factory racks

Are they ever safe for carrying kayaks? If I replace the factory rack with a bought one it will connect to exactly the same place. I’ve read for years on pnet never to trust factory racks but I wonder if this refers to the metal, flimsy racks. The racks (more like rails, they run the length of the car and don’t have any connection to each other) on my car seem really solid.

I can’t figure out how to post a picture but here’s a link to a photo of the rack. http://www.hyundaiusa.com/elantra-touring/

Thanks for any advice,


I love my factory racks!
I use my factory racks and love them but mine are on a Hummer which I suspect may me a bit sturdier than the typical factory rack. My wifes Hummer has Yakima racks which are great, however they don’t remove as easily as mine and they create some wind noise. My racks are in a sliding rail system with locks. They are on and off in less than a minute.

Factory racks:
No real standard here, but I use the two parallel lengthwise ones on my Dodge Grand Caravan, with Yakima cross bars. Five years now, and never a problem. I recently replaced the interior headliner and got a good look at how they were installed, and am quite confident. There are a few lengthy threads regarding this. Check out the archived messages and I think you may find answers to most of your questions. I carry two full size sea kayaks, probably 200 days a year, and limit my speed to 65. Do consider wind conditions, and you may be all right. My crossbars set at nearly 5 ft apart, and this helps. I usually carry topside down for highway travel. I hope this helps, as it has always been a concern of mine, too.

my 2cts worth…
HI…i would trust the factory racks…companies are under a legal obligation to sell safe,reliable equipment ,out of fear of a lawsuit if for no other reason, if the racks fail. I have tested my factory rack up to 100 mph with 2 boats on it. the only question is: use factory crossbars or go with aftermarket? I personally like the oval shaped factory bars if they are available. the clamp on style of J-bars always seem to spin around too easily on aftermarket round bars no matter how tight i torque them down. I have all Yakima stuff. ( saddles, crossbars, fold-down J-bars)

As a side note …i would not replace the factory bars out of fear of introducing leaks thru the roof by retrofitting a aftermarket bar.

A pack of Thule 450 Crossroad feet and two 50" loadbars. Put on any carrier you wish onto those and according to the Fit Guide you’re good for up to 165lbs of weight.

Might want to keep it under 100mph unlike Beau, the speeding ticket would be more than the racks. :wink:

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



The factory rails may well be OK.
But any crossbars deserve careful inspection. We had a Subaru Outback with rails that were very solid. But the factory crossbars were rather flimsy, in my judgement, so I bought Yakima clamps and crossbars.

I too have a Grand Caravan, but…
I don’t use the factory cross bars. I use the factory rails (running front to back) with a Yakima system and have not had a problems on my Grand Caravan in the past three years – and I carry three kayaks (in cradles) on this setup.

However, I can’t say the same for other makes of vehicles – they are not all created equal. This frightening story from a couple of years back with my old Ford Windstar van might make you look closely at your factory setup before deciding what to do:


I also used to work in the paddling industry and saw several rack failures – nearly all failed on the factory crossbars.

Regardless of your rack setup, I’d highly recommend using bow and stern lines – I’ve learned from experience that they are absolutely necessary (although I’m sure there are a few here who will argue vehemently that they’re not).



Thule Crossroad feet
I saw these when browsing around the web, and this system would be ideal (I have 2 Thule J-racks) but it still leaves me dependent on the factory rails (no crossbars came with the car). If this system has been time tested then my problem is solved, thanks Marshall!

Are there any contrary opinions to attaching load bars directly to factory rails?

Thanks to everyone for their opinions so far…Lyn

Thule 450

– Last Updated: Dec-19-09 2:15 PM EST –

We have a Pontiac Vibe and have replaced the dinky factory crossbars with the Thule 450 Crossroad system as Marshall suggested. Absolutely no problems carrying two yaks. You can bet that Thule won't recommend their product for a rail system that doesn't meet their standards. Too much liability at stake.

Good luck - looks like you've picked a great car!


The Vibe was my first choice but I couldn’t find one (I work really long hours and they kept getting sold out from under me).

This system sounds great, I’ve posted on a few Hyundai forums to find out how the factory rails are secured to the car. If it’s solid, my problem is solved.


If you have
a pull apart junk yard near you spend a couple of bucks and go see a wrecked car like yours. cut the head liner and determine if you are comfortable with that and wind shear off of semi’s. I got my rack off of a junk yard car and put it on myself. Since I know the rack and the mounting system I use front tie downs religiously.

factory racks
I used the Subaru factory rails for 10 years with Yakima crossbars. I carried either 2 bikes or 2 kayaks on the roof at speeds up to 80mph with no problems. I will be putting a new set of Yakima Crossbars on my new VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI shortly.

Beware NEW vehicles!!!
Beware of new vehicles, they are getting so fanatical on cutting weight that the manufacturers are taking too many shortcuts…

The roof rails on my Ford Escape (2008) are plastic! Max weight limit of 50 lbs. Not the crossbars, but the actual roof rails are plastic. After 2 summers of use, I will replacing them with some homemade metal ones. The plastic has been flexed so much that it has gotten weak and brittle, and is starting to pull out of the roof. No other options were available. However, I do routinely carry 2 canoes or multiple kayaks. Knock on wood, I haven’t had a rack failure yet, but am constantly worried about it.

The step bumper on my escape also fell off one day. I found out that it was one assembly made completely out of plastic, held on with plastic bolts and fasteners. The only metal was a short piece about 20 inches long in the center. My constantly using the step bumper when tying down boats had pulled out or broke all the plastic bolts. I put it back together modifying it and using metal bolts to hold it.

The plastic wheelwells are held with plastic fasteners also, and will have to be remounted in the spring - I will do this with modifications and metal bolts. Heavy snow pretty much trashes these over time.

My complaints to several different ford dealerships acclomplished nothing. I was repeatedly told that newer cars are being built lighter and lighter in the name of gas mileage, and that the “accesories” (step bumper, roof rails) are only meant for occasional use - not constant use. In other words, they are designed for people living in the city who may use the roof rails once or twice a winter to carry a pair of skis or a snowboard, but are not meant for anything else.

I have been looking at many newer cars of different brands and they are all becoming very cheaply built. Plastic is used way too much! I am not impressed with roof rails on many new vehicles nor with the amount of plastic fastners used in place of metal bolts in securing the body parts in place.

It would appear that many manufacturers are willing to give up their market share of outdoor people who actually want to use their vehicle for something other than getting groceries.

I’m very disappointed in what is out there…

There is no legal obligation for …
… car makers to provide racks that are suitable for anything other than what they specifically state. As often as not, the specified use does NOT include the kind stuff routinely done when carrying boats. Some racks are so flimsy I’d be reluctant to attach and use a bike carrier, while some are actually quite satisfactory for boat-hauling. The suggestion by other posters to find out exactly how the anchors are constructed is very good advice.

A pull apart what? A headliner?? I’m a city kid and don’t understand a word in your post.

Kind of kidding but since the car’s only been out for 2 years I assume your plan wouldn’t work.


I remember seeing that post
on westcoastpaddler.com. It convinced me to use bow and stern tie downs forever!


Tread carefully
We normally transport using a trailer, but once in a great while we have used the factory rails of a 1997 Chevy Tahoe WITH Yakima crossbars. While the rails are rigid metal, the factory cross-slats don’t strike me as all that solid. Also, it’s nice having round crossbars so we can tilt the angle of the saddles to conform better to the hulls.

Longest such trip was 5000 miles to and from Prince Rupert, BC. The rails and bars held up fine.

If compatibility with other pieces (such as topper) were not an issue, I would choose a contractor’s rack to carry kayaks. They’re rated for much higher loads than vehicle roofs or roof racks are. But you can only use these with a pickup truck bed, no cars.

find a car just like yours and cut the head liner to see how stable and secure the rack system is. Check out the racks to destruction. It would be better to use a junk yard one( if it is available, but if your brother-in law

has the same type…

Depends on the vehicle

– Last Updated: Dec-20-09 8:17 AM EST –

The factory cross bars are the problem - ours usually have stayed on the car except for the Subie with more of a wind noise issue, but they are way to flimsy to be the support for a couple or three kayaks.

So you are talking about getting third party cross rails, maybe stackers or saddles, and towers that will attach the cross bars to the factory front-to-back rails.... yes? The question is about whether the factory front to back rails will be able to support the same kind of weight as the Yakima or Thule cross bars that you put on them to actually carry the boat(s).

The answer is depends - it varies wildly. Volkswagon rails, at least on a Passat we looked at a few years ago, came in at about 95 pounds. Through the 2009 model year the the standard Subie Outback and Forester rails were rated for 150 pounds, and some of the SUV's with a souped up package have rails that will support the same rate as the Yakima or Thule crossbars. The Yakima and Thule cross bars will handle a couple hundred pounds about, if I recall correctly.

Had I to guess, I'd not plan on the Elantra rails carrying that 200 pound plus weight. But it may well be fine for a couple of composite or RM smaller kayaks if it's rated for a lower amount around 100 pounds.

Owner’s Manual Has Ratings
Your owner’s manual has the ratings for the cars factory rails. Look it up and stick to it. The crossbars may have a higher rating but the rating of the factory rails is what you need to observe as that is the limiting factor.

My choice was to buy a car without any factory rack and have a Yakima drilled roof. More secure option but not possible if you have factory rails already installed.