The Universal Roof Rack: Everything You Need to Know

Universal Roof Rack

What is a universal roof rack? Universal roof racks are handy accessories usually present on the roof of your car or van used for carrying luggage. They are clipped to the roof rails on the car or van to provide a cross-support system. You can buy a range of universal roof racks in the market.

There are many types of roof racks. Some universal roof racks perform luggage carriage function only, while more sophisticated ones also perform anti-theft lockable roof function, usually with solid bars.

Some vehicles do not have the roof rails to which you can be attached the rack. However, soft foam universal roof racks are also sold in the market to carry lightweight luggage.

Importance of Universal Roof Racks

They provide more space

The primary importance of the roof racks is to provide an extra space where you can keep your luggage. If you are traveling with your family members, you might have more bags to transport with you, and hence, the roof rack is available for you to put that luggage. Since you will keep the bags on the roof, there will be more space for people to accommodate inside the vehicle. That would mean that the roof racks provide traveling convenience for passengers.


Some roof racks are removable. That means you can carefully mount it whenever the need arises for it.

Mobility Friendly

Depending on your profession, you might need a vehicle that can accommodate your mobile lifestyle. Musicians, hairdressers, and so on find it easy to transport their bags with the roof rack system on their cars.


If you travel with your belongings, you don’t have to worry about an item missing. If you have a wider roof rack, depending on the size of your car, you can travel conveniently with your luggage with you. Also, some universal roof racks perform an anti-theft function.

Universal Roof Rack

Cons of Universal Roof Racks

Interference with Gas Mileage

You can’t travel with roof racks without your gas mileage being affected. A reduction in gas mileage could be as high as 25%, depending on the size of the roof rack.


Most universal roof racks are expensive. Although, a few of them are inexpensive. Also, the expensive ones gave more life span than the inexpensive ones.

Travel Restrictions

You cannot drive to some places with roof racks loaded. For example, driving under bridges might not be possible except for a high bridge. You have to go with caution to be mindful of where you pass as you drive with the roof rack loaded so as not to ruin your carriage.

Complex Installation

Some universal roof racks are not easy to install. You might have to pay an expert to mount it for you.

Types of Universal Roof Racks

Naked or Bare Roofs

Some vehicles only have plastic strips which run front-to-back on their roofs. These plastic strips do not only perform the rain gutter function but also beneficial for the roof rack purpose. Vehicles with these plastic strips are said to have a naked or bare roof.

Two options are available for installing a universal roof rack to a bare roof vehicle. You can either go for the clip fits with high precision measurement or do a custom permanent installation. The formal is a temporary option while the latter is permanent. The universal roof rack you will install to your bare roof vehicle depends on your choice and preference.

Side Rails-Flush &Raised

Vehicles such as wagons, few SUVs, and so on have factory-installed side talks. These side rails run front-to-back on the roof. The rails provide strong attachment points to support the universal roof racks.

Truck Canopy & Camper Tops

Vehicles with a camper or canopy top can perform about two functions for mounting a roof racks system. It could either provide a side mount rain gutter brackets or support a fixed point installation on the camper/canopy top. The structure for the latter is somewhat complex and therefore not recommended for car owners.

How Do You Choose a Universal Roof Rack?

Vehicle Size

The first factor to consider in buying your roof rack is the size of your vehicle. The bigger your vehicle size, the more the roof can support a roof rack with longer arms. The more extended arms roof rack is of great versatility value when transporting your gear.

You should not be discouraged if your car side size is small. You can get an entry-level, with dour foot rack that will do just fine transporting your luggage.

Note that you must not exceed your automobile’s gross vehicle weight rating as you get your rack loaded. If you don’t know your car’s weight restriction, please visit your owner’s manual.

Factory Fitted Side Rails

Some vehicles come with factory-fit roof rack points of attachment, while few come with a raised side rails. If your car falls to any of the categories mentioned earlier, you are advantaged and ahead of the game.

What you have to do next is to select a cargo accessory that provides adjustable horizontal bars. With these horizontal bars, you can make the same rack you want.

In case your roof is naked, it is advisable you get an attachment kit with your universal roof rack.

Wise Bars Choice

There are various styles and shapes to the universal roof racks. The conditions and designs perform different functions such as lowering wind noise, ease of clamping in various equipment mounts, producing strong support, etc.

No single roof rack performs all the functions listed earlier. For example, the design of the square bar provides the most substantial support; the blade-like shapes lower wind noise; the round bar rack provides ease f clamping on various equipment mounts.

Generally, the first factor to consider, irrespective of the type of universal roof rack you choose before you get underway, is the various attachment points of your vehicle. Make sure the attachment points are tight and secured.

Maintenance of Universal Roof Racks

Use the right products to clean your roof racks. Don’t leave the roof racks dirty because leaving the frame dirty will lead to the gradual damage of the paint and pads on the roof rack.

Avoid using alcohol, bleach, or ammonium additives since they have adverse effects on the paints.

It is advisable to use warm and soapy water to wash the roof rack. Lubricate the attachment points with time.

More on How to choose the best Hydraulic jack? read here.


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