We've been there. You've loaded your gear on the car and are driving off to adventure, and you can't even make conversation with the person next to you because your racks are roaring at decibels that would put a Zeppelin concert to shame.
Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to predict whether roof racks will make excessive noise on your vehicle or not. A rack can be quiet on one model of vehicle and whistle like crazy on another. It all depends on air flow.
What causes roof racks to make noise?
Very simply, how air flows around your vehicle and cross bars is what determines the noise created by your racks. You need to change the way the air is traveling over your racks in order to minimize the sound.
What rack should I get to minimize noise?
Square and round cross bars will usually cause more noise than aerodynamic ones but all types can cause noise issues on certain vehicles. Aerodynamic bars such as the Thule WingBar are shaped in cross section like an airplane's wing, creating a shape that air can flow over more easily. They often have wind diffuser strips on the top that further deflect the air flow so you don't get that annoying hum.
These bars cost more than basic square or round bars but you've got a better chance of a quiet ride. For more information on roof racks and how to choose what you need, see our blog post on Buying a Roof Rack.
I already have a noisy rack. What can I do?
If your rack is already causing a racket, an easy fix is to buy a fairing - a wind deflector that attaches to your front cross bar. This almost always fixes the problem.
If you're into a more "do-it-yourself" kind of a look you can try taping sections of pool noodle to your bars. This can reduce the noise for a lot less than a fairing costs, but adds some drag to your rack. You can also purchase pads that are designed to go around your cross bars; these are useful for protecting paddle boards or other flat loads you're carrying.
Our favourite quick fix however is to wrap bungee cord tightly around your bars in a spiral fashion. Use about four feet or so of bungee and wrap so there is about 2-3 inches of space between "wraps". This almost always makes a huge difference in noise reduction and can save your sanity on that next trip!