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Buying a roof rack: what do you need to know?

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We highly recommend having a roof rack.  They allow you to carry almost anything you don't want or can't fit inside your vehicle.  It could be big things like boats or bikes or nasty things like wet camping gear or hockey equipment.  

Thule roof rack scene

Some vehicles come with factory installed rack systems, some don't.  If you have factory crossbars, you may not need an aftermarket rack system and can buy accessories (such as kayak carriers) with universal attachment mechanisms to fit right onto those factory bars.   

If you don't have factory crossbars, you will need to buy a rack system.  The type of rack you get depends on what your roof looks like and what you plan on carrying.

What is a rack system?

A basic rack system consists of crossbars and supports.  You need two crossbars to go across your vehicle and a way of attaching those bars to your vehicle.  The components you will hear us talk about are:

  1. Load bars - The two crossbars.  
  2. Foot packs (or towers) - These support the crossbars.
  3. Fit kits (or clips) - Vehicle specific foot pads and/or brackets to help attach the foot pack onto your vehicle.

Thule load bar, foot pack and fit kit

The load bars come in various lengths depending on your vehicle size and what you want to carry.  Basic bars are square or round but you can upgrade to flatter, wider bars with an aerodynamic airplane-wing-shaped profile which are often quieter. 

square bar and aerodynamic bar

What type of rack system do I need?

There are four main types of basic car racks, depending on what the roof of your vehicle has (or doesn't have) on it:

Raised rails - If you have rails along the sides of your car roof that are raised up (there is a gap between the rail and the roof), you can get a foot pack that clips right on to these.  There is no need to get a vehicle specific fit kit so this brings your cost down by over $100.

Solid rails - If the rails along the sides of your roof do not have a gap they are called solid, continuous or flush rails.  Your foot pack and fit kit will be specific for these.  

Fix points - Some vehicles come with points designed for mounting a rack to.  These are often covered with a plastic tab of sorts and are sometimes difficult to see.

Naked roof - If there is nothing on your roof, you will need a foot pack and fit kit that are designed to clamp into the door jamb.

Thule rack system on rails

Trucks 

After all, this is Saskatchewan.

If you have a truck, there are a few ways you can configure your rack system.  Some truck owners put a crossbar over the cab (components are sold in half-packs for this reason) and install a rear hitch mount crossbar.  You can install tracks on your truck cap and mount a rack system on cab and/or cap that way.  There is also a premium truck bed rack system which can be raised or lowered as desired. 

Truck bed rack system

What is it going to cost?

You can get a universal system with suction cups for about $200, but if you know you'll be using the rack quite a bit or want a more sturdy and secure solution you will be looking at $360 - $500 for a square bar system or $620 for a wing-shaped bar system, depending on your particular vehicle model.

Accessories to consider

Once you've purchased a rack system for your vehicle you can buy all kinds of attachments for carrying canoes, kayaks, SUP's, bikes, skis and gear.  

You may want to consider getting locks to secure your rack to your vehicle.  A four-pack of lock cores costs about $75 and they insert into your foot packs.  You can buy 2, 4, 6 and 8 pack locks so that one key will secure your rack plus your accessories.

Thule locks

Some vehicles' roofs are shaped so the air flow across them creates a whistling noise in the crossbars.  You can't know this is going to happen until you're actually on the highway, unfortunately.  If you are worried about this go for the wing-shaped bars.  If you already have this issue, you can purchase a fairing for about $100 which attaches to your front bar and deflects the airflow upwards, minimizing noise.

Thule fairing

Purchasing your rack system

When you come in to the store, we will look up your vehicle year, make and model and outline your available options.  We almost always have load bars and foot packs in stock but give us a day or two to order a fit kit.  

We will install your new rack for you and show you how to take it off and put it on yourself.  This is a simple process in most cases.

There is almost always a fit for your vehicle, although if you are looking at purchasing a model hot off the press you may want to research roof rack options for it first.  

See you soon!

 

 

roof racks

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