dodge caravan

-- Last Updated: Apr-29-04 5:23 PM EST --

Have a trailer for hauling more than one canoe, but if going solo was wondering how strong the factory roof rack is on a 97 caravan. If I remember correctly the manual (when I could find it), didn't allow for that much weight on the roof, but any experience tying a 17' boat on the rack of one of these is appreciated.

i have a 98
an have a grumman 17’ an traveled 5 hours on 81 to PA at speeds of 75 MPH no problem at all. i would use front an rear tiedowns tho for that speed .

Dont worry about it.
Your rack is plenty strong enough for you canoe.

The car makers set the weight limit low on racks to fight off law suits.

My '99 is pretty wobbly.
The crossbars actually started to spread where they join the sliders. I re-crimped them, then cut a couple of pieces of closed cell foam to slide under the bars (between the bar and the roof) to spread the load a little. Worked like a charm. The 2000 has wider bars and sliders, but I don’t know if they’ll fit the older rails.

extra strap
I am not concerned about the weight of the canoe on my Caravan, but I am concerned about wind sheer traveling at interstate speeds. Consequently, besides the two ropes tying the canoe to the rack, I use front and back tie-downs, and also a ratchet strap around the canoe and through the doors of the van. That strap seems like positive insurance to me that if the rack should fail, the canoe is still held down tight. It may be overkill, but I worry a lot less. On short trips to the local pond, at speeds of 35 mph., I just use the two belly ropes tied to the rack, using a trucker’s hitch.

I’ve had a series of various minivans…most have a recommended weight limit of around 200 lbs, +/-, which should accomodate any canoe, some gear (strap you paddles inside the canoe), etc. As someone in an earlier post implies, there is probably plenty of margin in their recommnedation as well.

Using bow/stearn tie downs in a “V” fashion (from bow to left and right of whatever passes for a bumper these days) is a must for any longer trip…the real test is when you meet a big flat fronted vehicle (like a luxury bus or the now thankfully rare ‘cab over engine’ semi rigs) coming your way on a two lane highway…the key is not to keep it from lifting up, but from slewing diagonally sideways from the lateral push of air.

Never tie to the rack
The thing to remember is to never tie the canoe to the rack.

Tie front and back and through the vehicle. I use two bow straps, one stern, and one across the middle and through the windows of my Subaru. All nylon straps with cam buckles, not rope which can stretch.

The center strap is the one that does the bulk of the work.

The weight limits on the rack are generally in consideration of objects attached to the rack only, like lugage containers. In this case the rack has to hold up the weight.

I have traveled trips over 300 miles, at reasonable speeds with no problems, except for the day of the Tornado warning. Fortuately, we weren’t far from home and turned around that day.

my 2 cents
My prior vehicle was a 2000 Caravan. 125 lb rating for the rack. Tied down my 17’ 70 lb. Royalex canoe direcly to the rack with two cam straps and front and rear tie down ropes (always!). Used cut pool noodles where the boat touched rack. Never any issues at 70 to 80 mph. If the winds were high, I’d slow down a bit.

I also used Yakima Low-Riders to transport the canoe and a Pungo 140 at the same time-the system clamps directly to the factory rack. Again no problems.

I think the key is the front and back tie downs. Check all tie downs every time you stop.

My '93 Voyager is holding up
great, and I use ropes to tie down the canoe to the racks. But, for the front and back tie downs, I use the 1" straps from They are super strong, and do not stretch. The front and back tie downs should be to the vehicle frame under the bumper. mickjetblue