Roof Rack Questions and Answers


What is an aftermarket roof rack?
An aftermarket roof rack is a roof rack that was manufactured by an automotive accessory company as opposed to by the car maker. They are generally installed after the vehicle is purchased.
How do car roof racks attach?
Aftermarket roof racks attach different ways.

1) On cars with a bare roof they have feet that rest on rubber pads on the car roof and clamp around the door openings. Bare roof racks

2) On cars with raised roof rails they clamp around the raised roof rails. Raised rail roof racks

3) On cars with fixed points they bolt to the fixed points. In most cases the bare roof attachment method will also work. Fixed point roof racks

4) on cars with flush roof rails the rack feet may attach to the flush roof rails Flush rail roof racks (on some cars with flush rails the rack manufacturer may use the bare roof attachment method).

5) For cars with external rain gutters, the roof rack may clamp to the gutter.
Do I have to drill?
With very few exceptions, roof racks that install to the car roof will not require drilling. If drilling is required it will be explicitly stated.

Racks that install to truck caps (shells), or fiberglass truck tonneau covers typically require drilling.
Will the racks damage my car?
No. Most aftermarket roof racks are designed to be damage free. Some racks that clamp to roof rails may leave small marks in the roof rails.
Can I install an aftermarket roof rack myself?
Yes. Most aftermarket roof racks are designed to be installed by the consumer. If you need install assistance you can contact CargoGear, call us 866-792-6614, email us info@cargogear.com, send us pictures of the problem. We will help you all we can. Or you can contact the rack manufacturer's consumer help line. Thule: 800-238-2388, Inno: 310-310-3100, RhinoRack: 303-706-9700, Yakima: 888-925-4621.
Are roof racks removable?
Yes. Once the initial install is done, which includes setting the rack feet on the crossbars and installing the fit hooks, removing and installing the roof rack is quick and easy. The only thing you need to know is the location measurements for where you place the cross bars.
What is a complete base rack system?
A complete base rack system is a set rack components that provide roof rack crossbars on a vehicle roof. The particular components included will vary depending on the roof of the vehicle.

For example:

1) If a car has a bare roof, then a base rack system would typically consist of rack crossbars, rack feet and a fitting kit for the particular car.

2) If a car has raised roof rails then a base rack system would typically be rack crossbars and rack feet.

The important word is base - this indicates the rack system provides just cross bars on the roof suitable for carrying lumber, ladders or other easy to secure cargo, but additional carriers may be required to carry items like bikes and kayaks.
Will a roof rack make wind noise?
Square and round rack cross-bars may make wind noise, it can be bad. The noise happens when there is nothing on the rack, it is caused by vortex shedding and vortex induced vibration. Disrupting the regularity of the crossbar substantially reduces this noise, for example simply wrapping an thin bungee cord helically around the rack cross-bar nearly eliminates the noise.
Roof rack crossbar with bungee wrapped around it.
A bungee cord (or similar) wrapped around round and square roof rack crossbars often stops the howling noise the can make. There is still wind noise, but it is much less irritating than the howling.
A roof rack fairing nearly eliminates the wind noise. Aerodynamic crossbars generally make much less noise. The Thule Aeroblade cross-bars and RhinoRack 2500 vortex cross-bars include rubber strips that defeat vortex shedding and further reduce wind noise.
Why lock roof racks?
Lock provide peace of mind. Also, roof racks are stolen for the cargo. A locking cargo box full of expensive skis or a locking bike rack with thousands of dollars of bikes are attractive targets. If the racks are not locked to the car, the racks and cargo can be stolen as a unit.
Can someone steal the rack?
Yes. But, quality racks lock or have locks available. Typically the locks work by locking an, often plastic, covers that limits access to the mechanism that hold the rack to the car. They are generally pretty secure, but they are not absolutely secure. In many instances thieves are after what is on the rack and not the rack, so the biggest risk is when the racks are loaded with expensive gear and are left unsupervised.
How solidly is a rack attached to my car?
Quality roof rack attach very solidly, like racks from Inno, Rhino Rack, SportRack and Thule. If you grab one of these racks and pull hard the rack should not move on the car, the car should rock back and forth on it's suspension.

After installing a roof rack, grab ahold of the rack and give it a workout pull: up, DOWN, DOWN, back and forth.
Is the bars spacing adjustable?
Crossbars that attach to raised roof rails are often adjustable, but other attachment methods are usually not adjustable, you must put the crossbars at the location specified in the instructions.
Can I get different length crossbars than recommended for my car?
In some cases.

For square bar racks, such as Inno and Thule, and Yakima round bar racks, the crossbars pass through the rack feet so any length cross that is long enough will work. So longer bars will work for sure, but shorter bars May not. If you use other than the recommended length then ONLY YOU are responsible for using them safely.

For other crossbar that attach with slots in the end of the bars, such as Thule AeroBlade and Rhino Rack Aero, there may be longer bars that will work and there may not. The slots (need info lib) provide a limited range of adjustability, if the next longer bars will not let the feet be close enough to meet the rack foot spacing specified for your car, then the longer bars will not work. If the next size up will let the feet be installed at the proper spacing, then the longer bars will work, but will require calculation of new install measurements. If you use other than the recommended length then ONLY YOU are responsible for using them safely. The (Thule AeroBlade sizing guide may help.)
How do I get different length bars than are in the rack package?
Just ask, we will substitute other length bars for no additional cost. You can order online and let us know RIGHT AWAY, once they are shipped, we can not substitute. You can call us and order by phone.
What is a joint bar or short roof adapter?
It is a device that allows the bare roof rack cross-bars on 2-door car to be spaced farther apart than would otherwise be possible if both cross-bars were installed in the door opening.
If I already have a factory roof rack why would I get an aftermarket roof rack?
The most common reasons to get an aftermarket roof rack would be to get longer crossbars or to increase load capacity. Check things out carefully the factory rack may block the install of the aftermarket rack. Load capacities may be the same.
Does a roof rack affect my gas milage?
Yes. The more aerodynamic the rack is, both feet and bars, the less it reduces gas mileage. Also, aerodynamic cars like the Prius will be more effected than a big old LTD.
How fast can I go with an aftermarket roof rack?
Inno says avoid excessively high speed! RhinoRack says reduce speed.
Can I use a roof rack off road?
RhinoRack says, reduce the load capacity by 50%. Thule says, not for offroad use.
Can I use my rack on another car?
Some components will be interchangeable. The car specific fit hooks will probably not work. The cross-bars may be too long or too short (check out the answer to can I get different length bars).

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