roof rack load capacity question

Friends, I put the cart before the horse and bought some 78-inch bars on sale to put on the trusty Subaru Outback to carry a canoe (54 lbs) and kayak (28 lbs) to Maine. I don’t know what the bars weigh, but they’re heavy.

I should have checked the Subaru owner’s manual first, but I didn’t. So now I see that the owner’s manual says the load on the roof rack, including attachment devices (low-riders), bars, and cargo must not exceed 100 lbs. I’m going to be right at that or even a couple of pounds over, depending on the weight of the new Yakima bars.

Is it safe to install the new 78-inch bars and carry a load right at the max or even a couple of pounds above? I can return the new bars for a refund – no big deal. I presently have 48-inch Yakima bars and never carry more than one boat up top. If I stick with the old bars I’ll be limited in what I can carry but I’ll never push the load limit. I am feeling wary about challenging the load limit because I heard on another forum a reference to an entire rack that came off a car, boats and all. Eek! Oh, and I called the local Subaru dealer and they had no idea. So you guys are my experts of last resort (and only resort). I am sure a lot of people here know all there is to know about loading/overlodaing roof racks. If so, kindly speak!

Ginger in NC

I have a 2001 Subaru Forester
and I have carried 3 NDK Explorers (approximately 55-60 pounds each) on my factory roof racks. The longest I have driven with 2 Explorers is Florida to Maine. I am not sure of the weight limit on my Forester, but I haven’t had a problem yet.

Roof Rack
I have a Subaru with a Yakima rack (48" bars)I personally think you will be fine, I’m sure I have gone over 100lbs carrying 2 yaks plus all the other ornaments I have up there. The Subaru racks are solid and made to be used. I would be more concerned about whacking your head or some other body part on those crossbars since they stick out so far.


– Last Updated: May-07-09 11:48 AM EST –

78" bars on a Forester?!?!?!?

You're going to clean the pedestrians off the sidewalk or brain yourself getting in/out.

Modify with a hacksaw to be no wider than the width at the wheels and don't put a bar over the point of where you get out from the driver's seat.

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY

rack load limit
Nanatahala Outdoor Center has a Subaru Outback or two that regularly is seen to carry 4 or more kayaks.

I had a Dodge Grand Caravan with a factory rack. I fitted wide Thule load bars on it and carried multiple boats simultaneously. I know that I exceeded the recommended weight limit.

You will hit your head on the end of the bars, so as soon as you get it installed, you may want to go ahead and bang your noggin against it 30 or 40 times and save yourself some trouble later.

I would not cut the bars
but I would cut a hole in a tennis ball and slide one over the end of the bars. It will cushion them and make them hard to miss.

100lbs is for factory cross bars only
as far as I know, the parts that go front to back can handle more than 100lbs with a good set of cross bars. the factory (flattened not round or square) bars are the weak point which you may not want to use for much more than skis.

Depends on car…
for example, newer ford escapes have PLASTIC side rails with a thin insert of metal for the factory crossbars to ride on…

with thule crossbars added to it (the factory siderails squished together and the metal inserts collapsed when i tightened the crossbar mount points…) i can actually watch the side rails flex when loading/unloading boats…

with that said, i routinely carry multiple boats (2 solo canoes, 1 canoe/1 sea kayak, have carried 4 ww kayaks with stacker bars) without a problem…

however, i check the side rails constantly for signs of splitting or tearing since they are plastic and constantly flexing. i always make sure i use bow tiedowns also…

most companies vastly underrate the max. limit for roofracks due to liability concerns…

as soon as my warranties expire i’m replacing the factory plastic side rails with nice metal solid ones and plan on adding reinforcement to the underside of the roof at the mounting points.

thanks! you guys are great!
why? because you told me what I hoped you would: put the long bars on and go for it! yes, we’ll definitely put a tennis ball on the end of the bars, at least on the front one.

i knew i shouldn’t have read that owner’s manual!!!

thanks, again. nothing in the world more festive than a canoe on a car – or multiple kayaks.

g in nc

p.s. re front tie-down
I always use my bow line to tie the boat to the car – just so I won’t see, in my rearview, a canoe sailing through the air over the interstate.

it is about wind
One heavy kayak might not be as bad as 2 light canoes. Cross winds can be scary

remember your much wider now…
i’m not sure how wide a forester is, but with 78" bars… do they stick out past your side mirrors?

food for thought: if they stick out past your side mirrors, you may want to consider cutting them down a bit to make them even with your side mirrors… it is easy to forget they are up there when negotiating tight roads (toll barriers, drive-ins, etc)… by making them even with your side mirrors, you can virtually eliminate the chance of catching them on something… since your side mirrors would be the same width as the bars…

actually, not
I am living proof that one is able to hang a rack bar up on something that your side mirror clears even when the bar doesn’t stick out past the mirror.

The “something” was a steel guy cable that was at an angle such that it was closer to the roof line than the mirror.

I thought the weight limit on Subaru
racks was 150 lbs. I have a 2007 Subaru Forester using Yakima Forester Towers and 66" crossbars. Typically a Rocket Box is on one side and a Wenonah 17’ Royalex Sundowner on the other. I know I have had loads exceeding 150 lbs up there and the rails haven’t been torn off the roof yet.

ouch! that must have hurt!!!
actually, i was thinking more of going through toll booths and drive-thrus… i’ve seen a lot of people with wider racks “forget” they were there and scrape them on the sides…

weight limit on an Outback . . .
at least of the 2002 or 2003 vintage, is 100 lbs. Says so in the owner’s manual.

Point well taken about bars not extending beyond side mirrors. Regardless, I’ll try to avoid McDonald’s drive-thru! Thanks again.

g in nc

factory rack is weak point
I believe there’s a huge difference (perhaps 3/1 ?)between what Yakima recommends as max wt when using their entire rack system as opposed to just connecting their bars to a factory rack (which is what it sounds like you intend to do?). Their website would surely have the answer but 100lbs total when using factory rack vs. 150lbs/crossbar sticks in my mind (such as it is)

I have a 2002 Outback wagon
and the front to back bars are VERY strong – just not the factory, thin crossbars.

Real worlk experience
I used to have Outbacks. The Yakima Lowrider (or whatever Yak is selling now) are quite strong, and I have never had problems with overloading them. I once carried a 6x6x16 treated wood post on mine, and it was all two of us could do to lift it onto the roof!

One caveat: Some stated get uppity if the driver side bars extgend past the outside dimension of the rearview mirror. If the 78s are too long, slide them to the right until they become “legal”.

And 1-1/8" rubber crutch tips in white are more secure than tennis balls as bumpers.


I haven’t found crosswinds to be any
more of a problem with two canoes than with one.