Hours: Mon - Fri 10-6, Sat 9-5, closed Sundays. Contact: 1‑306‑652‑0385

What type of roof does my car have?

If you're looking to buy a roof rack you'll need to know the following about your vehicle:

  • year
  • make
  • model
  • roof type

Year, make and model are easy. Roof type is where it can get tricky, but it's vitally important you get this right or your rack won't fit. 

How do you tell what roof type you have?

If your roof is smooth and bare, it's called a naked roof. The picture below shows a roof rack on a vehicle with a naked roof.

Thule roof rack on naked roof

Some roofs look like they are naked but they have hidden fixed points. These are small threaded attachment points located near the four corners of the roof or sometimes on rails, and are often hidden under a small flap. The vehicle below shows a fixed point open with an attachment bolt placed in it; it is ready to be mounted with a crossbar assembly.

vehicle with fixed point

If your vehicle has rails running front to back along the sides of your roof, you need to know what type of rails these are. If there is space between the rail and the roof, these are called raised rails. The picture below shows a roof rack mounted on raised rails.

Thule roof rack on vehicle with raised rails

If there is no space between the rail and roof, these are flush rails. The picture below shows a roof rack mounted on flush rails.

Thule roof rack on vehicle with flush rails

Be careful; some vehicles with naked roofs will have dark inserts along the sides that look like rails but are not. Rails are raised up so that there is something for the roof rack "foot" to clamp on to. A rack put on a naked roof hooks onto the door jam instead, as there's nothing else for it to grab on to.

Rails can also be confused with tracks, which are long grooved channels that run along the sides of vehicle roof from front to back. The picture below shows a rack mounted on a vehicle with tracks.

vehicle with thule rack mounted on tracks

Finally, some vehicles come with factory crossbars. These are two bars/slats that run across the vehicle roof from driver's side to passenger side. 

Once you understand what roof type you have, we can figure out exactly which rack is going to fit your car.


roof racks

Related Posts

Noisy or whistling roof racks? Here's some solutions
Noisy or whistling roof racks? Here's some solutions
We've been there. You've loaded your gear on the car and are driving off to adventure, and you can't even make conver...
Read More

← Older Post Newer Post →


  • Hi Sharon,
    There are a few options you could explore, but apart from foam blocks and tie-downs any rack solution is going to cost a significant amount. The most secure solution would be to bolt connection points on your Toyota Sienna such as Thule Artificial Raingutters (can be bolted on vertically or horizontally) or Thule Top Tracks, and then you would need to buy the feet (towers) and crossbars, so not cheap. The other thing would be to try to find replacement factory raised rails from a salvage yard and have them put on your van; then you could purchase a raised rail rack system such as Malone AirFlow2 to mount on the rails. This type of rack system would be much more affordable than the Thule solutions but it depends on whether you are able to get raised rails put back on your van.
    If you wish to speak further about this please give us a call; otherwise, best of luck!
    -the Eb’s team

    ebsadventure on
  • I have an old Toyota Sienna Van 2002 and while it runs great it is not worth putting lots of money 💰 into it. The factory installed rack running the length of the car have corroded and cannot be used for mounting cross bars.( They have corroded at three points and are barely hanging at one point of four which secured them. I will be removing them.
    I have a hand built Kayak I treasure that I need to move three hundred miles to my new home. I want to install an after market roof rack that will be strong and secure. None offered on Amazon seem to be available.
    Reading here it appears the van will need a flush mounted system once the factory contraption is removed.
    Can you make some suggestions at a reasonable price point?
    I want to

    Sharon Dodge on
  • Hi Attila,
    Unfortunately our suppliers don’t have a fit for your vehicle, but we do have a work-around solution. It would require mounting artificial rain gutters on your vehicle and then mounting a Thule rack with Rapid Gutter foot pack (these come in different heights). One of our staff members did this successfully with their minivan however it requires drilling into your vehicle. If you consider this make sure you get a reputable auto shop to mount the artificial rain gutters.
    -the Eb’s team

    ebsadventure on
  • Hi,

    Could you please help me out with information of the type of roof bar I need for Nissan Elgrand E51 (2009)? My bet is Flush/closed rail but not sure.

    Attila VERTESI on
  • Hi Traci,
    Vehicle manufacturers often make their own roof racks (crossbars, pillars/feet plus mounting kits) to fit their vehicle models. These are known as “factory racks”. If this is what you are looking at you will need to go to your Mercedes dealer to purchase one. You usually have more choice if you go with an “aftermarket rack” made by a roof rack manufacturer such as Thule or Yakima (among others). To go with an aftermarket rack you need to reach out to a roof rack dealer. We only deal with Thule products at the moment and the fit for your vehicle would have 3 components: a pair of crossbars, 4 feet (or pillars to use your terminology) and a fit kit (the clamps and pads needed to attach the feet to your roof). The feet you require have to correspond to the crossbars you have. For example: if you have factory crossbars but no feet, Thule feet will not work. This is a very long answer to your question but we cannot answer it properly until we know whether you have crossbars already – and if so, what kind. Hope this helps!
    -the Eb’s team

    ebsadventure on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published