11 Do’s and Don’ts of Having a Roof Rack on Your Vehicle

by Adrian | Last Updated: October 29, 2020

Once you decide to add a roof rack to your vehicle, you’ll likely feel more confident about your upcoming camping trip or family vacation. After all, roof racks let you carry a ton of gear, from sleeping bags to luggage. This frees up much-needed space in the backseat and trunk, making a roof rack a valuable investment.

Of course, like any other product, roof racks can sometimes disappoint. But this doesn’t have to be the case. By following a few simple tips, you can ensure that you’re completely happy with your decision to add a roof rack to your vehicle.


Additional suggestions:

By following these tips and suggestions, you can ensure that you’re completely happy with your decision to add a roof rack to your vehicle.

1. DO Consider Your Car Roof Load Rating

Before you hit the road with your loaded roof rack, check your car’s owner’s manual for the weight limit. Most roof racks can hold between 100 and 250 pounds, but it’s important to make sure your rack doesn’t exceed your car’s weight limit.

Overloading your roof rack can damage your car and even cause accidents. If your owner’s manual says not to add more than 200 pounds to your car, don’t go over that limit, even if your roof rack has a higher weight capacity.

Here’s a tip: Weigh your roof rack and all of your gear before you load up. This will help you ensure that you’re not overloading your car.

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2. DO Make Sure To Secure Your Stuff

Don’t just throw your stuff on the roof rack. Pack your roof box or bag carefully, just like you would a suitcase. Pack everything close together and as tightly as possible.

For added security, place a polythene sheet over the items once everything is packed. Then, tuck the sheet around the edges of the carrier to make sure everything is secure.

Finally, use all of the straps properly to tie down the carrier to the roof rack. Tighten the straps as much as possible to ensure that everything inside the carrier, as well as the roof rack itself, is secure and safe.

There’s no point in having a roof rack if you’re not going to make sure everything fits properly before you hit the road.

Additional tips:

3. DO Carry Extra Equipment with You on Your Trip

Roof rack straps breaking is a common occurrence, regardless of the quality or price of your roof rack. This is why it’s a good idea to keep extra straps in your vehicle. Most straps can be purchased from the manufacturer, hardware store, or luggage store.

You’ll likely know when a strap breaks because your carrier will make unusual noises. Since straps usually break one at a time, you don’t need to keep dozens of spares on hand. Two or three straps in your glove compartment should be enough.

You should also keep a standard-sized Allen key or wrench in your vehicle to loosen the roof rack components if needed.

4. DON’T Forget to Check the Tire Pressure

Before you embark on your road trip or camping adventure, make sure to check your tire pressure. Underinflated or overinflated tires can be dangerous, so it’s important to ensure that they are at the recommended pressure for your vehicle. This information is typically printed on the driver’s side doorjamb.

Tire gauges are inexpensive and easy to use, so it’s a good idea to keep one in your car at all times. Check your tire pressure before you leave, and again during your trip if you experience any changes, such as loading the roof rack.

When loading the roof rack, be sure to distribute the weight evenly. This will help to keep your tire pressure within the safe range and prevent premature tire wear.

5. DON’T Ignore the Visibility Issue

To ensure everyone’s safety on the road, install your roof rack correctly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Improper installation can reduce visibility and increase the risk of accidents.

6. DON’T Drive Without Stopping for Long Periods

Driving with a roof rack puts extra stress on your entire vehicle, including tires and engine. This can lead to driving difficulties, increased accident risk, and underinflated tires.

To prevent problems, stop periodically to check your roof rack and vehicle. Make sure the straps are still secure and the rack hasn’t moved. Although rare, roof racks can become off-center, so it’s important to check yours periodically and address any problems quickly.

7. DO Be More Careful in Certain Situations

Roof racks and bars add height to your vehicle, so be mindful of this when driving under bridges, parking garages, and other low-clearance structures. Before you leave, know the height of your vehicle with the roof rack installed and avoid low-clearance structures whenever possible.

8. DO Check with Your Insurance Company Before You Leave

Inform your car insurance company of any vehicle modifications, including the addition of a roof rack. Some providers may not cover certain types of roof racks, so it’s best to check before making any changes.

9. DO Pay Attention to Your Gas Mileage

SUVs have a higher center of gravity than sedans, so adding a roof rack can worsen fuel efficiency and engine strain. Consider purchasing an aerodynamic roof rack to minimize drag and improve gas mileage. However, be mindful of your fuel gauge after installing your roof rack so you do not run out of fuel because you were used to your tank lasting more miles before the roof rack.

10. DON’T Ignore Potential Weather Problems

When shopping for roof rack carriers or bags, pay attention to the manufacturer’s terminology regarding weather protection. Waterproof carriers provide 100% protection from rain, snow, and sleet, while water-resistant carriers may let moisture in during severe weather.

11. DON’T Ignore the Many Types of Roof Racks

Roof racks range from 9 to 20 square feet of extra space and can be rectangular or aerodynamically shaped bars or full platform racks.

To choose the right roof rack for your needs, consider the following: