kayak on the top of my small car


I have a small car (an opel corsa) and I’m buying a 16-18 feet SOT kayak soon. As my car is small, the bars of the roofrack are pretty close to each other (less than 3 feet) and I’m worried a bit whether this will harm the kayak on the long run… I mean the weight of the kayak will be distributed very unevenly, only the central 2-3 feet is supported, so both on the front and the rear side there will be an unsupported 6-7 feet. This might cause the kayak to flex, especially if I go over bumps with my car which has quite a stiff suspension. Don’t you think this might cause cracks on the long run? Should I use some kind of double rails to put under the kayak to distribute its weight better? Or what do you recommend?

try foam blocks

– Last Updated: Jan-29-06 1:07 PM EST –

I hope your kayak loading goes very nicely :-)

Not a problem

– Last Updated: Jan-29-06 9:21 PM EST –

My roof rack only has about a 3 foot span, I have a 19' kayak and I routinely do "Dukes of Hazzard" style jumps...haven't had a problem yet.

I will say that I carry my boat on edge, with J-cradles. The boat is strongest on it's edge.

The real issue
isn’t damage to the kayak. It’s making sure the rack is securely attached to the car and the kayak is securely attached to the rack. That’s a lot of boat to get lift under when driving down the freeway. Straps aren’t enough. Make sure to use bow and stern lines, too.

the bars on my Toyota Echo
are 26" apart. I just now went out and measured them. I have carried a 16’10" kayak on it a couple of times, but carried a 15 footer many times… never had a problem. I put pipe insulation foam over my bars to give a little bit of cushion. Also use bow and stern bungies (yes, I know I’m not supposed to!) for short trips. I do use rope to tie down the bow and stern on long trips.

Happy paddling!


I have a Scion Xb and it is about as
small as you can get. I haul 3 boats on it. When I am carrying only one I carry it flat, but with more than one I use a kayak stacker and carry them on edge. All my boats are plastic so I can not speak about glass or composites, but with the plastic ones I have never had any damage from hauling them. I believe they are tougher than we sometimes believe. I also believe that the stresses the boats deal with when they are in the water are a lot greater than we perceive. One thing to remember, the cross straps need to be tight, the bow and stern ties need to be snug and very secure in their attachment. Over tightening the bow and stern straps places a lot of stress that would try to bend the boat along its length. The bow/stern straps are a backup system and their main job is to prevent lateral and lifting motion.

here is my set-up

The car - Toyota Paseo - 2dr with very short roofline

I have barrecrafter unisport bar on the top

Yakima hitch mounted dry-dock at the back

Front bulkhead is placed on foam pad mounted directly over crossbar.

Stern is cushioned by a pool-noodle on the round Yakima bar.

No bow/stern ties were used here - just a short trip (

widen the span
My taurus is so rounded that had to drill and screw the q-tower racks up under the door frame. Machinist next door helped to make sure stainless screws were too big for holes and enormous force to put them in. Front rack is by front windshield. Back rack by back windshield. Lots of span is solid.

I rarely cartop
so I use foam blocks and straps when I have to. Seemed like no problem on my taurus, but now that I drive an altima once the boat is cinched down, the car’s roof bows down a bit. I wonder if tauruses (tauri?) have stronger roofs in general, or the fact that the taurus had a sunroof made it more rigid?

Taurus, short roofs

– Last Updated: Feb-05-06 12:06 PM EST –

We are on our third Taurus/Sable wagon, use third party racks since it is usually two boats. I don't think these roofs are any stronger thant he Altima, but the difference in the length of roof over which the weight can be distributed is huge. These (now not being made) wagons have a longer run between the straps than many of the SUV's out there.

I would worry about the problem of wind when traveling at highway speeds more than the boat itself. Granted there are boats where the front or back will bow down easily on a hot day if there is a lot of it sticking out and the bow or stern lines are too tight - we've seen what must have arrived home as a totally ruined plastic sea kayak on a smaller sedan traveling back from Maine (a Prijon no less).

But the nastier issue may be that there is so much of the boat available to rotate and so little of held steady in the middle - it may be more secure to get third party racks and J-bars as suggested above. Even if the boat is secured with bow and stern lines, or bow line and a loop running directly down to the rear bumper, there is going to be such a length of line that there could be a fair amount of play in it. And you can't tighten these lines down real hard or you risk hurting the boat if going over a hard bump.

Can you make the money for a rack system?

Here Is How 2 Fit On a VW

Album named Car Topping

Happy Padding,


not exactly short
Roofline/rack spread on VW Jetta wagon is not exactly short :slight_smile:

Now, if you were transporting those monsters on the VW original bug … :wink:

Extension rack
Attach an extension rack to the rack on the car. Mine has a 5’ spread and cost about $30 to make. All the parts are available at Home Depot.

1- 10’ stick of 15/16" Unistrut cut in half.

1- 10’ stick of 3/4" plastic coated pipe.

Apropriate clamps or u-bolts.

The real Issue II
Is not just keeping it secured to the rack, but secured to the car. This is where bow and stern lines come to play. Not too much stress. Don’t want to bend the hull. But enough to secure the hull from lateral motion, or pulling the rack and hull right off the car in a wind gust.

Here is my small car with both boats on it (below). A Loon 138 and a Penobscot 16.

No problems.


Here is my Yakima boat loader extended (for putting the canoe up):



I can Relate…I drive a Mazda Miata with a 14 foot CD breeze…lololol…Looks Just as Silly…but werks Fine Ta hell with the Critics…LOLOLOL…ken

I carry a 21’ surfski
I carry a 21’ surfski on a Saturn.