Universal Roof rack systems for the car – The great guide

We will show you what you should consider when choosing the right roof rack system for your car.

If you go on vacation with a lot of luggage, space in the car is often limited and additional storage space is required. There are some things that you may not want to transport in the interior of your vehicles, such as dirty mountain bikes or bulky ski equipment.

With the help of a roof rack system, you can easily attach various transport solutions to the vehicle roof, which are always tailored to the respective application. A car roof rack is a basic requirement for attaching a roof box, a roof bike rack, or a ski rack.

Function and use of roof racks

Modern roof rack systems usually consist of two or more basic racks that are attached directly to the vehicle and can easily be removed again when not in use. Vehicle-specific solutions are available for this, which can be combined with Universal Roofrack boxes, ski or bicycle racks.

Roof racks can be combined in many ways

A wide variety of transport solutions for all kinds of goods can be attached to the cross members of the roof rack systems. The most popular variants include the different designs of roof boxes. A roof box provides plenty of storage space on the roof, at the same time it protects the objects to be transported from wind and weather, and also from unwanted access by thieves. The market offers a wide variety of roof boxes for a wide variety of transport tasks. You can even combine different roof boxes with the roof rack.

For instance, a short, wide roof box in which the camping equipment for summer holidays can be conveniently stowed, and a long, narrow one for winter ski transport. Even special canoe holders and kayak holders are available.

Ski racks and bike racks – the classic transport solutions

Few transport solutions can compare with the versatility of a roof rack. For example, suitable bike racks can also be easily mounted on the basic rack. This classic transport solution is particularly convenient, as the bicycles can often be stowed much better on the roof than in the interior. A roof rack also offers the possibility of combining different transport solutions and in this way, for example, transporting a narrow transport box and a bicycle at the same time.

Another classic application is attaching a ski rack to the car roof. This variant is also a classic of the possible uses of a roof rack/base rack. Skis, snowboards and ski poles can be comfortably placed on the car roof and are also not dangerous in the interior.

Different types of roof racks

The many different types of vehicles each require different types of roof bars. Some vehicles have railing systems on the car roof, while other vehicles have a groove sunk into the vehicle roof or recessed fixed points for mounting the girder.

The different carrier systems also differ in terms of their profile.

Roof rack for open or closed railing

Probably the best-known way of attaching a roof rack/base rack is the classic roof rail. This is traditionally found on station wagons, but now also increasingly on off-road vehicles and SUVs.

A distinction must be made here between the classic open roof rails, which protrude beyond the vehicle roof, and the closed rails, which lie like a rail on the vehicle roof. There are suitable roof rack systems for both types of roof rails.

For a better illustration:

  • With an open/protruding roof rail, you can look through the rail from the side of the vehicle, as this type of roof rail protrudes slightly from the vehicle roof.
  • With a closed / overlying roof rail, you cannot look through it, as it lies directly on the vehicle roof.

Roof rack for fixed-point attachment, T-slot or rain gutter

Some manufacturers provide their vehicles with fixed points that can be used to mount the roof rack system. These fixed points are often hidden under a rubber cover, a cap, or a plastic rail. After removing the cover, a carrier can be easily fixed here. The situation is similar to the so-called T-slot fastening. This is a type of rail that is embedded in the vehicle roof on the right and left in the direction of travel.

Often a rubber or plastic cover that exposes the rail has to be removed first. Suitable base supports can be installed in the T-slot and often also moved. Only older vehicles and classic cars, however, have the option of installing a suitable carrier on the so-called rain gutter. This is a small channel that is located at the top edge of the roof above the windows of the vehicle. Often it also runs along the A-pillar. In the past, this was the usual way of attaching a roof rack to the vehicle roof. Matching carrier systems are still available today.

The profile shape of the base support

Roof rack systems are available with different profiles of the basic rack in the form of steel or aluminum profiles. The classic profile shape is a square profile; these beams are often made of steel. The square shape is particularly suitable for holding older ski and bicycle racks.

Modern roof rack systems made of aluminum, on the other hand, usually have a slightly oval support profile that has lower air resistance. Such base supports also often have a T-slot that runs over the entire width of the profile. Various additions, sports equipment racks or accessories can be securely fixed here. Not all accessories for roof rack systems can be combined with both profile shapes.

You should keep this in mind if you already have a roof box or a bicycle rack and only need a new rack system for a new car.

Advantages and disadvantages of a roof rack

A roof rack offers numerous advantages, but its use is sometimes also associated with minor disadvantages, such as increased fuel consumption or noise from the airstream. The great advantage of roof racks is that they are available for almost every type of vehicle and can be easily combined with numerous transport solutions. As a rule, the basic supports can be easily mounted on the vehicle and also removed again when they are not needed.

Some objects, such as ladders, can be stowed on the base carrier without any additional aids if they are then properly secured, for example with suitable straps. If roof racks are used on roof rails, for example, they can usually be moved, which means that an individual distance can be set.

Roof racks also have disadvantages

Due to their additional air resistance, roof racks can increase the fuel consumption of the car.

In addition, they occasionally cause turbulence and the associated wind noise on the car roof, which can also be heard inside the vehicle. For this reason, the basic supports should only be mounted on the vehicle roof when they are actually needed.

As a rule, the basic racks can be attached to the vehicle quickly and easily with just a few movements, so that the roof rack system does not need to be permanently on the vehicle roof in most cases.

You should also note that the roof rack must be dismantled before visiting a car wash.

Basic disadvantages of roof transport

As convenient and comfortable as it is to transport objects on the roof of a car, it is always associated with some fundamental disadvantages. Due to the increased roof load, the driving behavior of the vehicle sometimes changes to a not inconsiderable extent. This is particularly noticeable in the bends, for example when the vehicle is tilted more.

Fuel consumption also increases, especially when bulky items or goods with high air resistance are stowed on the car roof. Objects on the car roof must also always be carefully secured, as the risk of losing and falling cargo is particularly high with roof racks and the lost load can pose a significant risk to other road users.

Last but not least, it should be mentioned that all cargo and holiday luggage must be lifted up and down again during roof transport.