We’ve all had those times where we’re laying down on the couch meandering through Netflix and the sudden urge to pack up your bags and go for a weekend camping trip out into the woods takes a hold of us. Now most of us don’t really have enough space in our car boots to haul around all the things that you might need on an expedition to the countryside. Things like bikes, off-roading equipment, tents, and more won’t really fit in the back of your crossover, no matter how practical it might be.
That’s where car roof rails can make your life a trillion times easier. Since you don’t have to go and borrow your friend’s massive pickup truck and there are a plethora of options available for each type of vehicle. Though knowing exactly which one to buy can be a little intimidating. Since you’re going to want to avoid spending a ton of cash getting a roof rail system only for it to fly off once you get up to highway speeds. So here is some information to help you choose the best roof rails for your car.
Car Roof Rail Weight Limits
Buying a roof rail isn’t as simple as just choosing the cheapest one and plonking it on your roof. First things first, you’re going to want to list down exactly what you’re going to want from your roof rails. All the way from the cargo you intend to transport down to your intended weight load. You need to also find the max weight capacity of the roof of your vehicle, look it up in the owner’s manual, or search for it online. Remember your going to need to account for the weight of the roof rails as well once they’re installed.
So let’s say your roof can handle up to 800 pounds of weight and your roof rails total 100 pounds in weight, that’s a remainder of 700 pounds you can use to ferry about your luggage. Though it isn’t quite so simple as that since the roof rails you have installed will also have a weight rating.
You are also going to have to understand if you can get by with a universal roof rail, or do not need to buy a specific type for your vehicle
The Dynamic And Static Weight Rating
These ratings are known as the dynamic weight rating and the static weight rating. The dynamic weight rating represents how much weight the bars can support when your driving. The static weight rating is as you’ve probably guessed the supported weight when the car is stationary. So be sure to take everything into account when your loading up for a weekend getaway.
Your Car Roof’s Set Up
Next, you’re going to want to look at your vehicle’s current roof setup. Are there an existing set of roof rails already installed, or is it just a naked roof? There are options available for both though generally, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to install roof rails if your car already has side rails installed. Since not all roof rails will fit all cars, we’re going to go through each of the different types that are available.
There are two main components to an aftermarket roof rail system. The base/tower, which anchors onto your roof and the crossbar rail that attaches to the said base/tower. There are many different types of bases available depending on which type of roof you have. It’s best not to mix and match components from different brands since compatibility and reliability will be an unknown factor.
Naked roofs are just plain ordinary roofs that have no pre-existing roof rails or mounting hardware from the factory. These are of course most commonly found on cars you wouldn’t normally fit a roof rail to such as a saloon, MPV, and hatchbacks.
Most roof rail systems that fit naked roofs are designed to clip around the door frames of your vehicle to secure the system in place. Now if you think this is a less than ideal solution then don’t. Most of the options available today have been pretty extensively battle-tested and you can still haul a pretty decent load onto them. Though obviously not as much as the more permanent solutions.
The clips that mount into place are pretty easy to install and are designed to not scratch the paint surface of your vehicle. So even if you’ve got a company car, don’t worry, you won’t do any damage. Some popular options are available from companies like Yakima and Thule that offer aerodynamic designs that won’t cause an unbearable level of wind noise when you’re driving at speed. Though if you’re leaning more on the budget side there’s options for that too.
Raised Vehicle Roof Rails
Most SUV’s and even some Crossovers will come fitted with roof rails from the factory. They will run the length of the roof and are known as raised roof rails since there’s a clear gap between the roof and the rails, enough for you to easily tie some rope or ratchet straps around them.
For this sort of setup, your base tower is going to attach to your raised roof rails. This provides a much sturdier grip and usually means you have a much greater weight rating compared to a traditional bare roof rail system.
Flush Roof Rails
These types are roof rails are more common on estate and station wagons where there are roof rails running the length of the vehicle but no gap between the roof and the rail. There completely flush with the body of the vehicle.
With this setup, you’ll have to find a base that’ll clamp onto your flush roof rails. There’s plenty of options out there from established brands such as Thule and Rhino Rack, in addition to plenty of budget offerings.
Vehicle Fixed Points
Fixed points are probably the hardest to spot on a vehicle. You might even have them on your vehicle and not know about them. They are found on pretty much any body style from saloons, hatchbacks, or full-sized SUV,s. It’s best to do a quick google search to see if your car has them and then go outside and manually inspect your vehicle’s roof. There should be four of them in total and they are usually hidden underneath a small plastic cover that you’ll have to pry off.
With fixed points, you mount the base directly into the available slots in the roof for an ultra secure fit. Not many vehicles have them today but if yours does, it’s a great solution if you want to avoid drilling holes into your roof.