If you consider yourself a car guy, chances are you’re going to know your way around the workbench. No matter what kind of four-wheeled vehicle you like, or even if it has four wheels, if you’d like to make something custom for your car, you’re in for one helluva ride.
Making a top-shelf custom roof rack is almost as complex as it is rewarding. But it’s not that complicated; roof racks are just a couple of beams welded together, right? Wrong.
A roof rack should not only compliment the aesthetics of your car; it should be created in such a way where it can withstand all of the pressure and agitation of everyday driving, as well as support the load you’re going to put on it.
Most cars have roof rack options, but let’s face it, OEM roof racks are either so-so in terms of size and quality or are overpriced.
Well, fellow car guy, in this article, we’ll talk about creating a custom roof rack for your vehicle, so you don’t have to spend big bucks or compensate for size – and the best part about it is that you can do it at home.
Why Build a Custom Car Roof Rack?
Building a custom roof rack is the best way to let your inner car guy come through. In more technical terms, it allows you to create a roof rack that fits the specifications you want down to every last inch. This is beneficial, as many OEM and Aftermarket options are built for general use, and if you need something more specific, say for a special top-trunk, you’ll want to get your hands dirty.
Building a customizable roof rack is a fun process and project in itself, so if you enjoy working with your hands, you’re guaranteed to have a good time while doing so.
What Materials Should You Go With?
You can go with four materials when you’re looking to build a custom roof rack: steel, aluminum, plastic, and hybrid. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll take each of these materials and use them as an example in our four ways to build a roof rack from home.
What Tools You’ll Need to Build a Custom Car Roof Rack
The thing that may be surprising is that you don’t need many tools to build a custom roof rack. The number of tools you need will depend on the type of roof rack that you’re trying to develop. You’ll need a pen and paper for planning, basic hand tools, and some power tools if you’re looking to work with steel or aluminum. If you’re working with metals, which you most likely will be for at least a part of the construction, you’ll need a decent welder and some basic welding skills.
Four Ways to Build a Custom Roof Rack
Most cars themselves will have roof rack options, meaning that the in-car construction is likely already there; it’s probably just hidden in the roof channel. You’ll want to look into the schematics of your car and find out where the bolt or screw holes are.
After that comes the fun part, which is building your roof rack. In all cases, you’ll have to take the construction of your car into account and see what fits where to make the initial construction of your roof rack for structural integrity purposes as well as aerodynamics.
A Steel Roof Rack
If you’re a fan of hardness, and you want your cargo to stay where you put it forever, you’ll want to go with an all-steel roof rack. Now, making an all-steel roof rack will be the most complicated process, as it will involve a lot of shaping and welding.
The first thing you want to do is take the proper measurements for the bolt holes. After you do, we suggest getting small steel beams or hollow rods to reduce weight. If you’ve taken all the correct measurements, you’ll come to see that shaping steel can be a nightmare. Luckily, if you’ve done your homework, you can likely get steel shaped at the hardware store.
If not, you have a lot of heating and pounding to go through before you wrap up the shape of your roof rack. But, when you have created all of the pieces, it’s time to head to the assembly. Welding steel isn’t too complex; just make sure to measure twice and weld once. You’ll want to go with welding rather than bolting, as that’s the safest way to ensure your construction stays as sound as possible. After that, it’s just a matter of drilling a few holes and fitting them on your vehicle!
An Aluminium Roof Rack
When you’re working with Aluminium, it’s a lot like working with steel. Aluminum is a far lighter material, meaning you can go with full aluminum rods or beams for the construction. Take the measurements, find the bolt holes, and start writing down the materials that you need.
You’ll find that shaping aluminum is far, far easier than shaping steel. Aluminum as a material is far more malleable, but that’s as much of a fault as it is a feature. Welding aluminum is a nightmare for beginners, so make sure to take as much time as you need to do so correctly. After you get the construction down, fit it into your vehicle, and you’re done!
A Plastic Roof Rack
Plastic roof racks are one of the most popular options. Plastic is light, it’s easy to work with, but it isn’t without its faults. It’s brittle and can’t withstand a lot of use and abuse, which is why we suggest going with high-end and durable plastic such as heavy-duty acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, also known as ABS.
This is the industry standard for plastic car parts and can suffer through many uses and abuse before it starts showing any signs of it.
Regardless, if you’re working with plastic, shaping it is as easy as adding some heat and using your bolt holes as a guide. It requires minimal tools, it’s the most inexpensive method to create a durable roof rack, and it’s very durable – the best of both worlds.
A Hybrid Roof Rack
If you’re looking to go all out and create something truly unique, you’ll want to blend materials. This means making different parts of your rack out of other materials. Arguably, this is the best way to go about creating a roof rack, but it’s also the most complicated out of the lot.
The frame of your roof rack should be made out of the most durable material available, which is, in our case, steel. The bars on the rack can be made out of something lighter, so heavy-duty plastics can do the job well.
Lastly, you can use aluminum for the many details or mods you want on your roof rack. Keep in mind that creating a multi-material roof rack is not for the backyard engineer or the faint of heart – it’s going to take a lot of work, know-how, and effort – but it’s going to produce the best rack possible.
If you’re determined to make your car roof rack, we salute you. You’re undertaking fun and rewarding journey that will yield one awesome roof rack, as long as you remember to measure twice and cut once.