A Subaru, Thule Bars, and a Factory Rack

-- Last Updated: Mar-08-04 11:41 PM EST --

I just replaced my old Subaru with a new one. (The 1990 with 240,000+ decided to relieve itself of a transmission)

The new one is a '96 with a factory roof rack. So my Barrecrafters rack with towers (old car was rackless)will not work anymore.

So I go to look at buying a new rack and discover that the recomended bars (751XT) are only about 3 inches wider than the factory roof rack. My old bars stuck out about 6 inches from the roof line. I could easily get 5 WW boats up there side by side. (I know about the "don't overload" rule, my book says keep it under 100lbs, and I usually follow that except for short, mostly gravel roads, on shuttle at LOW speeds)

The guy at the sporting good store reccomended just hooking my 830 stacker to the factory rack/bars and getting an 835xt for my touring boats. This is fine and dandy and cheap, but then I doubt that I can get more than 3 WW boats up there.

I don't like the round bars of the Yakima racks so I cannot go that way.

Anybody have any ideas short of returning my car (got a smoking deal on it and it tough to get a Legacy Wagon in a manual Tranny!)



The Water's Going to Become Liquid SOON!

legally you bars can be as wide as

– Last Updated: Mar-10-04 1:52 AM EST –

the widest part of you car. Even a bit wider. Mine are quite long. I bought them long and would have cut them down wiht a hacksaw or used a reciprocationg saw if needed! :-) I have had no problem. I use one set of mako saddles per boats one is mounted on the outside of my VW factory rails (very strong). They have done me fine. I check all mounting elements occasionally, I once found one loose!

Whether you do the same is up to you. I make no recommendation, (nudge, nudge; wink, wink). Check with thule to get the rated strength of you factory rails!

Rack modifications
First, I don’t know squat about “stackers” or the I.D. numbers of various kinds of Thule racks and rack parts, so I can’t comment on that stuff. I DO know that I’m often not satisfied with factory-built stuff that I buy. I tend to make my own modifications to make things work the way I “wish” the factory stuff would. It seems to me that you could easily widen any kind of rack with a little do-it-yourselfing. Some of the neatest racks I’ve seen had crossbars that were simple 2x4s, which of course you can attach any other type of hardware to with no problems. How about installing side rails that connect the front and rear cross bars (these are handy for all sorts of things, and I wouldn’t do without them on my rack. Mine are 3/4-inch black pipe, which is a little light and flexible, but good enough for this purpose), and then use those bars to stabilize (prevent front-to-back twisting) 2x4s that mount over and in line with the regular cross bars? The 2x4s could have a notch cut down their length on the bottom side into which the factory cross bar would be bedded. Clamp it in with some hardware of some kind and your are set. Or just set the 2x4s on the aforementioned lengthwise bars, adjacent to the factory cross bars, and clamp them to the front or back of the existing cross bar.

If you go this route, the round bars of Yakima would be a benefit, as they are easier to clamp things to (U-bolts). Also, since they have very thick metal they won’t be damaged when you cinch the clamps down (and you can subsitute plain old thick-walled steel pipe if you don’t want to pay extra for the Yakima name and their special plastic coating).

My two cents, provided free of charge, today only.

415 towers and normal bars
Don’t buy the 751s. I don’t know what Thule was thinking when they introduced that line. Slotted load bars that only work with those specific towers and only one choice for width. Yuck.

You didn’t specify your Subaru’s model, but my guess is that the 415 feet fit pretty much all of the late model Subaru rails. Then you can buy bars as long as you like. I had 58 inchers on my '98 Outback. Could have even gone longer, but I didn’t want my passengers whacking their heads…

Stay with the Old System
from Thule that mounts right to your factory crossbars (visit their site to find the #s), and just use the wider load bars, other than the 50s. They’ll stick out a bit, but you can pad the end with a tennis ball, piece of foam rubber, etc., for the inevitable head bonks, and eye pokes that will occur when you forget about the low roof line. A call to Thule will help you out as well. Good luck.

We’ve got a 1999 Legacy wagon without a factory rack and use a standard Thule setup. Don’t know the model numbers offhand, but the towers are at least 15 years old. We ignored the manual and bought bars long enough to carry everything we wanted. Works fine.

After the first couple of hits
it’s amazing how well conditioned you get to avoiding the bars.

Nice idea bout the tennis balls. Very considerate of you.

Thanks for the input everybody. Does anyone know the part number for the old style towers that mount to the factory rack. The Thule people weren’t very helpful.