Suction Cup Racks

I have been searching for a car-top rack that would be suitable for hauling canoes or kayaks on my 2003 Honda Odyssey. I do not have a factory-installed rack to use as a base, so have been looking for a rack that would go directly on the car. I tried a Thule rack, but the spread between the bars was too short (in my opinion) to safely carry a canoe. I recently came across the Spring Creek suction cup rack that will fit any car, van, or truck. The rack is secured with straps that pass through the open doors. I’ve seen the one review for this system on p-net and it mentioned the fact that water will travel into the car via the strap. Spring Creek claims to have solved this problem with a little vinyl “dam” that fits on the strap. Has anyone used this rack system? Have you been satisfied?

Don’t know about the vinyl dam, but
I once used a suction cup rack (home made from suction cup brackets and my varnished oak crossbars) on my Renault 16. The secret to success was that the Renault had ridges at the sides of the roof which kept the suction cups from sliding sideways. Also, the doors were such that the clips which came with the suction cup setup could grab the roof frame just above the doors. The straps were then tightened to keep the whole mess in place.

The point of describing this is to say that if your Honda Odyssey has similar roof ridges along the edges, deep enough to help keep the suction cups from sliding off, then you might get away with it. Otherwise, I would not try it.

I would consider the throught-the-door strap arrangement LESS secure than what I achieved by clipping to the roof above the doors.

Spring Creek always seems to be a bit over confident about their designs. Maybe their racks would work for you, but I’m sorry you do not have factory racks so you could use the highly proven Yakima or Thule designs. Check Saris also and see if they have something to offer.

"Spread Between The Bars…"
not sure what you mean by this? Are you talking about the distance of placement from the front to the back bar? Even if you have three feet (I dont’ know why you can get more with a long car like the Oddessy), the that should be sufficient to hold the canoe down flat on top of the bars. The critical piece with keeping a heavy canoe on those bars are not only the straps across the hull but also the bow and stern lines tied to the whatever hook you have under the bumpers. These lines keep the canoe from shifting foward or back while the car is moving.

Thule and Yakima are probably the most reliable and dependable racks out there and tend to keep development of rack attachments pretty up to date with new car models.


Quik-N-Easy rack brackets
I bought a set of Quik-N-Easy rack brackets, and they’ve worked great for me. They do require rain gutters along the edges of the roof. But if you’ve got them, these are incredibly secure. And you can design your own racks.

Not secure enough
The Suction cup racks are not secure enough and puts the load directly on the roof sheet metal. We had a bad experience with this type of rack so I would not recomend them to anyone. You can make an extension rack to get more spread but it will not change the loading. The canoe should not need the extra spread but the extension rack would aid in loading. I have an extension rack on my Yakima rack but I am carrying kayaks. Mine is made from Unistrut available at Home depot but could be made from wood or other materials. Once the canoe is tied down on the rack, attach bow and stern lines. Make them snug but do not make them too tight as it will stress the canoe.

Personal Experiences
I’ve a friend who has successfully used the suction cup systems, both store bought and home made for several decades. By that I mean he’s never actually lost a canoe in transit, however each of his car roofs have manifest the tell tale indentations from cranking down the straps to secure the rack. In addition, under stress (namely wind and rain) the racks do seem to have a tendency to “walk-a-bit” along the roof and so we’ve found securing both bow and stern are essential (even with a 15’ canoe).

As for me, I’ve racks on both an ‘89 Maxima Sedan and a ‘94 Villager Van. I generally carry two 17’ - 18’ canoes on each vehicle and on occassion will carry a third canoe on each car. Road time to destinations may vary from 45 minute local road to five+ hour highway trips. Through experience my rack of choice given the loads and stresses have been the Yakima systems. I find the Yakimas to be durable and capable of supporting substantial loads without significant deflection of the crossbars (I’ve not seen Thule racks fail but I find their bars to flex or even bend a bit much for my preference).

As for the van configuration, I chose to generally bypass the existing facory rack and use the Q tower and Q stretch kit combined with 78" crossbars and several sets of gunwale brackets and straps. This results in a three foot spread between crossbars which seemed insubstantial but has proven more than adequate to carry two large boats. I do also secure with both bow and stern lines for additional security, but have found the gunwale brackets very helpful in eliminating the sway of the boats along the round bars.

When adding a third boat to this configuration, I’ve supplemented with the use of a Railrider and 48" bar to help support the third smaller boat (which is nested between and behind the two larger boats).

In your case, I’m not sure as to the number, size and weight of the boats you’re intending to carry, but as for a fear of the 3’ crossbar spread, I’d simply advise you put your distrust to rest. Supplement the rack system with appropriate brackets and saddles, adequately secure the rack to the car and the boats to the rack, and use bow and stern lines as your safety net. If the width of your load exceeds the crossbar width then consider going long (as you have no existing factory rack, you could always explore the option of using a hitch such as a hidden hitch and “goal post” type of configuration) to add a third crossbar to the configuration. Just make sure your total load is within the load paramenters for your roof and that the dimensions will not get you in trouble with the police.

As for cost, the Yakima systems are kinda pricey but the costs can be mitigated to some extent if your patient and aware of the components that you’ll need. Local club paddler bulletin boards often have listings for used components or even entire systems, ebay also has an extensive listing, REI offers incomplete or outdated kits via their periodic attic sales (Yakima will sell you parts bags but be aware that the parts can be pricey) and there’s always the frequent 20-25% reductions on rack systems from several retailers.

All in all, keeping your boat secured to the roof is a great thing…losing a boat can really ruin your day…having your airborne boat collide with another vehicle… Despite my friend’s long term experience with the suction cup system I’d not want to chance another’s welfare to anything less than a well designed and installed system.

Thanks for the Advice!
I really appreciate the advice regarding the suction cup racks. I was about to give them a try, but now have significant reservations. The maximum spread I can get between the front and rear bars with the Honda is 30" (their brochure says 25"), because the only suitable place for attachment is over the middle sliding door. This seems too short of a distance to me. I tried out the Thule system with their gunnel brackets but the top of the bracket actually came in contact with the hull of my boat (a Swift Osprey) because there is a hard chine in the mid-section of the boat. I would need to get at least a 40" spread between the bars to prevent this. I think I will check in to Saris which seems to make a rack for the Honda that uses the front and side doors. Thanks again everyone!

gunnel bracket hits your Osprey?
You can cut down the gunnel brackets…I did this on an older pair of Yakima brackets (before they made the newer, more boat-friendly ones). I cut mine down for same reason…they bumped the hull on at least one boat…maybe it was my Osprey! They are all taller than necessary so if you cut a half inch or so off the height they still work perfectly.

I’d give same vote as most folks…go for the totally secure Yakima or Thule (the peace of mind is a bargain) and live with the shorter span by using bow and stern lines and cutting down your gunnel brackets.

Air-filled roof rack

Somewhere, I saw a picture of kayaks on a car top and the rack was a portable rack with two air-filled tubes for the top of the car and tie-downs. But now I can’t find it anywhere! Has anyone seen these - or know where I can get info on them?