How to Choose and Install a Car Roof Rack or Carrier

Rooftop car racks and carriers are one of the most secure transportation systems for large items. Read this guide to learn how to choose and install a car roof rack.
Written by Elan Mcafee
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Oct 22, 2021
Installing a roof rack is simple–the most essential steps are to install the fit kit, attach the foot packs, and add the crowbars.
Car roof racks are one of the most versatile cargo-carrying systems for vehicles. They are most commonly used to transport sporting goods like kayaks, bikes, and snowboards.
Roof racks and carriers have the advantage of leaving all doors and hatches on your vehicle free for use, but they do require hefting items over the head and the added wind resistance affects your car’s gas mileage.
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How to choose a roof rack

Before you install your roof rack, make sure you have a roof rack that works with your car.
Step 1: Check which options are compatible with your car. In your
owner’s manual
, you can likely find weight limits for the roof of your vehicle.
If that information isn't in the manual, contact the manufacturer directly. This also affords the opportunity to discuss the best options for carrying items on the roof for your car’s make and model.
Step 2: Consider your cargo. A car rack or carrier will do you little good if you need to tote a kayak and it's only designed to accommodate small, light loads.
Decide what things you will need to transport on your car’s roof, and be sure to look only at carrier options that are appropriate to the needed tasks.
Step 3: Decide if the rack or carrier is a permanent addition. Some car racks or carriers are designed for easy removal, meaning you could just attach it when needed or swap it between vehicles. Other models are made to attach to your car’s roof permanently.

How to install a roof rack

Once you have a good roof rack, you need to install it.
Step 1: Install the fit kit. The fit kit is the part of a rack that conforms to the top of your roof. Most fit kits simply clamp onto the edges of your roof, and the underlying pad creates the seamless fit with your car’s shape and protects the paint.
Step 2: Attach the foot pack. To attach the podium-style foot pack to the fit kit, use screws or other provider fastener to link each of the four feet to the base of the system.
Step 3: Add the crossbars. Position the crossbars according to your rack or carrier’s instructions and use the provided fasteners to attach them to the foot pack.
Double check that everything is tightly merged between the three system components by giving the crossbars a firm tug from various angles before attempting your first haul.
Once you have chosen and installed a compatible car rack or carrier on the roof of your car, endless opportunities await. You can plan outdoor adventures using your own equipment or be in a better position to move awkward items to a
new home
. With proper planning, the addition of this helpful car accessory can also be painless and fuss-free.

FAQs

Where can I get a roof rack installed?

Roof racks are easy enough to install by yourself, but if you have any difficulties, you can contact a local auto shop and ask them if they can install your roof rack.

How much does it cost to install a roof rack?

If you're installing a roof rack yourself, it'll be free. You'll only need to pay for the roof rack itself.
If you get a full used roof rack, you can pay as little as $100-150 for a quality roof rack. More aerodynamic and current roof racks will cost you more, and you may have to pay extra to find one if you have a more recent car model. Prices can range up to $500 for new roof racks.
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