You’ve already done the hard part — choosing the perfect roof rack for your ride. If you follow our tips and tricks, installing your newest accessory is a cinch.
Installing Roof Racks on Naked, Factory Mount and Raise Roofs
- Naked roofs are vehicles with bare roofs and don’t have factory, pre-installed racks. For a naked roof, you generally need a foot pack, fit kit and crossbars to create a complete roof rack system. While the installation process may vary slightly for your specific vehicle, keep these tips in mind.
- Fit kits are custom-designed to ensure the strongest and best fit for your vehicle. They usually include sturdy clamps that fasten to the outer edge of your roof and pads that contour to your vehicle’s roof. Podium-style foot packs comprise four feet that connect to the custom-made fit kit and are attachment points for the rack’s crossbars. The crossbars are the last part of the roof rack system to be installed.
- Certain naked-roof vehicles require a short-roof adapter, which is often used on small, two-door vehicles with curved or short rooflines. Short-roof adapters increase the roof rack’s carrying capacity and increases the distance between the crossbars for proper spacing, ensuring better weight distribution.
- Factory Mount Installation: Some vehicles come with factory-installed roof rack mount locations. These can be identified by square, plastic or metal covers that can be popped off with a screwdriver, exposing a pre-existing threaded mount hole.
- Raised Roof Installation: When your vehicle is already equipped with raised roof rails—as with many SUVs and minivans—the process will only vary slightly. With this design, the foot pack will be designed in two separate pieces — one to go above the roof rail and one that secures below it, sandwiching the crossbar.
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How To Install Roof Rack Accessories – Bike Roof Racks
- Similar to riding a bike, installing a bike roof rack is something you never forget. Bike racks can be divided into two main categories – hitch bike racks and roof bike racks. While hitch-mounted racks slip directly into your vehicle’s hitch receiver, roof-mounted bike racks work in conjunction with your vehicle’s roof rack. Once the roof rack is mounted, a separate rack is required to load each bike. Regardless of your bike rack type, it’s always important to get a lock for extra security.
- There are certain factors to consider when buying and installing a bike roof rack.
- Your Vehicle Model: If you’re the proud owner of a big, burly truck, your bike rack will probably be hitch mounted or you can simply place your bikes in the bed. Because trucks usually have high roofs, they’re often equipped with a hitch receiver. Smaller cars, on the other hand, often sport bike roof racks because they don’t come with hitch receivers.
- Bike Rack Features: You may think the biggest decision is choosing between a Thule bike rack or a Yakima bike rack, but ultimately, you need the bike rack that best fits your needs. Common components to keep in mind when shopping for a bike rack include storage, proper capacity to hold the number of bikes you want to carry, solid warranty, secure locks and sturdy straps. For more information about installing a bike rack, read our in-depth guide.
How To Install Kayak Roof Racks
- Unless you live right on the water, a kayak roof rack is integral if you’re into the sport. There are several important components to keep in mind when it comes to choosing and installing a kayak rack that’s fitting for your ride.
- Your Car: If you have more than one vehicle, which one will be carrying the kayaks 99 percent of the time? Height makes a big difference when it comes to choosing a car to haul your kayaks. For some, using a step ladder to load kayaks every time is too much of a hassle, and therefore, a smaller car should be used.
- Number of Kayaks: The number of kayaks you carry is another huge factor in choosing your ideal transportation vehicle (if you have more than one). Generally, shorter cars with wide, flat roofs are ideal for car topping. Smaller cars like the Honda Fit or Scion XB are fine for carrying 1-2 kayaks, but if you’re looking to tote 3-5 kayaks on their side, using a minivan would be the better option.
- Roof Type: Roof shapes and designs determine your options for kayak roof racks (size) and how many kayaks you can carry. Vehicles with rounded and short roofs make it harder to load lots of kayaks, while low cars with flat, wide roofs are ideal kayak carriers.
- Bars: Consider the length, spread and bar shape when it comes to installing your kayak roof rack. The bar’s length will depend on your car’s width. The distance between the bars is crucial for getting a strong fit between the car and the kayak. If the spread is too narrow, wind can get under the kayak and shift it around during your commute. Wider, longer and flatter roofs are ideal for ensuring a strong foundation and contact point between the kayak and your vehicle. If you’re toting smaller kayaks, make sure the spread isn’t too wide for the boats to fit on the bars.
- Loading Accessories: You can carry your kayak flat or on its side. Saddles and stackers help you load your kayaks flat or sideways (respectively) to make transportation a cinch.
- Straps and Lines: Shorter straps should be used for carrying 1-2 kayaks, while carrying multiple kayaks requires longer straps.
- Kayak: Every kayak is different – consider your water toy’s width, length and depth when selecting your straps and bar spread.
- Every car is going to be a little different, and every ride will have its own features for adding a kayak roof rack. The most challenging part of the process is making sure all the parts are lined up and assembled in order, so read through the rack’s instructions thoroughly and spread out all the parts in front of you before assembly. Most of our racks feature a simple installation process. The most important factor is ensuring that the bars are an equal distance from each other and provide a sturdy foundation for your kayak(s).
How To Install a Surfboard Rack
- When surf’s up, there’s no better time to hit the waves. While some surfers drill holes in their vehicle to mount permanent racks to their roofs, others keep their rides versatile for non-surf outings by simply installing soft surfboard racks. These rad racks fit onto almost any vehicle and serve as a quick and easy way to tote your favorite wave rider.
- Installing a surfboard rack will depend on your vehicle and your surfboard, but you can generally follow these basic steps:
- Open your car doors.
- Put one soft rack across the front of your car above your windshield. Put the second soft rack on the back of your car roof, right above the rear door.
- Most soft racks come with long and short straps. Let the long straps on each end of both racks hang off your roof.
- Sit in your car and hold the end of one long strap for the front rack. Reach across the inside of your car to grab the second strap. Buckle and tighten the strap.
- Assemble any hardware that goes on the long straps inside your car (i.e., metal hardware that hook to the inside of your door frame).
- Tighten the long straps on the front rack. Strap the rear rack to the top of your car, following the same procedure.
- Lay your surfboards on the racks, fin side up. Buckle and tighten the short straps to secure your surfboards.
How to Install a Ski or Snowboard Rack
- There’s no better way to welcome winter than by hitting the snow-covered slopes. With durable ski and snowboard roof racks, you can tote all your winter toys and enjoy an adventurous weekend in the mountains.
- Installing a ski or snowboard rack will depend on your vehicle model and your winter gear, but here are some tips to keep in mind. Read more here.
- Check all the enclosed parts that come with your ski or snowboard roof rack. Work on a flat surface and spread all the parts out in front of you.
- Prepare to install the crossbars. Refer to instructions to see the appropriate distance between your front and rear crossbar. Widen the crossbar until both bindings fit between them.
- Install your crossbar to your vehicle. Check the crossbar’s strength before mounting the entire roof rack system.
- Attach mounting clamps.
- Mount carrier onto your car. Ensure that your roof rack doesn’t loosen or shift even when shaken with enough force to rock the car.
- Load capacity varies depending on the width, size and thickness of your skis and bindings, as well as on your vehicle. Load your gear and refer to the roof rack’s instructions to see carrying capacity for skis, ski poles and snowboards.
- A roof-mounted ski is guaranteed to hold your sticks securely, but if your gear is on a higher vehicle (SUVs and lifted trucks), accessing your gear can be difficult. We recommend a tire step, which sits securely on your tire to form a handy ladder. With this handy accessory, you can now easily access your gear.
- Do a safety check before heading toward the slopes. Make sure your gear is securely stowed and your roof rack is locked.
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