Make your own roof rack bars??


Have not posted in forever but was wondering if anyone had any info about being able to make their own thule rack “bars.” I remember seeing something about it - like you could find a square peice of metal that would fit and was much cheaper? Am i just imagining this?



make your own
I don’t have Thule racks so I don’t know what the bar measurements are, but I do have Yakima racks and have used 1" conduit (EMT) as crossbars satisfactorily. Measure the Thule bars and get some square steel tube from a welding shop or industrial supply store. they come in many sizes and wall thicknesses. Give it a couple of coats of good paint.


are you talking about a car or on the back of a pickup? easy for the back of a truck.

rack and it worked just fine for about 4 years.

I made my own bars because I didn’t want to take them back on the plane with us from Seatlle (where we bought the used towers) to Miami.

And after we landed, I was too cheap to buy bars, so I made them.

Just get good fir (you can use whatever you want, but spruce or oak are perhaps the best of the less expensive woods to consider -you could also try clear maple, mahogany etc.), polyurethane it, and cut it & finish it carefully, measurements-wise, and well, finishing-wise.

On mine, I determined the width I wanted the towers apart, and kept the wood at its original 1x2 size, narrowing it down such that the towers were blaocked at that width, and cutting and sanding the outboard ends to the size needed to thread the toip of the towers.

It was inexpensive, and even tho’ I used inexpensive PT pine, it worked well untill I overloaded and one of the bars cracked -it still worked for the 20-mile trip home, but I went out and got oak to replace the original pine.

When we got the Jeep, we went with Yakima RailRiders, and they’ve been our bars of choice because, for the most part, it’s the vehicle of choice when we paddle.

The metal bars will work even better, I’m sure. Get good stuff, and it’ll last as long as the originals -but at only about $50 a pair, why not go with the originals? Good bars from a shop -stainless is preferred, but thicker-walled, strong aluminum will do, too - will probably run you about the same and possibly more. The Thule’s are pre-sized to precisely fit, and they’re pretty well coated, and if you get oversized ones, you can cut them down to a custom length and re-cap the ends.

In hindsight, it will probably be a better way top go to carry your boats to


-Frank in Miami

Ome of us “old timers” here on pnet…
Would get in a “huff puff” about not spending the most money you can on your racks. Don’t you know that here on it is fashion over function??? Thule… Yakima… You have to spend, spend, spend… God forbid you do it the “cheap” way and make something that works the same as an expensive alternative…

Good luck, BTW… what do you drive

Paddle easy,


Bars are dirt cheap
its the towers and saddles that are crushing!

I don’t see why you would want to make bars after all the money you invested in towers and stackers, etc.? I know sometimes it’s fun to try to make things that work just as well but for $50…

Calling Ebinista!!! Could you send…
This guy some pics… So that he does it right? Ebinista is “the man” for this topic…

Paddle easy,


I Tried
I looked everywhere and couldn’t find that size steel. Finally I found steel that matched the inside deminsions of the rack bars. I cut the bars in the center and inserted the new steel inside. Now they can be adjusted to different lengths. Of course they are also much weeker. I only use this bar for my bikes in the back of my truck.

I then needed a much longer bar so the racks would carry my boats on the van. After doing some research I found out that the steel used in the Thule racks are made from extremely strong, stiff steel. After considering everything (the cost of my boats mainly) I went down to my local paddling shop and bought a set of the longest bars made for $50.

In short, go buy them. They are worth it and aren’t that expensive. The assessories are what break the bank when you buy racks.

Not with Thule bars but…
Check out the local industrial supply places. Square tubing is not uncommon and the best part is making the length you want.

I have Yakima towers and their longest cross bars were not what I wanted. I planned on the ability to haul both my canoes (at the time) and used PVC coated steel electrical conduit. The PVC coating is great for weather/corrosion resistance. I capped them with rubber “furniture feet” to keep moisture out of the inside. The length you choose should not exceed the width of the side-view mirrors for ease of parking and “head banging”.

I doubt the availabilty of PVC coated square tube but as others mentioned, give the tube a good coat of primer/paint.

Another product readily available is UNI-STRUT. This is commonly used in industrial applications. It is not a tube but instead is a formed “U” shape that is very amenable to attachments.

Hope this helps.


is some really cool stuff. You can make a whole kayak rack out of it for the garage after you finish your car rack. McMaster Carr carries it and all the accessories.

I followed a a 13 ft kayak on the freeway at 70 mph that had no racks. If you open the hood and trunk you will see I bolts by each wheel well. He tied on the boat and then closes the trunk aand hood. It worked for him to have the boat on blue foam blocks.

Where did you find the coated tubing
Hey Wes,

Where did you find PVC coated conduit? Somewhere locally I hope.

Definitely local
But I don’t know where. Got it thru an Electrician friend of mine. I’ll ask him next time I see him.

Fashion over function?
It’s not fashion - it’s SAFETY over FUN. If you don’t spend the maximum amount of $$$, how can you prove you are really serious about your safety and the safety of you paddling partners. When your yak comes off your home-made rack and kills a family of 4, try explaining that you were trying to save a few bucks rather than supporting your local dealer of over-priced but extremely safe paddling equipment!

Copper pipe fits Yakima too…
Not as strong but holds two boats o.k… looks pretty good.

We use foiled wing strut tubing and custom brackets / wide wide feet bolted to roof. Stronger, less drag and no noise.

I would say…
That family of 4 shouldn’t have been following so close…

For 2 1/2 years, I went without buying racks. My Blazer’s factory racks worked just fine, till I needed to hauls 2 boats. Then I bought “Stackers”. Other than that… I didn’t NEED to be all “hoytie-toytie” and buy all the fancy yuppie crap. No $10 L.L. Bean water bottle for me. I paid $.75 at a gas station for one.

The “stackers” are the ONLY name brand thing I felt necessary… I have always been able to find a cheaper (meaning: less costly) alternative that performs exactly the same or very close too its expensive “keep up with the Jones’” cousins…

Paddle easy,