How to Install a Roof Rack (Hint: It Depends On Your Roof)

Roof racks are great for hauling sports gear, luggage, and work supplies without cluttering or dirtying up your vehicle. Plus, they just give off that adventurous, "I do fun outdoorsy things" vibe.However, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to installing a roof rack. This is especially true because roof racks will install a little bit differently, depending on which type of rack you buy and what type of roof you have.If you already know what type of roof setup you have (naked roof, raised side rails, etc.), read on to learn how to install a roof rack on your vehicle.If you're not sure what type of roof you have, check out our help article here, where we break down the different roof types.
Kayaks on Roof Rack

How to Install a Roof Rack (By Roof Style)

Roof rack systems all work a little bit differently, depending on the brand and model. However, they're all similar enough in concept that we can go over the basic steps involved in installing one. Consult the instructions that come with your roof rack for full installation instructions.You don't get much of a choice in the type of roof rack setup you have—this is determined by your roof type. For most roof styles—those with flush side rails, fixed mounting points, flat tracks, or nothing at all—you'll need three components: a fit kit, foot pack, and crossbars. For roofs equipped with OEM raised side rails, you'll only need a foot pack and crossbars. We group these items together in kits in our fitguide, so you can make sure you're getting the right components for your vehicle.Read on below to see how a roof rack attaches to each of these roof styles.

Installing a Roof Rack On a Naked Roof, Flush Side Rails, Fixed Mounting Points, or Flat Tracks

Components needed:
  • Fit kit
  • Foot pack
  • Crossbars
Installing Roof Rack on Naked Roof
Step 1: Install Fit Kit Clips into FeetInstall the fit kit clips (A) into the feet (also called towers) (B). These feet provide a place for crossbars to attach.
Step 2: Install Crossbars Mount your crossbars (C) to the feet via the bottom channels of the bar.Your crossbar placement will depend on your vehicle and rack model—manufacturers determine placement based on your roof's strongest portion. Refer to your instructions when measuring for crossbar placement.
Step 3: Place Rack on RoofPlace the entire rack on the roof, then tighten it down. Installation varies by roof type. On naked roofs, fit kits generally clamp around the door frame or install into pre-drilled holes. For roofs with factory flush rails or flat tracks, fit kits install in these tracks. If your vehicle has fixed mounting points, these points generally have covers that can be removed so you can attach a roof rack.
Install Images by Roof Type:
Roof Rack Installation - Naked Roof
Naked Roof
Roof Rack Installation - Flush Side Rails
Flush Side Rails
Roof Rack Installation - Fixed Mounting Points
Fixed Mounting Points
Roof Rack Installation - Factory Flat Tracks
Factory Flat Tracks
Install Videos by Roof Type:
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Naked Roof
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Flush Side Rails
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Fixed Mounting Points

Installing a Roof Rack on Raised Side Rails

Components needed:
  • Foot pack
  • Crossbars
If your vehicle came from the factory equipped with raised side rails, then you're in luck! You only have to purchase a foot pack and crossbars. No fit kit is required.The easiest way to find a foot pack and crossbars for your vehicle is to use our fitguide.
Roof Rack Installation - Raised Side Rails
Step 1: Install CrossbarsMount your crossbars (B) to the feet (A) via the bottom channels of the bar.Your crossbar placement will depend on your vehicle and rack model—manufacturers determine placement based on your roof's strongest portion. Refer to your instructions when measuring for crossbar placement.
Step 2: Place Rack on RoofPlace the entire rack on the roof, then tighten it down. The feet will attach directly to your raised side rails.
Install Image (Raised Side Rails):
Roof Rack Installation - Raised Side Rails
Install Video (Raised Side Rails):
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Factory Raised Side Rails
Troubleshooting: How to Stop a Roof Rack From WhistlingA whistling roof rack can be quite the nuisance, but fortunately it's not one you have to put up with. Try these tips for eliminating roof rack whistle.
  • Make sure the rubber strip on top of the bars is securely sealed in the right position. Most crossbars will also have slots on their underside at either end, as well. If the unused portion of these slots is not filled (typically with a rubber strip), you'll experience additional noise. You can use a rubber strip to cover any leftover gaps in the channel, if necessary.
  • Ensure the bars are mounted in the correct orientation, front to back (check your manufacturer's instructions).
  • Add fairing to the crossbars.
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Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/28/19

Questions and Comments about this Article

Jerry T.

do you have roof mounts for canopies

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Jon G.

We have some mounts for awnings but nothing for a canopy that I'm aware of. If you have an awning just let me know what you have and I'll see if we have something for it (granted that we actually carry the brand).

Steve

What rack would be able to be attached to the top if a shell on the back of a truck? Which ones can be bolted through the shell’s roof? Thanks

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Jon G.

If you use our fitguide to input your truck info you can then navigate to the ladder rack selection for your pickup and choose "Camper Shell" under "Type". This will show you all of your roof rack options that are confirmed to fit the camper shell on your pickup.



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