My Current Cartopping System

-- Last Updated: May-20-07 9:16 PM EST --

Here is some information that may be interesting to a few of the do-it-yourself-ers out there. I came up with a very simple method for converting my roof rack from single-boat width to two-boat width. In addition, I made a device that allows a factory-made kayak rack to attach to a pair of simple 2x4 cross bars.

See photos here:

Look for the album about "Cartop-Rack Modifications".

The factory roof rack and clamp-on Yakima rack is the foundation for this set-up (along with a pair of lengthwise bars), and these parts, stay on the car at all times. Cross bars made from 2x4s attach to the existing rack only when extra width is needed.

None of this stuff is pretty (I could have made it pretty if it mattered to me), but it's a lot stronger than anything you can buy, and it installs in much less time than any factory roof-rack system.

Pertinent information is sort of scattered among 13 or 14 different photos, so if this interests you and some aspect isn't clear, you may wish to read the text beneath every photo.

Eventually I would like to modify this setup even more, by doing-away with my car's factory roof rack and the Yakima components, and subsituting sturdier home-built parts which attach and detach from the car in much less time than the Yakimas. Right now, there's no hurry for taking that extra step, though.

Evidence that I can't seem to do even the simplest things without screwing-up can be seen in these photos too! Look at the holes drilled in the 2x4 cross bars where the U-bolt goes through. Those two extra holes that are oriented in the wrong direction show the kind of mistake I "like" to make when it seems like the job is too simple to justify being careful.

Oh yes, as I mentioned in the "Voyager Club" thread, a basic component of this rack system can be used to create a much longer spread between your front and rear cross bars than is possible using store-bought equipment, and that could be useful for addressing a common complaint about short factory racks or cars with short roof lines.

Wow! You put a lot of thought and work
in to that system. Good job.

Looks awesome!
I really like this kind of stuff. Using your brain to design solutions. Great photos also. Wish I could weld though, I use wood and PVC.

yeah, being able to weld would solve so many problems. btw, isn’t welding just like a more robust version of soldering? is it something someone (me) can learn on their own?

also, redmond, i like what you did w/ your trailer. i’m in the process of converting the red harborfreight boat trailer into something that can carry 3 kayaks or a sunfish sailboat with just a change of 2 removable cradles. seeing your pix in your previous post helped me get some ideas. i went w/ the boat trailer instead of the utility 4x8 trailer because of the tongue length.

there’s nothing like getting a multipurpose trailer at a fraction of the cost of one of those $1,000+ jobs.

Answers to Questions

– Last Updated: May-21-07 7:18 PM EST –

Soldering, and also brazing, are more akin to adhesive bonding than to welding. With soldering and brazing, the metals to be joined are not melted and fused the way they are when welded, but the filler metal bonds strongly to the pieces to be joined. One major advantage of soldering and brazing is that warpage and temperature-induced stress are kept to a minimum.

Can anyone learn to weld? Sure, but if you just start out on your own, what you do at first will more likely be "make pieces of metal stick together" than create welds that are really good quality, but hey, practice makes perfect, or at least "better", and good books and/or instruction might be worth it.

Your question reminds me of something pretty funny, though, when it comes to just starting out and welding without much experience (for those who don't mind a little extra reading). Several years ago I went on a mountain-biking trip to Colorado with some friends. One buddy had built a really cleverly designed utility trailer with multiple bike racks over the cargo compartment (the trailer frame was store-bought, but the storage compartment and bike carriers were home-built). He was your basic do-it-yourself kind of guy, and he's a darned good carpenter (does construction and remodeling for a living) who's not afraid to try building all kinds of things. While driving on a very bumpy gravel road in the mountains, a weld failed on one of the bike carriers. Luckily, another guy's father lived nearby, and reportedly, he had a welder of some kind which he had never used. We got there and I was dismayed to see that it was a little 110-volt, wire-feed machine using flux-core wire. I wasn't at all sure if it would have enough "ooomph" to do what we needed. Well, I laid a short practice bead on the tongue of the trailer to see what I was dealing with, and then fixed the broken weld. It turned out just fine. The guy who had built the bike racks just said "wow!" as he watched the repair, which took all of 6 or 7 seconds. He could see right away the difference between all of his welds and the new weld, and the next thing he said was directed at me: "I bet *your* bike is going to ride on this rack from now on, huh"? I said, "Darned right!"


– Last Updated: May-21-07 6:47 PM EST –

So you bought the Thule Hullaport but not the rack itself? Oh wait a minute, you bought a Yakima rack? How much did you spend and how much did you save (vs buying it all)? I wonder if the Yakima Kayak Stacker (or a homemade version) wouldn't have been more generic than the Hullaport (and allowed more loading options)?


– Last Updated: May-21-07 7:51 PM EST –

It looks like you did more assuming than reading, so I'll fill in the details that you missed. Actually, I did NOT buy anything expensive, and that was one of the main criteria here. As noted on the photos, the Thule kayak carriers already belong to a friend (she sometimes uses them on her own roof rack, but she sometimes uses "saddles" of some kind too). All I did was create a really quick and reliable way to connect those carriers to my existing rack, or just as easily, provide a double-width rack for two canoes, without permanently having a double-wide rack on my car. I didn't add up the cost of what I spent, but I'm certain I paid less for all that stuff than I'd have paid for just ONE Thule cross bar, let alone a complete Thule system. The key word in this project is "modifications", because I've had those same Yakima clamps and cross bars for 12 years. Those lengthwise bars you see are part of my basic rack system too, not something I bought for the current project (though those bars were dirt-cheap compared to even the most insignificant component of a name-brand rack). I just took advantage of those lengthwise bars for attaching a wider part-time rack that is very strong, faster to install, and yes, many times cheaper, than anything you can buy.

Good way to expand the crossbar spread
Your auxiliary longitudinal bars could provide the 5’ spread that some people don’t even come close to getting on their short roofs.

If you ever give up paddling
you can use that rack to lift the car! It looks completely bomb-proof.