A Hullavator Question

Considering one of these for my Honda Pilot. It has a bare roof so I’ll need feet and cross bars. A couple of questions; hopefully someone here has this combo of car and rack:

  1. anything I need to know about Thule feet on this car’s roof?
  2. reading other threads it sounds like I should avoid fully round bars because they allow the rack to twist. Correct?
  3. mount rack on driver’s or passengers side or it doesn’t matter?
  4. how much of a pain is it to remove it when not being used frequently? Can I remove bars and rack as a unit or do I have to detach the individual parts?

I’m still semi on the fence with the Hullavator versus traditional saddles. I like the idea of not having to wrestle the boat on to the roof by myself and being able to do the straps at chest level rather than standing on the door frame.


I inherited the round bars from prior racks … would have preferred not round, but round works.
In the off season, I take the hullavators off first, then the bars … since I’m puny. In any case, it’s not a big deal.
Yes, it’s very convenient to strap the kayaks on the hullavators at chest level and not clamber on the top of the vehicle.
No responses to ‘Pilot’ specific questions.

The way the Hullavator is used, the shape of the bars is generally not an issue. Round bars become an issue when rear loading with traditional saddles or rollers.

If you do not already own round bars, I recommend the Thule square bars. I believe the latest models of the Hullavator will fit almost any cross bars, including the newer aerodynamic bars or most factory bars.

If you can afford the price, the Hullavator is the gold standard for self loading on a vehicle.


Easy peasy to take cradles off the rack. Each one weighs about 15#. Also easy to put back on.

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The hullavator seems designed to leave dents in the hull of the boat, two dents for each hullavator. I bridged the dent inflicters with a flexible, but solid home-made piece of flat plastic. This could otherwise be a significant problem for a rotomolded kayak.

Has anyone else had this problem?

When I look at the product photos it does look like there is an un-padded part of the cradle that makes contact with the hull. I thought I was looking at it incorrectly.

The cradle arm anchors are hard plastic with a raised center. I’ve pointed this out as an issue to Thule for the past 13 years. It would be so simple to just make the anchor flat rather than peaked. Ideally you should adjust the arms so the chine of the boat is being carried on the padding of the arms and not resting on the cradle anchor. This may actually raise the hull 1/4" off the anchors when strapped in but don’t worry it’s secure.

The wind resistance on Hullavators will pivot them backwards on round bars. If you don’t mind drilling, make a hole through one of the T-Slot bolt holes on the bar mount assembly and drop in a bolt with some sealant on it to keep the whole thing pinned in place.

For your first Hullavator, mount on the passenger side so you are operating on the non-roadway side. Also there might be a curb so the ground to cradle height is less.

Once the arm assembly is removed the bar mount assembly can stay on through the winter as it is an oil baked finish and quite resistant to weather, or remove it. With any aftermarket roof rack bars that extend beyond the foot, do not take it through a automatic brush car wash. Bad.

If you need one I happen to have 14 on hand. P-Com members, free shipping till the end of 2021.

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
Main: www.the-river-connection.com
Store: www.the-river-connection.us
Email: marshall@the-river-connection.com
Facebook: fb.me/theriverconnection
Instagram: www.instagram.com/marshall.seddon


This has been discussed on the West Coast Paddler Forum:

The Hullavator is easy to remove when not in use, just remove the pivot pin and the assembly comes away from the the bar mount.

I have never had any sort of dent issue with the hard rubber at the bottom of the cradle arms and I have used the Hullavator with rotomoulded plastic, fiberglass and kevlar kayaks. But, you do have to be careful to not overtighten the straps, just tighten the straps and inspect the contact between the hull and the cradle.

It is very important that the cradle arms be positioned correctly to you kayak so that the side of the cradle is in contact with the sides of the kayak at the same time that the hull is contacting the hard rubber at the bottom of the cradle.

Can’t help with the round bars or feet, my roof rack is rectangular and mounts to the roof’s rain gutter.

You can pad the raised plastic bumps with thin minicell, but if you do that leave access to get to the screws in each. Over time you often need to tighten them up and/or use some lock tite type stuff yourself.

Best to use square or flat bars, but be aware of a huge gripe I have with Thule’s fit kits for the recessed roof rails which most newer cars have. While dismounting the Hullivator cradles is quite doable, the fit kit arrangement that Thule uses means getting the cross bars off as easily as any of my prior arrangements can be a serious PITA. I used their cross-country mounts on raised rails for a long time and before that various Yakima arrangements with towers that went into the recessed rail.

In all my prior versions, I could pull off the cross bars and the mounts in one piece if I wanted for things like car washes and the deepest parts of winter, leaving behind either the raised rail or before that a very muted tower base that could stay on the car securely year round.

But the tower left behind with the Thule FitKits really needs to have the bars attached to manage winter snows and ice. So the changeover is more time consuming, to get that off in parts and replace the cover over the screw holes to mount the fit kit.

The current Hullivators apparently can come with parts to work with the Yakima flat cross bar. At the point I feel the need to say goodbye to these Thule square bars, I will be checking to see what is available from Yakima and the base for the cradles that will give me an easier maintenance situation.

When I had my hullavator on round Yakima bars, there were issues where the base would twist when you extended the rack down, so that when you pushed it back up, it would not lock correctly. It was a minor annoyance, but I would go with the newer style Thule bars just the same.

I glued nylon coated neoprene to the plastic because it left black marks on my hull. No issues since.

FWIW I haul either a Kevlar or a thermoform kayak.

Just get the full Thule system. It works from the beginning.

Ok. I remember reading about this. Is it an “ this is too annoying to deal with” situation > I’d be better off with traditional saddles or is the padding / adjustment issue easy to work around?

Last thing I want to worry about is whether the device is scratching/ denting the boat.

I misspoke in my earlier post. Although I prefer Yakima saddles over Thule, I don’t recommend the Yakima round bars. As far as I am aware, all Yakima saddles work on the Thule square bars and the newest work on the aerodynamic flatter bars and most factory cross bars.

Both Yakima and Thule are transitioning away from the less expensive round and square bars in favor of the more expensive flatter aerodynamic bars.

There is no device to which you tightly strap a boat that will not risk a bit if a dent, Hullivator cradles, stackers saddles etc. But a loose boat is not something you can go down the highway with so you have no choice. That effect is generally more temporary in a glass boat than in a plastic one, none of this is fatal.

The discoloration from stuff rubbing off in the Hullivator cradles can be managed by covering up the bottom with something. This kind of change is easy. My current car has a different roof tilt than my previous, I turned my old saddles into operating like glide pads by gluing felt to them. It cost me a foot of the felt at a fabric store and a fresh bottle of Weldwood cement that tends to be a constant companion in glass sea kayaks anyway. Seems there is always some little thing to reglue once you get them comfy.

I would worry less about a couple of marks on your boat - using it and landing on beaches will also hand you something to clean up - and more about how you want to live with the rack year round. Anything on your roof affects gas mileage, and in a climate with real winter I find the current Thule Fitkit arrangement to be harder to quickly make changes in than my prior mounting systems.

Round bars are still made, but they’re only designed to work naturally with the old style Yakima rain gutter towers, so they shouldn’t be a concern or consideration. With your Pilot, if you have raised side rails, you’ll be getting either a Yakima or Thule system designed for that, and the default will be aero bars from Yakima or aero or square bars from Thule.

Hullavators are ideal if someone has strength or mobility issues that would preclude them loading a boat straight into a j-cradle or onto a saddle. They’re a little fiddly to assemble, a little heavy by themselves, and take a bit to install or remove, but they’re a godsend for some folks who simply wouldn’t be able to load the boat without the design and the aid of the gas pistons.

If you like the idea of a side-loading upright carrier, Yakima has an alternative called the Showdown that is a little simpler to install and remove, quite a bit lighter in weight, and less expensive. It does NOT have the gas assist lifting element, so you need to be able to dead lift the boat up to the point where you can slide it over the bars, but if you’re of normal strength and condition, you should be able to manage it.

In either case, make sure that the crossbars extend out over the side of the roofline enough to allow clearance for the carrier to be down without hitting the doors of your car. I’ve seen some folks scratch up their cars with bars that weren’t quite long enough, and it wasn’t a happy experience for them. Note that Yakima’s raised rail system is much easier to work with if someone wants longer than normal bars, as the tower can be positioned anywhere along the length of the bar.

Word to the wise that lead time on both the Hullavator and the Showdown are in the 3 to 5 month range, so best to get moving and find a dealer that has them on order to get in queue now. It’s going to be another one of those years in 2022…

As noted above by Marshall of The River Connection, he has 14 on hand.

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Yup, noted. I’m in a persnickety mood about buying something new and then having to glue felt or whatever onto it because the manufacturer doesn’t realize that it leaves marks!

But…I just watch the install video for the Yakima rack and it uses glue-on felt pads and the saddles. Maybe felt is the answer to the world’s problems. Price difference is $200 but, significantly, not available until February from the one place that lists it as in stock. I hope to be needing it before that.

Yakima used to offer the self adhesive felt pads as an optional accessory for their saddles, however their saddles have come with these preinstalled now as a standard feature for several years at no extra cost.