Roof rack

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Fixing a roof rack to a motor car.
Factory-installed roof rack on a 1966 station wagon.

A roof rack is a set of bars secured to the roof of a motor car.[1] It is used to carry bulky items such as luggage, bicycles, canoes, kayaks, skis, or various carriers and containers.

There is a long history of the use of roof racks and their designs. They allow users of an automobile to transport objects on the roof of the vehicle without reducing interior space for occupants, or the cargo area volume limits such as in the typical car's trunk design.

The three most common components of a roof rack system are (side) rails (or tracks), towers which clamp or otherwise attach to the rails, and mounts, which secure the bulky items to the rack system.

Older roof racks were usually mounted directly to the gutter surrounding the roof line. More modern vehicles, which do not have gutters, can often have a roof rack installed by attaching hooks to the top of the door frames.

Some automobiles have fittings for proprietary racks which mate with reinforced lugs in the roof. Other vehicles have a factory-installed permanent roof rack. Roof racks increase air resistance and in the US, roof racks increased overall fuel consumption by approximately 1%.[2]

Cargo boxes and cargo trays[edit]

Automotive cargo transportation and stabilizing systems are widely represented by hard shell cargo boxes[3] and cargo trays. They are designed to be used with base roof racks and attach to the load bars with a help of universal locking fasteners. Cargo boxes are usually made of lightweight metal or hard plastic materials to withstand harsh weather conditions and protect cargo from thieves. One of the pioner manufacturers of cargo boxes and roof racks is a Swedish company Thule. Cargo trays provide a large open cargo platform, which allows the transportation of oversized objects or bags that may not fit in hard shell cargo boxes. Cargo trays do not provide special protection from weather elements and thieves unlike cargo boxes, unless other specific gear is used.


Until the late 1970s, almost all regular passenger automobiles had rain gutters. This made attaching an accessory or aftermarket roof rack a relatively simple process. One of the first vehicles without any visible rain gutters was the 1975 AMC Pacer. Other vehicles were introduced on the market without rain gutters during the 1980s, and by 1990, vehicles with rain gutters were becoming rare. Roof rack suppliers developed new products and systems designed to securely attach to various types of automobile roofs.