tie-down hooks

I’ve had an incident a while back. My car hit a bump I didn’t see, bounced pretty hard. The line on the front tie down when slack for a moment, and the hook of the tie-down jumped out of the eye!

I stopped quickly enough and no demage was done. But I’m a bit alarmed. The hook could have caught on anything and rip my kayak off the rack, or the rack off my car!

The tie-down was “hooked” to the tow hook under the front bumper. The hook and tie-down was pretty “standard” affair.

Since then, I’ve observed the tie down line can go slack a little bit from time to time as the car hit rough roads. There’s just enough elasticity in the line itself that I can’t really tighten the line to completely eliminate the stretching and shortening…

Are there better options I should look into? What do others use that would prevent any of such problem?

Rope Instead
I know you will get lots of passionate responses from people saying you should be using ropes/knots instead so I’ll cut them off at the pass.

I was paranoid about the hook coming out of the eye and then running the line over myself so I bought some rope and learned to tie a truckers hitch. It’s certainly not hard to learn and with a knot tied it won’t pop out of the eye.


try a mini carabiner
I would try a mini carabiner - not the smallest one you can find though - try to find a medium size one. Maybe even a real climbing carabiner - they don’t cost much more


second that
Replace the hook with a carabiner or remove it and tie the strap to the tie down point. I would never rely on a hook for this purpose.

Plain ropes and knots …
… are good, and certainly easier to replace or improvise should you lose or break one.

If you like the ease of a mechanical snap or eye hook, try a simple hardware-store-variety snap link or a carabiner.

I cringe when I see people, including some friends and paddling partners, blithely slipping the S-hooks of their store-bought ratchet straps or cinch-lines onto their boats and driving off. You saw how easily yours slipped out of its mount while simply driving–imagine how poorly it will hold if the boat ever comes out of its belly straps and jounces alongside your vehicle.

And isn’t that what it’s for …?



This is what I did. I took the standard Thule ratchet/rope thing, hammered the hook into a loop (this takes a little doing, I used a 5-lb sledge), and attached a climber’s carabiner. I replaced the hook on the other end with another carabiner. Did the same for the rear tie-down.

I’m a nerd, so I used different colored carabiners for the front and back. I also added taut line hitches every foot or so to eliminate vibration (it works). Since everything is already adjusted close to the proper length, it makes loading pretty quick.

Make sure you use load-bearing carabiners.

The only time I use a tie down

– Last Updated: Jul-01-08 6:08 AM EST –

is on the front when I am carrying one of my 18'-6" ultralight racing canoes, and that is just to keep the side wind sheer from hurting the long overhanging delicat bow.
When I have my 18 foot QCC or smaller boats, I never use tie downs.
If you have faith in your rack system and use double looped cam-lock buckle straps, the boats become part of the vehicle and front and rear tie downs are a waste of time.

If you don't have faith in your rack system and the way you secure your boats, then front and rear tiedowns are a must.


Faith is belief without evidence. It just doesn’t make sense to leave something as potentially dangerous as a 50-lb missile to a matter of faith. It’s about layers of safety, like everything else in this sport. The “wasted” time will be well worth it when you need it.

I hope this doesn’t turn into another tie-down argument.

Jack, you can no doubt paddle circles around me, and I really respect your opinion on these boards. You are a credible poster and a pillar of the p-net community. It’s therefore discouraging to see you promoting such a dangerous practice.

Happy paddling,


What is your load bar spread?
Bars that are close together are more likely to benefit from front and rear tie downs than bars that are far apart.

My bars are about 36" apart and benefit greatly from front & rear tied downs when hauling long boats. Otherwise the strain on the load bars is kind of like on a teeter-totter when starting or stopping quickly. The short spacing on between the load bars acts almost like a pivot point with all that length and weight in front of and behind the load bars. The front & rear tie downs keep that weight from shifting and maintain some down force on both load bars during fast starts and stops and bumps in the road.


Not so much faith as bounce in my case
- I use the tie-down mostly to minimize the bounce of the boat up and down and to some extend sideways as my rack is narrow (the two bars are less than 30" apart).

So I actually use front and sometimes AND rear tiedown for this purporse alone. The boat wobbles less this way I have noticed. I do not put much tension though - just enough to eliminate wind wobble of the rope and not too much as to bend the kayak ends down (round rope works best, with knots at both ends, no hooks or ratchets).

And usually a third/fourth strap as redundancy on the rack itself, just for the extremely unlikely event that the buckle on one of the primary straps fails -:wink:

it’s only an argument
…if you take the bait.

Thanks a lot!!!
Wow! This is fast responds. I knew this community has lots of experience and I wasn’t wrong. Appearently others had thought of the issue and had multiple solutions that are easy to do!

I will replace the hook with a caribiner, which seems to be the easiest solution.

Not gonna …
Not gonna get into another rope vs straps, no tie downs, bow tiedown only, bow & stern tie downs dialogue.

Don’t care if you like/dislike the use of caribiners.

BUT…if for “whatever reason” you are going to use caribiners…use real ones, not some cheap, piece of crap. Note P.S.


P.S. Don’t be like the “park ranger” who told me he used caribiners & climbing rope for pulling vehicles out of mud & ditches, and kept the same biners & rope in his vehicle… just in case he had to do some sort of “rope rescue” work with people.

Can you say D-O-O-F-U-S-S!

JackL - What is spread on your bars?
I have Matrix with only 32" spread between the bars. I find that without front and rear tie-downs I get side-to-side movement that kind of looks like Vortex shedding. It puts quite a strain on my racks. I did not notice the problem with my Bronco or truck where I had the 5-6 ft spread between the bars. Probably could have gotten along fine without tie-downs then, but as anal as I am I still used them.

Do you think there are benefits to tie-downs with narrower bar spreads?


Or snap hooks
as they are cheaper and will be fine for this.


get rid of the hook
Rope works fine all by itself if you know how to tie knots. (Written by somebody who didn’t know any knots himself three years ago.)

improper hook placement
You’ve got some good advice so far, but if for some reason you do reuse the hook, be aware that there are two ways (a right way, and a wrong way) to attach it. The wrong way, if the strap looses tension, the hook could easily fall out. The right way, the odds of the hook falling out would be like one in a million.

If you look at it and play with it for a while it will make sense.

…either of these might be better…
Try either:

  1. bungee-rubber straps with hooks(match length to desired length)

    ** OR **
  2. plain rope

    ** OR **
  3. straps with buckles(put soft foam(*not what sometimes comes with straps) pads underneath to prevent scratching)


    *The commercial(hooks with non-stretching rope/cord) is asking for trouble…


FAITH is belief with evidence.

BLIND FAITH is belief without evidence.

Can you post a pic fo this?