Roof Racks – dispelling the myths and answering frequently asked questions….
As you’d expect, Roof Rack Centre staff are very experienced in carrying kayaks, bikes and roof boxes on cars. Because loads and cars vary enormously, your particular, almost unique, requirements will benefit from their expert advice. They are more than happy to give this.
When you wish to purchase you’ll find that the ‘Roof Rack Centre’, a dedicated part of your Canoe & Kayak Centre, stocks everything you could possibly need for recreational or commercial use on your
vehicle. Our brands include Thule, Whispbar, Yakima and Rhino-Rack.
In New Zealand in particular, there are a large number of imported vehicles which will often require a different roof rack solution from the one that you may find in a fit guide. We can advise further on these.
Here are questions commonly asked by our customers.
What components make up a roof rack system?
Usually, there are three parts
What type of roof rack will suit my car?
- The bar that runs across the width of the roof.
- The feet on which the bar sits
- A fitting kit specific to the vehicle
While roof racks work on about 98% of vehicles, you’ll require specific parts to fit them to your vehicle.
If your vehicle has rain gutters any rain gutter mounted roof rack will almost certainly work, but you may need to change bar width and foot height. More than likely, you can take the rack off one vehicle and put it on another with a rain gutter.
However, since most modern cars do not have gutters, most roof racks are designed for cars without them. These incorporate removable and permanent mount designs, and some have rails, fix-points or take a clamp mount system.
Your gutterless vehicle’s roof rack consists of the bar, ‘feet’ and the ‘fit kit’ which attaches around the upper edge of the door jam to hold the roof rack onto your vehicle. The feet used fit many different types of vehicles, whereas each kit is made to fit a specific vehicle.
What is the difference between a roof ‘rail’ and roof ‘bars/racks’?
Roof rails run front to rear on both sides of the roof. They are often factory fitted. On their own, they cannot be used as roof racks.
Roof bars run across the roof which are clamp mounted (secured with fit kits to the door frames), mounted to factory fitted fixpoints or roof rail mounted.
I would like to fit roof rails to my vehicle. Do you supply these?
No, roof rails require internal roof mounts and are mostly fitted during vehicle manufacture. Whilst possible, the cost would probably not be worthwhile and we have a specific solution for your vehicle anyway. You won’t
need to buy a set of longitudinal roof rails to find a roof rack to suit your car.
What is the difference between a roof rail & integrated roof rail?
Integrated Roof Rails are usually a moulded profile, raised slightly, running front to rear down both sides of the roof. There is NO GAP
between the rail and the roof. Commonly these are found on the Subaru Legacy/Outback models.
What is a roof mounted fix-point?
A fix-point is a recessed, roof mounted, fixture point on a vehicle. It is normally a threaded hole or metal profile, concealed by lift up covers, slide back covers or plastic plugs.
What is a clamp mount system?
Because some vehicles don’t have a fixpoint or rails, a specific fit kit or bracket is available to clamp the roof bars from the inside of the door frame. Contrary to some people’s views these systems are very secure and need only an occasional check for tightness.
I don’t have roof rails or fixing points in the roof. How are the roof bars fixed on?
The bars will normally clamp on - one bar between the front doors, one between the rear doors. Check for hidden fixing points, e.g. behind the rubber door seals. Note that as you tighten some steel clamps on roof bars you’ll see the steel bars curve slightly – this in entirely normal.
How high above the roof will the bars be?
The top of the bar is usually 115mm above the roof. Roof bars fixed to longitudinal roof rails are mostly about 60mm from the rail to the top of the bar.
Can I use bars longer than those listed for my vehicle?
In some cases this is possible but call us for advice. It can be helpful to opt for a longer bar if you want to add other items (see below) such as a roof box or bike rack or to carry more than one kayak.
Can I transport a roof box AND bikes on my roof bars?
Yes, subject to remaining within the permitted roof carrying weight capacity for your particular vehicle you can transport the following width of roof box and the width of roof rack fitted. This is where the through mount system gives more load carrying capacity.
Why doesn’t one roof rack fit all cars?
Since cars with rain gutters are being phased out, roof rack manufacturers are no longer making one rack to fit all vehicles. However, with different fitting kits, some roof rack systems can be satisfactorily adjusted.
Do I need tools to install my rack?
Most roof racks don't require special tools to fit them to your vehicle, but if tools are required, they are included with the kit. At the Roof Rack Centre, we provide a free fitting service. (This doesn’t apply to permanent mount systems.)
Do I need to drill holes to attach my rack?
Unless you are mounting a factory style track or permanent mount system no drilling is required. When it is necessary don’t be scared. We are trained to do it for you, using the same methods and materials that the vehicle’s manufacturer employs on the production assembly line.
If I drill holes in my roof won’t it rust and leak?
With more and more vehicles lacking traditional rain gutters, the track mount or fixed mount systems are your only options. At the Roof Rack Centre, we can safely drill holes for you. We follow the roof rack manufacturers’ recommended mounting positions, align the roof rack carefully on the roof and mark the mounting holes’ locations. We drill to a safe depth, removing all filings and waste from the surrounding areas; (this is very important). We then treat the drilled holes with a specified anti-corrosion paint and a non-curing silicon compound. The tracks or mounting pads are riveted to the roof’s surface using a specially formed self- sealing rivet.
The cleaning process, the anti-corrosion treatment, Silicon compound application and the design of the self-sealing rivet all ensure NO RUST, NO LEAKS.
Will roof racks scratch my car?
When properly installed to a clean roof, a rack will not scratch or cause any damage to your vehicle. We recommend that you remove your roof rack periodically to clean any road grime build up.
How can I stop my roof racks from being stolen?
Most racks come with a standard security locking device. If not supplied as standard one can be purchased as an accessory.
How much weight can I carry on my roof racks?
This depends on your roof’s strength, so consult your ‘owner's manual’ for specific carrying capacity. This can also be determined by the style and brand of the roof rack.
Are roof racks noisy?
Generally no, but when the aerodynamics of the vehicle is altered the roof racks can generate a small whistle. This minor irritation can often be solved by moving the front bar slightly forward or back.
How long should my rack last?
In our experience, and at the roof rack manufacturer’s recommendation, if you use your rack consistently, but remove it the recommended number of times a year to clean it, (and the car as well), you will have many years of good service.
Can I remove my racks when I'm not using them?
Unless you have a permanent mount system in which the roof rack is riveted to a track or your roof most roof rack systems can be simply removed. But most owners leave them on. If you decide to remove them, refer to your installation instructions and take steps in reverse order.
What is the best way to transport my kayak?
While various types of roof racks, including inflatable and foam racks, are available, the most secure long term option will always be a solid aftermarket roof rack fitted to the roof of your vehicle. Accessories such as kayak or canoe cradles and vertical bars (Fold-a-Poles) to which the kayak can be tied are helpful and available.
Otherwise, if you have a set of roof racks on your vehicle without any other fancy gadgets, put your kayak upside down on the roof racks to prevent distortion of the hull. Move it around to find a natural position for the kayak to rest on the roof racks. If needed, adjust the distance between the roof racks.
However, the best way to transport most kayaks is on their side. Use a set of Fold-a-poles (vertical posts) secured to your roof rack bars. Composite/fibreglass kayaks should be transported on kayak cradles.
It’s a good idea to put foam padding between the racks and boat. When everything is in position, use tie downs to secure the kayak to the roof racks. If you’re loading a long boat, it is advisable to tie the bow and stern of the boat to your vehicle’s bumpers too.
How do I tie down my load?
If you opt to use rope or bungee cord remember that some rope will stretch, especially when wet which means that a secured kayak will work loose. Bungy is never substantial enough, so we advise against using this. We supply specific tie downs, designed for the job, for around $50 a pair.
With longer boats, in particular, we recommend tying down the bow and stern to towing eyes on the vehicle. Also – use a tow flag (and light at night) attached to the rear of the load (and save yourself a $350 fine!). At the Roof Rack Centre, we have bow and stern straps which are cost-effective and easy to use.
Can I fit a rooftop tent to my bars?
Not all roof rack fitting types are suitable; here are a few things you need to know. In general terms, a rooftop tent can be fitted to bars that use fixed point, vehicle specific track, or gutter mount legs. We do NOT recommend using clamp-style fitments or non-specific vehicle tracks.
These conditions MUST be understood and observed when a rooftop tent is fitted and used:
The load rating of the vehicle’s roof is never exceeded when driving on the open road by the total weight of all items fitted to the roof – including a rooftop tent and bars. If driving off-road, a 30% reduction should be applied to the roof’s load rating; and,
In a static (stationary) environment, the total weight of the tent in usage (i.e. tent’s own weight, plus any occupants and belongings inside) should never be more than double the load rating of either the vehicle roof or roof bars.
The load should always be spread evenly over the bars, with no concentration of weight at either end.
Vehicle roof load capacities can be found at http://fitlookup.yakima.com
Remember, if you have any question about the right system to suit your vehicle, call your local Roof Rack Centre where we offer free
advice and most of all a professional and friendly service.