roof rack frequently asked questions and answers - FAQ about roof racks

Car Roof Racks Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ about Roof Racks

More and more people decide to use car roof racks to haul camping equipment or gear, skis, snowboards, golf clubs, hunting gear, luggage bags, tents, fishing rods, spare tires, kayaks or canoes, ladders, furniture, bicycles, and more between locations; consequently, we are here to help people get a better understanding of car roof racks and to answer some frequently asked questions about using and choosing roof racks for specific car models.

Are car roof racks universal to all car models?

If you are new to car roof racks, you should know that they are not universal to all car models; moreover, when choosing rooftop racks for a specific car model, you must consult the manufacturer and pick the compatible size model to fit your vehicle. However, some manufacturers offer universal roof racks to customers without many size options, and their products work with most car models with specific types of roof rails.

When choosing car roof racks for a particular car model, you should contact the car dealer to order OEM racks or find compatible ones online through markets like Amazon or Ebay.

Related Topic: what is the relationship between rooftop racks, crossbars, and roof rails?

crossbars on raised roof rails

Is steel or aluminum roof racks better?

We believe aluminum materials are better for manufacturing car rooftop racks because aluminum is light, sturdy, waterproof, and durable. Most popular brands like Thule and Yakima use aluminum as a significant part of their products. Steel is not as strong as aluminum and is much heavier. Consequently, steel-made rooftop racks are hard to find on the market because most sellers know the weakness and disadvantages when making car roof racks with steel materials.

roof-mounted bike racks on Thule aluminum roof racks with raised roof rails

Are aftermarket car roof racks better?

When getting car rooftop racks for a particular car model, you can order OEM parts from a dealer or find aftermarket or third-party products on the markets like Amazon or Ebay. Factory-made rooftop racks are expensive and special-made for specific car models; thus, you cannot use OEM roof racks on other vehicles. However, aftermarket rooftop racks often can fit on different car models.

How heavy should roof racks be?

Most manufacturers use lightweight materials to build roof racks because every car has a roof loading limit. The weight of the roof racks consumes a part of the roof loading limit, so it should be as less as it can be; however, car rooftop racks must be sturdy enough for their jobs. Most vehicles’ roof loading limit should be around 160 – 200 pounds, and the rooftop racks may occupy 20% of the total weight and leave the rest weight limit for luggage or equipment.

Related Topic: How much weight can you load on the car roof?

roof-mounted cargo box on aluminum Thule roof racks with flush roof rails

Do roof racks increase car value?

Yes, roof racks can increase car value. Adding compatible rooftop racks to a car can increase the selling price. More and more drivers need car rooftop racks on their vehicles to carry things on the go, so rooftop racks are highly in demand, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. When people buy used cars, they often pay more attention to vehicles with installed roof racks.

Do roof racks decrease gas mileage?

Yes, car roof racks can affect gas mileage and consume more gas at a distance compared to when driving without these roof-mounted cargo racks. Rooftop cargo carriers or rooftop racks are car accessories installed on the car roof, and they stand in the wind when the car is in motion. The force of the coming air is the main reason for this phenomenon. You can use aerodynamic roof-mounted cargo racks to minimize the wind effect.

Related Topic: Do roof-mounted cargo boxes affect gas mileage?

rooftop basket on raised roof rails

What is the quietest roof rack?

Roof-mounted rack systems can produce wind noise or whistling sounds in movement, especially on highways. Consequently, some people are looking for the quietest rooftop racks for their vehicles. As we know, there are no quietest roof-mounted carriers but the most aerodynamic ones.

Related Topic: Most aerodynamic rooftop cargo boxes

Should I leave rooftop cargo carriers or roof racks on my car?

It depends on what you have there on your car roof. For example, if you only have a pair of rooftop crossbars, you can leave those bars on the car roof without taking them off. However, you must remove all cargo carriers (roof-mounted or hitch-mounted) before driving through an automatic carwash station.

If you use any other rooftop cargo carriers like bike racks, roof cargo boxes, bags, baskets, kayak or canoe carriers, ski or snowboard carriers, or a rooftop tent, you must disassemble them when they are not in use. Most experts believe car rooftop racks or rooftop cargo carriers can increase a vehicle’s gas consumption by about 3% to 30%.

DIY roof rack system on SUV

Do roof rack systems impact car insurance?

Rooftop cargo racks are car accessories you add to the car roof for carrying almost everything for outdoor needs. These rooftop cargo racks stand on the car roof as modifications to your vehicle and may or may not affect your car’s insurance. Many countries have different insurance policies for rooftop racks, so you better consult the insurance company before adding rooftop rack systems to your vehicle.

However, you should carefully read the car manual and find the policies about using roof racks because some car manufacturers indicate that rooftop racks can void the warranty. 

Related Topic: Do you need a special license for a rooftop cargo box?

Are roof racks safe to use?

Yes, most roof racks have integrated lock systems. You don’t buy rooftop racks without a locking mechanism. Although most rooftop cargo carriers have locks, thieves may use sharp tools to break the lock core and get things inside. Consequently, rooftop racks are safe, but it is hard to say they are 100% anti-theft. We find some methods to add securities to rooftop cargo boxes, and you can use these strategies on any roof racks.

Related Topic: How to protect your rooftop cargo systems from thefts?

Can you overload the roof racks?

No. You cannot overload rooftop racks for any reason. When using rooftop cargo management systems on a car, you load extra weight on the car roof; therefore, the car’s gravity center becomes higher, which makes the driving different than usual. If you overload the roof racks and put more weight on the car roof, your car will be easy to roll over, especially when turning. Otherwise, overloading rooftop racks cause unexpected accidents like falling off.

Related Topic: Do and Dont When using rooftop cargo carriers

roof racks on fixed points

Do roof racks cause damage to cars?

Whatever types of roof racks you plan to add to your vehicle, you must follow the instructions to carefully operate the mounting hardware and accurately connect all components and parts. During installation, you must avoid over-twisting, under-twisting, incorrect-fitted, and over-loading to protect your vehicles from unwanted damage.

Related Topics: Do roof racks damage your car?

How fast can you drive with roof racks?

You better slow down your car when having rooftop racks on it because of the raised gravity center and the extra weight. It is different when driving with all rooftop cargo carriers, so you should listen to experts and follow their suggestions to control the speed. For example, we know how fast you can drive with roof cargo boxes and bike racks, and you can follow the speed limit to go with most roof-mounted cargo carriers.

Can you take roof racks on and off?

Yes, you can. Most rooftop cargo carriers are easy to install and use, and the installation can take up to 10 minutes; otherwise, disassembly may take less time than putting rooftop racks on. When you don’t need to use the roof racks for transporting gear or luggage, you should take them off and store them in the garage with proper protection from natural elements.

Related Topic: Can you drive with an empty roof cargo box?

What is the best distance between two roof bars?

If you are not using a unique-fitting rooftop cargo carrier on the crossbars, you should always remain the bar spread (the distance between two roof bars) between 24 to 36 inches. You can follow an article to find the best position for most rooftop cargo carriers on the car roof. 

load luggage and gear with rooftop cargo carriers and roof racks

Do you need to drill holes for mounting roof racks on the car roof?

No. You don’t need to use tools for the installation of any rooftop racks or rooftop cargo carriers. The zero-tool-involved installation won’t cause damage to your vehicle. However, when using clamps or clips to tighten rooftop racks on the door frames, you must bear with the “wear and tear” at the touching area between mounting hardware and the car frames. The force of friction causes printing to loosen, so you can add soft mats on the contact spots to reduce the friction on printing.

Related Topic: How to choose a pair of crossbars for bare car roofs?

What is the best way to load roof racks?

If you require to use roof racks to haul road trip luggage, you should know how to pack things on rooftop racks like a pro without potential risks. You should always evenly spread the weight on rooftop racks, and you better put the heaviest luggage in the middle and apply straps to tighten your belongings to the carriers to prevent sliding when your vehicle is in motion.


You can find some FAQ questions in this article about car rooftop racks, so you can read these answers to build your knowledge base for using and choosing roof racks. If you have unmentioned questions about rooftop cargo carriers, you can leave a comment and submit the question, and we will answer it as soon as possible.

We also have FAQ pages about car roof boxes and bike racks. You can visit these pages to learn before making purchases.

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