Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (2022)


Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (1)

To prepare for roof rack installation, determine which option is best for your vehicle.

  • Look at the top of your vehicle to see if it has raised rails already installed. On some vehicles, like SUVs and sporty hatchbacks, these are included even if there’s no roof rack kit installed on the car. If you have these, work with them as part of the roof rack installation process. It will make roof rack mounting and regular use much easier.
  • Check to see if your car has hidden mounting hardware. Some vehicles have mount points hidden by small protective coverings on the roof. These can be used to install a variety of roof racks.
  • Start with a bare roof. While installation is a bit more difficult if you’re dealing with a bare roof, you can still add a roof rack to your vehicle.


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Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (2)

Roof racksRoof racks come in a few different configurations. The parts can also vary based on what your rack is made to carry. For example, a rack designed to haul skiing or snowboarding equipment will look different than a rack made for a mountain bike.

However, there are a variety of pieces you’ll get with most roof rack kits.

  • A mount: this piece is what attaches to your vehicle. While some universal kits do exist, mounts are often made for certain types of vehicles.
  • Cross bars: these run across the roof of your car to hold mounting hardware. Different styles exist to fit the type of mount and other hardware you choose.
  • The tower (or rack): This is how your mount connects to the cross bars that provide support for your equipment. Tower and rack styles across models.
  • Accessory kits: A basic roof rack kit will come with a mount, cross bars and a tower or rack. These three pieces make up the majority of your roof rack system. Accessories are typically mounted to the cross bars and help hold certain items in place. You may be able to buy a range of accessories to help you secure multiple types of equipment and cargo, helping you get the most out of your roof rack.
Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (3)

Vehicles that have raised rails are the easiest to work with when installing a roof rack. They’ll typically be the best option for lowering the roof rack installation cost. You’ll still need to choose the right kit and accessories to fit your vehicle.

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It’s important to note that all roof rack kits are different. The step by step installation instructions below should be used as a guide only. Always refer to your owner’s manual and the installation instructions provided with your roof rack kit for specific details:

  • Step 1: Assemble the base system. This typically involves connecting the mount and cross bars so they can be placed on your existing raised rails.
  • Step 2: Attach the clamps to your car’s raised rail system on both sides, following the manufacturer’s instructions. The place you position the clamps depends on the type of roof rack you’re installing.
  • Step 3: Mount the rack system using the properly positioned clamps. Consult your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on using your model.
  • Step 4: Add accessories to hold your equipment or cargo. Most roof rack systems work with a variety of different equipment and cargo types with the right accessories. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions when adding accessories.
  • Step 5: Test your roof rack by adding cargo or equipment. A short, in-town trip is often recommended to make sure your mount is properly positioned and suitable for long-distance travel. This is particularly important with heavy items like kayaks, snow skis and luggage.


Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (4)

Raised rails are the easiest to work with, but many cars, SUVs and vans do not have them installed. Tracks that are in place can help you install a roof rack fairly quickly without drilling.

Here’s how you install a roof rack system using a pre-existing track. Remember that all models vary. Consult your owner’s manual and specific installation instructions throughout the process:

  • Step 1: Choose a roof rack system designed for vehicle track installation. Most models that work with vehicle track systems have a specific type of mount or attachment made to work with them.
  • Step 2: Install the mount or landing pad designed to fit inside the existing track system. You’ll typically do this first before adding any other hardware to your car. This may vary from system to system.
  • Step 3: Assemble the hardware that connects to the mount or landing pad that fits into your vehicle’s existing track system. Do this before attaching the assembled product to the mount or landing pad hardware. This will likely create a crossbar setup for your final rack installation.
  • Step 4: Mount the rack system and accessories to finish the job. Place these based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Step 5: Test your mount with cargo or equipment. Make sure it is securely installed.

Tip: Vehicles with hidden mounting clips often work the same way as a track system installation. The products are designed to be used both ways. Always verify that your chosen mount hardware works with your particular vehicle.


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Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (5)

Installing a roof rack on a car that only has a bare roof can seem tricky. There are a few ways to do this depending on your needs. First, we’ll start with the simplest bare roof installation method.

As with all roof rack installation procedures, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe and correct placement.


Clip style roof racks mount to your car’s door jamb or directly onto the rubber rain gutters above your windows. Here’s how this installation generally works:

  • Step 1: Install the supplied clips as directed, either to the door jamb itself or the rubber rain gutters. Do this on all sides.
  • Step 2: Mount the cross bars to the supplied clips. Make sure they’re secure before moving on.
  • Step 3: Add the rack or tower according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Your spacing will typically depend on the type of accessories you plan to use.
  • Step 4: Place your accessories as directed in the installation guide or owner’s manual. Make sure your accessories are secure.
  • Step 5: Test your roof rack with cargo or equipment for safety.

Door jamb and rain gutter style roof racks work well for many different equipment types. However, if you prefer a more permanent installation, this can be achieved even if you have a bare roof to start with.


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Permanent installation on a bare roof includes drilling into your car’s roof, which can impact the value of your vehicle if the roof rack is removed. It may also be a more difficult job if you’re unfamiliar with this type of work. In some cases, it may be beneficial to have a professional install your roof rack permanently.

If you wish to proceed with a permanent installation on a bare roof, use the general guide below. Consult your owner’s manual and installation instructions for more thorough details.

  • Step 1: Use the provided roof rack template to help you drill holes in your roof for your mounting hardware.
  • Step 2: Install the supplied hardware as indicated to create the raised rail or track system. The hardware included will vary depending on the roof rack installation kit you chose.
  • Step 3: Attach the track system or raised rails to the now-installed hardware. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
  • Step 4: Mount the cross bars designed to fit with your rail system. Placement will depend on the items you plan to carry.
  • Step 5: Install your chosen accessories and test your new roof rack for safety and security.


Roof Rack Installation Step by Step Guide (6)

A roof rack will allow you to carry a variety of items. Many manufacturers also make accessory kits so you can effectively switch your mount type based on what you’re carrying.

Here are some of the most common items roof rack accessory kits are made for:

  • Water sports equipment like kayaks, canoes, surfboards and water skis
  • Snow sports equipment including skis, poles and snowboards
  • Bicycles, including mountain bikes, road bikes and race bikes
  • Luggage or travel supplies like suitcases and coolers
  • Oversized cargo like camping equipment or heavy-duty storage boxes

If you don’t see your must-have equipment or cargo listed here, that’s okay. There’s probably a roof rack and accessory kit available to fit the bill.

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The Home Depot has a wide variety of roof racksroof racks designed to get you and your gear on the road safely. Learn how to use a roof rack and shop online to find the right option for your vehicle. Find products fast with image search in The Home Depot Mobile App. Snap a picture of an item you like and the app will present similar products.


1. Rooftop Roof Rack Crossbars Installation Guide by LT Sport CB-SPTU-S
2. Universal Roof Rack Crossbar Installation Guide by LT Sport CB-BU-4D
3. Rhino Rack Assembly & Installation
(Fab Fours)
5. Universal Rooftop Roof Rack Crossbar Installation Guide by LT Sport CB-BU-N

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