really need front and rear tie downs?

I have been carrying 2 plastic rec kayaks on the roof of my minvan. They were on foam blocks which rested on the roof, and were secured with 2 straps each fastend to the factory rack crossbars. As I am moving up to a composite, I installed the Thule rack I had had for years and added the set to go and hydro glide mounts.

They (and some on here) specify the need for front and rear safety tiedowns. Are they absolutely needed? The plastic yaks did fine on the roof without front and rear ties, as did windsurfers for many years. I would like to avoid having straps run down to the front bumper.

If front and rear tiedowns are needed, can they just run back to the crossbars?

it’s all about how you want to live.
Let’s say your tie down straps are 99.9 percent effective. You use two of them that means about a 2 per thousand failure rate (assuming independant failure) That means at 125 round trips you have taken a one in two chance that a strap would break. With front and rear tie downs, no biggie. You slow down the van and make your boat fast. Without tie downs your kayak could come through a windshield and kill some folks, cause somone to swerve or…

Learn to tie a truckers hitch and it’s no biggie. Or take the risk that you might needlessly hurt someone over your decades long love affair with this sport! (Also they may have an unforgiving family)

Keeping An Eye On Ropes
I use 3/16" ropes front and back tied with a truckers hitch. I only tie them snug not too tight. This does two things. It lets you see how your boat is doing at 74 mph through the windshield and rear view mirror. If the ropes start flopping around you know you have trouble. Secondly in the event of a rack or strap failure at least the boat will stay with you long enough to pull over. I know it takes a little extra time to do this but it makes for an easier drive home. Of all my kayaking trips the time I’m in the most danger is on the highway home. Paddle well, be safe.

I have the same rack set-up on my
Ford Explorer. I carry one or two composite boats. One is 17’ long and the other is 16.5’.

I’m glad I was taught to ALWAYS use bow and stern lines to the bumper or frame. I have had my beloved Gulfstream get moved sideways off of the front saddles in very high side winds on the freeway.

As was mentioned by another poster, the thing that gave me the indication that there was a problem before I lost my boat was the line in front of me moved.

It doesn’t take that much longer to use the lines, and it will be a lot safer or at least less expensive if a line breaks or becomes loose.

waterdoc & hirpm are correct
light line and somehwat loose tie and keeping an eye on the rope are recommended by Tom Berg, mondo expiditioner and MICKO owner. Cannot get better than that

tie down loops
We have these mounted under the hood and the back loops get closed in the back hatch. Nice not to have to crawl around under the vehicle. Front and back tie downs really help in the wind and at high speed.

I use

– Last Updated: Apr-05-04 11:20 AM EST –

Both front & rear tie downs, I do know someone that has had their factory roof rack fail, big time, it ripped right off of the roof! The truth is that these racks just aren't designed for carrying watercraft even though with two hulls they usually come in under the recommended weight limit.
I say recommended because I go "heavy" on occasion, but as long as you don't reef the straps & ropes too tight the roof doesn't buckle, something I've seen happen when people get carried away.

Just last week I replaced our Astro van with a new one so I did what I did last time, just yesterday in fact, and that was get out the drill and drill two holes in the front bumper / fascia and installed eye bolts.
Because regular eye bolts would eventually corrode I use Attwood single shank pad eyes, which are normally used for fiberglass boat gunwales, nice beefy chrome jobs.
Because these come with two small spikes on the bottom of each intended to pierce the fibreglass so they won't spin on the shank I have to file these off. Took about 10 minutes to remove all four.

For years I never used stern tie downs but started after I noticed that the rear screws on my factory rack kept working loose.
For me the stern tie down point is a lot easier to install since I always get the trailering package, just for this purpose.
This package comes with a receiver so I just slide the ball mount in and use an eye bolt, actually a lifting eye with pad, through the hole for the ball. Back there I only tie straight down from the stern so there's only one line coming down.
By doing this I eliminated quite a bit of "bounce & bobble" while traveling and my screws haven't worked loose since.

To prevent rope damage to the hood paint I install a bug deflector and to keep that from getting scratched up to much after sitting in dusty parking lots all day, I wipe them clean with a wet rag then run my ropes through cam buckle staps pads.
The flat kind about 4" x 2" with a couple of slits in them for the strap, which I slip the ropes through.

Now I know that this method may not work for most, but it sure has worked well for me.

If anyone does decide to drill holes in their front bumper, I would recommend calling your dealer first to see where the air bag sensors are, which are usually located at the frame points. I did this because I work in the auto industry, i.e. shop rat, and knew they were up there somewhere.
I didn't want to drill into one and say "what the heck was that noise?"

I forgot to mention that I use a Thule rack system which uses foot packs to attach to my factory rack.


On my Yakama racks
I have never used them and never will waste time with them.

If your rack is installed correctly, and you use the double loop strap method with cam-lock buckles, cinched down tightly, the rack and yaks become part of the vehicle.

On the other hand with foam blocks they are a absolute must.



1 Like

I would
use frnt and rear tie downs. Less possiblity of side shifting. Especially with foam blocks. Also secures your boat in a head on or rear end impact or sudden braking.

I use…
the belt the like tie-downs for my bow and stern. The buckels are not nearly as bulky as the ratchet kind. I position them below my bumper so that they are not touching my truck. I just tighten up the straps and seal of the buckle with three half hitches and a clove. I also put pool noodles over my Thule to give my canoe a nice seat, it also seem to help prevent shifting.

I don’t think it matters
what kind of rack you have. A bow and stern tie down will always be safer. Driving home from Florida a few months ago I noticed that my two kayak’s were moving around some in the moderate winds I was drving in. I pulled off the road and found out that my Yakima rack was coming loose from the car. I had to get a screw driver and tighten down one of the adjusting knobs. Just one was working loose-but that’s all it takes. So, even a properly fitted Yakima rack could come off the car unexpectedly.

-I was drving on the highway a few years ago in a severe rain storm (100 ft visibility) and saw lots of bright sparks ahead of me. As I got closer I saw an RV pulling an aluminum fishing boat. The boat was supposed to be on top of the RV as there was no trailer. The boat had broken loose and was held by the tie down. I’m thankful the guy had his boat tied down or I may not be here today. He was talking on his cell phone and didn’t know anything was wrong…


They may look “dorky”, but…
I have had my boat float up like a kite. I didn’t even know it, till Longshadow called me on the radio & told me. He kept yelling, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”. At first I thought the miche got stuck on his radio & his wife was molesting him again…lol. But he was driving behind me & saw the whole thing. LMAO!

You DO NOT need to tie them down the hood & to the bumper! Run them back to the corners of the roof rack… Make them taunt, though, this will ensure there is no front to back motion.

Paddle easy,


Ever wonder why ya see an occasional matress on the side of the road? That’s because they only tied it across the width. Wind speed at it’s finest boys and girls.

Front only
I tie the front only. The rear line I tuck into my van and close the rear door. A rear line is not necessary.

I have a friend who uses Yakima racks with gunnel braces. He uses belly webbing(several years old BTW) and no front or rear tie downs. In fact if he carries your boat he won’t let you tie them down. Though they have always been rock solid on the shuttle I have often been concerned a strap will break. Just not enough safety factor in 2 belly webs.

that’s a good one

I vote YES
It was one of “my” boats (I was managing the store) that my employees lost off the top position of a canoe trailer. I ended up replacing the gunwales on it (Mad River w/ash) and do not care to repeat the experience. Now I always tie my boats bow & stern, with minimal tension as others have mentioned.

A slick accessory for vehicles lacking good tie-downs can be found here:

I made my own anchors after seeing them on this website. All you need is 1" webbing, 1" PVC pipe & caps, glue, and a heavy duty sewing machine.


With canoes, I use them. With kayaks,
I use them with our Accord, which has Yakima racks, but I do not use them on our Outback. The Outback has extremely strong, heavy factory rails, so I add front and rear snub ropes between the grab loops and the factory rails.

“really needed"
that leaves a lot unspecified. Big difference between driving 5 miles at speeds to 45mph and driving 2000miles at 65 with semis and side winds. Don’t use a strap for the front tie down,a 1/4” line and truckers hitch will make less wind noise.

Most of the time I drive short distances and without bow/stern tiedowns and configure racks with the longest practical span. You may not “need” to but you can always ask yourself what happens if one of the two cam straps work loose. If one of the cam straps someone loans you is salt corroded and you think it’s cinched but it’s barely cinched. The best reason for a bow tie down is that it’ll help communicate to you that something isn’t right if things get loose.

When I had four yakima towers and carrying four kayaks traveling long distances I still used bow/stern lines,traveling short distances I didn’t.

What if the roof rack is the point
of failure though? Running your bow line back to the roof rack does not give you an independant anchor point.

It seems to me

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to be cheap insurance. Imagine your boat or boats come off on the interstate and kill or severly injure the folks behind you, I am guessing the surviving family members are not going to look kindly to you, they will most likely get a lawyer and go after you, especially in todays litigious society. I am guessing your car insurance is not going to cover you, I could be wrong, maybe home owners will, don't know. I am sure in your owners manual they recommend using bow and stern lines, and if you ignored them, well a lawyer would have a field day with you in court. It is just too easy to do and could save you a world of trouble. Then if you actually did kill somebody or injure them, the criminal charges could be filed, failer to secure your load, involuntary man slaughter and who knows what else, I say use 'em. As others have mentioned they have rigged a system that does not require you to get under you van. Is Fran form Texas here? I believe she is a DA or prosecuter for some locality, maybe she could better explain the ramifications of such a disaster.