Factory Roof Rack Strength

I am new to sport/addiction of kayaking and plan on buying a 14’touring. I have a 2016 toyota sienna mini van with a factory roof rack without crossbars. I plan on buying top name(Yakima/Thule) crossbars and towers to put on factory roof rack. My question is how strong is the factory rack which I am building my system on.

I am planning on traveling with more then one boat and hopefully driving many miles over time.

Do I have better option or is factory all I need as foundation?

For what it is worth:

– Last Updated: Sep-25-16 5:16 AM EST –

I don't trust factory roof racks.
I like my Yakama roof rack towers bolted directly to the vehicle frame.
I purchased my last four vehicles based on the fact that they could be.
Lots of times I carry two long sea kayaks along with a 17 foot canoe

That is me and others may feel different

jack L

Do I have a stronger option?
Thanks JackL. With my van is there a stronger option that you know of?

is rated for? All OEM roof racks have a rating. Compare it to the total weight you want to carry.


rated for 165 I saw on amazon OEM toyota cross bars rated for 150 lb.

Should be fine
I have used factory side rails with Thule crossbars to haul two tandem canoes and they did just fine. That was on a GMC Safari van. However, I would not have trusted the factory crossbars to handle the load.

Have carried on a RAV4 factory rail…
With Thule footpacks and cross bars… two sea kayaks plus the weight of a set of Hullivators on one side. Have seen a couple of not dissimilar cars set up with dual Hullivators, so I assume they often carry two boats.

Carried up to 4 boats on Mercury Sable factory side rails with Yakima towers and round bars, nothing moved. Did replace the towers at times.

One caution, I have found it correct that the round Yakima bars are a lot noisier than the square Thule crossbars.

Yakima Rail Riders
I have a set of Yakima rail riders with cross-bars that I used on the factory side rails of a Hyundai Elantra Touring (small SUV). I switched to a larger van and a trailer for the kayaks so it is no longer needed.

Check the Yakima site and see if those might work for your vehicle. If so and you are interested post here and I can put details and contact info up on the classifieds.


mainstream racks

– Last Updated: Sep-24-16 9:50 PM EST –

are market proven.

problems lie in roping n cam strapping hulls into no motion and if motion then stops at cross bars limiting lateral play ...yaks wiggle.

thus look at the front roping mounts prob in the engine compartment under hood/fender top rails....cam strapping for lateral play, one forward the cockpit one aft....and stern lines.

Modding crossbars with eyebolts for strapping and #8 or #10 SS boltings for side stops using aluminum strap...all very useful. Use SS hardware.

apparently many commercial racks do not require bow, stern or lateral lines. adding lineage for perceived weak areas is a good think to apply.

I carry long royalex and Kevlar hulls crosscountry on a DIY setup. This trip have eyebolts thru the front canoe support. The cam strap runs thru the two eyes around a royalex 16' hull and attach to 2 carrier outrigger stubs of 1x4 at each side.

One bow line and no wiggle. Wiggle apparently prevented with the 2 stern lines running rear thwart down to bumper eye bolts.

I have photos when finding the USB card device.

We herd some 'wall lookit that....' on the bow airfoil

Most likely it’ll be fine as planned
I use the system you describe, and though I also have custom-built hardware installed which allows quickly adding a longer set of cross bars to the basic rack that’s already mounted, the method of rack attachment to the car is not changed by that. I routinely carry two or three boats, and have used that method on my current car for countless trips over the last 20 years. If you have a convenient way of bolting rack mounts right to the roof, go for it, but it’s probably not necessary.


No problems
Toyota 4-Runner with factory rails. I use Yakima Timberline towers and 72 inch Jetstream aero bars. I have been carrying two kayaks at highway speeds on long distance trips all summer with no problems. I carry the kayaks flat as opposed to J racks. That’s why I got 72 inch cross bars. A friend was carrying a kayak on a J rack last weekend for a trip that was super windy on the drive home. I could feel the wind, but did fine. My friend had a scary drive and had to stop and re-secure the kayak on her rack. She said it was a nerve racking drive home. I glad I opted not to go with the J rack.

Noise is a function
Of airflow between your vehicle and the bars

I’ve never had Thules . Have had Yakimas since 1989

Never had noise. I’ve always had Toyota trucks and Subie Foresters

Another vehicle make might have that annoying hum from Yakimas but the noise is not a given

Hyundai Santa Fe
The handbook for my Santa Fe specifies the max load as 200lbs. I have had Thule towers, racks and Hullavators on it for over 3 years and carry two 40lb kayaks with well secured bow and stern lines.

We just came back from a 1600 mile trip up to Canada, mostly at highway speeds, with no problems at all.

Noise with the 2007 Subie outback
Was horrible, and took us completely by surprise because we had Yakima on Mercury and Ford wagons, (Taurus and Sables) for three cars in a row without any noise issue. The we put them on the 2007 Outback and could not avoid getting a fairing. In fact that fairing is on the top of another paddler’s car right now, he put his existing Yakima system on a newer ride (don’t think it was Subaru) and had the same issue.

The noise with my Thule bars on the Rav4 is marvelously less. A bit if I open the sun roof of course, but the difference is amazing. So specific car model and vary things.

Do NOT go by the

– Last Updated: Sep-25-16 9:28 AM EST –

car roof rack cross bars weight rating. That is based on static dead weight.

When you are driving 70 mph, have cross winds, or slam on the brakes the load and stress on the roof rack is a LOT MORE.

Wind is one thing. Braking is another.

– Last Updated: Sep-25-16 12:17 PM EST –

It's possible that racks are designed to tolerate the wind resistance of a certain-sized object, like a luggage container, and if that's the case, the leverage applied by a long boat in a cross wind might exceed that stress. Certainly wind isn't ignored by the designers, though. By the same token, I'm sure you wouldn't expect that the design engineers failed to take into account the stresses imposed on the roof rack during emergency maneuvers. Can you imagine the flack there'd be if this were not the case? I can see it now in the owner's manual: "The maximum weight that can be carried by your roof rack is 200 pounds. However, when carrying more than 100 pounds, do not apply the brakes sharply. Applying the brakes sharply with the rack loaded to more than half its rated capacity will void your warranty." Makes a lot of sense, right?

One thing I will add…
…for everyone who has towers or racks connected to factory rails.

On my Santa Fe, I did notice that the rails themselves were coming a bit loose. At one service I had the dealer tighten these up and they lasted about 6 months before coming a little loose again. Before my recent road trip, I pried off one end cover to tighten up the rail and found that it was held on with simple nuts with no lock washers. So, I went to Home Depot and bought a few bags of metric stainless nylock nuts and told the dealer to replace all the nuts securing the rails with them. The dealer was happy to do so under warranty. He told me all the original factory rail nuts were dangerously loose before they put the nylocks on. Mine has now been rock solid since I had them changed.

I really think that while many cars are equipped with rails the manufacturers figure most people don’t really use them much so they don’t really design them for the stresses imposed by kayaks or canoes. And consequently I think they cheap out on the securing hardware.

Good point
My factory rack-attachment bolts got a little loose too, many years ago, not long after I first started carrying boats frequently. I tightened them and they’ve stayed tight ever since, but I keep an eye on them now.

more too it than that
Factory rails are never well designed…car mfgr matters not…except for Volvo. Volvo’s are fastened to the roof more securely with more and better hardware than any other make.

I do not use Volvo cross bars though, I prefer the Yakima Rail Grabbers…

I have carried 2 bicycles and 2 canoes or 3 canoes on long trips with this setup w/o issues. I swap the Yaki bars to a longer set when I carry more canoes.

From my perspective the first concern about most factory systems is wheelbase, how far apart can you mount your crossbars? Is there adequate spacing to be able to properly secure your boats? Very few cars have rack systems that are suitably designed…except Volvo, Audi and VW. Subaru’s are among the absolute worst… except for the AWD and road clearance I am always amazed to see that any serious boater would buy a Subaru in light of the serious roof rack flaws. Some buy the vehicle without the rail system and the use the Q towers and mount on the roof…a mediocre system that at least provides a bit more wheel space.

Finally, load bearing on roof racks is not the same as lift and cross wind resistance. Most folks never remove the factory racks and see how poorly most of them are attached to the roofs…from first hand experience I know the Volvo’s are done properly…

I certainly look at cars differently now since I got into kayaking 4 years ago. I’m not ready to replace my Santa Fe just yet but I’m always on the lookout for flatter and longer roofs that will allow the kayak carriers to be as vertical as possible and with as much separation (wheelbase) as possible.

A Volvo XC60 might just be the next car I buy.