Guide to buying car roof racks
Among the solutions that we have at our disposal when space in our vehicle is scarce, the car roof rack is one of the most helpful. On the one hand because it allows us to gain space and on the other because it is an open space, where it is easier to transport bulky packages . But for this transport to be safe, we must always use a quality product. Something that is above how much it costs or how it looks. To make your search easier, we leave you our guide to buying the best car roof rack, with all kinds of practical advice that will help you in this task.
Roof rack measurements and compatibility
Just as each car model is different, so are the different car roof racks that we find on the market. Something that is easy to check if we see any comparison of car roof racks, in which we will find models that are wider, narrower, with two bars, with three bars, etc.
Therefore, the first thing we must know is what measures the bars that make up the roof rack of our vehicle should have. Something for which we can resort to the vehicle manual that the manufacturer gave us in its day or to one of the many applications that the different manufacturers of car roof racks put at our disposal. It is important that when searching we take into account the exact model of the vehicle and the year of manufacture, since the bodies change both between these models and according to the corresponding year.
As an alternative, instead of resorting to universal car racks, we can always search for a specific model for our vehicle. In general, except for well-known models, very specific and with measures that are very different from those of other similar vehicles, it is something that will not be necessary, but we always have that option if we have doubts or any other problem during the process.
A good and inexpensive roof rack must have good manufacturing materials. We have to think that the bar is an additional object to the vehicle that is going to support a considerable load, as well as the tensions inherent to use, both from the wind generated when moving and from the weight of the load that we put on it. So build quality is key.
In the current market we can find different manufacturing materials for these bars. The most common are steel and aluminum. Both materials are acceptable as long as the bars have a quality construction, the profiles of the bars are of adequate thickness and the design of the bars helps that load travel safely. Something that practically all the bars on the market meet, although taking a look at the comments of other users also helps to confirm this.
On the other hand, this bar construction and those materials also mark the maximum load of the roof rack bars. In general, the roof rack of a passenger car has a load capacity of approximately 60 to 75 kilos. A figure that increases to 90 kilos on the bars for larger vehicles, such as SUVs or vans. In the case of vans, the capacity can reach 100 kilos. Also take this into account depending on what you plan to carry on the roof rack.
Installation and security
As a last section, it is essential to take a look at the installation process of the roof rack. In general, all roof racks on the market have a system that uses the roof rails to hook the brackets and subsequently position the bars safely. A process that is not usually complex, although there are marks or bars that require some effort to place the screws or some of the elements that are part of it.
As an alternative to this system, today we can find inflatable roof racks, which use pneumatic nylon tubes. They are products for occasional use with a simple assembly system and that do not require more than five minutes to leave the bars assembled, between inflation and fixing them. If you don’t want to deal with tools, it is a good alternative.
Within this section we do not want to forget the anti-theft lock, located on the roof rack supports. This element prevents the roof rack bars from being stolen when we leave our vehicle parked, so it is something that the roof rack that we plan to buy should always have.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: What can be transported on the roof rack of the car?
On the roof of the car you can carry everything, as long as it is carried correctly. Among the legal obligations we have is the one that prevents the load from protruding from the sides of the roof rack. In case of protruding from the rear, it may protrude from 10 to 15%, depending on whether the load is divisible or not. Said load can never compromise the stability of the vehicle, it must be securely fixed in order to prevent it from falling off or falling onto the road and it cannot cause liquid spills, dispersion of dust or other annoyances to other road users.
Q2: How to remove the roof rack from the car?
To remove the roof rack from the car, it is necessary to use the key of the anti-theft lock, in order to release the mounting system and proceed to its removal. Keep in mind that this system allows you to remove the bars from the roof rack but not the supports. To remove these supports, it will be necessary to unscrew them from the vehicle, in a reverse process to the one you followed in your day to proceed with the mounting of the roof rack.
Q3: When the vehicle roof rack is not used, is it advisable to remove it?
The usual recommendation is that when the car roof rack is not used, it should be removed, as carrying it can increase fuel consumption . However, you should also use common sense. As an example, we have the case of a driver who has a vehicle with a roof rack, who uses it on weekends for long trips and the rest of the week he barely travels 10 kilometers in the city to go to work. In this case, it may not be worth the effort to mount and remove the roof rack for negligible savings.
Q4: How to tie a surfboard to the roof rack?
To carry your surfboard safely, it is recommended to buy one of the accessory kits on the market for this purpose. This kit includes some supports designed to hold the boards, preventing them from scratching during the trip, as well as flexible straps with which to fasten the board to the roof rack. This fastening must be done both in width and length, to prevent the board from being thrown off in case of braking.
Q5: How to make a roof rack for the car?
Making a roof rack for the car requires welding knowledge, a workshop with the necessary tools and a specific design to make it safe. In theory, it would be enough to make supports suitable for the vehicle and cut strong metal bars, fitting them into the supports . However, given that the roof rack is an element that can significantly affect safety and that a “homemade” roof rack can be a source of problems at the ITV, our advice is to use an approved and quality roof rack.
Q6: If luggage is loaded on the roof of your car, is it allowed to protrude from the sides?
Since a car is not a vehicle intended for the exclusive transport of goods but of people, current legislation establishes that the load can only protrude from the back of the vehicle by a maximum of 10%, expandable to 15% if said charge is indivisible. Therefore, since it is not expressly authorized for the load to protrude from the sides, it is understood as illegal for the roof rack load to protrude from the sides of the car.
Q7: How to carry a mattress on the roof of the car?
To place this load, it will be necessary to place it as centrally as possible on the roof rack, in order to prevent it from protruding from the sides of the vehicle. Especially if the mattress is 1.5 meters wide, since its measurement is almost identical to the width of any car. Once on the support, it will be necessary to fasten the mattress to the roof rack both lengthways and widthways, using straps, “octopuses” (flexible rubber ropes with hooks at the ends), or any other system that guarantees that the mattress does not move.
Q8: How to put the bike on the roof of the car?
To put the bike on the roof rack, we will start by taking the bike by the frame with one hand and by the central part of the handlebar with the other, so that it does not turn during installation. Next, we pull the arms and position the bicycle with the wheels up, until we reach the vehicle, where we will lower it until it is aligned with the support. Once supported, we place it in its position and we will leave it fixed on the roof rack. If you have a house with a porch, high steps or something that serves as a platform you can always use them, to make it easier.
How to use a roof rack
The roof rack is the lifeline for many users when it comes to carrying everything they need when space in the trunk is scarce. However, the roof rack can also pose a risk if we do not use it safely . Therefore, we want to leave you some tips with which to make the process of loading and using the roof rack something safer for you and for the rest of the drivers.
In general, before uploading a single package to the roof rack, it is necessary to check the general condition of it. In this revision we must check that the supports are properly anchored and do not move, as well as that the bars are in place and correctly fixed. Also check that the bars do not have any slack or are more bent than they should, as this is a sign of weakness in the material. If there is anything loose, it is essential to tighten the corresponding fasteners before starting to load the roof rack.
When distributing the load on the roof rack we must always go from the largest and heaviest to the smallest and lightest. The idea is to take advantage of the entire width of the roof rack, minimizing the total height of the vehicle with this load. It is also convenient that the larger packages are used as a base, supported on both bars, for those smaller that we can carry on top.
In any case, it is essential to remember that the roof rack load must never protrude from the sides and that it cannot protrude from the front, if its dimensions are greater than those of the vehicle. The only thing that the current legislation authorizes us is that the load protrudes a maximum of 10% of the total surface of the vehicle from the rear, expandable to 15% in the event that an indivisible object is loaded.
Another aspect that we have to consider when loading the roof rack is weight distribution. This weight should never exceed the maximum limit indicated by the roof rack manufacturer. But, in addition, the weight must be distributed in the most balanced way possible, in order to maintain the stability of the vehicle in circulation. An excess load on one of the sides will cause more suffering for the tires and shock absorbers on that side, and may even be a cause of overturning in the event that we have to swerve or drive through areas with strong gusting air.
Fitting the accessories
If you plan to use accessories on the roof of the car, such as bicycle racks, ski racks, luggage boxes or any other similar, we must also exercise extreme caution. Follow the accessory manufacturer’s instructions extensively during assembly, verifying the tightness and stability of said installation. Also check that the objects you place on them (bicycles, boats, suitcases, etc.) are properly secured. And do not forget also to comply with what we have commented regarding the stability of the vehicle and the correct distribution of the load.