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Roof Rack Information

Custom Fit Roof Rack

Roof Racks

Whether you simply don't have the space inside your car or you would rather not clutter your cargo area, a roof rack will provide you with a space-saving alternative for carrying cargo and equipment. You can mount large and unwieldy items that will not fit inside your car or SUV. You can fill a rooftop cargo carrier with wet or dirty gear to ensure that your trunk or cargo area remains clean and dry. And you can quickly and easily get your sporting gear to the trail, beach, lake or mountain.


With a roof rack you can securely transport:






How to Choose a Roof Rack


What Do You Want to Carry?

The first step when choosing a roof-rack system is determining what it is that you want to carry or, more precisely, how you intend to use your rack. If you're a contractor, for example, and you may end up using your roof rack for work equipment, then Rhino-Rack's Heavy-Duty square crossbars will likely be a good choice. If, on the other hand, you wish to carry only a couple of bikes, then any bars will suffice.


Most roof-rack-mounted carriers and accessories will fit nearly all square, round, aero and elliptical bars on the market. But if you have a specific idea of what you want to transport, then you may want to consider choosing your carrier first so you don't run into any compatibility issues.


To learn more about the different types of racks and accessories, click on the following links:


Roof Rack Accessories

What Is a Roof Rack Able to Carry?

The type and amount of cargo or equipment that you can carry with your roof rack is largely dependent on your specific application and the type(s) of carriers that you choose. To a certain extent, you can estimate how many or how few carriers you can fit onto your rack based on the crossbar length.



Typically, if your crossbars measure up to 50" long, you can carry the following:

  • 1 - 4 Bikes
  • 1 - 2 Kayaks
  • 1 - 8 Pairs of skis
  • 2 - 4 Surfboards, or
  • 1 Cargo box with enough room to fit 1 bike beside it

If you use bars that are between 53" and 60" long, you can carry approximately:

  • 1 - 5 Bikes
  • 1 - 2 Kayaks
  • 1 - 10 Pairs of skis
  • 2 - 4 Surfboards, or
  • 1 Cargo box with enough room to fit 2 bikes beside it

If you use bars that are longer than 60", you can carry approximately:

  • 1 - 6 Bikes
  • 1 - 2 Kayaks
  • 1 - 12 Pairs of skis
  • 2 - 4 Surfboards, or
  • 1 Cargo box with enough room to fit 1 kayak beside it

Always be aware of weight limitations. The maximum capacity of your roof-rack system will be dependent on the lowest-rated part of the system. So, if you have a roof-mounted cargo box that has a weight capacity of 150 lbs, roof-rack crossbars that are rated at 200 lbs, and these are on a roof rated at 100 lbs, then you cannot load more than 100 lbs.


To determine your roof's maximum weight capacity, check your vehicle's owner's manual. Typically, your vehicle will be the limiting factor.


What Type of Roof Rack is Right for Your Vehicle?

The other factor that will certainly affect what you can carry on your vehicle's roof is the roof itself. We have an in-house Roof Rack Application Guide that will help you determine which rack systems are best suited for your vehicle. Most setups are vehicle specific, from the recommended length of the crossbars to the custom foot packs.


Typically, you will have a few choices in roof-rack systems so that can you pick your crossbar style. One area in which you will not have as many choices, though, is the mounting kits, most of which are vehicle specific. Our fitguide will walk you through the process of finding the perfect rack for your application, but before looking up your vehicle, you need to be able to differentiate between the different roof types. This will help to ensure that you get a kit that offers a perfect fit.


Your vehicle's roof should fall into one of the following categories:

  • Naked roof
  • Factory-installed raised side rails
  • Factory-installed flat tracks
  • Factory-installed roof rack with crossbars




Naked Roof

Naked Roof-2008 Honda CR-VNaked Roof-1998 Ford Taurus

Vehicles with naked roofs have no tracks or rails. With a naked roof, you need a fit kit, foot pack and crossbars to create a complete roof-rack system. The etrailer.com fitguide will automatically group these items together for you to make choosing and ordering your roof rack easy.


Roof Rack Components-2003 Volkswagan JettaRoof Rack Components-2001 Dodge Neon

The pictures above detail the components required for a naked-roof vehicle.

A. Each fit kit is custom-designed to create the best, strongest fit for your specific vehicle. These kits include pads that contour to your vehicle's roof and sturdy clips that fasten to the outer edges of your roof, either by connecting to pre-drilled holes (as seen in the first image) or by clamping around the door jamb (as in the second image).


B. The podium-style foot pack includes four feet that connect to the custom fit kit and provide attachment points for the roof-rack crossbars.


C. The crossbars (or load bars) are the last part of the system to be installed. These provide the usable portion of your roof-rack system where any carriers or accessories will be mounted.


Roof Rack Short Roof Adapter

Occasionally, certain naked-roof vehicles require a short-roof adapter. This item is most commonly used on small two-door vehicles with short or curved rooflines. A short-roof adapter:

  • Allows you to increase the distance between crossbars for proper spacing, which provides better weight distribution for mounted cargo and equipment
  • Increases the carrying capacity of your rack

Short-roof adapters are custom fit. Adapters are available for the following crossbars:






Factory-Installed Raised Side Rails

Round Side Rails-2007 Nissan QuestSquare Side Rails-2006 Saturn Vue

Raised side rails are most common on minivans and SUVs. They run from front to back on your vehicle and can provide attachment points for an aftermarket roof-rack system. To mount a roof rack on a vehicle with this type of roof, you will need a foot pack and crossbars.


Roof Rack Components on Side Rails

The pictures above detail the components required for a vehicle with raised side rails.

A. The foot pack for factory rails includes four feet that clamp onto or wrap around your vehicle's side rails and provide mounting points for the roof-rack crossbars.


B. The crossbars (or load bars) are the last part of the system to be installed. These provide the usable portion of your roof-rack system where any carriers or accessories will be mounted.





Factory-Installed Flush Side Rails

Flush Factory Rails on 2012 Jeep Cherokee

Factory flush rails run from front to back on your vehicle and may provide attachment points for an aftermarket roof-rack system. To mount a roof rack on a vehicle with this type of roof, you will need a fit kit, foot pack and crossbars.


Thule Podium Feet on 2012 Jeep CherokeeThule Fit Kit on 2012 Jeep Cherokee

The pictures above detail the components required for a vehicle with flush factory rails.

A. Each fit kit is custom-designed to create the best, strongest fit for your specific vehicle. These kits mount to your factory rails.


B. The podium-style foot pack includes four feet that connect to the custom fit kit and provide attachment points for the roof-rack crossbars.


C. The crossbars (or load bars) are the last part of the system to be installed. These provide the usable portion of your roof-rack system where any carriers or accessories will be mounted.





Factory-Installed Flat Tracks

Tracks-Mercury Villager

Factory flat tracks run from front to back on your vehicle and can provide attachment points for an aftermarket roof-rack system. To mount a roof rack on a vehicle with this type of roof, you will need a fit kit, foot pack and crossbars.


Tracks-Mercury Villager

The pictures above detail the components required for a vehicle with flat tracks.

A. Each fit kit is custom-designed to create the best, strongest fit for your specific vehicle. These kits mount to your factory track rack.


B. The podium-style foot pack includes four feet that connect to the custom fit kit and provide attachment points for the roof-rack crossbars.


C. The crossbars (or load bars) are the last part of the system to be installed. These provide the usable portion of your roof-rack system where any carriers or accessories will be mounted.





Factory-Installed Roof Rack with Crossbars

Factory Crossbars-2001 Subaru Outback

If your vehicle came equipped with a roof rack that has crossbars, you may not need an aftermarket roof-rack system. Most roof-rack-mounted carriers and accessories on the market will fit factory load bars. If the carrier that you would like to use does not fit your factory bars, adapters may be available.


Be sure to check your owner's manual for the capacity of your factory roof-rack system. Many OEM racks are designed more for aesthetics than utility and, therefore, are not built to support much weight. If you intend to use your roof rack for heavy loads, you may want to add aftermarket crossbars to boost the carrying capacity of your system. To do this, follow the instructions for Factory-Installed Raised Side Rails.





Types of Roof-Rack Crossbars

The fun part of choosing an aftermarket roof rack is picking the type of crossbars that you want your system to have. Sometimes this will be determined by the application or what you intend to use the rack for. For example, if you want to carry lumber or ladders with your system, Rhino-Rack's Heavy-Duty bars might be a good fit. There are multiple accessories that cater more to contractors and fit only these bars.


For the most part, roof-rack-mounted accessories and carriers that clamp onto or wrap around load bars will fit all types of bars. There are always exceptions though, so be sure to read accessory product descriptions carefully when determining compatibility.


Crossbar TypeShapeWind NoiseDragTop SlotsConstruction
Thule AeroBlade BarAero/Kamm-tail-likeLeast of all barsMinimalYesAluminum
Thule Rapid Aero BarOval/EllipticalMinimalMinimalYesAluminum
Rhino-Rack Aero BarOval/EllipticalMinimalMinimalYesAluminum
Yakima Round BarsRoundFairing recommendedFairing recommendedNoVinyl-coated steel
Rhino-Rack Heavy-Duty BarSquareConsiderableConsiderableC-channelsAluminum
Thule Square BarSquareFairing recommendedFairing recommendedNoPlastic-coated steel

Thule AeroBlade Bars

Thule AeroBlade Load Bars
  • Kamm-tail-like elliptical shape provides superior aerodynamics
  • Trip strip on top of bar creates extremely quiet ride
  • Built-in channels let you use most slot-mounted accessories
    • Swinging endcaps provide instant access to T-slots
  • Compatible with most clamp-on and wraparound accessories
  • Durable, lightweight aluminum hardly detracts from carrying capacity of your roof
  • Integrated strip offers exact measurements that correspond with instructions to ease installation
  • No fairing required


Thule Rapid Aero Bars

Thule Rapid Aero Load Bars
  • Aerodynamic elliptical design
  • Built-in channels let you use most slot-mounted accessories
  • Compatible with most clamp-on and wraparound accessories
  • Durable, lightweight aluminum hardly detracts from carrying capacity of your roof
  • Discontinued in 2011


Rhino-Rack Aero Bars

Rhino Rack Aero Cross Bars
  • Aerodynamic elliptical design
  • Built-in channels let you use most slot-mounted accessories
  • Compatible with most clamp-on and wraparound accessories
  • Durable, lightweight aluminum barely detracts from carrying capacity of your roof
  • Integrated strip offers exact measurements that correspond with instructions to ease installation


Yakima Round Bars

Yakima Cross Bars
  • Round shape is more aerodynamic than square bars
    • Fairing recommended
  • Compatible with most clamp-on and wraparound accessories
  • Sturdy steel construction
  • Vinyl coating prevents bars from scratching cargo and offers protection from the elements


Rhino-Rack Heavy-Duty Bars

Rhino Rack Heavy Duty Cross Bars
  • Large square bars provide sturdy attachment points for accessories
  • Built-in C-channels let you use certain slot-mounted accessories
    • Rhino-Rack heavy-duty, contractor-grade accessories are made specifically to fit these bars and will not work with other roof racks
  • Compatible with many clamp-on and wraparound accessories
  • Durable, lightweight aluminum barely detracts from carrying capacity of your roof


Thule Square Bars

Thule Square Load Bars
  • Compatible with most clamp-on and wraparound accessories
  • Sturdy, galvanized steel construction
  • Plastic coating prevents bars from scratching cargo and offers protection from the elements
  • Fairing recommended











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