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Can I Remove My Roof Rack?

As handy as roof racks are, there are legitimate reasons to remove them when they're not in use. Maybe you won't be carrying anything for a while and you want to maximize your fuel efficiency. Maybe your vehicle came with a roof rack installed, and you'd prefer a bare roof. Maybe you just want to drive through a car wash.The good news is that you can remove a roof rack. However, it's important to recognize that some roof racks are easier to remove than others. If you plan on removing and reattaching your roof rack regularly, it's a good idea to choose a style that's easy to work with. We'll go over this in more detail below.
Kayak Carrier on Roof Rack

Removing Factory Roof Racks

If you own or are planning to buy a car with a factory roof rack you'd rather not have, the good news is that they can be removed. The bad news is if you plan on removing everything including the factory flushed or raised side rails and sporting a naked roof, this is going to be an involved process. Most factory roof racks are designed to be permanently mounted to the vehicle via built-in factory rails, and therefore they're the most difficult type to remove.If you do decide to remove your OEM rack, it should probably be a permanent decision, since the process will require some in-depth modification to your vehicle. You will likely be left with holes in your roof and headliner. These holes will need to be properly sealed to avoid damage to the vehicle interior. A handy DIYer can likely handle this type of repair, but if you're uncertain or inexperienced with body work, you may want to take the car to a professional.
Kayaks on Roof Rack

Removing Aftermarket Roof Racks

Aftermarket roof racks are typically much easier to remove. Most simply clamp around your side rails or door jamb and can be removed by loosening a few bolts. Once you've done this a time or two, most roof racks will only take about 5-15 minutes to remove.Start by locating the point at which the rack attaches to your roof (typically crossbars, a side rail, or a door jamb). Essentially, you just reverse the installation process.Remove any end caps covering your bolts. Next, loosen the bolts with the allen key or other tension tool that came with your roof rack. The component should loosen enough that you can remove the system from your vehicle. If you need a replacement allen key for your roof rack, you can find one for most common brands.
Roof Rack Clamped to Door Jamb
Loosen bolt with allen key to unlock roof rack clamped to door jamb
Roof Rack Clamped to Raised Side Rail
Loosen bolt with allen key to unlock roof rack clamped to raised side rails
Of course, the fewer bolts you need to remove, the better. Some, like the Thule AeroBlade Edge, will require the removal of half a dozen or more (the AeroBlade requires 8). However, some systems allow you to simply disconnect the roof rack feet from the fit kit and leave discreet components behind on your vehicle. That way, you can easily remove and install the system as you please with minimal hassle. For instance, this Rhino-Rack fit kit can be permanently left on the vehicle; the rest of the rack can be removed by loosening two bolts on the legs.
Thule AeroBlade Edge - must remove 8 bolts to remove roof rack
Ex: Loosen 8 bolts with allen key to unlock roof rack clamped to door jamb
Rhino Rack Roof Rack
Ex: This Rhino Rack fit kit comes with molded inserts to cover the bases when the legs are removed
When shopping for a roof rack that can be easily removed, it's a good idea to check the installation instructions or videos included on our product pages. These will give you an idea what is involved in installing the rack, where the attachment points to the vehicle are located, and how easily the rack can be removed.Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can!
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Related ArticlesWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/28/19



I am trying to remove factory roof rails on a 2006 Nissen X-trail. Do I need to remove the back wing as well etc. The vehicle is leaking onto car floors with no noticeable or obvious areas so it was suggested that it may be the sealant around the bolts of roof rails that need fixing. I can't remove the plastic trim so do I need to remove the wing first. Thanks

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.


@Tony We have never attempted this, have you checked with Nissan?

Matt P.


2022 Forester Wagon Looking to remove roof rails. How difficult of an DIY can it be..?

David B.


Depends on your definition of difficult my man. If you are wanting to remove your factory or OEM rails, it will be very "fun" doable but fun. OEM rails are by nature designed to be permanent and are literally built into the vehicle. I wouldn't remove factory rails unless they became damaged or inadequate to do the job needed. Aftermarket rails tend to be easy though. Check out the link I posted for you about removing OEM and aftermarket rails.



I’m trying to remove my jaram roof racks but they have a bond on them sticking it to the roof .How do I get them off

Les D.


We are not familiar with this brand of roof racks, and we don't know what material was used to "bond" parts together. We suggest that you reach out to Jaram and see if they can recommend materials and techniques to remove the bond/racks.



I am trying to remove my Yakima Ridgeline roof rack and finding it impossible to remove the last of the four tower covers. The first three were also hard but this last one is impossible. Do you have any pointers?

Etrailer Expert

Chris R.


Are you able to get the clamp bolt loosened at all, or is it loosened and the foot still isn't releasing from the vehicle?



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