier, which adjusts nicely to clear the rear hatch spoiler.
The rack has two horizontal steel arms with friction fit plastic saddles in which the bikes sit. I slid the saddles to a good position on the support arms, mounted two bikes and went for a drive. As soon as I got on the freeway, the wind pressure pushed the friction fit saddles to the rear of the support arms, maximizing the cantilever load, jamming the bikes together and threatening to break the end caps and leave the rack altogether.
When I called Thule tech support about this flaw, I was told that perhaps the powder coat finish on the support arms was too thin, allowing the saddles to slip. They sent me a replacement rack, which turned out to behave exactly the same way. As soon as there was wind load on the bikes, the mounting saddles slid to the most rear position possible.
My solution was to position the saddles where I wanted them, then to drill through each into the support arm and insert a self-tapping screw. Problem solved.
Now, four years later, the dense rubber pads which separate the metal rack from the car body are beginning to tear and fail. I went back to the Thule site and looked for replacement parts. None were listed, so I sent an email request.
After a short email dialog, I was told that the padding is threaded onto the metal tubing before the tubing is formed for the rack, and cannot be replaced. They suggested buying plumbing insulation foam and taping or gluing it in place. From the email: Thule's formal recommendation would be to replace the rack.
So, this manufacturer has designed a steel rack with rubber parts that will fail well before the steel, and cannot be replaced. They expect you to replace the whole rack when that happens.
Tell us your experiences with monkey-designed products. Send stories to Jennifer Campbell for Made by Monkeys.