How to Pick the Perfect Roof Rack


Let's gear up your 4WD

Please hold on for a few seconds ...

A roof rack can make fitting everything in – and on – your fourby so much easier. Don’t go to the trouble of attaching a trailer to transport your board, bike, or extra luggage. Install a roof rack and enjoy the convenience.

You might be asking yourself if you can use any roof rack style on your 4WD. The answer is no.

Roof racks come in a range of designs to meet different requirements. You will need to pick a roof rack that can not only be installed on your vehicle but also meets your individual needs.

Choosing an inappropriate roof rack can lead to problems with your car insurance, and can even be dangerous.

Here’s everything that you need to know so that you choose the best roof rack for you and your 4WD.

What Types of Roof Racks Are There?

Roof racks come in two different types.

Rail Roof Racks

This type of roof rack is designed to attach itself to your car rails; the raised bars that run down the sides of your roof. These are very easy to install and are a popular choice.

Gutter Roof Racks

Also known as channel roof racks, these will need to be mounted onto a fitting kit. These kits are sold separately from your roof rack and you’ll need to check that they are compatible with your car gutters. You’ll also need to choose specific roof racks for what you’ll be using them for.

These are obviously more work than rail roof racks but the upside is, they’ll provide specialized support for whatever you need to carry on your 4WD roof. For example, sports equipment such as bikes or kayaks will have roof racks designed specifically for them.

What Are Roof Racks Made Of?

There are a variety of different materials that roof racks are made from, each with their own positives and negatives. Some common materials used are:

  • Aluminium – Fantastic choice of material thanks to its strength and light weight. Another benefit of aluminium is that it is also rust resistant.
  • Steel – Very strong but the downside is that it is very heavy and prone to rusting.
  • Soft neoprene/Polyester – A fantastic choice due to it being lightweight and easy to use. However, this material is not very strong. Roof racks made of soft neoprene/polyester can only carry light loads.

A Roof Rack for Every Occasion

There’s a roof rack design for almost everything that you need help transporting, so make sure to pick one that bests suits your lifestyle. Whether you love going cycling, or can’t wait for a weekend surf, there’s a roof rack for you.

Bike Racks

A great choice for carrying your bike if your vehicle can’t attach a mounted rack or you simple like keeping your bike out of the way. Bike racks can hold a single bike, but are small enough that you can install multiple racks on your roof if desired. Bike racks come in two styles: wheel-on and wheel-off. Wheel-on racks secure your bike either by the wheel or frame. This means you don’t need to remove any wheels to get your bike secured. Wheel-off racks require you to take off a wheel to attach your bike, but means that the height of your vehicle is reduced. Perfect if you need to pass through areas with height restrictions such as the entrance to a parking garage.

Kayak/Canoe Racks

Make transporting your kayak or canoe easy with this roof rack style. These racks attach to existing roof bars and are shaped to hold your boat, making it easy to store and remove your kayak or canoe from the rack. You will still need to secure the boat and stop occasionally during travel to ensure that your kayak or canoe hasn’t come loose from its restraints.

Paddle Board Racks

This type of rack allows you to stack multiple boards for compact storage while travelling. This type of roof rack is flat with a top strap and allows you to easily store your paddle board across both roof bars.

For Extra Storage

If you don’t have specialised sports equipment and just want some more space to store luggage there are three go-to options.

Cargo Bag

These are waterproof bags that come in a wide range of sizes and shapes to meet your need. You can even use multiple bags on your roof rack at once or use them in combination with more specialised racks (such as a kayak rack) to help you stay organized. Another benefit is that these bags can easily be taken down, folded up, and stored away when you need to extra room on your roof rack for other items.

Cargo Box

To give your luggage the best protection and keep it safe from the elements, choose a cargo box. These attach to your roof bars and are built to be both easy to open and incredibly durable. The downside to these cargo boxes is that they can be harder to install and remove from your vehicle than a cargo bag or cargo basket.

Cargo Basket

These are large basket-like trays that let you store large items with tie-down restraints. A great option if you have large items that can’t fit in a cargo bag or box, or simply don’t need protection from the elements.

How Much Weight Can Your Rig Handle?

There is a lot that is often overlooked by drivers when calculating how much they can carry with their roof rack. Miscalculating your maximum carry weight cause your roof rack to be overloaded without you even realising!

Carrying too much weight can cause strain and damage to your roof rack and the 4WD itself. Even worse, any damage you take to your car while overloaded won’t be covered by your insurance. This is because your fourby won’t be considered roadworthy while it’s overloaded.

Make sure you’re accurately calculating how much weight your rig can carry with these helpful tips.

Calculating How Much You Can Carry

In order to find the maximum weight capacity that you’ll be able to carry on your 4WD you need to check the following:

  • Roof Rack Weight Capacity – Every roof rack is designed to carry different weights. Check the manufacturer’s maximum load rating to make sure your roof rack can carry your load.
  • Roof Rack Weight – It’s easy to overlook, but your roof rack weighs something too. Remember to factor in this weight when you’re calculating the weight of the load going atop your vehicle.
  • Roof Weight Capacity – The roof of your vehicle can only support a certain amount of weight. If your vehicle has side rails or cross bars, these will have their own weight ratings too.
  • Vehicle Weight Capacity – Every vehicle will have a maximum weight that it can carry. This includes the weight of the driver and passengers, petrol, spare tyres, and of course your luggage. This is often referred to as the vehicle’s payload.

Remember that the maximum weight that you can carry on your roof rack is the same as the lowest maximum value of each component. If your roof weight capacity is 100kg but your roof racks can only carry a load of 50kg, then the maximum weight that you can carry on your roof is only 50kg.

How to Find Your Vehicle’s Roof Weight Capacity

To find out your vehicle’s roof weight capacity as well as it’s payload, simply check your owner’s manual. If you’ve lost your manual, you can often find this information online.

Staying Safe

By sticking to your weight limits, you will ensure that you’ll be driving safely. Overloading your vehicle can result in changing your vehicle’s center of gravity. This is dangerous as it not only impacts your vehicle’s handling, but it also puts you at risk of tipping your vehicle.

What’s Your Current Roof Set Up?

Another important thing to check before you go buying anything is to look at your current roof set up. This could change what roof rack options are available to you.

Roof side rails are the raised bars that run down the sides of your roof from front to back. These allow you to mount roof cross bars to them, and also provide a great tie down point for you to secure any luggage. Roof side rails combined with roof cross bars are the safest and most secure way to transport luggage on your 4WD’s roof. You are most likely to have roof side rails already installed on your vehicle as it is incredibly common for them to be factory-installed.

Certain vehicles might have cross bar roof racks without side rails. This is very uncommon in modern cars, but if your fourby is an older model you might have these installed. Be aware that a cross bar roof rack without side rails could lower your weight capacity for your roof.

Great Accessories to Improve Your Roof Rack

So, you’ve decided on what roof rack suits you and you’re ready to deck out your rig with all the bells and whistles. Some great accessories that you can add to your roof rack include:

  • LED Light Bracket – Perfect for adding some extra lighting to your rig. LED light brackets are often adjustable and can fit to most roof rack trays. Great if you love a bit of extra light when going camping or fishing.
  • Awning Bracket – Attaching an awning directly from your roof rack is a great and easy way to turn your rig into a mobile camping spot. A great attachment if you love a bit of adventure or just need some shade while enjoying the great outdoors.
  • Gas Bottle Holder – Don’t settle for subpar restraints when it comes to keeping valuables like a gas bottle secure. Get high quality security with a gas bottle holder and drive worry free.
  • Recovery Track Holder – If you’re taking your 4WD off-road you never want to be without recovery tracks. Store them on your roof rack and keep your interior spotless, and the recovery tracks easy to access. Be prepared and add recovery track holders to your roof rack.
  • Paddle Holders – If you’re using your roof rack to transport a kayak or canoe, adding paddle holders to your rig is an obvious choice. Make transporting your boat easier and keep water and dirt away from the interior of your vehicle with paddle holders.
  • Fishing Rod Holders – If you struggle to find space for your fishing rods, you can easily store them with holders attached to your roof rack.

What Restraints Can You Use?

No matter what cargo you’re storing on your roof rack, you must secure it. This will prevent any accidents or injuries, as well as making sure the cargo itself stays undamaged. You can purchase restraints built for specific items such as spare tyres, tools, and gas bottles. These will offer the best security for those items thanks to their specific designs.

For general use restraints you have the following options:

  • Tie downs – Straps with a clamp buckle that allow you to manually tighten and secure your cargo.
  • Bungee cords – Ideal for lighter cargo that is unlikely to tip, bungee cords have hooks or loops for simple, easy-to-use security.
  • Chains – Perfect for heavy cargo. These strong metal restraints are often used with a security padlock for securing larger loads.
  • Ratchet straps – Forcefully tighten straps for greater restraint. Be aware this restraint type can damage fragile cargo.
  • Cargo nets – Secures small gear to your vehicle’s inside ceiling.
  • Cable locks – Protect your cargo from theft.

If you still have questions about roof racks, or just want to get an expert opinion on what’s best for you and your rig, talk to the team at Total 4×4 today.