Transporting a kayak on a 2001 Saturn SL


I have an 11 foot rec kayak and a 2001 Saturn SL with a less than helpful roof. Thule says I can’t put a kayak on it with their rack b/c there isn’t enough bar spread. Yakima says I can have up to 75 lbs, but their rack might deform the car. Saturn makes their own removeable roof rack, which they claim can take 100 lbs, but they can’t tell me what it’s max. bar spread is or if it can be used with Yakima or Thule accessories. Has anyone solved this problem? Know about the Saturn removeable roof rack for the SLs?

Thank you!


I have a 2002 SL-1
and just bought a Thule system. It’s going to look silly when I plop my 17’ yak on top, but I think if I make sure to always tie the bow and stern to the bumper, I’ll be good to go.

My boat should be coming in sometime around this weekend. I’ll be sure to post here after trying it out.

The Thule brackets that attach to the car (I forget the name) were easy to install, but they slip towards the front and back of the car. This isn’t a concern when the rack is attached because the rack tension will hold everything in place when cranked down. But when attaching the rack, they can slide a bit which could change the distance between bars and angle at which they sit on the car top. I’ll post my solution here. Does this make sense? Kind of difficult to describe in words.


That does make sense. If you check the Thule website, they say you can put a kayak on an SL, but their book at the store doesn’t have kayak checked off. You only get 19.5 inches of bar spread. Yakima warns that the rack can damage the car and should be removed when not in use. I still haven’t gotten an answer from Saturn as to the bar spread of their rack or whether or not it can be used with Yakima or Thule accessories (like saddles).

Good luck!


Buying a kayak
I am completely new to kayaking and thinking of buying a kayak (tandem). The only thing I not sure is if I should buy sit-on or traditional kayak.

Most of the time I will use it on the lake with my kids 8 amd 12. On ocasion I might use it in the sound.Any advise?

Are foam blocks
and tie-downs a viable option for you? They are cheap and effective.

foam blocks
Thanks for the suggestion. I have foam blocks, but the roof is so convex that putting the kayak on them and cinching seriously depresses the roof (dents it way in), which doesn’t seem good. I also most of the time will have to load and unload on my own so I was hoping to make the process easier and less hazardous for the car.

I think I’m going to have to keep bugging Saturn to answer my questions about their roof rack. (They couldn’t tell me the max. bar spread, or if Yakima or Thule accessories can go on it.)


Bar spread
Two years ago, I had to carry a 14’9" downriver kayak from Wichita to Miles City. Mt. (1,060) in a 96 Saturn. I ended up with a 27" spread. The cockpit on downriver kayaks is very short & that’s the only thing that saved me. The high bow acted like a sail & was a NIGHTMARE in side winds or behind truck wakes. All my other kayaks have longer cockpits & wouldn’t have fit the 27" spread. My Yakima rack did move a little. I said never again! Also, without an adj. paddle (couldn’t fit an 85" one piece inside) I never would have made it. Good luck.

bar spread
Thanks for the warning!

I’ve found a local Saturn dealer with one of their racks, so I’m going to check it out tomorrow. Unfortunatly it has oval/flat bars and so I don’t think it will interface with THule or Yakima accessories.

That roof line is a certainly no worse than my '98 Neon! Mine’s shorter and rounder and my Saris rack works great - plenty of spread. The bars both angle out from level a bit due to roof curve, but Saris has flexible watersport saddles that do not need to be totally level. They’re also very kind to the boats. The rack itself is super strong and very easy to take on/off. No tools, self centering, integrated locks, etc.

You can use either the 51" or 59" bars on that car. Fit guide here:

Saris rack
THank you for the recommendation! I am looking into it.


1999 Saturn SW2
I mounted a Yakima rack on my 99 Saturn and had no problem. (this was in 99 so the racks may have changed a little)

I did have to remove 2 pieces of trim to install the Yakima clips but it was easy. The Q towers attach to those clips. I seem to remember something about deforming the roof but I’ve never had a problem as I keep the pressure hear the edge of the roof. I’ve had a 65# canoe on the roof - driving for days with no damage.

That said I did hear the Saris racks fit Saturns well.

Good luck.

Just topped my Saturn 2002 SL1 with
a 17-footer on Thule system. So far I’ve made 5 trips of about 20 miles each at speeds up to 70mph. I noticed that things tend to loosen up, quite a bit in some cases. So be sure to check every thumb screw if you go this route at every stop. What concerned me the most was that one of the pads attached to the back rail slid about an inch towards the outside of the car. Since then I’ve made sure all thumbscrews are very tight. I have yet to experience a mild to strong crosswind which I’m not looking forward to.

The overall system seems to be secure though I thing I’d feel more comfortable with the J-style rack. Maybe others will be able to share differences between these types of racks. Jenn, if you go with some kind of rack from Saturn let me know how it works for you! Good luck with your search.

Sorry about pulling up an older post. I wasn’t sure what proper etiquette is in this case.

problem solved…?

I plan on purchasing my first kayak very soon and own a SL Saturn as well. I stumbled upon this message board just recently and was curious…Did you ever solve the problem as to whether or not there was a right rack for your car? I was just about to check out the Saturn dealer after checking out both saris and yakima. Thanks!


The Thule glide-and-set system has been

– Last Updated: Jun-22-05 12:07 PM EST –

working for me so far. Because Thule and Yakima don't have recommended setups for the SL1, I can't say it's the "right" rack for my car. But after tweaking the width of the glide pads and making sure the knobs are tightened down prior to each trip, the boat is as secure at the end of the trip as it is at the start. (I usually travel about 20 miles at highway speeds.)

Edit: I'd be willing to bet you'd have similar luck with a Yakima rack. I'm not yet familiar with Saris.

I didn't even consider checking out Saturn for solutions. I'm curious to know what they'd say. Let me know if you find out or I'll ask at my next oil change.

Saris rack is a match!

Just purchased a Saris rack. Apparantly they had a deal with Saturn that they were going to be able to make the only racks that were 100% compadable with a Saturn. The only bummer is that Saris racks do not make the “hully rollars” as does Yakima. The unit seems nice aside from that. Prices were comparable too.


Saris Saturn rack
The capacity is 100 pounds. Just found out it can sometimes be work with Yakima products depending on what it is, but overall the rule is no.

Weight limit…
…is probably due to Saturn roof - NOT Saris rack!


The odd looking Saris Watersport Sadles are fantastic. Best I’ve seen. Soft, supportive, secure. They also pivot to facilitate easier than J-cradle side loading. Rollers? Not needed. Easy enough to slide (but with smaller cars the side loading is a breeze).

FYI - I carry composite sea kayaks and surf skis. Your results may vary.

BTW - Almost anything can be modified to be mounted on a Saris rack as the tracks accept standard carriage bolt heads.