Posted by Rack Attack on 12-11-2014 under Base Rack Systems
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What roof rack fits my car?

Just about anything you want to carry on your vehicle’s roof will require a base roof rack, the question is: what roof rack will fit my car, and what roof rack is the best for me?

The basic concept of a roof rack is really simple. It’s made up of just a few parts:

  • The mount - This is the piece of the rack that actually attaches to your vehicle. This piece will be specific to your vehicle’s make, model, and year. The type of mount will change depending on how the rack is mounted, as you will see below.
  • The tower - This is the piece that connect the mount to the actual cross bar.
  • The cross bars - Self explanatory, but there are a few different styles you can choose from.
  • Accessories - Once you have a base rack on your car, you can then mount accessories to the cross bars to carry just about anything.

To figure out what you need for your car you will have to use our automated fit guide. But before you do keep on reading so you will understand the differences, and can make the most informed decision.

Of all the parts above, the most important is choosing the mount. The tower isn’t really a choice you have to make, because it will always be the correct tower for the mount. So we will start where it matters most.

Choosing the best way to mount a roof rack to your car

Even if they don’t have cross bars, some cars come from the factory with tracks or raised rails running front to back on the roof of your car. If this is the case for you you can use a Thule or Yakima mount to connect directly to these.

Raised rails

Of the two types of factory mounting points, raised rails are the easiest. If you’re able to wrap the rack mounting around the factory rail, then you won’t actually need a separate mounting component at all. In this one scenario the tower will mount to the rails directly. The most popular options for this type of rack is the Thule Crossroad or the Yakima RailGrab

Factory track

If your roof has a track (two long slots running front to back) you can attach the Yakima Control Tower with the correct Landing Pads, which fit inside the track to keep the towers in place.

Fixed mounting points

If your car doesn’t have any factory rails or tracks, don’t worry; there are still plenty of more options for you to put some bars on your roof. Some vehicles (BMW, Volkswagen, and Mazda especially) come from the factory with fixed mounting points. Often these are hidden by little trap doors on your roof, and you can attach racks directly to these spots.

If this is possible it’s almost always the best way to go, and can even save you some money over some other options. As usual, check the fit guide to ensure a proper fit before making any final choices.

Nothing but a bare roof

If your car has nothing but a bare roof then you have to make a choice between two mounting options. Either you go with a system with clips mounting into your door-jams, or you can permanently mount a rack to the roof in a similar style to the factory mount options.

Rain gutters

On mostly older vehicles or vans you will have rain gutters running around the edge of your car, just below the roof. Both Yakima and Thule make rain gutter towers that clamp into these gutters giving you a solid rack without any fuss. No extra mounts are needed for rain gutter towers.

Permanent roof rack installations

There are many reasons someone would choose to permanently install a rack to the roof of their car including:

  • No door-mount fit available.
  • Desired ability to quickly remove the cross bars from the roof.
  • The requirement of having the bars located in places other than where a door jam mounted rack would allow (for example, a bar near the rear of the vehicle for easy loading of kayaks.
  • Aesthetics.

There are three ways to perminantly install a roof rack to your car. One is by first installing a track running along your roof from the front to back. This option gives a very factory look, but is a little more work and expense than mounting a fixed point rack.

Here is a quick guide to installing a track.

The second option is mounting Yakima Landing Pads directly to your roof. With this install you can never change the location of the bars on your roof, but for almost all rack users this is not an issue. This install is a little easier, and is by far the most common permanent install we do in our shops.

Here is a quick guide to Landing Pad installation.

The final way to perminantly install a rack is to add an artificial rain gutter to the side of the vehicle. This installation method is the least common, typically used for camper-vans with a roof unable to support the weight of a cargo rack. In this case we will mount brackets to the sides of the vehicle for attaching the rack.

It’s important to note that a permanent rack install is actually permanent. You will be required to drill through the roof of your vehicle to complete this install. We guarantee a perfect fit, leak and problem free, for all installs for as long as you own your vehicle. But it should be noted that this is probably not the best choices for leased cars.

If you would rather not drill holes in your roof, then the best choice for you will be a door jam mount.

Door jam Racks

With specific mounts (Q-Clips for Yakima, Fit Kits for Thule) made for the majority of all vehicles, this option will get you a reliable roof rack which you can remove, or leave on nearly indefinitely.

(Warning! you should never go into a non-touchless car wash with a roof rack on)

With this style of rack the towers sit on the roof of the vehicle, and the vehicle specific clips fit snugly into your door-jams. If installed correctly this rack can carry all the roof rack accessories and will never leak, no matter how hard the rain comes down.

These systems are known as Q-Towers (Yakima) and 400xt Aero Foot Packs (Thule).

Now that you know what all of the different type of mounts and towers are, all that’s left is to choose the type of cross bar. Of these you need to choose between style, and often length.

Styles of roof rack cross bars

The standard Thule or Yakima crossbars are made of steel. They are strong and reliable, but heavy. They can also make a fair amount of wind-noise when mounted on your roof.

Both Thule and Yakima offer multiple options for lighter, aerodynamic bars. You can get the Aero Blade bar from Thule, of even get some integrated bars and towers, such as the Whispbar systems from Yakima. These systems will make less noise, are easier to install and remove, and will never rust. On top of it all, they look fantastic.

If you do buy a system with separate bars and towers it’s possible to choose the length of your bars. When you input your vehicle information into the fit guide if will show you the recommended bar length for your vehicle. But in most cases it’s possible to get a longer bar length.

A longer bar will stick out on the sides of your vehicle, making the rack less visually appealing, but this extra bar length will increase the amount of stuff you can carry on your roof, and can make it possible to mount accessories outside of the tower, which can be beneficial for some situations.

Use the fit guide

The best thing you can do is use our fit guides. Many cars have multiple fit options, and now that you understand what all of the possible options are, the guide will make a little more sense to you. Make sure to choose only an approved fit for your vehicle. If you have difficulty figuring it out, or you want to do something unique with your rack, give us a call. We will be happy to help you out.

The Rack Attack Base Rack Fit Guide

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