Trailer or Front Rack Solution?

Noticed last week that where my front rack (Thule Tracker II) attaches to the vehicle (Honda Element), the metal has torn on both sides. The wife did run into a tree tearing the rack off a few years back. Replaced the rack feet, inspected things and thought all was well. Apparently this started the process. Not sure I’d trust it again even if we got it welded. Rear is fine.

Not sure if we should get a small trailer for the Element or figure another way to attach the Thule feet to roof? Or, maybe another 1/2 rack system with different attachment point for the front? We frequently carry 2 canoes so really need something to handle the 78" racks. Just looking for some thoughts and ideas? Thanks. WW

get it welded
Then just keep an eye on it. Go to a welding shop and see if they can take care of you.

not very familiar with Thule products …

– Last Updated: Apr-04-11 6:53 PM EST –

..... are these your rack bases (feet) ,

the ones that say 430 Tracker ll Foot pack ??

From what I see in the installation guide , it looks like there is a base part (a Thule component) that attaches into an existing rail slot on the auto's roof (part of auto) ... it (the Thule base) is attached with two special bolts and triangular nuts (Thule components) into the rail .

Can you be more specific about "what" metal part is tearing/cracking ... is it the base part of the Thule foot itself ?? ... is it the existing rail slot on the auto ?? ... is it the actual tin roof of the auto ??

You’ve been working in the city too long

– Last Updated: Apr-04-11 7:08 PM EST –

Just weld the sucker and slap some paint on it.

edit: Weld the feet to pads, pads to roof. If you feel like a Yuppie and want to avoid the redneck look, get the top sprayed with that pickup bed protection like this one.

Thule Feet are Fine

– Last Updated: Apr-04-11 10:17 PM EST –

It's the sheet metal at the built in attachment points on the roof. The Element actually has built-in attachment points on the roof. I'll take a picture tomorrow. Talked with a friend who is a welder by profession and he too feels this would be a weak spot and wouldn't be worth the risk.

Cliff, guess I'm getting soft and "Yuppified" LOL! But I DO like the idea of the pickup bed roof coating on the roof. Great idea IMHO! WW

cross bar
I saw this happen on another car. The rear of the factory rack was secure, the front of the factory rack was not. The owner elected to use an additional cross bar in front of the factory rack. So, using the factory rack for rear support but the new additional cross bar for the front.

The best way to protect the front of your factory rack is to use bow lines to prevent the lift that occurs when moving. Also when used correctly prevents the side to side movement.

Pics of Damage

– Last Updated: Apr-05-11 11:48 AM EST –

Thanks, Suzanneh. We've usually used bow lines (always on long trips) but I believe the accident probably precipitated this. Possibly the Element's short rack spread contributed? Not a "Physics," major, but seems like that could increase stress to area. Here are the pics. Hard to see, but the tear extends to the edge of the metal where it is barely hanging on. WW

Michael Gray
of “Uncommon Adventures” had tracks put on his Element.

IIRC it gave a really nice spread on crossbars.

He is back from his tropical adventures, give him a call

E-Mailed Him
Also talked to Rutabagas, no solution yet. Wonder if anyone has seen this rack? Maybe continue to use Thule on the back and this in front? WW

not sure but I think I see …

– Last Updated: Apr-05-11 11:58 PM EST –

...... how it works .

Looks like the built in base (that has the crack) is attached to some part of the (for lack of better words) under roof structure ... that base tower is a special piece and it's probably welded on . Looks like the outer roof skin (exterior roof shell) has a well openning in it for the base tower and there must be some sort of decorative capping (moulding) that covers over that well openning and base tower in the exterior roof skin .

I believe the cracked base tower could be welded by adding a reinforcement plate/angle to fit the inside corner of the base tower ... over the crack .

I'm guessing the interior roof/cieling liner is right under that lower skin structure , so heat from the welding might mean the liner should be removed first .

Looks a little tight in there but should be reachable with a rod ... the cracked base tower looks to be plenty heavy enough to make a good weld to ... have to clean it up some first before weld , remove red paint , etc.

Whatever decorative cap goes over that well openning sure lets a fair amount of crap get through , might want to give it a little prep and paint job inside there as best you can for corrossion protection after weld job .

There's probably a little clearance between head liner and underside of inner skin (c-channels-hat channels) , so maybe add a through bolt and an under plate (interior side) for added strenth and reinforcement , one bolt each side of base tower (sealant top side of bolts so no water gets through) ... there may already be an under plate reinforcement (under the base tower) on the interior above headliner .

If your roof system has two shells/skins (an exterior one and an interior one) like it appears to ... then that hollow space between them will make it nearly impossible to bolt anything to the exterior skin because you would need to have an under plate on the interior for reinforcement of anything bolted on , screws into the outer skin only will not be structurally strong enough .

I think it could be fixed (made stronger) better than when new ... but then again I may not be seeing the whole picture from just those photos ??

Is that the damage
from your wifes accident? has it gotten worse? i.e. rip gotten larger.

It looks like it was made to weld to me…

I raced snowmobiles in the early 70’s, man did we weld … and weld… and weld … i digress

For me, damage is tough to interpret.
When looking at that photo I can’t understand the big picture of how everything is set up, so maybe my impression of the situation is wrong. I think I see the crack you are talking about. My interpretation of what I see is that the break is accessible, on the outside, and not involving any interior work. If I see what I think I see, that’s definitely fixable by welding. Doing the work little by little instead of in one shot would keep the heat build-up to a minimum, likely enough to avoid the need to remove the headliner inside.

IMO it looks repairable.
A skilled welder at a body shop with a MIG gun should be able to repair the crack in short order. Your challenge would be to bend the bracket into position to minimize the gap, but that could be done by threading a rod into the bracket’s mounting hole. Japanese racks often use 6mm threading.

After the welding your challenge would be rust. A MIG welder will leave very little residue as opposed to stick welding, so that is a positive. You could either elect to attempt prin=ming and painting, or just sprau it periodically with LPS-3. It forms a waxy layer that is similar to rustproofing systems.

Good luck!


Hart to Take a Good Picture of It
Maybe it could be welded, but after talking to a welder and Rutabagas I’m not sure I’d trust it. The tear PROBABLY was present after the accident, but too small to see. Stress over the years has torn it more. The reason I checked it is because I noticed more squeak and “Play” in the rack a few days before when it had two canoes on top.

Rutabagas checked and they say Honda doesn’t recommend any other attachment points (Like going through the roof). The more I think about it, that “Wonder Bar” sounds like the best solution:

Thanks for all the ideas. WW

Be prepared to get wet
I paddled with a guy once who ran straps in through the doors, the way that wonder bar setup does. It was raining on the drive up, and the straps wicked water into the car - probably a couple of gallons of water over a 3 hour drive.

Gosh, Sean…
…I never thought about that. Many years ago we ran a strap through the doorway in a friends old Buick stationwagon and I remember water coming in, but too long ago to remember how much now. Well, looks like welding it back is my only option other than trailering. WW

Honda may not recommend
any other options, but that does not mean that you cannot use something like the Yakima channels / tracks that are permanently affixed to the roof with plus-nuts.

Manufacturers are sensitive about their liability, so nobody will happily say “Yeah, go ahead and drill our roof!”.